Monday, 20 January 2014

we all enjoy the end of the day



by Simone McPherson

For the past couple of days or so we have put fencing to the side to take care of a more immediate problem …

… that this hot, dry, searing weather has brought upon us and that is – we are running out of feed for our cattle, no rain you see at this time of year and we are going into the fourth month now.   

We are out every second day checking the water levels in the dams for with the heat the evaporation rate is now higher than ever …
El Ranchero learned from an old farmer from this region way back - that during times of no rainfall which end result is no feed for the cattle; there is a plant that can come to the rescue and of which we have bountiful of …

… the Velvet Tree Pear - opuntia tomentosa – not to be confused with Prickly Pear – opuntia stricta– thank goodness as there is nothing worse than to watch your cattle run out of feed, we watch as the afternoons build up with thunderclouds then not a single drop falls and the big heavy black clouds move away …. 
The Velvet Tree Pears grow to about 5mtrs or so with dull branches and a velvety surface – hence the name I am assuming …

I remember reading that the plant originally came from Central Mexico into Australia, they cannot give an exact time of its introduction though I would believe it came in as a garden plant … as it produces a brilliant orange flower followed by a very deep red fruit that are edible, though  it is full of tiny little black seeds that you can break your teeth on … speaking from experience I decided to make a jam a number of years ago, unfortunately I neglected to strain the seeds a slight disaster, I donated the batch to the local honey birds who seemed to enjoy the jam they did not worry too much about the seeds at all …

PURSALANE FOUND @ ONE OF THE CATTLE TROUGHS LAST WINTER
I am a great one for ‘Food Foraging’ I have done it since a child, my mother was a wonder to go on picnics with as she would always add something that she had foraged from around our picnic site – wild nettle, lambs ear, dandelion, watercress from the creeks, pursalane, wild guavas and fennel growing along the road and so many other edible plants wild and introduced, I loved those days.  I know it is rather an expression now to be a “Forager”, even a discipline like Barista these days but it is something I think many people, families have done for eons …

However getting back to the gorgeous bright red fruit of the Velvet Tree Pear well; all the birds, the Fallow deer, the feral pigs, the feral goats and the cattle relish the fruits as they fall to the ground I have also seen them with necks outstretched as far as they can reach to pluck a plump bright red fruit fresh of the Velvet Tree Pear itself.

The paddles too I have attempted to eat not with much success I might add, I do believe it may have been the way I prepared the paddles and to the fact that I was not accustomed to the taste and texture in my mouth?

Unlike the Prickly Pear the Velvet Tree Pear has hardly any problematic thorns … and I do believe it is for this reason that the cattle can manage it well and devour it? That they do.

The Velvet Tree Pears can be a little hazardous to cut with the Chainsaw ...

... as they are full of moisture which makes them very heavy as well as being unstable when they fall and 'splat' everywhere.

Though once a branch hits the ground the most amazing thing starts to unfold ...  
I would not have believed it had I not seen it … the cattle come trotting from miles around, they just manifest out of the bush, from the gullies and through the dry creek beds …

… there is not a sound of alert or to indicate that something is happening …

… the cattle seem to have a telepathic connection and they just all start to appear …

And do they relish that Velvet Tree Pear? they devour every single paddle that has fallen to the ground along with the unripe fruit, it’s such a wonderful sight to behold …

We have also been getting things organised for that splendid boundary fence that was dozed back in October 2013 …

… remember how it used to look, it was no wonder that we lost cattle to the neighbour?

And then after that ingenious dozer driver had been it was transformed …

… and now it is going to be transformed again with the help of a fencing contractor … initially it was going to be a five wire Barb however there were some technical, practical and safety issues in pulling the line out … so

... we are now going to be building a four wire electric fence which should take about three days so El Ranchero tells me with the three of us? … phew! I am already exhausted ...

On another note; with this hot dry weather we have been finishing our days down at the Middle paddock which has a Dam only a short drive from the house for …

A little RR for both of us - water is an amazing healer, 

Maxi and ...

... Lily pup …

I’m not sure whether it is more therapeutic for us as we watch them swim around or ...

... for Max and Lily pup as they leisurely swim around in that cool water after the heat of the day?  

Whichever way it may be we all enjoy the end of the day with a little reprieve from the heat though the evenings are still warm but not searing …