"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.