"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

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.