Paddock+Garden = Today’s Late Lunch

Our plan, for a long time, has been to be as close to a self-sustainable lifestyle as possible while still having a practical mindset….you can’t do everything! We still have a long way to go, however, today marks a milestone at RaFG headquarters.

Today, when I looked at our roast lunch, there were only two things on the plate that had not come out of the garden or the paddock (condiments excluded), the potatoes and the broccoli. It’s too early for potatoes (here anyway) and I never have any luck growing anything in the Brassica family.

I started to write this post while lunch was cooking. I could smell the leg of lamb (from one of our lambs) roasting away in it’s marinade of garlic and rosemary (both out of the garden) infused in olive oil.

In the saucepan, ready to cook, were the beans and squash picked fresh out of the garden.

And soon to go into the roasting pan, with the lamb, was the golden nugget pumpkin that I picked yesterday.

All we need now is a crop of hops and some grape vines…

What’s growing in your garden?

Mrs D x

 

 

Home Made Pork Sausages

The harsh reality living on the land is that not everything goes to plan, even despite your best efforts.

If you are reading this post, it is important to remind you that our animals have a very good life and when it comes time to prepare them for the freezer, it is done humanely and they are treated with respect.

A couple of months ago I noticed that our intended breeding sow, Little Girl, seemed to be favouring her back left leg. It caused some concern at the time, however, after a few days it appeared that she had recovered. Two weeks ago, however, the limp was back and within a few days, she was unable to get up. Mr D kept her comfortable until the end.

The decision to prepare her for the freezer was not an easy one, I can assure you of that, and many tears were shed. She really was a gentle giant. Mr D made a phone call to the vet who confirmed there was nothing we could do for her. At first it was thought she had a condition called OCD (Osteochondrosis) however the butcher discovered that she had a broken hip. The two conditions may have been related.

Anyway, as a result of her condition and having to euthanise her, we ended up with a lot of pork as Little Girl weighed in excess of 200 kgs.

Apart from the usual cuts of meat, a friend suggested we have a go at making sausages. With this in mind, we made sure that the butcher boned out several large pieces to put through the meat mincer.

If you are considering making sausages, it would be fair to let you know that it is not a five minute job, unless you’re a butcher of course. The whole process took the best part of two days, with two of us preparing the meat and it’s seasonings on the first day, and then four of us making the actual sausages on the second day; bearing in mind that we were using a domestic grade meat mincer.

Let’s start at the beginning…

By way of preparing the meat for mincing, my friend Ally and I trimmed any excess fat and then put it through the grinder. With 16 kgs of pork mince, our plan was to have plain mince as well as flavoured however, in our excitement, we ended up seasoning the whole lot. Whoops! The mince was then split into four batches and the flavours created were Hmong, Sweet Italian, Polish Kielbasa and Herbed. All of the recipes can be found at honest-food.net under the Charcuterie label.

On the day…

The first order of the day was to taste our pork mince and it’s seasonings just to make sure we didn’t need to add anything. Unfortunately, the saltiness was obvious however, once it’s added, there’s no taking it back (we know for next time). The salt didn’t detract from the flavour however it was prominent.

When setting up your work space, some things that are handy when you are making sausages include scissors (for cutting the casings), jugs of water (to keep the casing on the nozzle moist), gloves and plenty of fridge space.

We began by threading the casing onto the nozzle. The process worked much better if we didn’t do large quantities at once although it meant threading more often. The reason for this is that we found that the casings dried out on the nozzle fairly quickly making it more difficult to feed off as the pork mixture filled the casing.

The mixture needed to be pushed into the machine at a consistent and, what I would call, urgent rate. It was discovered that less mince on the feeding tray worked better as it gave more room to manipulate it. We certainly got a work out pushing the mixture down the chute.

When the mixture started to fill the casing (we were using thick sausage casings), it was important to allow the casing to fill without letting it overfill. This is the part that is hard to describe as it’s a case (no pun intended) of ‘you had to be there’, however we all know what a thick sausage looks like. It also helped to have someone taking the weight of the sausage as the casing filled and became longer. This reduced the chance of blow outs (where the casing splits and mince starts pouring out) and I think, in the end, we only had three blow outs.

Tying the knots in the sausage was much easier with dry hands. To start, only one end was tied. This allowed us to pinch and twist for each sausage and push the mixture along (if required) in the casing to produce a more even product. By the 10th kilo of sausage making, we probably had this down pat. The second person assisting in this part of the process helped to stop the sausage twisting around itself which hindered the pinching and twisting process.

After we’d finished making the sausages, the only other important thing left to do, apart from cleaning up our mess, was to barbecue some for lunch. So, with Barry the Jack Russell supervising, we enjoyed delicious home made pork sausages.

Thank you to Georg and Ally for your help.

Happy sausage making!

Mrs D x

 

Some things to note:

Most of the recipes researched had, roughly, a 4:1 ratio of meat to fat, the above recipes included. We actually reduced the amount of fat and were happy with the result.

Having now made the sausages, I would halve the salt in the recipes next time.

A lot of the research suggested semi-freezing the meat to make it easier to put through the grinder. I imagine that the fat content, if following the recipes to the letter, would have complicated the grinding process as the mixture warmed up, however, the meat with less fat, at fridge temperature, moved through the mincer with relative ease. I also had a problem with semi-freezing, defrosting (as would naturally happen) and then re-freezing.

The sausage casings were purchased from the local butcher. They had already been pre-soaked in water.

Most of the herbs were fresh out of the garden. Unfortunately, our garlic was not quite ready to pick and we used a lot of garlic.

On sausage making day, we were grateful for four sets of hands. Two and even three sets were not quite enough. Obviously you are dealing with a raw and perishable product, so you want to move fairly quickly. With the help of our good friends Georg and Ally, once we got the hang of what we were doing, we were a lean mean sausage making machine.

Allow the mince and it’s seasonings to sit in the fridge for two to three days. Oh the smell….just glorious. This is okay with very fresh pork mince which we were using.

We have since invested in a gas powered smoker to try smoking the sausages. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Lastly, be prepared to laugh a lot. Once you start threading those sausage casings onto the nozzle (I hear snickering already), the conversation goes downhill really quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pigs Have New Digs!

Five little piglets have now been relocated to new digs.

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They are now 8 weeks old and had completely decimated their old digs.

Digs is such a funny name for accommodation however it is completely appropriate for piglets. They dig! With their noses, that is, and even in a hippy kind of way.

Yesterday was the day.

It takes a while to put these enclosures together. It’s not just a matter of keeping piglets in, we also have to worry about keeping foxes out. I gave Mr D a hand with lifting the side panels (we used old farm gates) into place and then he worked on the rest of it.

WP_20160109_16_08_19_ProaPanda had to have the final say, of course.

Our deadline was 4pm as we had friends coming for a BBQ.

Our friends arrived and we were not finished however their timing was perfect.

I was determined that we would lure the piglets to their new accommodation however Mr D was worried that method would see us chasing them around the paddock until all hours. I’m definitely not a risk taker however I have spent a bit of time with them and felt confident we could make it work.

My secret weapon was corn. These five babes love corn, above everything else.

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The other thing you probably don’t know about pigs is that they are short sighted. They rely on their noses.

One more thing that was nice….

I am always on the other side of the camera and as a result I tend to miss great photo moments due to my hands on approach with the livestock. Mrs M was able to take a few photos and she also videoed the moment of luring.

It went very smoothly. Mr M and I were able to lure those piglets without too much deviation. Mr D stayed in the background making sure there were no side way escapees.

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So our pigs have new digs. Their room with a view. Until they get too big for it, that is, and then we move them again.

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I can get into this pen easily (Mr D put in an access gate) so tonight I spent some time with them. They love a scratch on the belly. This bossy little girl was putty after a big scratch.

It’s been a big weekend! Lots done and as always, still a lot to do.

Happy Sunday! Have a great week.

Mrs D x

 

 

 

 

 

Post Redundancy -It’s Been 6 Months!

I can’t believe that 6 months have passed by since Mr D’s time at Icon Water came to end.

You can read about it here.

The months before it happened were so traumatic and yet it all seems a distant memory now.

We have achieved so much in that time. Previously, because of work and the travel times to work, we were really limited to weekends to try and get through the list of farm projects, especially in the Winter due to the shorter days. So things just stayed on the list and the list just got longer.

I wonder how we ever got anything done prior to redundancy as it seems there are still not enough hours in the day and we are here most of the time.

Anyway, the journey so far…

Two paddocks have been fenced. Mr D has also been doing repairs to our boundary fences.

So many new additions starting with Shanks, the not so poddy Ram. In September we added 24 Ewes, 18 (so far) of which turned out to be pregnant. Very unexpected!

Mr D and I have now added 4 cows (Poll Herefords) to the menagerie.

We had our first experience with the Cooma sale yards a couple of weeks ago. The auction was fairly fast paced which was good as the sun was beaming and the flies were manic. Two have calved without any problems, one calf was lost due to being crushed by it’s Mother and we are patiently waiting for the last one to be born.

These five Babes are the most recent addition.

Last Tuesday we traveled to Coolemon , which is about half an hour passed Wagga Wagga, to purchase five piglets, two girls and three boys. We collected B1 along the way.

They are hilarious to watch. I have been doing quite a lot of reading and I can no longer say that I’m sweating like a pig. Why? Pigs don’t sweat which is why they need a constant source of clean water to wallow in.

We have had time for time out. Time to spend with Family and Friends.

Mr D’s second rock wall has been completed.

We are coming out the other side of major renovation. New floors, painting, architraves and skirting. The painting continues on and on and on…

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We celebrated 24 years of marriage! Young things in this photo…

And here we are at Christmas! The last six months are a blur.

We have decided to have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off. We will just eat, drink and be merry!

Sound like a plan? Are you going to down tools for a couple of days?

Mrs D x

Containing The Baaaby!

Shanks, the poddy lamb, is now sixteen weeks old! Where does the time go?

If you haven’t been following, here’s a catch up.

At the end of May this year, B1 called (we were on our way home from Sydney) to tell us about a poddy lamb for sale in Jindabyne and asked do we want it? We hummed and hawed as we were not set up for a two week old lamb. He would have to be bottle fed several times a day and how were we going to shelter him? At that time, our overnight temperatures were down as low as -8 degrees.

We said yes and from the minute he arrived, chaos reigned! Shanks didn’t like the laundry, in fact he did didn’t like being alone at all. I spent the best part of three weeks sleeping on the lounge with Shanks sleeping on the floor next to me. I didn’t sleep because when he wasn’t sleeping, he was busy. He was attracted to the fire and I would spend most of the night worrying about him burning himself on the glass or up shooing him away from the hot glass.

During the day he followed me around, everywhere! Eating toilet paper, raiding the compost bucket, head butting me, weeing and pooing (a lot)…the list goes on. We still had crappy carpet at that stage, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, that’s all a distant memory now and I am happy not to be sleeping half awake on the lounge.

Shanks was originally destined for the freezer (the reason for the name) however we have decided to keep him for when our recently purchased ewes arrive. The meat eaters that love meat only if it can be purchased from the butcher will be rejoicing. Fingers crossed he does his boy duties well. We are a bit worried that he is a mamby pamby and those girls are just going to push him around.

For now he spends his day wandering the house paddock eating, relaxing and bleating. Have you ever heard a lamb bleat when he has a mouth full of grass? Too funny!

That’s the catch up out of the way.

The next part of the plan should have been fencing however some sheep (ewes) came up for sale not too far from where we live. We have paid a deposit and thankfully the farmer is happy to hold onto them until we are ready.

And now for the fencing. The existing fences on the property are pretty run down. Mr D and I decided to erect new fencing within the existing boundary rather than spend money on the old one. Sheep don’t respect fences, especially the cross bred varieties, so it needs to be rock solid.

Mr D has done all of the planning. Fortunately, the local rural supplies (where the materials have been purchased) have a guy in the warehouse named Guy, funnily enough, who has worked as a fencing contractor and has been happy for Mr D to pick his brains.

Fencing is a process and expensive. It has taken weeks to get to this stage and the constant rain has not helped.

With help from friends, the posts have now been concreted into the ground. These are big posts. The holes are dug by an auger attachment on the tractor to a depth of 900 mm and each gate post has required 10 x 20 kg bags of concrete and every other post 4 x 20 kgs, all hand mixed by Mr D (we priced a petrol powered concrete mixer and decided that for the price, it wouldn’t get enough use).

We are now up to the all of the stuff that goes between the posts. Star pickets, barbed wire, high tensile wire, ring lock and gripples (Mr D loves that word)…

I haven’t been involved up to this stage however I did spend the day on Tuesday helping Mr D with the first stretch of 60 meters. Only 1440 meters to go….

Sunshine and fresh air is good for the soul however I can tell you my body hurts today. I am pleased with progress. I am also pleased that the fencing is happening now in the cooler months so I don’t have to worry about the snakes.

This is a big project. What big project have you got happening at the moment?

Mrs D x

Baaargain Hunting!

Mr D and I have lived here for just over seven years now and the plan was to have livestock. If you don’t have livestock on 100 acres, you spend most of the summer months weed spraying, slashing paddocks and whipper snipping. Guess what we have been doing every summer since we moved here?

Life has a funny way of butting in (Shanks style) and delaying your plans.

On Saturday, we headed out to Bredbo which is about 20 minutes north of us on the Monaro Highway. If you head to the Snowy Mountains (from the North), you will drive through Bredbo (not to be confused with Thredbo). A friend of a friend had sheep ready to go to market however was happy for us to buy some from him.

I know very little when it comes to sheep and my experience with Shanks has not made me an expert by any means. The one thing I do know is that I have no interest in the wool, I am very happy to buy that from Spotlight. It’s for that reason, a shedding breed was definitely important. Until recently, I didn’t know such a thing existed so sheep were not even on the radar.

Another thing I know is that sheep really are silly. They are driven by the most basic things and like most animals, these things are innate. Survival would have to be at the top of the list. Sheep that haven’t had substantial human contact are just plain scared and will climb over the top of each other to get away from you, unlike Shanks of course, who will try to take down glass doors to hang out with you.

Shanks is a Dorper crossed with Damara, two varieties of sheep that are bred for meat, shed their wool and cope with the Alpine climate. The ones we looked at on Saturday were Dorper crossed with Poll Dorset.

It’s always an experience to go to a working farm. We are hobbyists by comparison (I wouldn’t go so far to say Pitt St farmers).  You can ask me anything when it comes  to chickens and turkeys. The address we traveled to is a gazetted road however you had to open and close a gate to enter. The cattle were standing on the side of the road, no fences, chewing their cud and spectating.

These cattle belonged to our friends who we were following. You can tell they have been handled. Thankfully there was a fence, as I was in danger of having slobber all over my mobile trying to take their picture.

We reached our destination and met Mark the farmer and, of course, the girls. Unfortunately Mark was unwilling to pose for the camera. Mark did however ask the obvious question. “When do you want them?”

Now because I’m a ‘buy the shoes and then find an outfit to match’ kind of girl, we had to explain to Mark that we would need to erect some decent fences before we could take them. So you know what the next very pressing project will be……you got it, fences.

The list is long….

What’s next on your list? Needs or wants? Let me know.

Mrs D x

Better Put A Ring On It!

We have lots of chickens and thank goodness because we eat a lot of eggs! Having said that, having chickens doesn’t guarantee eggs. 6 of our 16 aren’t laying at the moment and haven’t done so for months.

In the last couple of years, I have been working on increasing the flock through incubation. Incubation guarantees chicks each year however you have to accept that it is a science and that temperature and humidity are important. In other words, it doesn’t always go to plan. I don’t even attempt incubation before October as it’s too cold and regulating the temperature is near impossible.

Not so long ago, Mr D and I discovered the Barnevelder breed of chicken. They are an attractive, hardy and reliable breed that start laying at around 21 weeks of age. We have a good Barnevelder rooster, purchased by B1 as my birthday gift last year, who is placid and does a very good job of looking after his girls, all 16 of them.

In order to keep the family line clean (no inbreeding), we have to be careful not to incubate eggs that have come from the Rooster’s children. How you ask? We put a coloured ring on their legs. When it’s warm enough to start incubating, we will separate the Rooster from his children. Sounds easy enough however I will let you know in October if the plan has been a successful one.

Here’s a fun fact about chickens. There is a question I get asked often and it’s a good one if you have never been exposed to the world of poultry. Do chickens lay eggs if you don’t have a rooster? The answer is yes and that’s a good thing. A lot of local councils (Cooma being one of them) will not permit the keeping of a Rooster in a suburban backyard due to the noise.

Do you have chickens? How much do you enjoy the antics? How much do enjoy fresh eggs?