Steve Ostrom, the owner of Brookshill Orchard and Woodchoppers Cider is passionate about traditional British cider. So much so, he is progressively converting his 43-acre property, in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, into a specialty cider orchard growing a mix of traditional cider and common table apples. In 2014 Steven hired local fencing contractor Alan Berry (TruLine Rual Fencing) to build an espalier style trellis system and together they have just completed stage three of a 5-year project.
Each stage covered around 3½ acres of mostly slopping land and used 1,000 posts and 50 km of plain wire with 13 wires per post.
Alan relates his experience of building the trellising over the three stages.
“When I started the project three years ago, Steve shared his vision of the orchard and how he would progressively build around 20 acres of high intensity trellising. The design called for trellising which would support trees, closely planted together and could be harvested from the ground.
Building the first stage was an eye opener. Before we started Steve removed all the old trees and deep ripped the ground to break up the compacted soil. We had a lot of rain and the ground was really muddy when we came to drive the posts. The was back breaking work since the spacing of the rows limited access to heavy vehicles and the mud meant we had to hand carry most of the posts by hand. I brought in a new guy to share the workload and he quit after a couple of days.
For stages one and two we originally fixed seven strands of wire, however we realised that this was not enough and came back and attached an additional 6 strands. Steve hired a young guy to staple off the new wires. He wasn’t great at swinging a hammer so it took him over a month and the finish was a little ordinary. I expect that we will need to re-staple most of the posts before the trees grow enough to be attached to the wire.
This year I decided to take a different approach to building stage three as the weather was again awful and the ground conditions meant we had to stage our post pounding during the drier spells. I used Gripples and only lightly tensioned the wires to minimise strain on the end assembles and will come back in summer when the ground was hard. I also decided to ditch the hammer and got a STOCKade ST400i, after trialling one earlier in the year.
As it was raining so much we stapled of the lower wires in stages when it was too wet for the heavier machinery. I was a little sceptical at first, but have the STOCKade rep said it was OK to use the ST400i in the rain, so I sent my offsider Marcus, out to staple in the wet. We left the higher wires last and these were quickly stapled off with Marcus standing on the back of the ATV as I drove up and down the rows. The rows were close enough that he could staple posts on either side as we moved.
The ST400i got quite dirty due to the mud and rain and we needed to clean the magazine and nose due to the grime. We initially used WD40 which was a mistake. Whilst it cleaned the tool the residue it left attracted more dirt, so we started using the Paslode degreaser recommended by STOCKade for cleaning. This got rid of any gunk (from putting the tool on the ground) and didn’t leave any residue.
We used over 9,000 staples on stage 3 and the ST400i saved us as huge amount of time and saved the cost of an additional person. After using the ST400i for a day and trialling both nose guides, we modified one so that we could achieve a consistent 45°. This was great as a couple of notches with the angle grinder meant we could still see the wire and chalk line to get accurate placement and consistent staple depth. I was also able to use the ST400i on a couple of general fencing repair jobs and smaller new installs, where I would have normally used a hammer. The time saved meant that I could fit these in whilst waiting for materials for the orchard job.”
Brookshill Orchard has just released their new cider call Arquiteka. You can find out more on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/arquiteka/