After the unusually high amount of rain the past few months, the landscape has changed quite dramatically. From the dry brown earth that we have become used to, came a sudden plethora of wild flowers including poppies the like of which we have never seen before.
Amongst the wild flowers are many greens which our animals love to eat. The goats, chickens, ducks and pigs are actually looking quite tubby and for the family here at Olive Tree Farm, free food and foraging give us a sense of pleasure when the end result is food for on the table.
We have to admit however, that the expert foraging is not being done by the family at the moment. Our local goat man who is as old as the hills and has taken a shine to the children here, is currently almost one of the family. He has shocking eyesight, hardly any teeth and some days looks extremely fragile, however he can walk for miles, knows what is out there that is good to eat and climbs the hills like a mountain goat albeit almost doubled over.
The piles of weeds he leaves at our farm gate is astounding, they weigh a ton and how on earth he carries them is beyond us. We always thank him and every 2 days or so, we leave a bag of a dozen or more eggs tied to the gate which he collects after his morning goat session. We ask him not to over do it, the eggs are a thank you and we know where to get them from, but no he keeps on collecting; we thank him with more eggs and he collects more weeds. The day after we left him a dozen duck eggs, the pile of weeds was doubled, so we have decided in future we will stick to chicken eggs in the hope he doesn’t feel he has to bring quite so many!
On the subject of duck eggs, the girls have gone egg quackers! One day we collected almost 20 and trying to think of dishes to use them up in was getting difficult, so 18 went into the incubator. People are always asking us for ducklings, so we hoped this might work out well all round. As we have mentioned before, you can candle the eggs by holding a torch to the shell whilst in a dark room. You can quite easily see if a chick or duckling has started to form after about 8 days. Sadly out of the 18 eggs, only 8 look fertile, so fingers crossed if they get through at least there will be some at the end of it all. Many birds eggs hatch at around 21 – 28 days of being sat on or incubated, the Muscovy ducks however take the longest out of any table bird and hatch at 35 – 37 days. We will keep you posted on our Facebook page over the next few weeks as to how we get on. We also have a duck that has made a secret nest under one of the Olive trees and at the last count there were 20 eggs there, so you never know she may just fare better than us, we will see!
So apart from egg overload, what else we are we up to? Our lovely lettuces were looking great. Yes “were” being the operative word … the ducks found them so we now need to replant! The tomato seeds all carefully tended to by Greg looked pathetic so we went to the market and bought some plantlets. We got, plum tomatoes, cherries and salad varieties and thankfully they are doing well. We are making a conscious effort to nip out the side shoots this year which was something we didn’t do last year. When you do not do this, the plants tend to grow in all directions and the fruits seem to ripen at different stages. It will be interesting to see if this year they develop into the small vines of 8 or more that you can harvest all at once, rather than fighting your way through the usual jungle of smelly stems!
Oh and we must not forget onions! Yet again they have been amazing. When we collected them a few weeks ago, we filled two huge sacks and they weighed in at 52kg. We have hung them all on the patio and they will last us for a good few months. It is so nice when cooking to be able to pop outside and grab one to include in whatever concoction we are coming up with!
So there you have it! Nothing too exciting, everything is always trial and error, some successful, some fail miserably, but at all we can do is try! You can follow our progress via our Face Book page to which we add regular posts, plus for anyone not already aware we do have our own You Tube channel.