Today was a good day. Today I started collecting apples ready for the first pressing of the year this coming weekend. Well technically I started yesterday, but that was just a few kilos, whereas today was nearer half a tonne. The weather was spot on too: a nice cool breeze and a little bit of sunshine. All in all, ideal conditions and a good crop for just a few hours graft. The plan this year is to scale up production, three times as much as 2010. In theory this is easily do-able as I have a growing number of additions to the Virtual orchard family, including an old manor house orchard of over 40 trees – whose windfalls I picked up yesterday. As the word gets around my phone rarely has a chance to recharge its batteries before the next offer of fruit. It’s really heartening how people are buying into the whole Virtual Orchard concept. The trick now is to plan my picking and pressing schedule to make the most effective use of my weekends and the remaining few days of my leave (from my day job). This means that I really want to be pressing around 600-800kg of apples at a time, which should yield around 400-550 litres of pure juice. So, for around 6 weekends of effort I should reach my target of 2500-3000 litres for 2011, and that would be a good result. Fruit is ripening 2-3 weeks earlier this year, and with some trees having bumper crops, I’m confident that I can get the job done. With Mother-in-Law, and ‘Senior Scrumper’, Carol ready in the wings it’ll be an easier task than if I was on my own. Of course, more hands would make even lighter work if anyone is offering? So, with my first haul in the bag and two months of hard work to go, let the harvest begin.