June 9

Hello all blog followers!    

Today was our second morning waking up at the On the Wallaby Lodge, where we had toast, peanut butter and jelly, cereal, and fruit for breakfast to provide us energy for the day.  We left the hostel shortly after breakfast where our tour guide, Paul, drove us to a Curtain Fig tree right down the street.    

There, Paul told us a rather comedic story that included John, Juan, Michelle, and Katie as well as an Aboriginal story that gave us a better idea of how the curtain fig was created.  What happened, was a seed was deposited in the host tree’s crown and it germinated and the first root descended to the soil.  Then the fig developed aerial roots which encircled and eventually strangled the host tree.  The host tree then fell into a neighboring tree, a stage which is pretty unique to the development of a curtain fig tree.  Vertical fig roots descended from the fig’s trunk to form the curtain-like appearance.  Then, eventually the host tree rotted away leaving the free-standing fig tree.  In a sustainable sense, the curtain fig tree provides the cover of darkness for many animals moving about while their predators are asleep.  From the Curtain Fig tree we drove to Gallo’s dairy, chocolate, and cheese factory.    

There, we met Frank Gallo, who told us some of the history of the place, how things work, what they do there, and their plans for the future.  Gallo Dairy land is a family owned and operated business located on the Atherton Tablelands, which contains rich red volcanic soil.  Frank told us that the farm used to be used for growing vegetables that were hand-picked but then Frank’s father purchased the land in 1937.  On top of supplying milk,  he said they were given an irrigation system for growing vegetables to supply for troops.  He then said the farm expanded to growing potatoes after the war.  By this time Frank was getting old enough to run the farm himself.    

In 1998, there was talk about deregulating the dairy industry so Frank tried growing sugar cane but that didn’t work out, so he went back to milking cows.  He then thought about using milk for something else and this was when he started making cheese and chocolate. After often dreaming of it, Frank converted the dairy farm into an integrated educational dairy experience in 2007.    

In our experience we were taught how the cows were milked, we watched a video on the complex innovated way to make cheese, got to taste a lot of the cheeses they made, and had a chance to purchase stuff there.  We also asked Frank about using alternative energy and he said they don’t use it at the moment but it is definitely something they will look into in the future.  When we left the dairy farm, Jim and Luke bought us all variety packs of chocolate, which was greatly appreciated.    

Before lunch we stopped at the Malanda Falls waterfall where we could take pictures.  We also looked for tree kangaroos but could not find any, unfortunately.  We ate at the Malanda Pub and found out it was the oldest wooden building that is still standing in the entire southern hemisphere.    

After lunch we headed to the Nerada Tea Visitor’s Center.  When we first got their we sat down and listened to Lucy and Natalie about some facts about Nerada Tea.  We learned that black tea is fermented and that green tea is not and the difference between teas is the way they are processed.  Chai tea has more spices added to it and white tea is a more premium tea.  We learned that the volcanic soil in the area we were was very good for growing tea.  They said they get 7 meters of rain fall a year so they don’t have to use irrigation.  They said they also use copper sulfate instead of pesticides, which is environmentally sustainable.  They said coal is the most efficient energy source for them right now but they will eventually start using alternative energy.    

After the informational speech, we were split up into two groups with Lucy and Natalie and we got to walk outside and visit the tea field where we could taste the leaves.  From there we got to take a walk through the factory when it was operating, which was very interesting and cool to watch.  We learned that after the tea is harvested, it is put into bins where it is connected to a powerful air supply that keeps the leaves cool during storage.  The leaf is stored 12 to 18 hours before it is sent through an automatic feed belt and weigher, which constantly monitors the weight of the leaf passing over it so the driers are not overloaded.  The leaf then heads through the classifier, shredder, and rotovane, which prepares the leaf for the pre-drier.  The pre-drier was developed to reduce the moisture of tea in the process line before fermentation.  After the tea was oxidized it enters the final dryer and on the way out it goes through a fiber extractor and then is sorted.  We learned that they use the extracted fiber to make mulch and sell it to a bamboo farm, which is sustainable.  After we left the factory, we got a chance to purchase a large variety of tea.    

When we left the Nerada Tea Visitor’s Center, we headed to our last stop, Doug’s house.  Here we learned about hydroponically grown strawberries.  Doug had to go pick up his daughter when we got there so Paul took over and did a great job explaining.  Paul told us that Doug didn’t know much about farming but he wanted to make a difference.  He didn’t have much land to grow so he decided to grow his strawberries hydroponically.  He uses PVC pipe with holes in it for the plants to grow out of.  He keeps the pipes at a higher level too, so he doesn’t have to bend over.  Water is recycled through the pipes into a tank, which makes the operation even more sustainable.  The strawberries are netted off so bigger insects and birds can’t get in, but mites are still a problem, so he uses spiders to take care of them.  Paul said he sells 90% of the product to local markets.   

When we got back to the hostel, people had a chance to go platypus spotting and later in the night Paul made us a delicious dinner that consisted of sausage, steak, onions, and mashed potatoes.  After dinner, I think many of us were tired so we worked on papers or relaxed for the rest of the night at the On The Wallaby Lodge.    

-Ryan  

Responses

  1. I know that Ryan hasn’t finished updating today’s blog, I did want to mention one thing. At Nerada tea, they mainly use coal to power their facilities. A fellow classmate had asked if weather or not they would consider using renewable energy. They said that they get their coal from a local coal mine, so their carbon footprint is reduced by not using coal being shipped across the country. Also another reason for stay with coal, is that their factory uses a lot of heavy machinery, that need a lot of power. Since most renewable energy is not reliable and can not get enough power out it, they are for now sticking with coal. I had then asked if they have an filters for when they burn their coal to prevent carbon dioxide and other pollutants getting into the air, the people we were talking to didn’t have an answer to that question. I would really love to know what they are doing help protect the environment, being that burning coal can be very harmful to the air quality.


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