Sunday, 23 September 2012

Olive Awards Dinner

Last night husband, daughter, daughter's husband and I attended the olives awards dinner at the Royal Perth Yacht Club.  We didn't have any entries in the competition because I wasn't particularly olive focussed in August when the entries were finalised, but I wanted to see who was there and who was on the prize list.  Meredith, our daughter, was a judge (she has been for several years) and also a sponsor of two prizes ( so maybe a good thing we didn't have an entry in, to avoid conflicts of interest!) What struck me initially was the change in the names of the groves represented.  Only a few names were familiar to me from earlier years. When the industry first took off in the 1990s it was going to be the next big thing - remember ti tree oil, alpacas, emus ... Lots of people thought it was going to be a lovely activity as a retirement project which would top up their super ...  Ten to fifteen years later and perhaps the scales have fallen from people's eyes.  A lot of growers have sold up, or pulled out their trees, or just lost interest.  The amount of work required proved difficult for ageing retirees, and the financial returns had not matched the earliest projections. Marketing has been difficult.  Even the big growers who had investors and wonderful infrastructure have in many cases slunk off licking their wounds.  So it was refreshing to see a new crop of names in the awards booklet, and new faces around the dinner tables.  However I noticed that there are still a predominance of grey heads.  It appears that an olive grove can work as an adjunct to another aspect of farming, or if the grove has contract harvesting and pressing services, or tourist facilities. But otherwise, small scale olive growing is maybe best seen as a hobby.  And an expensive one!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

It looks good after slashing, doesn't it?

Doesn't this look nice and tidy and manicured now?  Usually we slash the grove twice in spring, but owing to the sensitive condition of the old tractor I think we will just settle for one cut, and hope the weeds don't get to grow again too much during the spring rain... We like to leave a bit of cover on our poor sandy soil to hold it in place during summer, and keep our fingers crossed that the bit of valuable pasture (the clover) will be able to flower and seed between the weeds.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Tractor trouble

As I mentioned earlier, it is time to get slashing.  Tania the energetic has been on the tractor, driving it like a woman possessed, and has made things look much much tidier, but sadly at a cost.  Poor old tractor gave up some whiffs of smoke on Thursday and went into a sulk.  It couldn't be started.  Tania rang to tell me the sad news, and I rang our good neighbour, John the tractor mechanic.  He was able to get it going again, and took it over to his place.  It appears it is something to do with the clutch. He is going to replace some plugs or something and I'll pick it up from his place tomorrow.  I am reluctant to put the slasher back on as I fear it is all too much for the poor old tractor.  We had the clutch replaced at considerable cost 18 months ago. I am hanging on to win Lotto.  How nice it would be to have a 4 WD tractor with a sound proof cab and reliable hydraulics that never broke down.
On the good news front I was able to put a super on the bees yesterday - numbers have finally built up, and it is warmer.  Lots of bees are clustering round the entrance, and most are coming in with pollen from the capeweed.  Fingers crossed we will get some honey before too long.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Flash back to July

In winter we get beautiful misty mornings

Spring storms

We had another storm with strong winds at the beginning of September.  I went to the grove imagining I'd see lots of blown over olive trees which would need cutting back and propping up but we were lucky this time.  I only found a big old jarrah tree which was weak at the base which had gone over and had got hooked up on a neighbouring marri.  It is magnificent firewood, but my bet is mysterious visitors will chain saw it up and we won't get any of it!

Spring is upon us

Suddenly the capeweed is in flower and the lupins are heading skywards.  Over the years we have been slashing the grove, the areas of lupins have reduced.  At one stage we couldn't see the growing trees for the massive lupins, and I did a lot of hand weeding, which worked all right while the lupins were small and tender.  Mature lupins however, are a different matter.  They are hard to pull and very very scratchy.  The capeweed (which we called dandelion when we were kids) is not really a problem.  It is a great source of protein for bees.  It does seem to have a symbiotic relationship with the nasty weed broomrape, but I figure it holds down the soil and contributes to biomass, as it is one of few plants which relish our miserable light sandy soil.
Cowslip orchids
Swan River Myrtle

introduced kangaroo paws

During spring I sneak off to the 'bush block', which is 14 acres of remnant bush mixed with some parkland clearing.  If you look at the right time, you can find all sorts of wildflowers. Later in the season I should be able to find enamel orchids, Blue ladies and spider orchids, if I am lucky.  We have no natural kangaroo paws, though we have the related conostylus.  However, two years ago the local council (Mandurah) gave me a grant to fence a 10 metre square area, and a selection of indigenous plants.  A lot didn't survive, but the kangaroo paws have grown enthusiastically.