Category Archives: History

My Crown of Weeds

My Crown of Weeds.

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The Latest Wild Story

On Bunya nuts, bumper crops and the wait for tubers

“Bunya pines fruit every year, but once in 3 the plants have a “bumper crop” where there is much more cones than usual. That’s what happened last year, when we went to Callan park and were lucky to collect a number of the cones.
There were so much nuts in it, which were being eaten by possums in the park and many had little bite marks!
We ate for ages the fresh nuts, just straight in the pan, roasted in the shell until they popped and yum!

We also planted some, as according to some research we’ve done, the nuts (seeds) if planted they sprout and make a tuber in the early stages of development, which is also edible and apparently delicious.

According to our research, sprouted Bunya nuts were one of the only form of cultivation indigenous people did in this country.. they must have been worth it!

We’ll share more information as soon as we see them/eat them”

Lee + Licky

On rabbits and the chase of the ferrets

Story by Jim Walliss

Rabbits and My Youth
In the late 1940’s, while in high school I had ferrets which I used to catch rabbits. In the country rabbits was both a food supply for many families as well as providing an income from the sale of skins. It was often referred to as “underground mutton” particularly during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
My ferrets were the white variety, sometimes referred to being albino polecats. Each weekend I would take my ferrets and head into the local farmland and hills. When I found a warren I placed nets across each entrance. I made these nets from twine using a special needle, after having been taught the stitch by a neighbour who had used the technique to make camouflage nets as part of the voluntary war effort.
After making sure I had not missed an entrance the ferrets, usually two, were released into the burrows that made up the warren. It was amazing how often the rabbits, when hunted by the ferrets, would come out a hole you had missed. If they emerged into the nets they were quickly killed and the net reset. If rabbits escaped the nets they were chased by my two
dogs.
Sometimes the ferrets came across a goanna or snake in the burrows. This developed a frenzy in the ferrets’ attitude. To them it was an exciting experience but not to their owner who waited helplessly by listening to the underground reptile hissing. Frequently the ferrets would emerge with fluffed up fur and arched backs and dance around before racing back underground to enjoy the contest between animal and reptile. They were extremely difficult to catch when in this mood. Later, when I read “ Rikki Tikki Tavi” by Rudyard Kipling describing how the mongoose killed the cobra, I could understand what instinctively drove my ferrets’ behaviour. But it was not a happy experience for their young owner.
When exhausted with their “fun” they were happy to be caught and placed in their box for the journey home.

Sometimes, after a busy weekend, they would become tired; particularly if they had killed a rabbit they would stay in the burrow and go to sleep. As it was usually impossible to dig the burrow because of its size and the rocky nature of the soil the only course of action was to close the burrow up with soil and return next weekend as I had to attend school during the week. The burrow was too far from home to visit on week afternoon and I was required to help with the milking.
When I returned to the burrow the following weekend I would hope that the ferret had not dug itself out and wandered off. On opening the burrow the ferret would emerge, usually smelling strongly of dead rabbit. I was so glad to see my ferret I wouldquickly picked it and hugged it like a long lost friend despite its odour. Some ferrets were muzzled at times so that could not kill the rabbits before chasing them out of the burrow. Occasionally they would find a litter of young in the lined nest that the mother had made and go sleep in it after eating a young bunny. This did not happen often as the female rabbits usually dug a small burrow away from the warren to have their litter ; the entrance being closed with soil while the mother was absent. Foxes could smell out the location of the nest and often dug straight down to help themselves to the young rabbit kittens.
After working with the ferrets for a number of years and rearing some of them as off spring of your own ferrets you became attached to them. You also acquired a number of scars from bites. These stay with you into your old age.
Once when digging out a burrow with a pick I accidently cut a ferret. When I arrived home I successfully sewed the wound up with needle and cotton although the wound did smell for a period of time..
The ferrets were housed in a box which had a sleeping compartment and an enclosed run over bird netting where they could exercise and deposit their droppings in one corner. Despite the cage being well made they sometimes found or made a hole through which they could escape. The ferret escapades became apparent to me when I was woken from my sleep by the startled cackling of fowls in their roosting shed. Of my family I was the first and only one to hear the rumpus as my room was in a sleep-out on the closed in verandah. Quickly climbing out of bed I located the ferrets and returned them to their box after finding and plugging their escape hole. And then back to bed.
It was usually at breakfast that my father would announce that there were a number of dead “chooks” in the fowl-yard showing no evidence of how they died. (Ferrets usually killed by grabbing the fowls by the throat and sucking blood out). The ferrets were not suspected as the culprits. Sometimes they went through the rat holes in the wheat shed – the rats often spent the next day up in the rafters before they considered it was safe to return to ground level.
After the war years rabbit skins prices were at record high; from memory they were about 14 shillings a pound for good winter pelts. Sales of skins provided me with a good bank balance. Some sellers sprinkled sand into pelts to increase their weight.
At other periods there was good money in selling the carcasses for meat. Trucks would come around to pick up the rabbits which had been gutted and cleaned.
We did enjoy rabbits as meals as many large families did in those times. They were eaten curried, in stews or just fried – no elaborate recipes. We were very selective in the rabbits that we used; usually three-quarter grown rabbits being the tenderest .

Myxomatosis was introduced into Australia in 1950 in the Albury area as a biological control agent for the European rabbit. The rabbit is one of Australia’s most significant vertebrate pests, with an estimated economic impact of $200 million p.a. Rabbits cause significant environmental, agricultural and pastoral damage.
Myxomatosis occurs throughout the rabbit’s distribution in Australia.
Myxomatosis is a highly infectious disease. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and rabbit fleas.
Not everyone was happy with its introduction as the following article in a newspaper in 1952 shows:
Myxomatosis
Introduction of Myxomatosis is a crime. Apart from ruining a big export industry, the
Government has deprived the people of thousands of freemeals. How will the dead rabbits, mainly along waterways, affect public health? The rabbits will fall into the streams and pollute them. The Government should . have employed trappers. The next cry will be shortage of meat.
POOL’S PARADISE.
Moonah.

reposting someone else’s mushrooms adventures

Hi all, I found this blog entry and HAD to share>>

From here

In a way that is probably all too typically Australian, I have not been much of a mushroom forager in the past. Fungi are without doubt the weakest part of my foraging game. A few field mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) have passed my way; those least challenging of all with their obvious similarity to the common cultivated type (Agaricus bisporus). One foray in England brought a few home once, but which we then failed to identify with enough surety to eat. And I will confess to some youthful dalliances with the hallucinogenic kind (Psilocybe cubensis) from North Coast cow paddocks. But somehow I managed to spend far too long of the common view that we are simply not a country with enough edible mushrooms to make it a worthwhile pursuit. I have rarely been so wrong.

Perhaps with this the wettest autumn in memory around here I have probably picked a very good year to start, because my first foray into serious mushrooming has been a phenomenal success. With saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus) to be precise. Last Sunday evening, with fading light and just enough time for the briefest foray, the beginning was at the Vulcan State Forest just out of Black Springs. Within a few metres and a few seconds of entering the forest, there they were, so thick on the ground that all but the best looking were ignored and the basket still easily filled within perhaps ten minutes.

A full basket within minutes and metres of entering the forest
Reaching the cabin that night in the dark and the last couple of hundred metres on foot with the car stuck in the wet I don’t start on eating them; that last vestige of caution and toxiphobia holding me back when so far from town and uncertain of the car’s abilities. The following morning however it takes only daylight and greater impatience to push me over the edge, and to push one thinly sliced cap into a pan. And it was delicious; only delicately flavoured in my view but wonderfully textured and cooking to a beautiful rich orange. On reflection it seems to me that the saffron milk cap is the perfect novice mushroom (as also found by others). Perhaps most importantly, it is just so distinctive and identifiable; plus it is great eating; and to top it off it is wonderfully abundant at the right time (early Autumn) and place (pine forest).

Sliced saffron milk caps

In a hot pan and butter, all too easy
The next day we make our back to Sydney with a stop at Belanglo State Forest to top the basket up. After sorting the haul in the morning I learned why you see foragers like River Cottage’s John Wright being so careful and delicate with their cargo – bruised mushrooms lose a lot of appeal and they do it quite quickly and easily. A few trashed ones thrown out, I am actually glad to have cause to get more. Belanglo didn’t seem as well stocked as Vulcan, but it was still very easy pickings and somehow a more open and inviting forest to walk into (strange though that is to say of a place of such serial killing infamy).

So now I have it, the mushrooming bug, and I already find it impossible to imagine that any autumn will pass again in which I do not venture into the pine forests. There is a crucial tipping point with fears like those we have about wild mushrooms where rationality wins out. To now branch out to slippery Jacks (Suillus Luteus) or boletes (Boletus portentosus), should I be lucky enough to find them, seems but a meagre challenge. On Tuesday it’s Penrose and Wingello State Forests for more.

thanks Forager’s year!

On how to make a bark Canoe

Historians Jim Walliss and instigator Diego Bonetto collaborate with artists Steve Russell and Noel Lonesborough from Boolarng Nangamai Aboriginal Corporation to tackle the challenge of making a traditional (Aboriginal) Jervis Bay canoe from the bark of a stringybark tree sourced on the Bundanon property.

The canoe was constructed in eight hours – following clear directions provided by Maritime Architect Davis Payne from the National Maritime Museum, and contemporary marine artist James Dodd who had constructed two canoes in 2010. The Siteworks bark canoe was made from traditional materials (with a little help from a Bunnings vice), including string from the stringybark tree and beeswax and resin from the grass tree. It was then launched as part of Siteworks 2011 on the Shoalhaven River.

on four leaves clovers

I’M LOOKING OVER A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER
(Mort Dixon / Harry Woods)

I’m looking over a four-leaf clover
That I overlooked before
One leaf is sunshine, the second is rain
Third is the roses that grow in the lane

No need explaining, the one remaining
Is somebody I adore
I’m looking over a four-leaf clover
That I overlooked before