Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hare horror or is it rabbit ranting? - 21 August 2012

For the past two years, we've been spraying with fish emulsion (which is a known deterrent for rabbits), but with the rain, wind and other priorities like trying to earn our keep, we didn't get around to doing it for some time now. Big mistake. Yesterday Mr Rabbit decided this is nice dessert to finish off his copious amounts of other lovely takeouts (fortunately we covered the vege garden with bird netting, which seems to help thus far for birds and critters and the like) of which we don't have a shortage.

I took my usual stroll amongst the trees looking out for anything that looks out of the ordinary, and behold, there I saw the first tree that was nibbled quite badly. After the initial shock and horror, missing a heartbeat or two, my strides lengthened as I tried to quickly ascertain the damage as well as coming to terms with what has happened. I was gobsmacked. About 15% of the trees have been nibbled.

On my way back to share the news with Gerry, the only solution that I could think of was to quickly spray all the trees - rain and all - with the fishy stuff. And when checking today, I couldn't see any new damage, so hold thumbs. He will hopefully go find greener pastures elsewhere.

Otherwise the man will have to go a-hunting! ;-)

The culprit looking all nervous and deceivingly cute.


What can I say.

My poor babies.

Fortunately none of them were chowed right around. Holding thumbs for a speedy recovery.

Getting pickled - 26 June 2012

With our first harvest being very small and green, the only suitable pickling method was to use lye treatment. So off we went to Farmlands to buy sodium hydroxide (good old caustic soda for those who don't know). But beware - the caustic soda you buy in shops as a cleaner and to unblock drains, contains only a percentage sodium hydroxide. The rest is made up of other chemicals which might not be suitable for human consumption.

The gist of the lye-cured process is basically as follows: prepare the lye solution (2 ounces of lye to every gallon of cold water), cover olives with mixture, stir every 2 hours, test penetration occasionally by cutting an olive towards to pip - the lye will colour the flesh yellowish, leave in the lye for about 10-12 hours or until the process is complete and the flesh is evenly colored to the pip. For the next few days (from 3, but up to 8 days), wash the olives in fresh water, by replacing it twice daily until the soapy taste is no longer present. Prepare a brine (4 ounces of pickling salt to 1 gallon of water) to cover the olives with. Let them stand for 2 days. They are now ready to eat. Pour a tipple and taste you first homegrown, homemade olives!

Gerry sorting the olives between decent, half decent and non-usable. :-)

Five bottle of our own cured green olives. A mixture of Manzanillo, Ascolano, J5, Frantoio and SA Verdale.
I added pickled chillies to the one bottle to jazz them up a bit.

Apart from our own harvest, we were also very fortunate to get some olives from David to experiment with. We drove through to Kapiti late one morning, each with a bucket in hand, and started picking Leccino olives. They were fairly ripe already with some starting to become wrinkly. The weather turned a bit nasty and before too long, I was one giant goosebump, not having brought enough warm clothes with. We wrapped it up after a couple of hours (with me feeling slightly hypothermic) and left happily with two buckets, three-quarters full. Thanks David for your kind offer! We now have enough to experiment a wee bit with the different processes. We decided to try out three options: 1) water-cured, Kalamata-style, 2) brine-cured, Greek-style olives and 3) dry-salt cured olives.

Most of these are still in progress, so watch this space for updates.

Making a slit in the olives for the water-cured Kalamata-style method.

Picking the fruits of our labour - 22 June 2012

Palmy is not known to be one of the places with the highest amount of sunshine, which might explain why our olives were still greenish towards the end of June. Or (hopefully) the trees are just still way too young to support their fruit to full ripening - they are still only babies after all. But after some frosty nights, it was evident that some of the olives contracted frost damage, prompting us to count our losses and pick what is left. With the weather turning all wintery, it was clear that the olives would not ripen further. Maybe this will always be the case, but only time will tell.

So with a container in hand, Gerry and I were outside, picking our total harvest in about 45 minutes flat. :-) It totaled just over 2kg. However, these included everything that remotely resembles an olive; frost, wind, and bird damaged olives in tow. We ended up using only about half of them in our first ever pickling attempt.  More on this later.

The frost damaged olives clearly visible.

Some of the trees have about equal numbers of olives and leaves.

Gerry at work on an Ascolano.

The complete harvest of 2012  -  2.041kg.