Micheal Keenan Interviews Jackie O'Reilly fo SA Life!

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O'Reilly's News - Spring 2009

Terrific rains throughout winter and early spring, have given our garden and the whole landscape and its ecology, a wonderful opportunity for regeneration.  It’s stimulating for the human soul as well after the dry times of the last few years. 

Naturally in the garden it has meant the grasses and the weeds are going berserk.  Always the busiest time of the year we can never keep up with the tasks at hand, the rush to get all the slashing done, the veggie beds established and the irrigation operational before harvest begins.  With the soil moisture so high, slashing too early will only cause the grasses to regrow.  Allowing the grasses to flower is also very good for the insect world, providing food and habitat.  For this reason it is important not to slash all at once and also we like to leave pockets untended, particularly allowing the patches of natives grasses to seed. Yes it does make the place look a little feral and some visitors get a little concerned about snakes. 

Snakes do live amongst and we see them regularly from October through to April.  I’m not suggesting they don’t put the wind up me but I have learned to live with them.  They, like us have a role to play in the bigger picture.  Over the years I have accidently trod on them, nicked them with the brush cutter and had one do a 360 around my ankle in its bid to run away.  Never have I had an experience where I felt attacked or had one of my dogs bitten.  One time I was in the goats stable mixing feeds when I noticed my dog a metre behind engrossed and dead still.  Looking down was a brown snake that I initially thought seemed sick...but no it had a mouse in its mouth.  They must be very vulnerable during these times as apparently the process of swallowing a feed such as this can take around an hour and the snake will go into a kind of semi coma, kind of like a broody hen.  Feeling relatively safe we finished the task and quietly left the snake to its lunch in peace.

A couple of summers ago were very memorable when one particular snake seemed to set up camp in one of my veggie gardens.  It was always around and I swear that over time we came to an understanding.  It was not unusual for me to be working away with it only a couple of metres away.  It would after acknowledging my presence, continue to fossick and poke around in the mulches.  One afternoon a customer called by for whom I needed to pick a fresh bunch of silver beet. As doing so I felt an ever so slight little tug tug under my foot, ignored it and it was then repeated, which caused me to lift my foot.  Sure enough “my snake” had been asleep in the patch of silver beet.  Most snakes would slide away in a rush but this one calm as you please just moved off.

It is experiences like these that arise from the natural world that give reason and value to why I live and work in this lifestyle.  It’s a kind of wealth that money just can’t buy and brings about a deep sense of personal satisfaction.  David and I are now in our early 50’s and have been living and developing the property for 15 years.  We still love the place and despite the hard yakka we intend to continue.  Recently we have begun a new phase of development, which includes new shedding and improved access for visitors.  At last the long awaited house renovations are also included in the planning and 2010 looks like being very busy.  We are keen to build the Food Tourism aspect of our business, having trialled hosted meals and feeding small groups.  These have been very successful with our visitors really enjoying their time with us and the wholesome food.  It’s a garden to plate experience.

Meanwhile it’s back to the garden to help pay for it all!  Everyday different veggie beds are being built and I am so looking forward to all the fresh fruit in a just a few weeks time!



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