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Snake Bypass

Snake Bypass

Its been a bit quiet at the ranch while we struggle with the monsoon season.  Not that it is bringing any downpours.  This time last year, the river was in flood and I could quietly and dishonestly tell work that I was flooded in and have a day at home.  Of course, hubby was actually flooded in to work.  Imagine having to sleep at work.  But me and pets were snugly enjoying wet season 2015.

Not so this year.  We just have to endure the endless humidity and sticky high temperatures with no respite except going to work because there, someone pays for the airconditioning.

But we’ve finally done something worthwhile putting on the blog – the start of the grow tunnel empire.

This all came about because we had a horrendous year for snakes this year, especially the chook eating pythons.  We specialise in hens who sit their own eggs and mother so we are always thrilled when we get some chicks.  Its very different from loading an incubator and coming back in 21 days.  The thrill wears off a bit when we are nightly removing pythons and we started to lose not only chicks but full grown hens and roosters.  That was a bit scary – wondering which Jurassic python was waiting to drop on us when the chooks were no longer enough.

We considered ways to protect the chook pens, from tiny wire to electric wire.  Then at the same time, while patrolling for snakes, we realised how many possums, bandicoots and rats thought we were the mcdonalds of the vermin world and were getting a free feed at the expense of all our produce.  Again, there had to be an answer.

Enter the snake proof grow tunnel.  While rats cannot get through shade cloth, neither can snakes.  So we started building these with the idea that this years half grown chookies could live in there for a while, scratch up the weeds, fertilize to their hearts content and generally condition my grow tunnels.  Then we’ll rotate them onto the next grow tunnel while establishing crops after them. 

So we will not only rotate crops but we’ll rotate poultry as well and everyone will be safe while I turn the old chook pens into pig pens or shade houses or something else useful.

YAY for safe.  I hope to live to eat some more pumpkins.  I have visions of beans or cucumbers growing up strings in the grow tunnel, like you see them in commercial farms while pumpkins or sweet potatoes or just herbs roam the floor.  Hanging baskets or bags may grow strawberries if I’m in luck, all the while hopefully with the chookies handling the weeds on a part time basis.

Sure hope this works.  But thanks, Johnny for appreciating my scheme enough to help.  Enjoy the goodies.

The Decade of Olives

The Decade of Olives

I have a horror of nurturing fruit trees that don’t overwhelm me with abundance.  I expect to drown in peaches or wade through citrus as the seasons go.

So when hubby planted the olives, I expected great things of them, notwithstanding the fact that every one told me we a) weren’t in a Mediterranean climate and b) it was too humid here, leading to peacock spot disease and c) just don’t because we just don’t.

That is what we like to call a “red rag to a bull”.  Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do in my own paddock.  So we planted them and waited.  And waited.  Four years in I called for the chainsaw to get rid of them.  I’d had enough with no return.  Nope, hubby thinks that if they are greenish, that’s enough return for him.  So every six months, I would point out how I wanted them chopped down.

Until this year, year 10 of growing.  After 10 years of heaping hate and vitriol over the olive trees, this year we had a nice crop.  Not huge but more than enough.  I will never hear the end of this self-congratulation from hubby and I’m sure that the trees are looking smug as well.

But then I had to work out what to do with the olives.  Grabbing more of my second hand jam jars, I surfed the web trying to figure out not only how I could process them but what would be the easiest and most efficient way to do this.  Sorted into green and black, I decided to brine the green and layer dry salt into the black.

You know on the movies where they have those lovely homes with big country kitchens that you could just imagine filled with preserves and cooking?  Yeah, well they are movie sets.  And real country kitchens end up with food on the floor under the table because not only have you got tubs of brining olives on the table but jars of summer seeds, plates of drying seeds, the fruit bowl that doesn’t fit in the fridge, cuttings that you just have to plant, fermenting ginger beer and every other half finished job on the place.  So we spent weeks while daily replacing the salt water each day and waiting for these olives to get like the ones in the shop.

Did you know that commercially, olives are processed using caustic soda?  Think about that next time you have a martini.  Any wonder the food chain remains my number one concern.

Eventually, the chief olive taster told me that they were fine and you will see that they have been bottled in brine with a layer of olive oil on the top to seal them from the air.  The black ones were rinsed and soaked in fresh water and I will preserve them in olive oil for use.

All in all, if I do this again, I would brine the whole lot.  It uses less salt and much less olive oil which is an expensive bought input to my household.

Ten years to the first olive harvest.  It was a surprise and I should not underestimate the trees too much.  I’d still like to chop out those useless pecans though.