Monday, March 27, 2017

Olive Farm Tour

My last blog entry was about our Aloe Vera Farm tour in south Texas. We took a few days off earlier in the month to take a short vacation.  And, as is the case with many of our travels, we end up going to places related to gardening and farming.  On the way back north from south Texas, we spent a few days in the Hill Country and stumbled across an olive farm.

A few months ago we watched a 60 Minutes show titled Agromafia.  It reported on how the Italian mafia has infiltrated the Italian food industry and reaps huge profits by making and exporting "fake" olive oil to other countries.  They take a tasteless, odorless oil, such as sunflower oil, add a few drops of chlorophyll to give it a greenish color and sell it as extra virgin olive oil.  It is estimated that 75-80% of the extra virgin olive oil imported and sold in the US as is fake or does not meet the legal standard for extra virgin.  To learn more about it, check out the link above to the 60 Minutes show.  It is very interesting and, for me, quite disturbing.

After watching that show, I refused to buy imported olive oil and started buying olive oil made in the United States.  It is easy to find olive oil from California in the supermarket.  So, when we came across this Texas olive farm, I had to stop.

The farm is near Dripping Springs, TX.  They had a nice store and small restaurant.

They produce three kinds of olive oil and have won several prestigious awards.

There were a couple of tasting stations in the store and we enjoyed tasting the olive oils. 

In addition to these plain olive oils, they have several varieties of infused oils they produce.

After browsing through the store, we took one of the tours they offer.  We got to see some of the olive trees.

They occasionally have hard freezes in this part of Texas.  When that happens, most of the trees will freeze back to the ground.  They normally resprout from the base of the trunk and grow back, but the trees don't produce olives in these years.  So, this company has a farm farther south in Texas where they have more olive trees.  

The last half of the tour was of their production facility.  

The tour guide explained what each piece of equipment did and showed us a picture of what the olive oil looks like right after it is extracted.  After this it goes through several processes during which large particles and debris settle out and it is filtered several times.

This machines puts labels on bottles.

And this one, fills bottles.  These are some balsamic vinegars they also produce.

We bought a bottle of their extra virgin olive oil while we were there and I plan to order more of their products in the future.  They have a great website where you can view their products and order online.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Aloe Vera Farm

On a recent trip to south Texas, we visited an aloe vera farm.  When I say "south Texas", I mean SOUTH Texas, like 5 miles from the Rio Grande boarder with Mexico.  We were there visiting a couple of friends who go there to spend the winter.  We've been to visit them a couple of times and this time they took us to a farm where they raise aloe vera.  

Here's a picture of a field where workers were harvesting the aloe leaves.

The aloe was in bloom while we were there.  It has a beautiful bloom.

So pretty, in fact, that folks plant them in their flower beds.  Here's a picture of one that our friends have in a bed beside their RV.  

After the field tour, we got to see where they grow the plants that they set out on the farm.  

Every few years, they have freezes in that part of the country that damages and/or kills aloe plants.  So, they have to maintain a supply they can use to replant from. 

These plants will live for many years (provided there are no killing frosts) and can grow to very large plants with huge leaves, like this one that was on display inside the on-farm store.

As you probably know, the leaves contain a soothing gel that is used in many different products.  They had a variety of these for sale in the store.

I have several potted aloe plants that I keep on hand and propagate.  I've used their leaves  many times to soothe burns and stop poison ivy from itching.

It was a long trip back to Oklahoma from south Texas.  We made a 2-day drive of it and stopped often to stretch our legs and take a break.  At one convenience store we stopped at I found that they sold several flavors of an aloe vera juice drink.

I've heard the juice was healthy and good for you, but I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet.  I think I'd have to add a lot of sugar to make it suit my taste and that would surely negate any healthy properties it possessed.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Driveway Nightlife

We've had some interesting nighttime visitors in recent weeks.  For a while we have noticed coyotes making their way across our driveway at night.  This seems to happen once or twice a week.  Note that this is within 20 feet of the house.

Obviously, I have the date set wrong on this camera.  It is not 2018 and this did not occur in the future!  Ha!

Then, a couple of nights ago, we had these pictures.

This guy seems to have decided to just hang out on the driveway for a few minutes before moving on.  We've never had any trouble from coyotes and rarely see them except occasionally on the wildlife camera.  But, they have been visiting more frequently lately.  Maybe it is the time of year.

There are other nighttime visitors.  For example, this critter.

I am really baffled by this thing.  It is not the right shape or size for a coyote.  It is more cat-like in appearance, but it seems much too large for a regular house cat.  Could it be a bobcat?  

Finally, there are the neighborhood deer.  We frequently see them in late afternoon or early evening.  We see them coming.

And going.

Looks as if they are getting their exercise on this particular evening.