Last month, as part of a Limestone Coast Slow Food Weekend, I partook in an Orchard Walk at Kalangadoo Organic Apple Orchard. I had been purchasing their apples from the Kalangadoo Country Market, and it was a wonderful opportunity to see where and how, the delicious fruit was grown.
Here we are gathered for the start of the tour, with Michele pointing the way…..to her husband Chris, in the orchard.
I won’t go into too much detail here, but Chris explained about how apple trees are grafted onto rootstock – no, they are not all grown by seed. The graft is the knobbly bit on the trunk between the ground and the branches.
In line with their philosophy of local and seasonal, they do not use cold storage for any fruit, but spread the harvest using a range of different varieties of apples from early to late season. Surplus fruit is dried, juiced or turned into Cider Vinegar.
These are the drying racks. After much experimentation, and trials, no fruit is treated in any way whatsoever in the drying process. No preservatives, not even lemon juice. And the final product is delicious!
Bio-diversity is all important, and various herbs are grown amongst the apple trees, as an understory. Naturally, the trees are deeply mulched, and surprisingly snails are not a problem. They have found that where-ever herbicides are used, snails, in particular, the dreaded exotic white snail, will increase. Cease use of herbicides, and snails disappear……
I wish the cereal farmers on Yorke Peninsula would take notice of this. They pour thousands of litres of chemicals on their crops each year, to kill – somewhat unsuccessfully – the snails. And humans and livestock eat that food….
Next we trudged across the paddock, to meet the star of the show.
Meet Celeste! She’s a Wessex Saddleback Sow. Wessex Saddleback pigs are listed as ‘critically endangered’ by the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia. The Wessex does well when free range, and produces excellent pork. They are highly suited to small farms, and judging by Celeste, excellent good natured creatures. She makes good use of spoiled apples – although there wasn’t much ‘spoiled’ that I could see with the apples she was eating!
I wasn’t the only one who fell in love with her…
Pigs are extremely intelligent creatures. I raised a pig once, and he was smarter than my goats, who were much smarter than the dogs. He loved to go for trips in my ute too, but that’s another story….
Celeste was due to have another litter of piglets in a few weeks time, and here’s the father. He was sweet too 🙂
Back to the orchard. An electronic bird scarer is used periodically, but was turned off for the tour, and run just briefly so we could experience the noise it made. That’s it on the left, attached to the battery, which was solar powered.
By this stage, I was looking longingly at the deliciously ripe fruit, just begging to be picked…..
I think they got the message, because we headed back to the packing sheds. By this stage, many interesting conversations were taking place between visitors. Just as it should be.
Chickens are run in the orchards, as part of the pest management strategy, and what a wonderful life these hens have compared with the pitiful creatures that spend their whole lives in a cage. That practice should be outlawed. Please do not purchase eggs unless they come from certified free range farms.
Also running in the orchard, are geese, and their protector, a Maremma sheepdog.
Finally, let the feasting begin! Each bowl held a different variety of apple, some dating back into last century, and each with a different flavour and texture to the others. All very tasty, and difficult to select a favourite! Young and old consumed the apples and juices with much enjoyment!
Finally, for those of you who use Organic Apple Cider Vinegar for health purposes, this weird looking thing hanging from Michele’s hands, is what is called “The Mother” . It is “The Mother” that makes it so special. I’d known to only purchase the vinegar that had the Mother in it, but had no idea of what it really was. Now I know. I had a tasting of their Cider Vinegar, and it was the nicest I’ve ever tasted! Yes, I drank it straight, well, sipped it slowly more to the point, but I savoured every last drop!
No, I can’t finish without another look at those wonderful gifts of Eve – APPLES!