Busy, busy, busy...
What a month it's been so far -and we are only just into it. Strong, cold winds and heavy rain, the odd touch of frost; I think April must be a month late. Still, my grandad used to quote: "Ne'er cast a clout 'til May be out" so I reckon he must have been right. Mind you, it's been tough on the wildlife. I managed to capture our resident Great Tit (Coal Tit?) loading up with calories on the home-made fat and oats cake that we tie around the trunk of the Stoke Red at the top of the garden. It was a cold and miserable day with driving rain. We've called him: "Bob" (said in a Rowan Atkinson / Black Adder sort of way...). As we have no idea which is female and which is male, they are both "Bob" or maybe "Bob-ess". Whatever, they obviously have a good brood judging by the noise from the nest box.
Bees are another matter, with no honey-bees sighted so far. However, we have got a few bumble-bees around and plenty of wild bees. We have a small exposed earth bank at the bottom of the garden and this attracts all sorts of solitary and (I think) masonry bees; they appear to be attracted to the exposed clay layer, into which some of them have tunnelled. Whatever, they do seem to pay a visit to the apple blossom which is great to see.
They are also breeding as can be seen from this "bee porn" pic here, where a couple of them are having a good time amongst the blossom on the Dabinett espalier...
Less good is the apparent lack-of-life exhibited by the new Dabinett that we've planted on the front. It's been in the ground for 6 or 7 weeks now, but there is absolutely no sign of any life, bud-burst or anything. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but my hopes are fading.
More shed action...
Work on the Cider Shed continues, this time we've added insulation to the inside of the roof. Not to keep heat in necessarily, but to keep the heat out! On a sunny day, the heat radiating from the metal roof is quite impressive - even when its windy and the air temperature is low. We opted for the stuff designed for use behind radiators or inside lofts - sort of a large bubble-wrap with a shiny foil skin. We've mounted it foil-side up and its proving very effective. The pic shows the job half done.
The smooth plastic surface on the inside (underside) should also be fairly easy to clean and the air space between insulation and roof provides good ventilation. Next is to add the lighting and power sockets.
Down on the floor of the shed, we've been racking and blending using the new pump.
I knocked up a simple MDF trolley at work, and after a coat or three of varnish and a couple of wheels from Machine Mart, it was ready to go. I raided my "gash-box" for some suitable wire, an in-line fuse holder, surface-mount box and a light switch, and after mounting the 12 volt pump and connecting up the pipe work, it started to look the biz. We have a couple of heavy-duty 12 volt deep-cycling batteries that we use in the caravan and for the van winch, so it was a simple job of attaching the battery clamps and flicking the switch.
It is very quiet in operation and very powerful. We pumped fresh water through first, then some sterilising solution, followed by more fresh water and then it was into the cider vats. The last metre or so of each pipe is actually a rigid plastic pipe and this makes controlling the pipe over the sediment (or lees) very simple. This racking also gave us time to have a taste-test and decide on which container should be blended with which. We have to get some ready before mid-week to go to the Rail Ale festival at Barrow Hill, Chesterfield.