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The apple trees are growing.



It's now 16 months since our orchard was planted. Most of the trees are thriving with some slower growers too. This year we had to increase the height of the tree guards to combat our tall sheep. It was a time consuming task but an important investment for the future success of the orchard (we hope). 90% of the timber used was recycled from donated pallets. A big thank you to local businesses; A&M Timber, Reid and Robertson, Fraser C. Robb and Stirling's Low Carbon Future.
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The birth of a cider orchard

FORAGERS’ ORCHARD TAKES SHAPE

231 apples trees (9 cider varieties augmented by some desserts, cookers and crabs) were planted in late March 2015 on an old, long-established wildflower and grass meadow.


The planning stage was a vital part of the process

Newly planted trees - March 2015

To stake or or not to stake - that was the question??

Our grass management team of 3 blackface ewes and 1 texel/mule wether were decanted (for obvious reasons) until the vital tree protection was installed - a task we hoped would be completed in two or three months...  In the end it's taken almost six!  It's a long story, but I (Gary) had to take an enforced two month break from more physical tasks due to an outbreak of Polymyalgia rhematica (no that's not the latin name of one of the tree varieties).

"Gonny hurry up!" Florrie one of our black face ewes
looks longingly towards the orchard.

Thankfully I'm on the mend and thanks to the meds and some extra hands provided by friends near and far (as well as our 3 magnificent sons) the tree guards are completed and the orchard is finally ready for the sheep again.

Our next task in the orchard will be the first pruning over the winter.  It'll be a few years before before we get a decent crop of cider apples but so far we're encouraged by the health and growth of the young trees.  We anticipate our first batch of blended craft cider will be available in 2017/18.

Stages of building tree guards.

  1. Order materials
  2. Use jig to mark out holes for posts (pinch bar and watering can are vital tools when forming the holes)
  3. Place jig above holes
  4. Position posts and drive in approx 50cm
  5. Screw in bottom and top rails
  6. Fit galvanised wire mesh ensuring good tension (helps strengthen the structure)
  7. I made a simple timber platform to raise the roll of wire mesh and the pinch bar was useful for keeping it vertical
  8. Completed tree guard

Now for the boring bit for all the anoraks out there (I'm now one too)...

Tree protection;
231 Rabbit guards
231 Sheep guards
693 posts
1386 rails
4620 screws
690m galvanised wire mesh
about 8000 staples

"Lambchop," our adopted wether is glad to get back into the orchard
with "the girls" after 7 months to inspect the job.








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All Apple Trees Now in the Ground

We are delighted to have now completed the task of planting all 231 trees into our orchard.

9 cider varieties, 2 cooker varieties, 2 dessert varieties
and some crabs to encourage pollinators.

Our next task is to build guards round the young trees to protect them from our small flock of blackface ewes who manage the grass far more effectively (and less costly) than a mechanised solution.  Thankfully we have until November this year to complete the job.
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Orchard Ready for Tree Planting

Our 2 acre field will soon be an orchard.  9 varieties of cider apple trees are being planted in the next week or so.  Better get the spade out!

With the windbreak/deer fence now complete and the sheep decanted to another area we are now marking out the location of the trees. OCD was kicking in so I think our lines are straight enough and spacing accurate using a low tech method with 5m measuring planks and sight lines.  All being well we anticipate our first batch of blended craft cider will be available in 2018.



Bad light stopped play, but managed to get almost half the orchard "pegged out"

All posts are numbered according to our orchard plan.

Prototype tree protection. Scratching posts for the sheep.

4 weeks of scratching and they appear to be up to the job. Time will tell.

Our low tech method of measuring planks and sight lines has worked well.

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Foragers Survives Atlantic Storm

While the grass management team are happy with their new sheep shelter (built yesterday before the storm), we are even happier that our two Premier Polytunnels easily withstood last night's major Atlantic storm, with windspeeds of 32mph + and gusts of 60mph upwards.

We had to work under floodlight to get most of the roof on before the storm hit.

It didn't take them long to bunker down with some nice dry hay.
But back out when the winds died down about 9am.

Polytunnel ends which took the battering, partially protected by the
bund created during groundworks last year.

It was raining timber but thankfully none hit the polytunnels.
Another large oak branch succumbs to the strong gusts. 

This branch almost landed in the wildlife pond.

Some repair work required to the windbreak fence
but we expected more damage than this.





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Hedge Planting

1200 bareroot hedge whips planted this week throughout the site, mostly Hornbeam but also some other bird friendly varieties including Hawthorn, Wild Privet, Hazel, Guelder Rose and Blackthorn.   We were blessed with ideal weather for planting; no heavy rain and temperatures above freezing.  Hoping that the Rootgrow gel as recommended by RHS with help the young plants thrive in order to provide some good wildlife habitat and shelter for the orchard once they mature.



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Windbreak Fence Almost Complete

We have been blessed with some great weather this week helping us to put up the windbreak mesh. Some gentle breezes made the job a challenge at times, but almost complete. Just need to order 17 more metres of material and finish off with cable ties.


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The McAlpine Partnership t/a Foragers Foods
Trading address: Wester Balfunning Farm,
Balfron Station, Glasgow, G63 0NF,
VAT Registration No: GB 743 0642 54
Tel: 01360 449248 | ObscureMyEmail |