Clearing a Standard Tree - Ny (Marches Cyder Circle)
We harvested and collected our first fruit last Thursday from a standard orchard and as we began to 'pick-up' it dawned on me how out of practice we had become. This is amazing when you think how much fruit we processed last year, especially so, when it seems like the 2008 season finished only a couple of months ago!
All our methods soon came flooding back to us though and I thought it might be a good idea to detail here how we go about it..a sort of 'Definitive M.C.C. guide to clearing a standard tree'....here goes..
- Panking pole, a nice long 'un.
- 2 x 5ltr. buckets per person
- Sufficient polyester woven sacks (these let the fruit breathe and therefore 'keep' better); these can be got gratis usually as ex-malt sacks from your local micro-brewery.
- Enough tarpaulins or sheets to encircle the tree adequately.
- A 'sack filling sleeve' (make one of these from one of those old tapering 25ltr Boots fermenting buckets; just cut the bottom completely out); fitted in the sack neck, this ensures easy tipping of bucketfuls of fruit into the sack without spilling and having to pick the same apples up twice!
- A flagon of scrump (essential this).
Upon selecting your tree of choice the first thing to do is to set up a sack/sleeve against the trunk and begin gathering up the windfall fruit first. Don't do this 'willy-nilly', be methodical. If there a two of you, kneel shoulder to shoulder (ish) and work a track from one side of the tree to the other starting from the outer edge of the fruit area then turn and come back etc. till the whole area under the tree has been systematically cleared. Fill both of your buckets thereby cutting down on too many un-necessary journeys to the sack and back. This fruit will be a bit more 'far gone' than that still on the tree and as such should be sorted more diligently..chuck any damaged/ mouldy 'uns to the base of the trunk to avoid keep picking the same perisher up twice! It pays (if you can) to keep this fruit separate from the stuff you're about to pank down, and to mill and press this fruit first as it wont keep so well as the more undamaged panked stuff.
Now the grounds clear, lay out your tarps/sheets where you think the fruit will fall. Get a firm 'bite' on a nice heavily laden branch with the hook of your panker and begin shaking the tree with a quick, short, sharp action (you'll soon get a feel for the most productive technique). As the fruit falls, bellow the olde traditional M.C.C.
panking chant (2009) 'they'm comin' down nicely now m'dear!' and duck your head where you feel it necessary!
Seriously, it does pay to pank from sideways rather than right under the bough in question- a 'Blakeney Red' or 'Court Royal' from 25ft up can do for you..a nice shiner can result..tell your mates you've fought a lager drinker.
When the whole tree is done, gather the sheets so that all the fruit rolls together for easy collecting into your buckets. Due to landing on the sheets, this fruit will generally be un-damaged and in much better nick than that gathered from the grass. Don't worry about the odd leaf getting in the bucket, these will give the wenches something to pick out of the apple bath/sorting tray at pressing time.
You'll become very familiar with the myriad insect life that exists in a fruit tree at this stage- nevermind, the buckets quickly fill up and when done you'll be left with a nice pile of leafs, twigs, mummified fruit (easy to tell these- they're the ones all bandaged up!) and insects. You'll also have a good idea why craft cyder made with carefully hand harvested fruit always beats hands down cider made from machine gathered fruit. The machines uptake would include all the bird faeces, twigs, leaves etc. you have remaining in your sheet. In fairness, machine gathered fruit is cleansed before milling (I hope!) but if the stuff isn't there to start with it's got to be better for the quality of the drink hasn't it.
Open the flagon..you've earned it!
(This is how we do it...any suggestions for improvement, particularly labour-saving ones welcome!)