Saturday, 12 April 2014

Alpacas in the Olive Grove

A 5L bucket of black olives is quality checked by our little fluffy friend
'Tis the season for olives.  Mike asked our local olive oil maker, Bert, if we could pick some of his.  In  typical small-town-hospitality style, he told us he wouldn't be home on Sunday, but we were welcome to go onto his land and pick olives.  The instructions were simply to pick from the third row of trees, from the road.  We arrived and were bemused by our welcome party.  A long-necked sheep!  Wait a minute, it's an alpaca!  What a wonderful sight!  Bert forgot to tell us about his pet!  This little gal imprinted on Mike and decided to follow him closely for the duration of our picking session.

Hello, Little One.  Mike called her Opal.

Curioser and curioser, and then....... a kiss!

Sniffing and smelling everything
We left a box full of our bottled preserves and fresh produce for Bert, on his doorstep.  It is a good principle to live by, to exchange goods.  We have so much we can trade!  And it is great to give people food that you have too much of!   Earlier in the week, we took a bagful of feijoas and guavas down to the local backpackers. It was dinner time for them and I knocked at the front door.  It was opened by a Spanish lass.  I gave her the bag and told her that we had too much fruit and couldn't eat it all.  The bag was to share among the residents.  She seemed genuinely taken aback that a stranger should give food away.  But pleasantly so.  We will take another bag tomorrow.  
After having so many foreign travelers share our home and lives, we feel drawn to any foreign accent we come across.  I have to exert restraint lest I come across as a mad woman.  Mike and I went to the movies last week, and there were 3 young foreign travelers in the seats in front of us, I wanted to touch them on the shoulder and ask if they were okay or needed anything.  When I shared that later with Mike, he laughed and said he felt the same way!

Sticking close to Mike

Opal taking a little snooze at Mike's feet

Cutest little Earthling!
Back to Bert's, what a fantastic morning we had, the sun was shining, the trees were chokka full of olives; green and black. First we picked a bucket of black, then a bucket of green.  We had a cuppa tea from our flask, in the sunshine, while our little fluffy friend sniffed and nuzzled us.  We marveled at the generosity of our host, who asked for nothing in return.  People would pay for the privilege of just picnicking in the olive orchard.  300 olive trees.  Rows and rows of them.  A magical place.

Olives in the morning sunshine.

Olives ripening
Olives are a Super-Food.  They are high in  anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  They can help decrease blood pressure due to their monounsaturated fats, and are thus also good for heart health.  Olive benefits have been demonstrated for the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, nervous system, musculoskeletal system, immune system, inflammatory system, and digestive system.  Research has also shown olives to be good anti-cancer food, because they are high in antioxidants and protect our DNA integrity.  In fact, for more info as to why you should eat olives daily, read this.
Mystical Olive Grove

Our little buddy made a series of continual bleatings, like a lamb sneeze.
As we were finishing up our morning tea break, we looked up and to our surprise, discovered a dozen other alpacas had snuck up on us.  A couple of them seemed to have these curious rabbit-like teeth.  I have read that alpacas are mainly used for their soft fleece which is likened to a cross between merino and cashmere.  Their bigger counterparts, llamas, are typically beasts of burden.  Alpacas were introduced to NZ in 1987 and we at last count, numbered 12 000.  They would make the most awesome pet!

Hello, there Big Fella!   

Odd-looking creatures remind me of Mr Tumness in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Surrounded by fantastical creatures

Beyond the gate lies a mystical kingdom of strange creatures and great beauty

A 5L bucket of green olives
Now we start the 30 day curing process.  I submerge the olives in water and change it every evening.  For 30 days.  Then we bottle them.  How exciting.  I will have to gift Bert a bottle of olives!

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