Friday 23 October 2015

The birth of a cider orchard


231 apples trees (9 cider varieties augmented by some desserts, cookers and crabs) were planted in late March 2015 on an old, long-established wildflower and grass meadow.

The planning stage was a vital part of the process

Newly planted trees - March 2015

To stake or or not to stake - that was the question??

Our grass management team of 3 blackface ewes and 1 texel/mule wether were decanted (for obvious reasons) until the vital tree protection was installed - a task we hoped would be completed in two or three months...  In the end it's taken almost six!  It's a long story, but I (Gary) had to take an enforced two month break from more physical tasks due to an outbreak of Polymyalgia rhematica (no that's not the latin name of one of the tree varieties).

"Gonny hurry up!" Florrie one of our black face ewes
looks longingly towards the orchard.

Thankfully I'm on the mend and thanks to the meds and some extra hands provided by friends near and far (as well as our 3 magnificent sons) the tree guards are completed and the orchard is finally ready for the sheep again.

Our next task in the orchard will be the first pruning over the winter.  It'll be a few years before before we get a decent crop of cider apples but so far we're encouraged by the health and growth of the young trees.  We anticipate our first batch of blended craft cider will be available in 2017/18.

Stages of building tree guards.

  1. Order materials
  2. Use jig to mark out holes for posts (pinch bar and watering can are vital tools when forming the holes)
  3. Place jig above holes
  4. Position posts and drive in approx 50cm
  5. Screw in bottom and top rails
  6. Fit galvanised wire mesh ensuring good tension (helps strengthen the structure)
  7. I made a simple timber platform to raise the roll of wire mesh and the pinch bar was useful for keeping it vertical
  8. Completed tree guard

Now for the boring bit for all the anoraks out there (I'm now one too)...

Tree protection;
231 Rabbit guards
231 Sheep guards
693 posts
1386 rails
4620 screws
690m galvanised wire mesh
about 8000 staples

"Lambchop," our adopted wether is glad to get back into the orchard
with "the girls" after 7 months to inspect the job.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Foragers' first season is now in full swing

Fresh Cut Herbs Now Ready for Harvesting

We are now in full swing in this our first season.  We're still doing lots of building work in the polytunnels (raised beds and irrigation systems), erecting tree guards in our cider orchard (a bit of a Forth Rail Bridge job) and developing what will be our cider house & studio.

The crazy cold & wet spring/summer has meant that many plants are quite late (especially the tomatoes).  As a result, we have decided to hold off on salad leaves until next year (perhaps we were a bit overly optimistic). 

Hopefully next season we will be approaching full steam with a wider range of products.  Please feel free to suggest anything you think we could grow that you need.

Gary & Jo McAlpine, Foragers Foods

Price List

Culinary herbs now ready for harvesting:
  • Dill  (75p/20g)
  • Dill pollen (90p/20g)
  • Fennel leaves (75p/20g)
  • Salsosa soda (land seaweed) (£2.22/100g).  A Mediterranean vegetable with thin succulent needle like leaves that grow on small bushy plants and is used mainly in Umbria and Lazio in pasta, seafood and fish dishes.  The recommendation is to cook it in boiling water until the leaves soften, and to serve while some bite remains (much like Samphire). It can also be eaten raw; it is said to "taste grassy and slightly salty with a pleasant crunchy texture.
  • Spearmint (80p/25g) (£1.75/100g)
  • Lemon balm (80p/25g) (£1.75/100g)
  • Salad burnet  (80p/25g) (£1.75/100g)
  • Rosemary (small quantities in 1st year)  (90p/20g)
  • Thyme (£1.15/20g)
  • Lavendar (£1.90/50g).  Also some potted plants @ £4.50
  • Hyssop (£1.62/50g).  The leaves and flowers of Hyssop have a licorice-minty taste, and indeed this plant is related to the Mints. The leaves can be used to flavour green salads, poultry stuffing (with sage), chicken soup, apple stews, pies or flans although should be used sparingly, as the flavour is very strong.
  • Sage (90p/20g)
Coming soon (download flyer):
  • Tomatoes (6 varieties) available Aug/Sept (£2.20/270g, £8.15/kg)
  • Small quantity of chillies Sept/Oct  (£1.50/100g)
Next year (download flyer):
  • French Tarragon  (90p/20g)
  • Borage & borage flowers (£TBC)
  • Salad Leaves (£TBC)


Please email your requirements to  We are happy to deliver larger orders (over £25) free of charge to local restaurants & caf├ęs etc.  If you'd prefer to visit Foragers to collect your order of fresh cut herbs, please contact Gary or Jo to arrange a suitable time.  Mobile 07939 517685.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

.scot domain - expensive but nice...

Since not all of the plants we're growing in the ‪polytunnels‬ are edible we thought we should purchase a new domain name, so we have opted for which we think will cover all bases. This year we have some Sweet Pea, Antirrhinum (Snapdragon), Lavender and Lemon Balm which will be available for sale at both Kippen Street Fayer and Balfron Primary School Fair on Saturday June 13th.

Friday 3 April 2015

All Apple Trees Now in the Ground

We are delighted to have now completed the task of planting all 231 trees into our orchard.

9 cider varieties, 2 cooker varieties, 2 dessert varieties
and some crabs to encourage pollinators.

Our next task is to build guards round the young trees to protect them from our small flock of blackface ewes who manage the grass far more effectively (and less costly) than a mechanised solution.  Thankfully we have until November this year to complete the job.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Orchard Ready for Tree Planting

Our 2 acre field will soon be an orchard.  9 varieties of cider apple trees are being planted in the next week or so.  Better get the spade out!

With the windbreak/deer fence now complete and the sheep decanted to another area we are now marking out the location of the trees. OCD was kicking in so I think our lines are straight enough and spacing accurate using a low tech method with 5m measuring planks and sight lines.  All being well we anticipate our first batch of blended craft cider will be available in 2018.

Bad light stopped play, but managed to get almost half the orchard "pegged out"

All posts are numbered according to our orchard plan.

Prototype tree protection. Scratching posts for the sheep.

4 weeks of scratching and they appear to be up to the job. Time will tell.

Our low tech method of measuring planks and sight lines has worked well.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Foragers turns up the heat

This year we are growing 9 varieties of chilli, ranging from fruity mild to seriously hot - Spaghetti, NuMex Twilight, Early Jalapeno, Supertramp, Trinity, Lemon Drop, Submarine, Rooster Spur, and Orange Habenero.  Available later in the year.

Join our mailing list for seasonal availability and news updates.

Download our flyer for a short description of each chilli.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Speciality Tomatoes for this coming season

We will be growing 6 varieties of tasty tomatoes this year;

  • Outdoor Girl
  • Red Brandy Wine
  • Green Zebra
  • Gardener's Delight
  • Tigerella and
  • Black Cherry. 

All are eye-catching and big on flavour, ideal for chefs looking for a tomato which will enhance any gourmet dish.

Monday 19 January 2015

Forager's New Website

We have finally published our shiny new (and responsive) website designed by The McAlpine Partnership (that's us by the way). We like variety in our lives and farming and graphic/web design certainly gives us that! (It's good to have an excuse to stay indoors when the weather is bad).

Friday 9 January 2015

Foragers Survives Atlantic Storm

While the grass management team are happy with their new sheep shelter (built yesterday before the storm), we are even happier that our two Premier Polytunnels easily withstood last night's major Atlantic storm, with windspeeds of 32mph + and gusts of 60mph upwards.

We had to work under floodlight to get most of the roof on before the storm hit.

It didn't take them long to bunker down with some nice dry hay.
But back out when the winds died down about 9am.

Polytunnel ends which took the battering, partially protected by the
bund created during groundworks last year.

It was raining timber but thankfully none hit the polytunnels.
Another large oak branch succumbs to the strong gusts. 

This branch almost landed in the wildlife pond.

Some repair work required to the windbreak fence
but we expected more damage than this.