An Outing to Watercress Creek Olive Festival
The semi-rural locality of Pine Mountain, 15 kilometres north of Ipswich, was the venue for a unique foodie festival called the Watercress Creek Olive Festival on the weekend of 2 April, 2017.
On the drive into Pine Mountain you can’t help but notice that the area is dotted with attractive historic farmhouses set amongst green rolling hills and majestic hoop pine trees. Further along Pine Mountain Road you cross a bridge over Watercress Creek, which I’m guessing was the inspiration for the name of the festival.
The festival, now in its ninth year is held at the property of Bernard & Lorraine Mahon, called Watercress Creek Olives and Limes. Previously a dairy farm, the property now grows three different varieties of olives with over 1,200 olive trees, with the addition of 400 Tahitian Lime trees in 2006. The farm produces olive products, lime cordial, chutneys and jams.
The one-day festival not only showcased the delicious produce from the olive and lime farm, but also hosted many other fine food producers in the region. These included:
• Gecko Grove Fine Foods preserves
• Woombye Cheese Company’s creamy soft cheeses
• Local Beekeeper’s honey
• Bunjurgen Estate Vineyard boutique wines
Ambling around from stall to stall I sampled tiny morsels of tantalising food that was on display. All food was available to purchase so I didn’t come home empty handed.
Local beekeepers demonstrated how bees are kept in manmade hives, how combs are formed on internal frames by the bees, and how honey is produced and extracted. It was interesting to see the inside workings of a beehive and bees busily producing honey within the comb and to taste the silky smooth nectar straight from the source.
Olive Grove tours were conducted on the property during the festival explaining the farming and harvesting processes. I walked through the olive and lime tree groves on one of the guided tours with Bernard at the helm imparting his wealth of knowledge about olive and lime farming.
I learnt that the olive tree is originally from the Mediterranean area and is best suited to a Mediterranean climate, i.e. dry summers, wet winters. The trees do need a period of dormancy brought on by cold conditions (daily average below 12°C ) to trigger flowering and then bearing of fruit. Hence the climate in Ipswich is ideal for olive production.
Afterwards I attended one of the olive product demonstrations showing the diversity of this fruit, using the fresh produce from the farm with infused olive oils, salad dressings, balsamic glazes and pickled olives and tapenades. Children and adults alike, were enchanted by four local llamas who made a guest appearance. These gentle and somewhat curious animals with soft woolly coats were an instant hit.
The lovable llamas live nearby on a Pine Mountain llama farm called The Llama Farm. The owner Shane Hancock keeps a herd of 75 llamas with a llama breeding program in place. The Llama Farm is a closed farm, but visitors are welcome by appointment with llama walks and therapy visits being extremely popular.
There was also plenty of entertainment with a good old brass band performing some tunes, scenic helicopter joy flights, wood turning demonstrations, plant nursery, local artist’s works and local craft stalls. It was truly an outing where everyone got to enjoy all that country hospitality has to offer. I know I did!