Saturday, February 07, 2009

Things to love about Alpacas

Alpacas at Freshfield Alpacas, Somerville
Things to love about Alpacas:
  • They are communal poo-ers. A herd will have a few designated dung piles in a paddock, making the collection of their manure easy.
  • They have soft padded feet, minimising soil compaction
  • They don't ringbark trees
  • Did I mention that they are communal poo-ers? I think that deserves two gongs.
After a visit to an Alpaca breeder close to the peninsula patch, I've become interested in the possibility of incorporating Alpacas (Vicugna pacos) into the mix on the peninsula property as grass mowers, and providers of manure and, possibly, fleece. Tagasaste, which is in the planting plan, is a recommended fodder.

On an impractical note, they are entrancing spitters. Spitting among themselves is used to divert annoying suitors, protect themselves from a threat, or help establish dominance over other animals. Unlike Llamas, the spitting is pretty low-key. The spitting I saw between two alpacas was like a hissy fit between two diffident antagonists - half hearted and harumphy, if you can imagine that!

In the inner city patch

Beans and cucumbers, inner-city patch, January 2009

On the menu from the garden these days are zucchinis, cucumbers, and climbing beans. A glut of zucchinis has meant big batches of zucchini soup.

If picked while still small, I often put the beans into salads raw. I cook the bigger ones up in dishes like the one below (recipe is in the March 2008 post)

Beans in tomatoes, ginger, tumeric, masala, and onions

Because I'm often a lazy gardener, I forgot that I'd planted some Buckler-leaved sorrel (Rumex Scutatus) a year or so ago. When I came across it in the garden, I decided to cook it up. I've never used it before, and actually have trouble distinguishing it from spinach but it tasted excellent made into this tart. The sorrel has a lovely lemony, fresh taste. I think it would go well in salads too.

Buckler-leaved sorrel, inner-city patch, January 2009

Peninsula patch

Grain amaranth, sweetcorn, wormwood, rhubarb, red clover, rocket, woolly vetch, jerusalem artichokes, nastursium, climbing beans (on the trellis in the middle), potatoes, dill, mustard, comfrey.

This video was taken on the 25th January, and the patch is now looking much less green as we've had two weeks of very hot, dry weather. The heatwave has decimated the corn and half the potatoes, and the beans are pretty much gone. The grain amaranth has survived and is ready for harvest. Andrew Djurovich from Tenderbreak Permaculture has advised (see his comment on previous post) that the amaranth seed I sent to him in November is also doing well. You can follow Andrew and his partner Heather's adventures in permaculture on their new blog:

Under my father's extension to the orchard I've planted French millet and adzuki. The millet has done OK, but the adzuki hasn't germinated (no rain).

Rhubarb and beans from the peninsula patch, January 2009

I've also established a stand of Microlaena stipoides (weeping grass), var. Griffin, as a seedbank for future use on the property. An indigenous variety of microlaena also grows in small stands all about the property and I have been harvesting the seed of that.
Microlaena stipoides seed bank, peninsula patch, January 2009

Other seeds I've harvested include chives, Kennedia prostrata (Running postman), woolly vetch, broccoli, and rocket.

On TV, my partner and I are addicted to 'River Cottage', a documentary that follows the fortunes of a London chef, with the improbable name of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who leaves the city to live on a small rural block in Dorset. The doco follows his fortunes as tries to grow and barter his own food, including raising pigs and butchering them, as well as exploring the possibility of sustainable fishing. Along the way is lots of fantastic cooking of fresh, local produce. It's pretty addictive stuff.

That's it from me for the moment.

Marie Antoinette