Saturday, November 19, 2016

The oiling of the figs: the verdict

I  tried olive-oiling my figs to get the biggest of fruits left on the tree to ripen earlier this autumn.

I can now report that, as a method for ripening late figs, it does seem to have worked ... except that I think I left it too late.

Yes, the figs are much riper - softer and brown rather than green - than those that were not oiled but they are still not ripe enough to enjoy eating.

I oiled them on October 3rd but wish I'd done it at the end of August or perhaps even in mid-August.

I will do it again next year to ripen late figs as it definitely does work and there are lots of reasonably large figs on the tree that would otherwise go to waste.

But, for this year, anything larger than a pea will be removed to avoid wasting the tree's energy on developing fruit that will not ripen.

And those tiny fruits will be the start of next year's harvest.

Into the wood – on oak steps

The 45-foot oak we felled last winter not only gave us a couple of years’ firewood but also enabled us to keep 18 rounds from the main tree trunk to use as oak steps.

The idea was to create a route from the corner of the yard, next to the stables, into our wood.

It is a small copse of dozen or so large oak and ash trees with one odd beech. A couple of hazel trees, plus hawthorn, elderberry and numerous holly trees provide the shrub layer of the wood.

It is also bursting with bluebells in spring, followed by wild garlic and shuttlecock ferns and a vriey of woodland flowers and herbs.

You can enter the wood from the orchard. And there’s also a route in – for the adventurous – from nearer the house, although a 4.5 tonne manure heap currently makes that less attractive a proposition.

But this new route, would enable you to walk through the wood from the yard and out into the orchard.

The oak rounds, which are between 24 and 36 inches in diameter and between nine and 15 inches deep, climb about 12 feet up from the yard into the trees in a crooked staircase.

And I finally got round to putting the tree trunk steps together this month. The first six rounds, arranged as piles of one, two and three pieces, created the first three steps which takes you up to the edge of a low stone retaining wall around the edge of the yard. They stand on the concrete apron of the stable block.

From there, it is up into the wood and the rounds are embedded in the rocky earth from which the trees and undergrowth emerge.

This is the site of a former quarry which was filled in with large rocks from about 400m away on the other side of the lane where a reservoir was blasted into existence in the 1950s. Consequently, there are some large pieces of rock here – several that are six-by-three feet and nine inches thick litter the surface and we simple don’t know if there are bigger ones under the surface.

Over the years, leaf litter has rotted down and ivy and other shrubs have grown up through the detritus.

Consequently, the oak rounds stand on a combination of mud, rubble and pretty unmovable rock. I’ve packed them in as well as I could, building footings for them and shoring everything up. They’re pretty solid to walk on but I’m sure I’ll need to level them again and add more material around them as the foundations settle in with the help of the weather and light footfall.

But for now, I’m calling them finished. Job done. Kelly and I have been up and down them several times. And we got them finished before the first spell of heavy rain for about six weeks, which will also help bed them in.