Home-brewing

Just been looking at apple book. To distract myself last year would try to remember a-z apple varieties. Now you’d think Owen Thomas had to be a Welsh variety ! Wrong ,seems it’s like Beauty of Bath best eaten straight off tree but an even briefer life, 2-3 days ! Few years ago I pushed apple core into wide verge , resulting tree produced very attractive coloured fruit but disappointingly yuk ! Tried picking & eating early, then at weekly interval’s right up to November. Stored some & tried eating at different times , still yuk !

That’s the complex genetics of apples, I have a Bramley that had collapsed and epicormic growth shot up from the fallen leader forming new leaders, these produced an apple that was clearly a different cultivar from the original, now the tree has two cultivars growing on the one plant. The second cultivar is better than the first. Owen Thomas does sound like a Welsh apple, I have planted quite a few Welsh varieties in the orchard, the special tree I have that didn’t do too well this year was the Bardsey Island, a rare variety that is absolutely delicious. Believed to have been cultivated by monks on Bardsey Island over a thousand years ago. I need to check my orchard map, but I believe I have two of these trees. Today, I will be putting a bucket of blackcurrant and red dead nettle wine in a demijohn for a second fermentation, and then clarifying my gooseberry and dandelion root with some finings. If I can pluck up the hwyl, I will take a walk around the orchard to collect a burdock root for a blackberry and burdock root wine. I can then expect some of the trees to see what I need to do this winter. The Latin names of plants have never stuck with me, despite having a rudimentary knowledge of Old English, and a passion for linguistics, I always find the common names of plants far too endearing, and enjoy saying them too much.

Hi Rups was given a Bardsey yes a lovely apple. Went to an apple talk years ago & member of audience brought a wildling apple he’d found growing in a wood, a huge good shaped apple cherry red. It was cut up & tasted, like my seedling only good for juicing. Planted three plum stones of ‘Coes Golden Drop’ as good as a Victoria. One seedling went heavenwards , produced blunt thorns & very small damson like fruit that were just about acceptable. The other two were identical, like a ‘Pershore Egg’ huge croppers of pale yellow fruit more a culinary type stones easily removed. It was so important in Vale of Evesham that they ran special trains to take crop to London markets before WW2. So many prized fruits have been wildlings. Never had time to graft but did it at college. One of the many things I was planning to do in retirement. Have had some success in hybridisation of late flowering Rhododendrons but no money in it . Raven croaked at me today, Scottish tradition you have to reply “Raven seek thy brother” as a solitary Raven is bad news . Gavin Maxwell who wrote Ring of Bright Water used it as a title. After a bad start had a good day.yes we must expect the rough as well as the smooth

Did this produce a bullace perchance? I have a small bullace, have looked after it carefully over the years, and got such a good crop I was able to make a very lovely wine from it. Have another wild plum, shot up from rootstock of another plum, nothing ever produced over ten years of careful pruning, then a few years back, one single small red fruit. I was filled with joy that day, took a photo. Since then, nothing. A friend of mine, a retired maths teacher, planted two plums for me soon after I came out of hospital, a Mirabelle and an Indian plum. I wonder how they will do? The Indian plum isn’t looking too healthy. I’ve had immense problems growing plums in the orchard, I tried a Golden Gage, and it got top-death which took out the whole leader, got a mature Damson I need to remove as it rarely fruited, and seems to have now stopped completely, as well as, another large plum that has never produced. I have two medium sized Victoria plums that fruit okay, but not abundantly.

In my attempt to diversify the orchard, I have grown from seed four Strawberry Trees, two of the healthiest of these will be destined for the orchard. They are very small at the moment, only about fifteen inches high. I wish to in the future make Aguardente de Medronhos, a Portuguese brandy from the fruit. I have a Loquat, planted on the south-facing side, I am very keen to get fruiting. This is the second Loquat I have planted here, the other went into the garden as part of the “exotic” plant area my partner looks after. What I really want is a Medlar or two, this is my ambition when I have recovered enough to focus on it. It may need me to graft from someone else’s tree. Since, grafting is such a fiddly process, I don’t think I am ready to do it as yet. My nystagmus is so acute sometimes, and the blurred vision too, does not make for a steady hand and a precise eye.

There is a similar Welsh superstition that relates to a murder of crows suddenly appearing at one’s house, and then disappearing. I can’t remember the exact details but I reference it in my book.

Hi Rups have seen a rook parliament (?) circle of rooks with accused in centre, never saw the outcome my grandfather saw rooks feeding in field , farmer approached with gun & fired. Rooks , took to the air, then landed in far corner of field ,surrounded What he assumed was the negligent lookout & attacked it. Fuddled head at moment, hope I haven’t sent this before. Purchased your book-saving it for my Christmas reading sipping sloe-gin. Think I can cope with it & enjoy it in bite size chunks. Can go for couple of week’s feeling good & thinking I’m coping & then brought back home to reality. But saw a group of fieldfares today stripping Holly berries bit blurred but could make them out & the sound they make. Lifted spirits Always had good hearing & even after stroke ok ,so walking country lanes round here like a zombie I can here approaching traffic. Tap Tap Tap along lanes like ‘Blind Pugh from Treasure Island. Probably my favourite book from childhood. Hope you have good Christmas Pds

Hello @Pds, I know the phrase “parliament of rooks” but I have never seen one sitting (flying?). Thank you for getting my book, I hope you find some pleasure in it. It’s at heart, a gentle, comic, adventure tale. I am busy, trying to get the words out for a deadline in February of another book, a novella. I’ve been imbued in research at the moment, the problem with this is always getting hooked on the research, and realising time is ticking away. I can’t afford to rely on Douglas Adam’s dictum of loving the sound of deadlines as they whoosh by. Do not the fieldfares become ill from eating holly berries? I have never thought about this.

After the stroke, I developed auditory overload, it comes and goes now, but when it is acute, I sort of have super-hearing which is can be both useful, and unpleasant. I have enjoyed much of Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing including novels like Master of Ballantrae, Black Arrow, and The Wrong Box. My favourite childhood read was Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Still have the same books. My partner makes sloe-gin, I’m not a drinker of it, I usually have brandy. This is partly a family quirk, my grandmother was symptomatic of the “mother’s ruin”, and named her two children after gin labels. But, personally, I’ve always taken to burnt spirits over white ones. I’m a bit worried I have a stuck fermentation with my blackcurrant and red dead nettle wine. I have put it next to wood-burner, in the hope that it may start. I really should do an ABV reading, but I don’t think fermentation should have finished so soon, unless it completed most of it during the first fermentation.

I hope you had a cosy winter solstice, and wishing you a pleasant time over the festive season, Nadolig Llawen, as we say in these parts, and a blwyddyn Newydd Dda.

Just thought I’d share my last brew for the winter, mead. I have used a full frame of honey from my own bees, well the bees that live with me, and it certainly is a rich drop so far. I tested it before going into the second fermentation. It hasn’t started bubbling yet, and I am little worried the yeast has been overfed with the honey or, when I strained it in, I may have lost too much yeast because I used a fairly fine muslin. It is a lovely colour though. I decided to take advantage of that lovely comb note, so I infused with comb before filtering out. On occasion, I have had a stuck fermentation but, usually, with time it kicks off. For me, brewing is a lovely, unhurried process that is well matched with my limitations. It also gives me a sort of yearly grail I can look forward to when I know my brews are mature enough for tasting.