"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Monday, 31 December 2012

Sliced finely

Look what we got for Chrissie!
Actually we bought this a month ago but it only arrived the day before Christmas. Why the fuss? Well I simply wish to get the most from the fruits of our labour. Strongly flavoured small goods like bacon, ham and salami greatly benefit from being served in fine slices and so a slicer is essential if you are not a master carver. Last night we whipped a quarter side of bacon down into neat slices in about ten minutes.
These were then wrapped in greaseproof paper and frozen. Soon I hope to slice some ham.
In the curing fridge we have a magnificent array of goodies waiting to be used.
On the top shelf is the Chorizo. It is nearly ready, almost completely dry and the texture of a good dried salami. Speaking of which, the second shelf down is some Italian style pork salami. I am looking forward to that one!
The third shelf is Lup Chong/ Lap Choy or whatever you call it depending what part of Asia you come from. We already eat a lot of this sausage, and it is expensive, so it makes sense to make our own.
As you can see I have not hung them to dry, due to lack of space. I compensate for this by turning them regularly so they dry evenly all over. So far this method appears to be working well. Either way it doesn't really matter as I will be hanging everything in the cold room in future.
This is just a gratuitous shot of the little feller enjoying a juicy pork spare rib the other day. Those piggies sure go a long way!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas 2012

Well another Chrissie has come and gone. A rather nice and peaceful one this time. We were blessed with lovely cool weather, some rain and misty evenings as the cloud rolled in. We had most of our meals out on the verandah with the birdsong and afternoon breezes, just the three of us and I think it was possibly the most serene Christmas I have ever had.
The littlest cloud farmer is getting the hang of the event and has cottoned on to the idea of "presents". He had been wondering aloud what the wrapped boxes under the tree were. Being a farm kid he very much liked his toy chainsaw, just like Dads. He also unwrapped a toy circular saw which he has been using to cut up the coffee table, the fridge and the cat every few minutes. The cats are not too impressed I must say. In addition to a large stocking of assorted toys he received a beautiful pop up story book from his Aunt Dani and Uncle Lyle. They seem to have the knack of buying his favourite each time and it is now the only book of choice at bedtime.
The Child Bride and I gave each other fruit trees and we had a ceremonial planting in the orchard on Christmas day. I bored a deep hole for each one and then packed compost -a rather nice mixture of well decomposed cow manure, pig manure, charcoal and a good handful of  "number one lucky special recipe good fortune mineral mix". I tamped this down as there would be some settling and then placed a couple of inches of plain soil over it before planting the tree on top. Top dress with a little more compost and mulch thickly. Water well. This is the method I usually use when planting trees. It allows the tree to settle in without too much shock. The questing roots then hit the compost and the tree shoots for the sky.
I borrowed the idea from a farmer I once met near Dalby. His wife had commanded that there be a tree lined drive way to the farmhouse. So he bored a series of deep holes where the trees were to be planted. These holes were large enough to fall down and about six feet deep. A couple of nights later we went out and shot enough kangaroos to dump several in each hole. They were in plague numbers around there that year. The holes were then covered and ignored for a week or two before being filled. A small blue gum seedling was planted on each one and given a watering. Apparently the trees sulked for about a year until their roots hit the 'roos. You could tell when they did because the tree then almost grew over night. Five years later you would have sworn those trees were all over twenty years old.

In other news, Anna came into heat on boxing day and began bulling- that is to say, standing in the middle of the paddock and bellowing like hell. So after a call to our most excellent neighbours we took Anna to "see the Bull". Now most years this simply involves chivvying Anna down he drive way and along the road to the next paddock on the neighbours place where she meets Francis-the-bull. But for some reason she just did not want to play the game this year. We would get her almost to the gate when she would balk and try to turn back. In the end it took four people and much bad language to herd her over along with her calf. Not happy Anna!
Francis-the-bull is a Dexter. Dexter's are a fairly small breed although they yield a very good carcasse. Consequently Francis-the-bull is a fair bit shorter that Anna and I used to wonder how he could possibly reach high enough to do his job. My theory is that he gets Anna to stand facing down the slope and this gives him the height he needs, or else he has a step ladder hidden somewhere. Either way he almost always gets the job done first time and Anna drops another chocolate coloured Jersey-Dexter calf later in the year.

Friday, 21 December 2012

December on the Cloud Farm.

It has been a hot summer this year. No rain so far and it is beginning to show. The grass is not growing, normally it is in full swing by now and you have to watch where you stand or it will grow right over you. I suspect it will be a late wet season. The rain tanks were almost empty so we have pumped from the creek. Nice sweet spring water, the creek runs all year and has a head only five hundred metres or so up from our property. We can see the entire catchment from our house. Good when you know exactly where it comes from. The ground soaks over the wet and then bleeds the rainwater from springs through the rest of the year. The water is sweet, clear, clean and has the aroma of the rain forest. I like that.

The dry is not all bad. The lack of rain has allowed the guinea fowl to hatch out multiple nests. Several mothers have swanned in with large broods at heel. I counted one with seventeen keets yesterday.
A lone hen wandered in with a couple of chicks too. Normally they build up large hidden nests and leave them to rot when they get bored of sitting. I found one hidden nest yesterday of twenty-one eggs, tucked away in the shade under the trailer. It had not been sat on yet and they were still fresh so I brought them in and placed them in the incubator along with another nineteen eggs to make a full load. They will incubate for twenty-one to twenty-three days before hatching. Here's hoping.
I notice a lot of the older hens are going broody now. I will tuck a couple of them away on a clutch and hope they get it right.

The dry has also encouraged the frangipanni to flower this year. Usually it is too wet for them to flower. I love the smell of frangipanni.

Work has progressed on the veggie garden. I have marked out the hot house footprint and will begin pegging the position for the posts which I will put in as soon as I have the needed materials. in the meanwhile I have been rock hunting and have turned the cultivation area over with the tractor. First using the grader blade to chip out the largest boulders before using the rotary hoe to till the soil and find all the boulders I missed. There were a lot. Lost a few tines off the rotary hoe. Nevertheless we got through the job without finding anything too large to move so I am very pleased. The rocks we unearthed will be used to make a retaining wall uphill of the hothouse. The next step will be to install each of the hothouse frame footings in a cement plug. After that I will install the uprights into the footings and set each one at the correct height with a bolt through the shaft. Next the arch bars and struts are bolted in and the sheeting pulled over and secured. Only then can I actually begin growing anything again.

We have been continuing work in the orchard. A few days ago we burned off the piles of cut rubbish that had been drying out. The burn went well and the orchard is almost done, ready to be fully planted out. We have been slowly purchasing fruit trees over time and carefully placing them in the orchard as we go. When done, there will be room for about sixty trees. They will be trained as standards (meaning like a tall tree with a single trunk) so we can graze cattle when the trees are tall enough.
I have also been around all of the trees composting with a mixture of well rotted pig and cow manure. I also added a generous handful of my "number one lucky special recipe good fortune mineral mix". I discussed it some time back, a mixture of white ash and chicken manure mixed with crushed egg shell and bones and a bit of urine from yours truly. Allow this to mellow for several months in a closed barrel. It undergoes a change that is hard to explain. The texture changes to resemble grey fine sand and the smell is quite neutral and inoffensive. It is an all natural high-mineral concentrate that I can make myself. Suck on that Monsanto!
The blue barrel holds the "lucky special recipe"
The bin beside it holds a supply of ash to be added
when a new load of chook poo is laid down.

We picked up a Brazilian custard apple at the markets last week and purchased a "Fuyu" persimmon from the local nursery. These were in lieu of Christmas presents between the child bride and myself.
We already have a selection of citrus, carambola, black sapote, apples, tropical peaches, macadamia, coffee, bamboo and bananas planted. I am looking for a few Brown Turkey or Black Genoa figs next. There is a nice rocky outcrop that should suit them perfectly. This is because figs actually wont fruit well if they have too much soil, they just produce a lot of leaf. Constrict the roots amongst rocks or within a box and they fruit well. If life gives you lemons make lemonade, if the ground gives you rock grow figs.

In the kitchen I have made more small goods. A while back I made Chorizo which has turned out well. Very tasty but needs to be fattier next time with perhaps a bit more paprika. An excellent cooking sausage and we have been eating a bit of Spanish as a result.
Since then I have thawed the two pork forequarters I stored in the freezer and have made a load of salami, some Lup Chong (or lup choy/ lap choy or whatever), some German pork sausage for fresh eating and a big load of plain pork eating sausages which are excellent.
I am also getting ready to take the two hams out of the fridge at long last. Quite nervous I must admit. I hope they turn out well.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Turkeys, parrots and new roof.

I think I mentioned previously that the turkey hen, Henrietta, attempted to sit a nest of her own eggs with no success. She must have still been in a very broody mood because she promptly took over the ducks nest in a patch of galingale. The duck didn't seem to mind, she is a pretty rotten mother anyway and just waddled off to begin another nest behind the feed trough in the cattle yards. Anyway, two days ago Henrietta appeared leading a small gaggle of six ducklings and looking very happy with herself. Hopefully she will have more success with her own eggs in the future and I can have turkey as well as duck for dinner.
God only knows what the ducklings will grow up to be like. I hope they don't follow after their adopted father Gobbles. I already have all the mentally deficient poultry I can handle.
Each year our local King parrots bring in their latest batch of offspring. They enjoy a good feed at the chooks trough and I often watch them as I milk the cow each morning. This year they only have one youngster instead of the usual two.
Over the years they have become quite tolerant of our movements and will quietly ignore us moving about as long as we do not get too close.

 Today I am replacing the weather side of the roof with new sheeting. I have been waiting a week for this clear weather as, of course, it began raining heavily as soon as I purchased the roofing iron and brought it home. As luck would have it today has turned out clear but extremely hot. I have to do it now though as that part of the roof will not last another wet season and we already have several leaks coming through. Next winter I want to finish replacing the rest of the roof in somewhat less inclement weather.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

You don't see this every day.

This morning I found this fellow stuck in the fence of the pig paddock. Sometime last night he had a big feed and was now too large to get back out the way he came in. From the size and shape of the bulge I reckon he had swallowed a bandicoot. Good riddance, bandicoots appear to only exist to dig up my seedlings as near as I can work out, so I am happy when the local snakes wish to eat a few.
 Now poor old snakey was unable to get back to the rain forest and the day was quickly heating up so I rather cautiously took hold of the tail and pulled him backwards out of the fence. Easier said than done as he was fairly anxious by now and probably doubted my intentions therefore he put up a bit of a fight. I can tell you a four metre (13 foot) python is quite strong and it took some effort to get him to let go of the fence. I then carefully pinned his head* and lifted him bodily over the fence before letting him go. He then slowly took off for the rain forest where he can digest his meal in peace. To give an idea of scale, the body forward of the bulge in the photo is about as thick as my forearm.

*Pythons are not poisonous but a bite from one will almost certainly become infected due to the assortment of bacteria in their mouth. Definitely to be avoided! In any case, I am a sook and have no particular desire to receive a bite anyway, infection or not .

Big jobs

 Finally, after several months of waiting for various reasons, we have begun making progress on the new veggie garden. A couple of days ago the man with the big digger came to level off the area where the hot-house is to go. It was a very big job- he unearthed and then moved several boulders the size of a small car. These were used to make the terrace on the lower side which was then back filled with earth taken from the higher side. He did an excellent job! I then had him remove a particularly large boulder named "Mr Bastard" that I have been unable to shift from the new chook pen area. After that we dug deep holes for the mammoth logs I had put aside for the new carport and set each pole upright. All done by one in the afternoon.
Now I just need to mark out and set up the hot house before the wet season. Today I picked up two dozen cut sections of pipe I will use as the post extensions to raise the hot house frame high enough for the tractor to get under the sides. These extensions will be set in concrete and then the frame will be sleeved in and bolted in place at the correct height. Should keep me out of trouble for a bit.
Meanwhile I will be allowing the posts for the carport to settle into place for a month or two. This will give me time to obtain the extra poles I need from a friends place down in the dry lands. The design will allow dry parking for two largeish vehicles and should be fairly cyclone proof. At the front of the carport will be an H frame from which I can hand a chain hoist. This will be useful in lifting heavy things off my Ute as well as lifting carcasses during slaughter.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Burning sunset

This is the dry time of the year for us. Throughout most of Australia this can be a difficult time as water becomes even more scarce than usual. We are very fortunate to live in one of the very few very wet places in this country but even so it is still browning off somewhat around here.
Nevertheless, if life gives you lemons- make lemonade. We treat this time of year as our period in which we are able to do all of the outdoor jobs requiring reliable fine weather. As the wet season looms closer it soon becomes a race to get as much done as possible before the rain comes down for another three months or more.
This season I need to replace the iron sheeting on the weather side of the roof, replace two house stumps, paint the sills and windows around the house, finish the chook pen, cement the pig pen and erect the hot-house. If there is still time after that I need to build a boiler/smoker shed, build a two bay garage, build a shed for the tractor and put up a four bay compost bin system behind that.
I hope it is a late wet season this year.

Just like daddy

The absolute best toy a boy can get is whatever his Dad is working with at that moment. I for one reckon this is a good trait and should be nurtured. He already helps collect the eggs and feed the chooks. With any luck I can have him making the butter at four, weeding the veggie garden at five and milking the cow at six...

Note the toys abandoned for whatever Dad is doing.

 After the butter was done it was time for a farm haircut. He protested loudly that he would rather be doing something with Dad.

Good to see someone has the right idea

I was beginning to think the guinea fowl would never get the idea. This girl swanned in yesterday with fourteen keets in tow.

Bringing the bacon home

Well our first bacon is ready!
The first bacon side sliced in half.
 I am quite please at how well it has cured. It is quite firm and has a fresh bacony scent. Note the meat exposed to the air has greyed a little. This was to be expected in a modern recipe as we are supposed to use a lot less saltpetre now*. The flesh when cut revealed a pleasing pink colour which was to be expected. When I fried the first couple of rashers I was pleased with the aroma and the way it cooked. It was a pleasant surprise to find this was the bacon of my childhood. The rind crisped nicely and the fat turned almost completely translucent. The flavour was superb and very rich, however the curing process had made the bacon quite salty. This was easily remedied by soaking the slices in water for ten minutes before cooking (as they used to do in the old days). There is none of the nasty chemical aftertaste I notice in modern bacon and we have found that only a couple of rashers with eggs and toast are a fine breakfast.

I will experiment with smoking a side or so soon as well as having a look at the curing process to see if I cannot reduce the saltiness somewhat. Nevertheless we are overall very pleased with our first bacon.

*This is because the nanny state has decided that saltpetre is absolutely, horrifically dangerous in every way and will kill everything and everyone who even dares to think of using it in food**

**I can't help but note that people in the past failed to die in droves, or at all, when they ate this food over the past thousand years***.

***A bit remiss of them really. After all, I am sure Nanny couldn't possibly be wrong about anything ever and that we should all be jolly grateful to be forcibly wrapped in cotton wool at every turn.  

Monday, 15 October 2012


I made Chorizo sausage yesterday. Chorizo is a classically Spanish form of sausage also known in various incarnations in Mexico and the Philippines also. In essence Chorizo is a pork sausage heavily flavoured with chilli and paprika. But to describe it as such is akin to describing a bottle of '97 Grange Hermitage as old grape juice. Chorizo is so much more! It can be eaten fresh but is more often dried and cured, sometimes even smoked. Treated like this it becomes food beyond belief when eaten in thin slices like the finest Jamon ham.
My recipe uses fresh fiesta chillies and plenty of aromatic sweet paprika as well as garlic and cider vinegar. Packed into a natural (pigs gut) casing. It is then allowed to cure at 4 degrees until it loses all excess moisture before being cold smoked over pink cedar shavings.

The Elders are flowering.

The Elders are putting on a wonderful show this year. Huge sprays of white flowers with delicate scent and a cool shade beneath.
I planted these out about five years ago. They must like our conditions because they are now over three metres tall. These are American elder (sambucus canadensis). I actually wanted Black elder(sambucus nigra) which grows more tree like whereas these will become quite bushy but were all that was available.
Elders are a real medicine chest of a plant. Every part has a use. The leaves when made into a tea are a good insect repellent as well as having fungicidal properties. Very valuable in the vege garden. Elder foliage is well known as a compost activator. Add a few handfuls of leaves to the green waste when building a compost heap and it will break down in half the time to form good friable compost. The flowers are used to brew elderflower "champagne", an aromatic fizzy, clear, sweet wine. They can also be used in elderflower fritters, a favourite of mine. Likewise the elder berries can be brewed to make elderberry wine. Rich sweet and plummy I am told. They also make a rather good jam. The stalks and branches are hollow when dry as the soft pith easily shrinks and is discarded. These were used as simple pipes or straws once as well as flutes. They also were made into popguns and pea-shooters to amuse small boys and annoy small girls.
Lastly, the old Celtic religion believed that each elder was home to a spirit or dryad who, if treated with respect, would protect and guard the area in the vicinity of the tree and bring good fortune. In the Scandinavian areas she was known as the Hylde Moer (tree mother) and to cut down an elder was a sin that would bring bad fortune and death. Even today you might sight a lone elder growing in a field where all other trees have been cleared.

I milked Anna today for the first time since she has had her new calf. It has been a week since the little fellow was born (he has apparently been named Timmy) and Anna is very protective of her baby this time around. She did not show any signs of milk fever for the first time since her first calf five years ago. We are very happy as it means our feeding regimen with added calcium- dolomite, must be working. Anna's milk still looks a bit yellow, this is colostrum. Milk with all of the good antibodies in it that a new calf needs. It is fine to drink though and will turn white in a day or so.

The peaches are almost ready which means the local parrots are late. They have usually destroyed every peach by now. Big red and green Eclectus parrots that fly in from the rain forest. Beautiful birds but very shy. We will pick them all tomorrow (the peaches not the parrots, do try to keep up!) and hopefully get something for ourselves this year. I will try to get some bird netting one day.

Monday, 8 October 2012

New calf

Been a busy few days. We are still cleaning up in the orchard. Yesterday we felled the last large tree to go. I felt bad about it as it was a beautiful Sovereignwood and they are a favourite of mine. Nevertheless it was already too large and would have continued to grow until it completely dominated the entire orchard above and below ground so it had to come down. I reckon it already weighed around ten tonnes so it was a ticklish operation to fell it without doing too much damage. I had the child bride on the tractor with a tow line pulling it in the right direction as I carefully cut the base through with the chainsaw. We had cleared a section of fence where it was to come down, which it managed to miss by a couple of metres. Instead it landed on a section of the vegetable garden fence which had already been hit twice by trees in the last couple of cyclones, so I guess that fence is probably used to it by now. Still, we should be well set for firewood next winter.

In other news Anna, our Jersey cow, dropped a fine bobby calf this afternoon. He looks strong, healthy and was suckling well when I went to check on them at dusk. I have just brought Mum and calf down from the top paddock and penned them in the cow race to keep them near this evening. Anna tends to suffer from milk fever with each calf. A condition brought on where the new mothers body draws down too much calcium to supply milk and this in turn can paralyse and kill the cow if left untreated. A drip of calcium in solution, which we have, quickly gets the cow on her feet again. We have been trying to head off the fever this time with careful supplementary feeding during the pregnancy. We should know by tomorrow morning if it has worked.

Thursday, 27 September 2012


It is with a heavy heart that I say Maximus, my faithful dog, is dead.
Yesterday he and I went for our morning walk about the property as we do every day. At eleven I discovered him fitting violently and bleeding from the mouth. Sometime that morning he had been bitten by a snake and was in the final death throes. I called the vet who agreed with me that there was almost no hope of saving him.
Then I killed my beautiful dog to end his suffering as quickly as I could. I shot him through the head. It tore my heart out.
Max was not the best dog I have ever had, nor was he the worst. He was a good mate and stayed by me through thick and thin. He was always a quiet companion and trusted me absolutely. He loved doing whatever I was doing and just liked being with me. He was a good dog.
We buried him in the orchard by the apple trees. I don't mind telling you I cried like a child. I have a lot more love for a good dog than I have for the vast bulk of humanity.

Late that afternoon, Alessa our other dog, came down with tremors and vomiting. She had been bitten sometime in the afternoon but was still in the early stages of the venom. I rushed her to the vet in town where she was given antivenene. The vet then sent me home and promised to call with an update. He warned me the situation was not good though. He called later that night and said there had been a small improvement. This morning he called early to say she had survived the night and appeared to be getting better but was definitely not out of the woods yet.

I now have the problem that I apparently have a large and aggressive venomous snake somewhere about the property that I am going to have to deal with. I don't really blame the snake to be fair. It was only defending itself form a threat. But if it decides my wife or son is a threat? Unfortunately I have decided that I must kill it should the opportunity present itself.
I don't really know why I am even writing this all here except that I suppose the good comes with the bad and so, in a way, you have a right to know. This is the life we have chosen to live and therefore it is part of the whole story.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Ham and bacon- finally

Well I couldn't wait any longer for the cold room to be ready. It's not. So I have had to make do and slaughter one of the remaining Baconers anyway. They are just getting too big and will soon be too large to handle. As it was I estimate the one we did today was around one hundred and fifty kilos. Big pig.
Slowly pouring the scalding water on.
This allows the bristles and outer layer of skin to be removed.

The scald went well this time. I have had a bit of advice from an ex-butcher friend. He recommended pouring the hot water on rather than dipping the pig. It is a lot easier even if it does take a bit longer. Also he said to use a shovel for the scrape. It allows you to cover the big sides easily and quickly which is a big help when you have to do the whole thing on your own, as I was. We used the tractor to move the pig from where it was killed to the slaughter area and to haul up the pig on the gambrel. Afterwards I cut the carcasse into forequarters, bacon sides and hams. I then put it all into the freezer to cool down for a few hours.
Well I weigh around 120kg, so I can assure you the pig was a LOT heavier!

Later in the afternoon I made up a curing mix of coarse salt, brown sugar and saltpetre. I then took the hams from the freezer where they had cooled but not frozen (frozen is bad if you want to cure the meat) and trimmed them up to look a little more presentable. In fact I had to remove the top of the hams containing the H bone so they would fit into the fridge I was to use. So we ended up with a couple of extra roasts. The hams were then well rubbed and packed with the mix before each being laid on a shelf of the fridge. Then the bacon sides were likewise trimmed up and salted before being packed two to a shelf- the weight helps them cure. They will be re-packed every so often to ensure they all cure evenly. The fridge itself has been turned down to about three degrees which is the optimum temperature for curing ham.
The top two shelves are bacon slabs.
Ham on the bottom two shelves.

With the remaining forequarters and all of the leftover odds and bobs I will be making salami (Italian style and Chorizo) and sausages. In the kitchen is a great big bubbling pot of odd trimmings from the bacon sides. Salted and spiced, it will be kept boiling for about a day before being poured into pans and cooled to make Brawn. Sort of like a gelatinous meatloaf, it is absolutely delicious between two slices of bread and is very good for you.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Hot sweaty and satisfying

As ever, the work goes on.
There is always plenty to do on the farm. When we took over the place it was pretty run down and there is a lot of work needed just to bring it up to working order. Then there is the work needed to build everything we need to be able to make it do what we want. So when we first moved in we spent six months planning the layout needed and facilities we would have to install. We revisit this list each year and make necessary adjustments. I would guess we are about halfway through the planned improvements and mostly through the renovations.

View from mid-orchard looking towards the creek.
These last few days we have been clearing unwanted regrowth in the orchard. I first cleared the orchard area about five years ago. It was rank with regrowth and weeds of all sorts. It is sited on a southerly slope towards the creek and gets good midday and afternoon sun. A poor area for grazing but would be ideal for an orchard. First though I needed clear the area and although I did most of the work I was unable to finish before the wet season came. Somehow I never really managed to get back to it until now. We had to cut out several big trees, something I never like doing I must admit, but there would be too much shade cast and root competition for fruit trees to grow otherwise. I did leave one bleeding heart for now as there is a Currawong nesting in it at the moment.
A Currawong nest really just looks like a pile of sticks.
You can just see the Mums head silhouetted.

The work was certainly hard but very satisfying. We removed the temporary fence between the orchard and the house yard allowing us to plant an even larger area out. I must admit I like the more open area.
View from mid-orchard back towards the house.

We will be planting a selection of citrus (lime, lemon, orange, grapefruit etc- which grow like weeds in this area), tropical variety stone fruit, apples, pears, figs and a variety of tropical fruit such as sapote, bananas and carambola.

A while back I found a turkey nest in a rather poorly chosen location near the road. So I pinched the eggs and placed them under a broody hen on the off chance they might still be fertile. The turkey hen apparently got the idea and started a new nest in a much better location. The duck, not to be left out also started a nest in the cows paddock. There were too many eggs laid for her to sit so I stole some of them too and put them under another broody hen. Yesterday both broodies managed to hatch out their clutches of stolen eggs. Good girls.
Unlikely siblings, one of the ducklings and one poult.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Snake summer

It looks like we will have a snake summer this year. Already had several encounters and the weather has not even warmed up yet. Had to kill a Taipan in the house yesterday. I didn't really want to but they are just too damn dangerous to muck about with. I felt quite sorry for the little fellow, he was about 120 centimetres, so not really big but unfortunately he was well and truly large enough to be lethal and I have a child in the house. So I donged him and removed him from the house.
This is a file photo.
I had other worries than taking pictures at the time!

Last week we had a red bellied black snake hanging around the back veranda. They are poisonous sure but are usually quite placid and unlikely to kill an adult but could possibly be fatal to a child. So this time I gently trapped him and released him in the rain forest at the bottom of the orchard. I thought he took it rather well actually.
I had two encounters with some largish scrub pythons in the month before. I don't mind them around though because they will keep vermin down. Once they get large enough to eat a chook I bag them up and let them go out in the bush well away from man. There are always plenty of smaller ones around to take their place.
Lastly I caught a brief glimpse of something large and fast near the chook shed last week. Don't know what it was but it does make us keep a wary eye out.
Snake summer.
Some years you hardly see one and the next you are dodging them weekly.

Monday, 10 September 2012


Spring here is really beautiful. The weather is still a little chilly at night and the days are just right to do heavy jobs out in the sun without getting cooked. The pink cedars are blooming with huge sprays of creamy white flowers and are heavy with bees. The whole tree hums when you walk beneath it.

The cement water tank is complete. Thanks Jim for your very useful advice! Made the job a lot easier I can tell you. I still have to make a new top for the whole affair but it can wait for now. I managed to blow the motor on the cement mixer. I was busily mixing cement when great clouds of smoke came billowing out all in a rush. Bad language and disappointment. The electrician quoted me $400 for a new motor! How &^%*$#! much??? I could almost buy a whole new cement mixer for that. I used to use old washing machine motors for this sort of thing but as the Child bride would most likely get upset if I took it from the current machine I had to look elsewhere. My workshop yielded a motor of the correct specifications from a spare Chinese made planer and after I shelled out to have the switch wired in and a new pulley bored out to suit the drive shaft, I had a running mixer again. Nowhere near the $400 quoted. No job ever goes exactly to plan.

Having finished the tank I moved on to some of the many other jobs I have queued.

Planting out more trees in the orchard. A Lisbon lemon and a Kaffir lime. We already have several Macadamias, a grapefruit, two black sapote, one carambola, three apples and three tropical variety stonefruit which from memory are peaches and nectarines. I have a small bamboo at the bottom of the orchard to supply canes for trellises in the veggie garden and I did plant out a half dozen Arabica coffee bushes but I think the forest pademelons like them and they have mostly been eaten.

For a break I picked up a tonne of sawn timber from a farm near Mareeba down in the dry lands. Yellow stringybark, Ironbark and Bluegum mostly. Good timber for building with. Most of it will go into the wall frames in the new chook pens. While rainforest timbers can yield some lovely cabinet timber they are no good for use in building, so down to the dry lands I go.

I have also been cleaning up the veggie garden ready for the excavator to move in and terrace it out so I can erect the hot-house. I took the opportunity to pot up some of the plants I really don't want to lose. Comfrey which is finally coming good after sulking for a year, some horseradish and a dozen grape vine canes I heeled in last year. They were a kind present from the father in law. They are all unknown old heritage varieties still grown by some of the old Italian and Spanish families down Brisbane way. Apparently they make good wine. I planted them to see which would thrive in our climate and today I dug up the survivors. Getting them out was no mean feat, those roots went deep. One day they will cover the trellis over our pergola where the bread oven is to go.

Plenty more to do besides! Before the wet season I need to replace a stump under the house and possibly re-sheet the weather side roof on the house, put up the hot house and get the veggie garden going. Fun and hard work, which is also fun.


Don't come any closer, this turkey is loaded!

I was doing the last coat of render in the water tank when we had a visit from our local evangelical terrorists. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against anyone having their own beliefs as long as they will accept a polite "no thank you" as an answer when invited to join their church/ coven/ blood sacrifice ritual/ political party. It's just that the buggers always turn up when I have my hands full.

This lot consisted of three elderly ladies in a giant four wheel drive. They were very polite and accepted defeat with good grace when an echoing voice from inside the water tank might have said "either roll yer sleeves up and get stuck in or else piss off yer pack of bloody itinerants...". The child bride, bless her, translated my vague directions as; "He said no thank-you" or possibly claimed it was the frogs in the tank having a chorus. I couldn't quite hear.

Meanwhile the erstwhile Gobbles, self appointed guard bird and anti-salesman defence system, had been girding his loins and was even now entering battle with an interloper that the invaders had unwittingly brought with them. For there, strutting up and down in the shiny new city-clean car, was a large and obviously belligerent tom turkey... So the invaders thought they could fight fire with fire did they? Clearly they had not encountered this particular bird before. Nevertheless Gobbles had to admit this bird had all of the moves. Each peck and thrust was met with a perfectly timed counter thrust, each wing beat was met instantly with the same. Even his puffed up displays, looking like a beach-ball sized feather duster, were faced with an identical display from the enemy.

So as the three old dears loaded up the child bride with copies of magazines such as "The users guide to the pop-up Karma Sutra", "Modern Pagan sacrifice techniques" and "Watchtower" that they hoped would convert the heathens but will ultimately end up as firelighters, they gradually became aware that their vehicle was now under siege as a sad example of mentally deranged poultry did battle with its reflection. Pausing only to drench the turkey with holy water they beat a hasty retreat to the vehicle and locked themselves in as Gobbles lurched across the farmyard screaming "It burns, it burns....".
The last I saw of their big shiny four wheel drive was a cloud of dust with an enraged turkey in hot pursuit. One tough turkey. Gobbles 1, Holy rollers 0.
Gobbles the victorious.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Jims missing post

I managed to retrieve Jims missing post and have pasted it here. Thanks Jim- this information is far too good to leave out.

Jim has left a new comment on your post "On rendering a water tank":

Ulf that is a lot of hard work but at the end of it you will be happy because you have been able to recycle something and there is nothing better than drinking water stored in a concrete tank.
I have rendered 5 tanks and cut my teeth on another three.
The first tank I was knowingly involved with was when I was about 6 or 7 by which time Dad had already done 2 others only a couple or so years before hand (I just don't remember them but have photos to show I was around from about age 3). His first two were 2,000 gallons each and the next was 1,000 gallons. I was involved with 2 other 1,000 gallon tanks during my teens.
Move on to nearly 30 and my wife and I had just moved to a new job and "new" home. The water setup was terrible and the first holiday I had was christmas day and we prepared to render a 1,000 gallon tank. It was very hot and exhausting but we got the job done in the day, even carrying sand and cement up a bank and mixing it by hand on a sheet of flattened iron. Over the next 15 years I rendered another four 1,000 gallon tanks.
We never used chicken wire to reinforce the inside and only made the render 25mm deep on top of the rungs.
I painted bondcrete (or cemstik which is only pva glue) inside the tank on the iron surface a day or two beforehand then mixed about 5 drops into the render mix. Also in the render mix which was in the ratio of 3:1 sand and cement were 2 drops of liquid detergent. I have never used lime but a lot of mixes do recommend it.
As you say start at the bottom and move up working on 3 or 4 rungs at a time. A trick I worked out was I would fill in the valley all way around then follow up with the top coat finishing it off before moving up to the next 3-4 rungs.
Once it starts going off mist a little water on the lower surface so it doesn't dry too much. After the job is completed I always misted water over the walls every couple of hours during sunup to prevent over drying too quickly because it is only a thin coat of render and the galvanised tank too picks up a lot of heat.
On one tank we had some cracks develop (probably slight slumping) and I painted over the fine cracks with a cement/water paste.
After about 5 days I would fill the tank.
As far as I know the tanks I did some 15 to 30 years ago are still going and I am sure the ones done 50+ years ago are still serviceable too.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

On rendering a water tank

A plague on anyone who will go to great effort to leave a job half done! Especially upon whoever originally did the cement render on our second water tank!

Last year our second water tank blew out one night and dumped its load down the back yard. Definitely a concern when you rely on what you can store from rainfall only. Granted we have a lot of rainfall here but the bulk of it drops over the wet season and our winters are usually quite dry. So the tank was a problem.
When I had a look inside I was appalled to find the tank had failed simply because someone had been too half arsed to do the rendering properly in the first place. For those uninitiated in the art of rendering water tanks, when a corrugated iron tank nears the end of its years and is ready to rust out it is common practise to render the inside of the tank with a layer of cement. In essence this creates a concrete water tank by using the previous tank as a form. Done properly the concrete should be reinforced with wire mesh and at least seventy-five millimetres thick, whereas I found this tank had no reinforcing and less than twenty millimetres of concrete. Frankly someone had well and truly wasted their time and caused me a lot of work and heartache.
So with good weather predicted I peeled the old lid off the tank and cleaned it out, purchased a tonne of mortar sand, a roll of wire mesh, ten bags of cement and a bottle of brickies mortar fat. I then erected a bipod made from bush poles so I could lift and swing buckets of render into the tank and strung a tarp to keep the sun off and prevent the render from drying too quickly. I was ready to go.
Load the mixer. Three cement, eight sand, a cap full of 'fat and a half bucket of water. Let it work till it is smooth and sticky. Pour into a bucket and set the next batch in motion. Hook the bucket to the pulley and then climb up the ladder and over the lip onto the stool inside and down into the tank where it is cool and echoes with every movement. Pull the rope to raise the bucket of render and gently pull it down into the tank. Work around the inside wall from floor to top. Scooping with the trowel and wiping on with the float. Repeat all throughout the day until the coat is done. Clean up tools and then drink beer. Stiff back and hands, stiff crackly clothing and socks.
Three days later and the job is nearing completion. I hurt in places that I was previously unaware I owned and my hands are in tatters. I am dreaming of rendering water tanks in my sleep.
But it will be worth it because I will leave the job done properly. I will also have added a new skill to my repertoire. So in a way I suppose it is worth it. I suppose what really annoys me is that someone went to all of this work some time back but stopped half way instead of seeing it out to do a proper job.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


What to do with all the odds and ends of the beast after slaughter? I have often found myself saving all sorts of bits that are just too good to throw away- tongue, cheeks, liver, kidneys, hocks and trotters, tail and stomach.

OK yes I just heard most of you go "Ewwwwwww"... Sorry but I actually quite like offal. If you are at all squeamish about this sort of thing you had better skip this post.

Nevertheless I sometimes find myself looking at a frozen bit out of the freezer and wondering how the hell I am supposed to use it. I had one of those days recently when I realised I had a bucket of frozen pig livers. Much more than we were going to eat any time soon, anyway I already have most of a beef liver left for frying. One of my absolute favourite dishes is sliced liver with onions fried in butter. Eat it hot with copious quantities of cold beer in front of the fire. Great restorative after a hard days winter labour.
Anyway back to the pig livers.
I had always wanted to make liverwurst and this was my chance.
  • 3lbs lean pork shoulder (or all of the odd bits of fleshings left after butchering)
  • 2 lbs pork liver (this is about one large whole liver anyway)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tsp salt (pure sea salt is always best)
  • 1 tsp fine ground fresh black pepper
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp ground/rubbed sage
  • 1 cup iced water
  1. Cut the liver into strips and simmer in water until cooked but still slightly pink in the centre.
  2. Cut pork into 1 inch cubes
  3. Put pork and liver through the fine blade of a mincer. Do this twice to get a very fine consistency.
  4. Mix the spices with the iced water.
  5. Add the water/spice to the meat and mic thoroughly for at least two minutes.
  6. Stuff into large (35 to 45mm) sausage casings and tie into a three truss.
  7. Simmer in water kept just below the boil until cooked through.
  8. Cool to room temperature before storing. They will freeze well and should keep in the fridge for a week or so.
I was quite happy with this recipe. The liverwurst is nothing like the cheap version of paste sold in the supermarkets. It has a most beautiful herby fragrance to it and a mellow flavour and a firm texture. It is superb with red wine such as a good Shiraz, forcing us to consume a lot of wine recently in the name of thoroughly examining this new recipe. That is a good excuse as far as I am concerned.
I intend to make a second batch soon, when I obtain a couple more pork livers, with a higher ratio of liver to pork and a little more salt. Say three parts liver to two parts pork and an extra teaspoon of salt.
Good food.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Time of lean, time of plenty

When you live on your own food you usually have either too much or not enough. Lean and plenty.

Last week we took Anna off the milk, that is to say we stopped milking her each day and have allowed her milk supply to dry up. This is necessary for her health as she gets near to dropping her next calf. To continue milking a heavily pregnant cow in the last month would be cruel, her body needs everything it can get at this time without the strain of supplying milk too. This means we are without milk until after the next calf is born. We did give in and begin buying the occasional bottle of shop milk. Yuk! Of course the way around this is to have two milking cows calving at different times of the year. I like the idea of a Brown Swiss. The milk is almost as good as a Jersey and they produce good beef steers too.

Emily, our heifer to Anna, is for sale now. She will make someone an excellent house cow. If she does not sell she will probably become our second house cow instead. Emily really is a bit of a sweetie. Must take after her mother like that. She likes to come for a scratch and a chat when the other cattle are not about and she gets jealous if Anna gets attention and she does not.
We sent Leopold, Anna's most recent calf and now a strapping big steer, over to a neighbours block to fatten and keep the grass down. I was necessary to do this to wean him. About the only fault Anna has is that she devoutly refuses to wean her babies and will let them suckle well into adulthood. Obviously I cannot have a newborn calf competing with a half tonne steer for milk.
I also wanted to ease the grazing pressure on the property. I have since let the cattle into the orchard where they have done a fine job of knocking down the rubbish growth. I will go in and clean up today and probably have a bonfire tonight. I also have strung an electric fence across the bottom of the house yard and allowed them in to graze that. No mowing for me!

Still no veggie garden and no progress on the chook pens. A large repair bill for my Ute has completely gutted the projects account so no materials until further notice. I would love to be able to earn what I need without being reliant on a long commute each working day. One day perhaps.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Growing gold

Just had to share this. I have finally cracked the trick to growing ginger.
Very happy indeed. For five years now I have been trying to grow sweet ginger without success. According to all of the books and everyone I have spoken to it is very easy. Yet year after year my ginger made a brief appearance before withering and dying. To rub salt in the wound, all of the wild (non culinary) gingers in the area grew like weeds! A fact not lost on me as I sweated and laboured in the summer sun cutting back tonnes of the wild growth that was attempting to overtake the garden beds. I was able to grow all of the ginger relatives with no problems- such as Turmeric and Galingale yet still the simplest of them all continued to elude me. Yet I would not give up, apparently I can be pretty pig headed in that way according to the child bride.
Just harvested. The roots come out in a tangled clump.
So last season I threw away the gardening books and guides along with almost everything I have ever been told about growing ginger and made up my own mind. I had obtained some more rootstock from a kind friend who could not understand my inability to grow this weed, "Man I'm almost throwing the stuff away it keeps getting out of control..." (to which my response is unprintable). I planted this out in a rich mix of local earth and my own compost in a large tub and placed it in a spot that would get some morning sunlight and a fair amount of water. All in contradiction to just about everything I have ever read.
And it grew!
Hose out the dirt.
Today I noticed the tops had died back with the cooler weather. So I pulled the ginger and discovered lovely plump roots, sweet and fragrant when broken. It was like winning the lottery, I was so happy. After a quick wash under the hose I broke the roots into sections so the air could circulate all around and set them in the sun to dry for a day or so. I will actually be replanting most of the root to increase our stock for the eventual semi permanent ginger beds I plan to keep.
Drying in the sun. Hardens up the skin and helps it keep longer.
The child bride tells me that ginger is about $32 a kilo in the shop at the moment. We eat a lot of ginger with our cooking so you can see why I am growing our own.
Well I'm off to get some of our pork out of the freezer. Stir fry pork belly with ginger sauce for dinner!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

To see what we can Sea

We took the littlest cloud farmer to the beach the other day. He is two years old now and had never seen the sea before. Well he loved it. I was a little worried he might be frightened of the noise and movement. Far from it - he made a beeline to the waves and tried to dive in! He thought the waves washing him off his feet were absolutely hilarious. Fish and chips, sandcastles, shells, wind, water, and sand in the undies followed by a skinny dip (him, not me) to wash off. Very tired afterwards, slept well all night.
Trying to go in before Nana can stop him.