Friends, festivities, far away places and farm fringe foraging

Is a lot of alliteration and the past two months in a nutshell.

We had a swathe of lovely visits, full of stories, top notch company and the farm got decked in some festive trim.

Chrissy tree

A Chrissy brunch replete with our own celeriac mash, home grown Coq au vin and chocolate prune and ginger spice cake. Hipster Santa would approve (don’t get me started on that one, fuel for another blog entirely!).

Ugly but so bloody lovely

Our inaugural celeriac – ugly but so bloody lovely

Chris and Amy’s adventurous trip to Bhutan over the summer, to visit Chris’ brother Matt and his wife Lucy who are eking out a very fine frontier living in a villiage called Thimphu (more on this here).

Amy and Chris in beautiful Bhutan

Snow decked Chris and Amy in beautiful Bhutan

Paro Taktshang monastery otherwise known as the Tigers Nest - because if you're going to meditate for 10 hours a day you might as well have something nice to look at

Paro Taktshang monastery otherwise known as the Tigers Nest – because if you’re going to meditate for 10 hours a day you might as well have something nice to look at

A rollicking 5 day farm “festival” with cinema and jamming tents and a wonderfully mad volume of visiting mates led nicely up to the ringing in of the new year.

Greg playing electro drum

Greg banging out some colours and shapes on the psychedelic drum

And some great walks on the farm’s top edge – the beautiful mountain.

The venturers

The venturers

Ahoy there!

Permaculture design considers the different kinds of zones that a human settlement should include for ease of management, balance and sustainability, arranged in concentric circles.

Permaculture zones

Permaculture zones

Zone 0 incorporates the home and living arrangements.

Zone 1 is the circle that rings this, incorporating the most commonly used and tended elements of a homestead – vegie patches, smaller compost heaps, sensitive plants, etc.

Zone 2 includes all of the elements feeding the homestead that are a little further flung – like bigger compost heaps, chickens, bee hives, etc.

Zone 3 gets into commercial or community scale food production – where larger productive crops requiring less maintenance are grown.

Zone 4 is the semi-wild fringe of a property, a space for foraging and wood collecting; a bridge between the cultivated and the natural world.

Zone 5 is a wild space. One you leave right alone. That you visit and relish the freedom to abandon human control, allowing the space to be steered and replenished by natural order.

The wild

Well, we’ve climbed, tumbled, bush bashed, sat, and picked around in these zones 4- 5 over the past few weeks.  A welcome entry back into the less kempt world for the routine laden city bound folk amongst us.

Two such big town dwellers, me and our lovely mate Anthony, Wollongongian turned San Francisco tech startup boffin took to some foraging.

African olives are rampant in these parts.  Native to  many parts of Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India to China, this subspecies of the well known Olea europea (plain old olives) was introduced by our grandfather of agriculture, John Macarthur. Much loved and spread by birdlife around these parts, they now more or less own the place.  They are also eaten by humans to a lesser extent, but by all reports they are cured in the same way and quite delicious.

African olive - Olea europea subsp. cuspidata

African olive – Olea europea subsp. cuspidata

Given the birds’ big tick of approval we figured they must be fairly tasty. Curiously we decided to hunt down and gather some.  We had to walk all of about 4 metres to find a suitable tree (they are everywhere!) and then got to it. We picked and we picked, then pockets stuffed and hands suitably purpled we brought them home to cure.

Anthony getting stuck into the harves

Anthony getting stuck into the harves

Olives

The haul

There’s at least 50 ways to cook an egg, so we found ourselves grappling with quite a few curing options.  Naturally we chose one of the fastest and laziest – curing these small olive berries in a simple salt brine (1 part salt to 10 parts of water, covered all he way up to the top in a jar) and draining this and changing the brine every day to drain off the bitter and slightly toxic alkaloids that exist in all olives.

Olives in their salt and water bath

Olives in their salt and water bath

7 days later, hey presto!  Juicy, delicious and very olive flavoured fruits of our edging forest.

Ta da

Ta da

We have a lot of love for our wild fringes and they bring our lives a lot of richness. The interchange of the native and the new, the natural cycles of growth through the year, the providence of berries, rosehips, herbs and old wild australian bush herbs and barks.  The odd excitement of a kangaroo, wallaby, neighbours roving cow to wrangle back into a paddock like a kinda cowherd or goat! (terrible on the erosion front but still a little exciting for this barely country cut suburb slicker).

Another sweet vista

It’s a beautiful place, this Earth we call home.

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