Now, this isn’t like borrowing the solution to Question #27 on a chemistry multiple choice. I promise it’s not.
We have been mulling over our blackberry problem for a while now, and proposing various herbivores as appropriate solutions. But the actuality of an actual real live sheep/goat/alpaca/elephant has been offputting – all of that fencing, tethering, defending from marauding dogs that are sure to sniff out that we have a new takeaway on legs for them captive at our place, the possibility of vegie patches devastated by a quadruped on a rampage. It all just seemed too hard.
But then a friend rang, needing a place for her goat to stay while they gave their garden a rest for a while and built a suitable goat shelter for the coming winter. I said yes before I’d even thought about it. I must say I worried a little when I hung up. (What would happen if somehow I didn’t do something necessary and the poor goat suffered a terrible fate?) But I needn’t have.
Meet Coco, the solution to our blackberry problem that we’ve borrowed from some friends:
She is the tamest, most compact goat I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. We walk her around from place to place on the dog lead, tethering her on a nice long rope near impenetrable blackberries, and she EATS THEM. I honestly thought that she wouldn’t. However, it seems that she actually prefers them to almost anything else. (I wouldn’t trust her with the vegie patch or the orchard though…) When she is finished with a patch, she bleats for a bit until we move her to the next tough, spiky, prickly patch which she then demolishes in her delicate, nibbling way.
I think I’m in love.
(For all the worriers out there, we also have a couple of disused chook runs that have secure fences and gates, and she gets time off her tether in there. Ok?)
Apricot, it was, from fruit my mum harvested from her tree…
I used an American recipe, which called for less sugar, and then said to use water-bath canning to preserve the jam. I’d always just made jam the good ole Aussie way – equal parts fruit & sugar, cook to buggery and then ladle into sterile jars, screw on the tops and hope it vaccum seals… This was a new experience! And a good one. We now have apricot jam that you can actually taste the apricots in, rather than the sugar ruling the flavour. Yum!
And then I must have snapped and lost my tiny mind in some way, because I made:
L-R: tomato relish, canned nectarines, pickled zucchini (in tall jars at the back), and in front of them are dill pickles (cucumbers!). All but the tomatoes were from our garden, and were sitting gradually subsiding on our kitchen table, causing me anguish and guilt. There. Take that, produce avalanche!!
Of course, I also did it in the week that school went back for Girlchild, and I had school supplies to get for Boychild, and there were eleventy million other things to do… and did I mention that it was HOT? Well it was. So I canned at night, and muttered about the heat and humidity and did prep work for it all during the day, and sat watching the Vacola canner burble away into the night, wishing that my kitchen came with built-in foot masseur. (Perhaps I should put it on the list for the one-day upgrade?)
Wow. It’s only been 14 weeks since we moved into our OKG, but we’ve ripped through some to-do items So. Fast. There are still so many things to do, but it seems odd how much we’ve actually done. I guess it’s because we’re pretty relaxed here, as it’s our long-term base now, and there’s just not the pressure that we felt at our old house to get it all done, yesterday! Less pressure = more efficient, productive work… who would have thought?!
Our achievements so far:
- Gutting the laundry outbuilding, removing the asbestos (!), re-lining it, repainting it, and re-plumbing it.
- Going in search of the grease trap, finding there was only an old, broken one and that horrors! it had been bypassed with a solid pvc pipe, that just kind of ended pointing at a path that is a main path to the house…and that was where the water from the shower, bath and kitchen sink drained into. So that’s why there was a swamp on the way to the car… mmm, mmm!
- Digging in an ag pipe, to take the kitchen and bathroom grey water AWAY from the path, and through some orchard trees that can probably take the excess.
- Made a mental note to read our product ingredients, to make sure they’re safe for greywater use.
- Digging in a new grease trap outside the kitchen, in the process discovering the dodgiest kitchen sink plumbing we’ve ever seen
- Paving around the back door, including around the new grease trap, so that there is not so much mud and dust getting into the house
- Replacement of the toilet, because we discovered that the pipe to the septic tank was cracked. ‘Nuff said.
- Epic battles with blackberries as we try to reclaim a garden and outbuildings that are in danger of being eaten by them, and used for sets for the fairytale ‘Sleeping Beauty’. This is a block that should never have been seen as a potential holiday house – who were they kidding?!
- Got plans for a new shed, and a new home office drawn up by our architect friend, and had them submitted to local council for approval
- Planted seeds of all sorts of things in preparation for sticking into the garden beds we’re liberating
- Had weeding help from friends who like to be busy with their hands while we catch up! Yay!
- Hacked a path through the overgrown front garden to the front door, and dreamed of the rose garden that I will have there one day. One day…
- Mowed the grass countless times
- Made very good friends indeed with the whipper snipper
- Replaced the whipper snipper head… someone thinks they own a brushcutter…!
- Had our ride on mower go out of action. I’m maintaining that it just looked at our paddock and had a mid-life crisis!
- Had more rain than we’ve ever experienced at our last house. We are now officially in the area that the weather bureau mean when they say ‘chance of rain’
- Has been tamed, and has now turned into:
One HUGE rhubarb, and lots of seedlings...
- And we even managed to take an 8 day holiday interstate to visit favourite Aunts, Uncles and cousins!
Watching this garden wake up and bloom through Spring has been like watching a film on fast forward. No sooner do we notice something, and remember to say to each other, “Have you seen the…?” than it is suddenly gone and finished, replaced by the next quick bloom, momentary flare of colour, astounding new growth. Except the blackberries. Always the blackberries…