October by Torchlight

Wandering around the garden at night with a torch this month, I picked out these beauties. First off, my late flowering white foxglove.Photo of white foxglove

The Michaelmas daisies are still putting on a show.Photo of Michaelmas daisies

The apples look rosy day or night and smell divine.Photo of apples on tree

Damp lawns and woodpiles are good places to find fungi.

Of course the lawn is carpeted in a multitude of autumnal leaves.Photo of autumn leaves on grass


A Rainy Night

Every Herefordian checks their apples regularly, even if it means turning out on a rainy night. Apart from a suspicious looking moth, they seem fine.Photo of wet apples at night

The waning moon was visible between scuds of rain clouds.Photo of waning moon

The solar light makes a pleasing pattern. There used to be a rotary washing drier thing here, but all that is left is the metal holder. Despite painting it white I was forever tripping over it in the dark, so I have put a solar light in it. I have probably just given myself something else to trip over …Photo of solar lightOf course, there is the inevitable hedgehog. This is one of the hoglets, it seems to quite like me.Photo of  hedgehog


Things have been transforming as we move from spring into summer. The strawberry flowers have turned into strawberry fruits.

The apple blossoms are forming apples.

The gorse flowers are becoming furry pods.

The tiny yellow flowers of the smoke tree are turning pink, the bees are still hyperactive on it though.

The honeysuckle and St John’s Wort have begun their journey into “berryhood”.

The proud poppy has been battered down by the rain.

This pretty rose has been transformed into a hunting ground for a spider.Photo of spider on rose

Five days on, not only are my alpines still alive, but the plant at the back is now flowering! Thank you everyone for your kind support for my gardening efforts.

The fledgling crow has been looking perkier and stronger today. He flew down from the tree rather well, though he makes no attempt to fly up into anything (he climbs the tree). His parents brought one of his siblings, who can fly, to join him today. They were all eating together, so that was a good sign. I’m guessing the parents have been putting more effort into the more advanced chick in another garden up until now.Photo of fledgling crow

Where the Cider Apples Grow

One of the pleasures of living in Hereford is the sweet aroma of apples that often fills the air. When Herefordians aren’t growing cattle, they are growing apples. We put these apples to very good use – we make cider out of them.Photo of apple

Cider is an alcoholic drink made from apples (in the USA it is known as hard cider). Under UK law, cider must consist of at least 35% apple juice. Cider apples typically contain more fruit sugars than other apples which aids in the fermentation process. There are different apple cultivars with variations in acidity and tannin, these are blended to provide different levels of sharpness, bitterness or sweetness.

Photo of Woodpecker sculpture

Bulmer’s Woodpecker Sculpture designed by Walenty Pytel 1969

Traditionally farmers would make cider from their own orchards to provide refreshments for the farm labourers who would help at busy times of the year, such as harvests. Any excess would be sold to local pubs.

In the 17th century, Viscount Scudamore brought back a Redstreak apple pip from France to Hereford and raised his very own cider apple tree. Soon everyone was doing it and Herefordshire was turned into one big orchard. There are still 9,500 acres of cider apple orchards in Herefordshire. Cider overtook ale as the national drink. In 1763 the Prime Minister, Lord Bute, introduced a tax on cider resulting in his effigy being burned in market squares across Britain.

In 1887, H. P. Bulmer, the son of a rector, used apples from his father’s orchard to make cider using a neighbour’s press. It proved popular and his elder brother, Fred, turned down a post tutoring the King of Siam’s children to help him with the family cider business. The film, “The King and I” could have been very different! The business flourished and Bulmer now make 65% of all UK cider. Of the apples used in Bulmer’s cider, 90% come from orchards in Herefordshire.Photo of apple blossom

The process starts in the spring when apple blossom is pollinated by insects, usually bees. It is estimated that 75% of all our crops require pollination by insects, birds or bats. Disturbingly, in South West China, bees have been eradicated by intensive farming and pesticide use, this has resulted in farmers having to hand pollinate their blossoms. Studies in Europe and North America have shown that planting strips of wildflowers in orchards boosts the number of pollinators. Photo of cider press

Apples are gathered from the trees during autumn. The juice is extracted by milling, or scratting, the apples into small pieces. Traditionally this would be done using a pressing stone in a circular trough, powered by horse or water. The resulting mash, or pomace, is wrapped in horse hair cloth and pressed in ash racks to squeeze the juice out. The juice is then left to ferment, before being blended and bottled. The waste was often incorporated into animal feedstuffs, but it has been suggested that it could provide a source of renewable green energy.

On Twelfth Night, January 6th, Wassailing festivals are held in honour of the goddess Pomona requesting a bountiful crop. Pomona was a wood nymph in Roman mythology, associated with orchard fruits. There is a statue of her on the Pulitzer Fountain in New York, of all places. She is also name checked in C. S. Lewis’ “Prince Caspian”. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon “Waes Hael“, meaning good health, the correct response is “Drinc hael“. An example of a wassail is as follows:

“Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
An’ all under one tree.
Hurrah! Hurrah!”

Needless to say, copious amounts of cider would be partaken during the ceremony, along with “Wicker Man” style Photo of applefrolicking. In some wassailing ceremonies, a virgin puts some cider soaked toast into the tree branches, then a lot of noise is made by banging pots or firing shotguns. This is supposed to drive any evil into the toast, which will eventually be devoured by robins, thereby saving the tree. I just checked my calendar and yes we are in the 21st century!

For those of you who don’t like to drink cider on an empty stomach – it does have a worrying affect upon the use of one’s legs – there is a recipe for Somerset Cider Apple Cake here, of course you could substitute Hereford cider in the recipe.

Needless to say some of our great poets have been inspired by imbibing cider; Mr Robert Frost describes the bubbles very eloquently in this quote from “In a Glass of Cider”:Photo of cider in glass

“It seemed I was a mite of sediment
That waited for the bottom to ferment
So I could catch a bubble in ascent.
I rode up on one till the bubble burst,
And when that left me to sink back reversed
I was no worse off than I was at first.
I’d catch another bubble if I waited.
The thing was to get now and then elated.”

Fans of Mr Frost’s rustic oratory may also enjoy “After Apple Picking”, the full poem can be found here, but I shall give you a taste:

“For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.”
Just one final point, cider is an alcoholic beverage and can have a detrimental effect upon human health and behaviour. Please do not drink and drive. Make an informed choice when drinking alcohol, there are lots of facts and figures at this website here.