I completed my super simple tabula board this weekend. It’s tooled leather, which I know isn’t right, it should be wood. But I will explain this to the public, and it’s portable, and uses authentic material and techniques, and I was able to actually make it in the time available! It is wonky as anything, which is deliberate in that I think a ruled look is not right. It’s a thickish bit of leather which I soaked in cold water, then I used a large flat-bladed screwdriver and a mallet to hammer in the lines, going over them with the edge of my weaving sword to smooth them out. I’ll wax the leather once it’s dry.
The dice are bone and I bought them at the re-enactors’ market; the counters are wood from Hoyles’ games in Oxford. One day, I mean to plane down my yew wood planks, assemble them with a carved border, and make a posh proper wooden board. But today is not that day. And I can now play all the mediaeval tabula games which I researched on something more suitable.
The tree specialist in the next village sold me three new fruit trees for the orchard. They had to sit in the shed with their lower appendages swathed in bubble wrap for two days until we had time to get out and plant them. What have we got?
Pear: Winter Nelis. This is a heritage variety known from the early 19th century and its pears are apparently not a super pretty fruit, but sweet with a good flavour. And they’re said to keep into January. On the down side the tree prefers a sheltered spot and our orchard is quite exposed with the chilly meadow to the west.
Pear: Jargonelle. First recorded in 1629 but thought to be older, so a great pear for our early mediaeval orchard. It’s an early pear but to my surprise, our existing Louise Bonne and the new Winter Nelis are apparently all suitable pollination partners. The tree man knows his stuff!
Plum: St Julien. I found very little on t’internet about the St Julien as a tree in its own right, as it is so widely used as a rootstock. But the tree man said it produces a tasty green plum, and is actually one of the earliest cultivars around, so a great fit for us – and unusual, which is part of our thing. One forum post suggested the fruit is best dried, but another described the fruit as complex, sweet when perfectly ripe but potentially acidic. I am excited to let this little tree develop naturally and do its thing, whatever it turns out to be!
The Jargonelle and Winter Nelis are quite close together, and to the quince and the Hambledon Deux Ans apple, but the I couldn’t choose between these two and had to have them both, and they needed to be planted further from the place where they diseased Victoria plum was removed last year, which restricted my options somewhat. I will need to keep them relatively small but that will make it easier to pick the fruit. Anyway, more trees for the win!
Finally, the St Julien plum is so small that I decided to stick it in a pot for a year or two to gain some height, otherwise we’ll lose the poor thing in the undergrowth. This pot had dwarf beans last year which didn’t do well and anyway are an annual, so there was a handy pot with soil and no plants. I might try beans around the side this year and hope for a better harvest. They actually did better in 2019 even though the sheep got out and had a munch at them before exploring the road (and then retreating swiftly when they saw the cars).