Beautiful apples!

Apples, apples, apples! Wow, what a year we have had!

Northern Spy

A Northern Spy apple, a variety discovered around 1800 in Upstate New York and happily growing on Tansley Farm.

On Tansley farm, we have five heirloom varieties of apples. The trees are a remnant of an orchard probably planted in the 1950s or ‘60s. Thirteen trees are left to their beautiful, gnarled and twisted ways, allowed to grow how they want with no irrigation, pruning or spraying. The only fertilisers they get are the packages left by our sheep and chickens.

Due in part to our hands-off approach, our yield varies wildly from year to year, and that is okay with us. Some years the fruit set is minimal but the individual fruits are large (and then the parrots come visiting and it is all over, red rover), other years the fruit set is great but the apples are tiny. This year, we had the best of both – great-sized fruit and lots of it.

We tasted the apples day by day, waiting until they were ripe. And then one evening just before sunset, a massive flock of sulphur crested cockatoos, 50 or more birds, descended on our trees. Oh no! We watched in helpless horror as they snacked their way through the branches, dropping those deemed not worthy. In a matter of minutes, we watched a quarter of the crop fall to the ground.

So we got Hamish and Siri – Go GO run RUN! We sent the dogs, yelping and barking, up the hill thundering like a pair of racehorses. They were intent on a running game, not seeing the birds, but our encouragement had them worked up into a joyous frenzy as they raced through the trees, spooking the flock off to some other hapless farmer.

The parrots always let you know when your fruit is ready, and if you are lucky you are there to get the message. Typically, you will wait and taste and wait and taste and then you wait one more day… and when you go out in happy anticipation with your basket you arrive at the tree and they are all gone. Sigh.

So we were fortunate to witness the onslaught and trooped out bright and early the next morning to harvest. All day long we picked apples, hauling them up and down the hill to the shed at the bottom and the ute at the top. In the end, we collected a tonne from our beloved trees, filling every picking bin we had, despite the losses from the previous day AND leaving plenty for the parrots in the branches too high for us to pick. What a glorious harvest.

So the L’Orpheline 2015 is now pressed and in barrel and will develop for a bit and then will be bottled. Look out for her in spring!

Moroccan Lamb Pizza

We used to have a ram named Genghis.

preserved lemon

golden preserved lemon, like jewels in a jar

He was a beautifully built dorper ram, with a nice wide stance, a naturally short tail and a wonderful shedding ability. His mother, Ma Costa, was by far my favourite ewe in the flock at the time. She was smart and gentle, a natural leader: a really beautiful girl. So I pegged Genghis early on as a lamb I would keep for a ram, and always paid him extra attention, feeding him treats from my hands, trying to ensure he was comfortable with me. He was always a bit more flighty than the other lambs, but I thought that with time he’d gain confidence and would grow into a wonderful specimen.

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