This innocuous little autumn-flowering crocus produces saffron, the world’s most expensive spice.
Saffron is what you get when you detach the stigmas and dry them. (Stigmas are the sticky ends of a flower’s reproductive girly parts.) Harvesting takes place over a six week period in mid-late autumn. The flowers are picked early in the morning so they don’t get a chance to open and the stigmas stay protected.
Then, assuming your extremities haven’t turned black and gangrenous from that 15-degree frost you’ve just been working in for the last hour or so, you take the flowers inside, extract the tiny stigmas (keeping them attached to each other, naturally), dry them to the correct standard, weigh them and proudly admire your morning’s work: half a gram of finished product.
That’s why saffron’s so expensive.
Farmer Wan and I, being suckers for this sort of punishment, decided it was about time we took a crash course on a cash crop and so we recently acquired 1,000 C.sativus corms. We wanted to give them the best possible chance of producing highest-grade saffron, so we went to a fair bit of trouble to ensure they’d flourish.
After calculating that we’d need 20m2 of growing space, Farmer Wan knocked up eight raised beds from untreated eucalyptus. You can follow what we did next by viewing the slideshow below.
Posted by Farmer Nik
Part of the Permculture ethos is community and I thought it a good idea to demonstrate commitment to our new community by joining the local volunteer fire service. A simple way of helping out and demonstrating to others that we are here for the long haul.
I joined up in late November and within the first six weeks I was called out five times. Luckily, only one of those was in the middle of the night. However, given where we live, I was always last to arrive at the fire station in the village and every time I got there the engines had already left. That was until this morning at 06:05 when my pager went off. This time I made it and joined the crew in the larger of the two engines leaving the fire station. Off we went.
It was reported as a scrub fire, deep in the back country valleys full of pine plantations, about 45 mins drive from the village. When we got there we found several fires in various locations already going, so it was pretty much a matter of find a fire and start work. It is very dense forest with a thick undergrowth of gorse, so not easy to move around and drag heavy hoses. We were only able to get in so far before the helicopters came and did their job spectacularly well. At one point there were 3 helicopters with monsoon buckets working on the fire directly in front of us. Once we came down off the hills there was lots of standing around waiting to be told what would happen next and soon we were sent home. In this instance, luckily, there was no wind and it was overcast and there had been recent rains. If conditions had not been so kind the outcome could have been quite different. I'm glad I was able to fight my first fire today and not at the end of summer when everything is tinder dry. A worthwhile way to spend six hours on a Saturday morning.
Unfortunately, there was evidence that all of these fires had been deliberately lit, unbelievable stupidity.
Posted by Farmer Wan