10,000 trees it says on the orchard deeds but it feels more like infinity when I’m standing in the main tractor lane that cuts through the middle, as straight as a roman road, with rows of apple trees stretching out on either side of me and ahead to the windbreak of poplars and past them all the way to the beech trees at the edge of Offham woods.

We have come home from France for two weeks to see what can be done with the apple farm. The farmer who rented it for seven years decided not to renew his lease. So this year we’ll try and sell the crop to a local apple juice company who’ll supply the bins and lorries but it’ll be up to us to pick the the fruit.

We are learning about tractors: Massey Fergusons are the best. About models: standard, narrow and vineyard. About equipment: toppers, tipping trailers, rear bin forks. There is the language of apples to learn: cultivars, pollinators, yield. And stories to remember: when you shake a Cox’s Orange Pippin you can hear the rattle of its seeds loosely held in the flesh unlike other apples whose seeds are part of the flesh.

It is mid-May. The blossom has come and gone and the apple buds are as hard and shiny as marbles. Beneath the trees last year's windfalls have almost returned to earth. If there’s enough rain and the right amount of sun, no drought, no freak hail in June, no scab or mildew, then we’ll have a good crop.

Between now and July, when the fruit buyer will come and make his decision, all we can do is mow, spray, weed, and hope for the best.

in the empty cold-store apples everywhere I breathe

MJ’s Tarte aux Pommes

I’ve never really grasped the tart or pie issue. When I was little my mother made what we always called apple tart: on a large Pyrex plate with a pastry bottom and top. But some people will say that a pastry top automatically makes it an apple pie. For others, a pie only has a top crust. In France it’s easier, they’re all tarts. If you know what I mean!

My friend MJ’s recipe is exceptionally easy but impressive. The addition of lemon curd is a touch of delicious genius.

In France the ready made pastry is particularly good. You can buy 'all butter' (pur beurre) versions thus avoiding the dreaded hydrogenated vegetable oil thigh building and heart clogging ones. And you buy it as a ready rolled circle in its own sheet of baking paper too. so all you have to do is unroll it and trim it to fit a flan dish. Alternatively you can buy a ready baked pastry case.

If you go along the uncooked pastry route, prick the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork once you’ve fitted it into your dish and bake it for about 10 minutes at 180°, just until it starts to turn colour and then continue here:

Spread some bought apple puree over the bottom of the pastry case. About 150gr should be enough. Quarter and core some dessert apples, (don't peel them), slice them thinly and lay them in a pretty pattern over the puree.

Heat a good tablespoon of lemon curd with a teaspoon of water and use it to glaze the uncooked apples. Sprinkle with a little bit of cinammon.

Cook the tart for about 20 minutes at 180° but make sure the pastry doesn’t get too brown.

That’s it. And it looks and tastes gorgeous. Of course you could make your own pastry, your own apple puree, and your own lemon curd. You could even grow your own apples. In which case, I highly recommend the Massey Ferguson 135 as the perfect orchard tractor.

Hungry Writing Prompts
  1. Write about something that doesn’t end or seems as if it will never end.
  2. Write about a tree.
  3. Write about something that is rotten.
  4. Write about waiting and hoping.
  5. Write about a dish your mother used to make.


the good soup said…
I can't believe you have an apple orchard. I covet your life.
Anonymous said…
In the empty cold-store apples everywhere I breathe. That is so beautiful! And so evocative. Why does it balance so well with its verb at the end? Would it do that in Welsh? No idea.

Hey cute now blue tractor with Maidstone numberplate affixed to flanks! Done tens of thousands of hours of honourable service somewhere local for sure. Faithful old Fergie, family retainer, high-cheekboned spinster, lean and hardworking, seeks loving owner. Wishes to be young and easy under the apple boughs once more.
Dylan said…
Dearest Blog, just registered here so I'm no longer M. l'Anonyme in these comments. Enjoy your posts and their triggerings.

Just looked at my previous comment. The sprightly spinster is MF red and certainly not blue, literally or otherwise. 'Cute blue' worked for me, but then I inserted the 'now' to try to add a different perspective and 'blue' changed meaning to become a colour!

Words, huh?
Martin Cordrey said…

In our garden
is a weeping cherry
that flowers every April.

The weeping cherry was chosen
by a lady no longer with us
as it flowers in April.

The weeping cherry has flowered
each April
for twelve years now.

The lady who sourced the weeping cherry
passed on
six Aprils ago.

Every April
In our garden
the weeping cherry flowers.
Dylan said…
I love this space created by writing! Love it. Just tried tree, took over an hour:


Face prickled, hot towelled, I slip from car door slam to squat on a rockcrop as these warehouse clouds sky.

And my ocean breaks greenly beneath.

And my sky plays it small as these breakers play big.

And I soar.

And the hem of these waves caresses my beach, for I have this beach and I have this rock and I have the logs and the driftwood.

And ten thousand trees rest here, all bleached white and bonely.

As they did ere man came here, and will when he’s gone.

And I am immortal.

For now.
Lynne said…
Thanks for all your comments. And I really like reading your responses to the prompts too. If this project ever gets made into a book (working on it!) then I will definitely acknowledge everyone who helped it simmer along.

@ Dylan - 'Treebones' is such a great compound word.
@ Martin - this is lovely. It's '13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird' done for a cherry tree, 5 times.