Rare butterfly recorded

Our neighbour, Malcolm Easton, keeps an eye on our garden and orchard when we’re away. Earlier this month he spotted this rare and unusual White-letter Hairstreak butterfly (so named because of the ‘W’ under the wings). Only five have been recorded in North Devon in the past 30 years.

White-letter hairstreak
White-letter Hairstreak

The Spice of Life?

Big apple juice producers strive for consistency. They use only a few well-known apple varieties and strictly controlled scientific processes to ensure the taste, colour and other attributes of their product are the same, year in, year out.

McG Juice does the opposite. We grow about thirty apple varieties, with each 100-litre batch comprised of a slightly different mix of apple types – the apples that are ripe on that particular day.

But the specific blend of apple varieties is only one factor contributing to the distinct character of our juice. Variations between pressings within one season, and across different seasons, depend on a whole range of factors, collectively termed ‘la terroir’ by the French (usually in relation to wine). There’s the weather and micro-climate: rainfall, humidity and sunshine all affect the ripening process. The soil, along with the weather, the rootstock and tree-form, influence the availability and uptake of nutrients. Even within our single orchard there are marked differences in soil type and pH.

Rather than fighting to control and compensate for variations in these factors – difficult given our tiny scale and traditional methods – we celebrate this diversity and the complex character it gives to our apple juice. Variety is good for flavour, and good for wildlife too.

Vive la difference!

Prancing roe deer

Roe deer after a heavy frost

Roe deer after a heavy frost

Our neighbour, Malcolm, has taken some superb photos of the resident and transitory wildlife in our little patch of Devon.  These roe deer like to laze around in a patch of willow within the orchard.

An ‘addiction’ to sweet apples?

According to the chef Raymond Blanc – as reported in the Telegraph – Britain has an ‘addiction’ to sugar. He believes that ‘our taste is now so neutralised that we identify taste with sweetness’. According to Blanc, ‘for any great taste, you need contradictions, a mix of sweet, sour, acid, bitter or salty’. Read the full article on the Telegraph website.

Dolton’s orchards

According to local historian, Dave Dingley, in 1755 there were nearly 50 acres of apple orchards in Dolton, producing 13,000 gallons of cider. Most of this was for consumption within the parish, as cider was an important currency in apple-growing regions. In fact, about 1/6 of a farm labourer’s wages were paid in this form.

By the middle of the following century, according to the 1842 tithe map, the total orchard area in Dolton had grown to 74 acres, with an average of 1.5 acres of apples per farm. Considering that Dolton was fairly typical of hundreds of rural parishes across Devon, imagine how different the landscape must have looked!