Thursday, 28 September 2017

Corning Meat - Mutton, Pork or Beef

I didn't want the opening picture to be a couple of lumps of meat on a plate, so the tulips received this morning, are a preferable way to open this post.

Corned mutton, just out of the corning solution brine.

Last time I posted about our processing of a couple of sheep and a few people were interested to know how they could corn their own meat.
This mutton was a ewe that had to be culled from the flock because she was infertile. In days gone by, when we had three large dogs, we might have used part of it to feed them. Many older folks remember when they almost lived on mutton, and many of those same folks could not stomach it now, but mutton is a very good meat for slow cooking with herbs, wine and other flavorings.
I'm not sure if it can be found in normal butcher shops or supermarkets, I suspect it is made into small goods or sausages, but perhaps you could ask for it. It should be cheaper than lamb, and if it isn't, you should ask why? We farmers receive very little at the markets for mutton, and this is why it is far more economical to butcher it ourselves on farm, and find delicious ways to use it.

Leg pieces in the brining solution cooling down after the first boiling has finished, and ready to soak in the fridge for approximately one week.

As it's been quite awhile since recipes were measured by kerosene tin, (not in my cooking lifetime! better clear that up right now!!) I adapted it to modern times and have reduced the amount of nitrate preservative to almost nothing.
In our state it is called "Kwik Cure" and can only be purchased from Master Butchers in Adelaide.
As it is used for making bombs..(!!!) it's best not to go into the shop dressed in your hoodie and showing your tats, perhaps?
I inherited a tiny portion of  Kwik Cure from an elderly lady twelve years ago, and still have most of it, so I've never actually been into the shop to buy some. And I'm pretty sure it could be omitted completely for this recipe, as these days we all have fridges and freezers to store the meat before and after cooking, and don't need to rely on preservatives as they did in the early days.
I don't use it at all when brining pig meat for making our bacon.
I think the recipe above is clear enough to understand, but if you have any confusion let me know in the comments.
I've also done pork this way - Pickled Pork- and it was very good.
My big stainless steel stew pot is large enough to take two part legs of mutton, so that was all I did this time. I don't use aluminum stew pots or jam pots any more, now that we know the dangers of ingesting aluminum.
Depending on the space available in my fridges, I will leave it in the brine for between five and seven days.
This morning is the fifth day, and I've put one portion of corned mutton into the freezer (well wrapped in plastic bags), while the other portion sits in the brine, in a smaller pot in the fridge, until I will boil it in the usual way for cooking corned beef on Saturday.
How do you cook corned beef? (Corned Mutton)
I cook it with;
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
2 tablespoons brown sugar/ coconut sugar /honey
1 dessertspoon mustard or powder
1 cup balsamic vinegar
5 peppercorns
Almost cover with water and slowly simmer until tender.
Serve with potatoes and carrots boiled in the same pot for the last half hour or so.
Be sure the carrots are not over cooked, and serve with greens prepared separately to enjoy a rainbow coloured nutritious feast.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

A Few Days at Jembella

Brian made a start on shearing some of our sheep on Saturday morning. These young ewes scrubbed up very well, in good health, round and fat, and very cleanly shorn with barely a nick.

He's a very clean shearer, taking his time and concentrating on those tricky wrinkles around the neck. That's where most shearers leave plenty of nicks and cuts when they race against time, trying to achieve personal best numbers of sheep shorn in a day. Of course the dollar is a driver too, as they are paid per sheep.
We used to get shearers to come for a day or two, and depending on the luck of the draw, sometimes our poor sheep were cut up pretty bad. It makes us angry that some shearers show very little regard to the welfare of the animal. Not all shearers are like this, thankfully, but it gets more difficult to get good ones here at the time we want them; when the nights have warmed up and before the grass goes to seed.

While he plodded away at shearing, I was busy doing all of my usual morning outside chores. While he was between sheep and sorting the fleece I called him to take a photo of Trevor for me.

 Trevor and Peewee are both ten weeks old now, but you can see the size difference. Little Trev has finally had a growth spurt and is not looking deformed any more, but I wonder if he will ever grow out fully. I'm so very happy with his progress though.
We put elastrator rings on his tail and testicles two weeks ago, and although his tail has dried up, it hasn't dropped off as yet.
Here's a reminder of what he looked like when we rescued him. We estimated that he was three weeks old, according to his teeth. His posture didn't change much until he was around seven weeks old and had been given free range access to the mineral mix that we make available to our sheep. Frequent feeds of cow's milk for nourishment too, once he got the hang of suckling from the bottle.

I eventually finished mowing the house yard on Saturday, after making a start on Friday. These two were exhausted just watching Mrs Boss walking round and round with the noisy machine.

 There's a pizza restaurant in Town, and we used to occasionally (perhaps twice a year) lash out and buy a take-away as a treat but honestly, we make much nicer ones from scratch here. Better quality toppings, and at a cost of only a few pennies, so it was pizza for Saturday night dinner.

The Farmgate shop was doing a roaring trade in Raspberry plants all weekend, so I made the most of the visiting traffic by having plenty of things to buy.

Corning some legs of mutton 
On Sunday morning we cut up the three sheep carcasses that had been hanging in the cold room for eight days, since last weekend.
Brian had an "apprentice" to assist in the slaughtering. A young man, who runs a few sheep on his small property and wanted to learn the skill of butchering. We both love to show and pass on our skills to those who want to learn.
One of the sheep was a ewe that had not had a lamb for two years, so as she was obviously barren, she had to be culled. Mutton!
The other two were hogget; year old sheep that have outgrown the lamb stage, and we believe, are tastier than lamb.
The hogget were cut up into roasts and chops and shared (traded) with friends and for our freezer too. The mutton was cut up into pieces for slow cooking, stews, curries etc. The two hind legs were put into a corning brine and are soaking in a pot in the fridge for a week before I'll cook one of them as corned mutton (as in corned beef), and put the other in the freezer for later.
If anyone would like to have the recipe for corning meat I'll be happy to post it.

My kitchen wood stove is still burning around the clock as the temperatures here have not yet risen above 24C degrees. We generally cut up a big pile every few weeks, and are ever thankful for this amazing labour saving device, the hydraulic log splitter.  So that was Brian's Sunday afternoon job, while I weeded one of the vegetable gardens.
Our firewood is all sourced from trees around the district, an overflow from a friend's tree lopping business when he runs out of space to dump it all. Thank you very much, our free heating and cooking for a large part of the year. Another example of trading skills and services between neighbors and friends.

 There was more bee work done at various times across the weekend, and on Monday night we drove around and collected the bee hives that had been out for hire over the past year.
No photos, even though I did attempt to take off my glove at one stage, just as a group of bees made a bee-line to my bare hand. Besides, I was too busy being chief torch holder, assistant lifter of heavy boxes onto the back of the ute, lighter and puffer of the temperamental smoker, and note taker. (Yes, notes in the dark!) Then I have to read these notes in order to write a report to each of the hirers, and supply them with their own honey.
We have brought those hives home to do some maintenance on the boxes and to re-queen, before placing them out at one of our other three apiary sites.
The bee keeping workshop planned for October 8th, is booked out, so we have opened another date for the next workshop on November 19th.
In the coming weeks I'll be organizing the catering, tidying up the workrooms, ordering bee supplies, and various other preparations for the workshops which, no doubt will be here in a flash.

I remembered to go to my hair cut appointment today and have a super short cut that will see me through for another eight weeks, until my next appointment.
Writing it into my diary was first priority when I got home. ;)
Cheers, and if you made it all the way through to the end, thanks for reading.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Friday in September - 27 degrees C

It's been an odd sort of a week, with Brian taking a day off in the middle of it, making it feel like a weekend.  When I woke this morning I needed a jolt to remind me that it was Friday and my day for volunteering at our library. The photo above was taken last week when we were all dressed in jumpers and scarves. Not so today, it's 27 degrees Celsius!
I began as a volunteer, covering new books, a few weeks ago. Two hours on a Friday morning surrounded by books is my idea of heaven and it creates a bit of structure to my week, now that I don't go out to work for a boss.
 I love being at home, and enjoy being my own boss, but I've needed to become disciplined with my time, which I think is something most of us have to do when we leave the workplace. It would be too easy to let things slide... leave the bed unmade, put things off until the next day, and then the next, and the next.
So I set myself the commitment of being at our wonderful library each week for two hours. No matter what's going on here, I can put on clean clothes and take myself to a place I love to be, to chat with other people who I would not otherwise meet, and feel that I've contributed in a small way to our community.

The raspberry canes are greening up and sending up new little plants, so I'm thinning them out, digging them up and selling them in pots at the Farmgate shop.
This afternoon I've started mowing the grass (lawn), but oh my goodness, it's quite hot.. suddenly!!

Sweet natured  little Poppy is thirteen weeks old now and partly weaned to one milk feed a day, in the mornings after I milk Lavender.

The paddocks have all greened up. What a pity they couldn't stay green for much longer than they do. With a few warm days, the grass will go to head and by the end of October will start going yellow... and then brown.
All of the sheep have been moved away, except my two bottle fed boys, Peewee and Trevor, so the only stock left on our home block of sixteen acres are Lavender and Poppy.
We've made a deliberate effort this year to de-stock, to allow our paddocks to grow grass, some of which will be made into hay, and some will be slashed and let lay as mulch. It's a good practice to do every few years, to rest the land. We are putting out the bio-dynamic preps 500 and other liquid soil activators to feed the soil and encourage the organisms to do their thing under the surface.

 There is butter being made again now that I'm getting some cream from Lavender's excess milk, as mentioned in my previous post.  I made a batch of Cultured Butter today.(When it got too hot to mow the grass)
To see how I make butter go here; and for cultured butter simply add a spoonful of yoghurt or finished kefir to your cream a good twelve hours before churning. A teaspoon or a dessertspoon, it doesn't really matter, because it's just about introducing the culture into the cream for fermentation.
I generally add the culture in the evening, leave the bowl of cream out on the bench all night, and make the butter any time in the morning.
The butter 'turns' much faster this way too. Saves time and saves electricity.
Slather it generously onto vegetables and thickly spread onto bread or toast, it's a fermented food, it's good for us.
The weekend is upon us, so I hope yours is spent doing what you enjoy with people that you love.
Cheers. XX

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Spring Has Arrived in the Barossa

The grass around the house (loosely referred to as a lawn)  is growing a foot a day; or so it seems now that I've taken over that job. 
The bees are swarming!
The honey flow is happening!
The sheep need shearing! 
The garden pots suddenly need watering!
The vegetables are all ready to eat at once!
How did we ever cope with Spring when I was working at a paid job?

Looking out of the north facing door to the top of our hill in the distance. The self seeded cherry plum trees that shade part of the poultry run is a riot of pale pink. Before we know it, the trees will be in full leaf and there will be small plums falling on the ground for the chooks to gobble up.

The "lawn" needs mowing every week. I've taken over this job since proving to Brian that I wouldn't break his new lawn mower. I didn't know there was such a thing as a key start lawn mower, so none of that "Start ya bastard" stuff is required. Nor have my shoulders dislocated with the .#@&%* pull start rope. I quite enjoy doing it, the chooks love the fresh lawn clippings and the compost heaps get a boost from the clippings too.

Every day is packed full. Poor Brian! At work all week, and flat out farming all weekends and evenings during the week. I try to get him to bring in some help, but he loves doing it all, especially the shearing and crutching. We're lucky he's proficient at it, as shearers are getting very hard to find when they're needed.

It was time for some of my bottle fed babies to fly the coop, and to join our bigger sheep in paddocks on the other side of town. Gavin, Coco, Carrie and Tex joined Big Lambie and all the other lambs and ewes.
Brian backed up to the ramp and moved them out to find the other sheep. I couldn't get out of the car or speak at all. Not from sadness, although the feelings are bitter sweet at this stage of their lives, but if they heard my voice they would have wanted to follow me.

 Our supplies of honey dried up a couple of weeks ago, but now we're in full swing again with honey flowing from the hives.

The farmgate shop is stocked again, and the customers are showing their appreciation by emptying the shelves every couple of days.
Brian and I are both working around the clock to keep up with the demands of  honey and bee keeping supplies.
Our past workshop attendees who are now bee keepers themselves, are now appreciating the amount of energy (work) required to keep a bee hive operating healthily.
As well as being called out daily to collect swarms, we're getting requests for more bee boxes and frames to house the expanding bee hives.
As I sit here at 8pm on a Thursday evening,  I can hear the steady tap tapping sound of Brian making frames out in the shed. It's where he has spent every evening for the past eleven days until 9pm.

Part of today's harvest from the rented bee hives. The people who rented the hives for a year have finally been rewarded.

Only two bottle fed lambs remain, and Poppy the heifer calf is weaning off milk, so there is some excess milk again. If I stockpile milk for the babies over a couple of days, I have an entire ten litre bucket of fresh warm milk to put through the separator every few days. With all this lush green grass in our paddocks at present, her milk is incredibly creamy.

With too many jars of jam open in the fridge, I made some jam macaroon slices to use up some of it. OK... there was another reason! I needed a peace offering, and it had to be good.
Feeling most embarrassed after the sudden realisation that I forgot my hair cut appointment last week, I delivered a small hamper of goodies to my beautiful hairdresser, Rachel.
How did I forget? What was I thinking?
My eight weekly hair cut is my one luxury that I wouldn't miss for Quids! Hmmm... forgot to transfer the date from the appointment card into my diary, didn't I?
Or am I beginning on that slippery slide down to you know where?
Time to learn a new language perhaps... in my spare time!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

It Can't Be...Can it? September..!

Spring has sprung! Another spring is here, and it's quite unbelievable how fast this year is galloping along. I've lost my blogging mojo lately as there isn't time in my days to sit at my computer when there is so much else happening. 
 Well, there has been a bit of writing going on, but it was for Grass Roots magazine; the first article published and another article is ready for the next issue. 

I tell you what... I really hung onto that cheque.  Hated parting with it at the bank last week. It's the first time I've ever been paid for writing, and it was such an honour to write for my favourite magazine. The accompanying hand written note from founder and co-editor Meg is tucked away for keeps though. 
My articles are on Natural Sheep Care using Bio-dynamics and Organics, and there are lots of other fabulous articles in there as usual.


And now to bring you up to date with what's been happening here in the past month.
Chicks hatched out in the incubator. We had too many  Cornish Game (meat bird) hens in our flock, and not enough Australorp (egg laying) hens so Brian incubated eggs from both breeds to give us meat for the freezers, plus replacement laying hens.
When the chicks were strong enough to leave the incubator, usually 12 to 24 hours after hatching, they were placed in the brooder enclosure under a light to keep them warm and to get them moving about, eating and drinking, for another 24 hours, before being introduced to their foster mothers.
I took little videos of the chicks in the brooder to go onto my Instagram, but I'm not able to put them on here. (Another skill to learn on my list)
Three hens went broody during the time the eggs were in the incubator, so we kept them sitting on an egg each. The eggs were marked with a smiley face to differentiate them should they be picked up  with the daily egg collection.

The fenced off nursery section of the chook house. Note the small opening in the wall. 
When the chicks were strong, but still only a day or two old, each foster hen was moved, one at a time, into the 'nursery' section of the chook house. Approximately twenty chicks were placed under each hen while we waited and observed until she talked to them and settled them all underneath her.

The small cut-out opening allows outside access into a separate yard during the days, away from the other hens, but is covered over at night keeping them safe from predators and sheltered inside the nursery. 


There have been bottles on the sink, and milk stains on my clothes constantly for five months! Is it any wonder that I'm counting down these remaining few weeks until this lot are old enough to wean? That early arrival of the first bottle lamb in June has extended our usual three months of lambs by two months. Too much... too long..!!

Little Trevor, my 'special needs' baby, is going ahead now in leaps and bounds. His malnourished and bent bones are gradually straightening out, his little belly is round, and his legs are developing muscles. He will never amount to being a proper sheep, but this gutsy little fellow will always hold a special place in my heart, and will live out his years here.
Still too small to be tailed and castrated, we'll wait until he looks ready.

The ewes have learned the routine. Each night we bring them down to the small paddock nearest the house where they huddle together and protect each other's lambs from foxes. 
In the early morning I open the gate for them to wander back up to the hill paddocks. A new paddock every few days.


It's much quieter and relaxed around here now that Mulga Bill has gone for another 'holiday'. 
Bulls, even quiet bulls, love to throw their weight around, literally! He rubs himself against gates, trees, sheds.  Lifts the hay rack and moves it to various parts of the hay feeding yard. Tries to intimidate anyone and everything that comes into his space. The heavy tyre on the rope gets a good workout, usually in the middle of the night (boom,boom,boom) on the shed wall, but if it keeps him occupied that's a good thing. A gate is saved from wrecking for another day. a tree branch stays connected to the tree for another day longer!
The hay bale is lasting twice as long now that he's gone, and that's another great thing. So we will not see him again until after Lavender's calf is born, due in December, and by then she will need to be mated up again.


 And suddenly it's bee season again. A stack of new boxes ready for filling. Note these boxes are branded with my initials since I've become a registered bee keeper along with Brian, so our holding capacity is greater now, and so is our workload!

Out today at some of our apiary stands, checking the health of the hives, adding super boxes and excluders, making notes of what we need to do next. It's shaping up to be a good season, and we're hedging our bets by having bees in many different locations.

The Bee-keeping workshop on October 8th is fully booked now, so we will open another date for the next workshop soon. Preparations are now keeping me busy, in my free time.

But right now I'm trying to organise a short break in October to get away for a few days in our newly purchased Avan..
The logistics involved in going away...!!! (insert eye roll)
All work and no play is making a certain person a bit cranky and a tad grumpy, (not me) so I pulled rank and bought it! Yes, just like that! 
I have wanted one for years, and recently decided that life is too short not to use the good china, so, after looking for the right one for many months, this one came on the market in the City near us, and we brought it home a few days ago.  You may notice that we drank to its good health and longevity  that same evening, pretending to be on holiday.
And that, my dear friends is quite enough for you to read in one sitting.
If you made it all the way through, thank you!


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