"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, 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.