Summer Pudding

May 19, 2020

This is just a brief update of how our Winter and early Spring has gone, which you may enjoy reading before visiting us this summer.

After closing the gate last autumn we set to after a brief intake of breath and the fallow strawberry ground (to give it a three year break between crops) was worked down and an acre was planted up with new summer plants. The weather last autumn, as you  may remember, went from lovely dry days to rain that once started seemed to never stop all the way through until this Spring!

This presented some problems for us with replanting, and not just strawberries. However, there was a window of opportunity in the early rains and we tentatively booked the strawberry plants for delivery with the option to dealy if necessary. We delayed! The window had moved forward and so we re-booked and because things looked a bit tight ordered them all down at once, which we rarely do.

Suffice to say they arrived on the Tuesday morning and everything was made ready for a Wednesday start. Well, you've guessed. Between pressing the send button and their arrival the forecast had changed yet again. It is vital that strawberry plants go into the ground fairly exactly. They need to have their roots straight in the ground otherwise they never correct and thus are less productive; and so a good non-wet seedbed is necessary.

Andrew was bleak and I suggested we just started rather earlier than normal. And so it was that by 8am Andrew had worked the ground ahead of us and three of us had prepared enough plants for two of us to climb aboard the planting machine to be dragged up and down the field at some quarter of a mile per hour! Mind numbing for the tractor driver but like a rocket for those of us watching a wheel go round all day putting plants into its clips.

All went well and we had food on the run, as it were, and by nearly dark we had about a 1500 plants left. Martin and I couldn't really see well enough to do a final planting run up the field so that all the prepared ground was planted up. The worry was rain coming in before midnight. Thus, we planted with a tractor following us with its toplights giving us a shadowed light to work by. It was a nightmare! Between the shadows creeated by our bodies and the lights reflecting of the inside of my glasses lenses it was like some sort of light torture, but it did the job.

The forecast changed again and after the gloom that we might have to waste the final thousand plants there was a possibility of a few hours of dry from midnight on Friday morning. We were back at it by 7am on Friday and as we finished at about 9.30am the first spots of rain started again. The job was done and, as it turned out, there was never another opportunity for the whole autumn. We had been lucky.

With regard to the planting of other bush type fruits we were never able to plant them. However, thanks to our wonderful advisor and his enthusiastic son and daughter they were able to come and do this for us shortly after lockdown. Jeremy's daughter, a student doctor, was en route to be returned to Southampton to work as a care asssistant on the Covid wards. She enjoyed her day outside in the sunshine hugely and was so excited to be able to go and help on the front line. I understand she has thrived and the experience will stand her, and all her ilk, in such good stead for their futures, andof course ours should we need their services. 

The raspberry plantations for 2020 will be a little different to what our regular customers will remember. The acre of Cascade Delight near the gooseberries has never performed well and picking is difficult because of the excessive growth on the plants. Thus, we have abandoned them and while you will see some of the rows still in place albethey dead, there are potted plants in the rest of the rows. We have retained the dead rows purely for logistical reasons of management for this year, plus we have a member of staff health shielding because of coronovirus and so this has given a little leaway timewise with our work.

Last year we had three sections of potted raspberries which enabled a better spread of crop through the season and also they presented so beautifully they made picking easier, especially for children and those new to such an activity. Thus, this year we have even more, which will spread the raspberry crop across the whole season from around late June until we close. It also means that we will have a longer Tulameen season, a variety that many customers particularly like.

New for this year is a trial of strawberries grown on bales to lift them off the ground.These will be later in our season and as such they extend the picking season for strawberries, much like the raspberries, which we hope you will enjoy. If successful we will modify the system to something a little more sophisticated!

Also new this year which we hope will be of great interest to many customers will be the availability of blackberries for most of the summer. We have a greater number of plants this year, which should fruit for most of the season. This is a fruit that is always wanted and up until now has not been something we have had enough of.

Aside of the plant work there has been the usual maintenance required replacing broken posts and replacing irrigation and other bits and pieces.
A big consideration for this year are the measures we need to put into place for keep everyone safe iin the Covid times. We will have a screen in our shop along the counter to enable staff and customers to face one another. Luckily our till points are sufficiently far apart for social distancing and we can add an additional temporary till for busy days to assist everyone. We have additional card machines so that no-one needs to use or handle cash and we will have all of our jams and honey behind the counter so that they are no fingered by many hands before being bought. 

We will still have a lovely display of pre-picked fruit and vegetables in our shop and for this year our customers will just need to pick things up on their way to a free till. Customers will not need to rush or feel flustered. We will all be there to help and make it work for you, and whilst out picking and moving around West Green Fruits we will have people clearly visible to help and assist.

As a first this year, because April was such an incredible growing month we had a real flush of rhubarb and so we decided that we would open the gate for one Sunday morning so that it would not be wasted. This was fairly eaarly on in the Coronavirus lockdown and so it also presented us with a good opportunity to see how solely contactless payments would work, how some of our customers were feeling about being out doing pick-your-oen in due course and so on. Importantly it was just so nice to see people!

Thus, we put it all into bundles and did a 'drive/cycle/walk through rhubarb sales'. It was a huge success. Everyone was so happy to be doing something a little different and we had many helful ideas and comments that have been put to good effect as we look twoards the start of our season proper. On topof that our facebook page was showered with glorious pictures of rhubarb creations and even the certificate for a family rhubarb baking competition. The whole day lifted everyones' spirits.

The one thing, however, that will not be safe to have is a loo. We have only ever had a porta-loo but we feel we cannot ensure that it would be kept wiped down sufficiently with regards to coronovirus and surfaces and so the advice from our supplier was not to provide one in the interests of everyones' safety and wellbeing. Thus, as you are reading this please bear that in mind when you visit. We apologise but are sure everyne will understand in these trying times.

The main farm, with traditional crops such as wheat and barley, has also had to cope with the vagueries of the winter weather and dry Spring. It, along with the fruit field, could do with another soak of rain but I am wary about what I wish for. I would hate a summer such as that in 2012 where the only time it didn't rain was during the London Olympics!

Several of our students are returning to work for us again, which is wonderful, and we have a few new faces too. It has given us some sadness not to be able to offer work to more of our applicants, especially the students as there is no bar work or shop work available to them for this summer. Such difficult times.

However, we are looking forward to the summer, it will be great to see everyone again and in the meantime we hope you stay well.

With Best wishes,
Andrew, Carolyn and all who help us

 

Opening Hours

2020 CHRISTMAS BARN

The Christmas Barn opens:
at the end of November until December 22nd or until we sell out!

We reserve the right to close without notice if necessary

Visit Christmas Barn Website

2020 FRUIT SEASON
September 5th - we are now CLOSED for 2020

(We reserve the right to close without prior notice)

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