Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Calf number 4

Baby number 4 has  arrived. We think a little bull calf, but we can't get close enough to see for certain as this Mumma is nasty, we call her Runna...because that's what she does...runs straight at us!
  Maybe motherhood will mellow her...I doubt it. She will probably be one of the ones that we move on in the future once her calf is big enough to be weaned, as we are going to change over to a droughtmaster herd we think at this stage. Both mum and bub appear to be doing well. The other 3 are also all doing really well.  The 2 most recent scream around the place playing and running now, little cuties. We have a musterer and his dogs coming in on Saturday to round up all the cattle. One of our neighbours steers is in here, and he takes off and takes about 6-7 of our girls with him when we try to get them in to the yards, and we have a girl with a piece of wire caught around her neck, so we need to get them all in and pull out the wilder heifers that don't look like they are in calf and send them off to be sold, and get down to about 10 girls plus the bull. I think our property will cope better in the drier times with a few less head to feed. Damian's truck went off the the panel shop on a car carrier yesterday to be assessed, so we'll see how bad that is once we get the repair report. I've come down to Brisbane for the last few days of the school holidays to spend some time with the big kids and Grace and a bit of a break before getting back in to the swing of things next week.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Our chicken processing day...

Our chicken processing day went well. We didn't get started until about lunchtime, as we forgot to turn on the hot water unit until about 10am, and then it took about 2 hours to heat up to temperature. Damian made up a killing cone, and attached it to a tree. We like this method, as it's really quick, no stress on the bird and they are already in the right position to drain. We were thinking of making up a plucking machine, but honestly, this is quick, it only takes a minute or 2 per bird, so I don't know if we'll worry about that, as it's not like we will be doing that many birds. We only ended up keeping 5 for the table, as the others were not meat breeds at all, and were just not worth the time to process for the amount of meat that would have been on them, so the other 5 were just culled and added to our soil to enrich it. So ten birds all up. The first bird took us about 40 minutes from plucking to putting in the ice slurry. It was a pretty slow process, as even though we had watched heaps of DVD's, working out all the "bits", where to cut etc is really a hands on, learn as you go thing. We did 2 birds before we had lunch, and at lunchtime we watched  Joel Salatin enviscerate a chicken, and we found that quite helpful, as we had more of an idea of what he was doing, and it just gave us that extra little bit of info that we needed. We had the whole process down to about 15 minutes from plucking to ice slurry at the finish. It was a long day for us, but wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was a little sad with the culling of the prettier birds, but I know it had to be done, as we just couldn't keep the excess roosters. Damian did an exceptional job of the killing process, he was very methodical and kind to the birds, and so, so quick. This is what our finished product looked like.
Just like a real one!  We put the birds in the fridge overnight, as I was too tired to cut them all up so I did that yesterday. Cutting up a whole chicken was also a learning process for me, but once again, after the first one, it got easier and I had it pretty well sorted for the last 3. These are the cuts out of 1 chicken.
The breasts, drumsticks, wings and thighs. See how dark the thigh meat is....much darker than factory farmed birds. The drumsticks are about the size of the turkey drumsticks you buy at the supermarket, and the wings put those tiny little wings at the supermarket to shame. Out of 5 birds we ended up with 7.1kgs of meat pieces, plus 5 frames, weighing about 4 kilos all up, for stock and soups etc. I cut all the chickens up in to pieces, I didn't keep any for roasting, as I think I need to really flavour the chickens in curries and casseroles etc., so I can get over my initial "iffiness" of eating our own chickens. Once I have got in to using our own, then I don't think it will be an issue to roast a whole bird, especially as we will probably get just one breed for our meat chickens, and they won't be individual breeds like these ones were. I don't think this is something I could have done five years ago, but after losing so many chickens over the years to dogs and foxes and illness etc, I think you tend to harden up a bit. The major loss last year of 40 birds really toughened me up and I made a point of not getting so attached to my birds. I have been finding it increasingly difficult to buy chickens from the supermarkets and have only be buying "organic, freerange" birds, but I still don't believe these birds live a particularly great life, and I know that our own birds are truly free range. If we are going to eat chicken, then at least this is the more ethical way of doing it. We are looking at either Australorps or Plymouth Rocks as being our main breed, and these are a dual purpose bird, good laying, mothering abilities,and meat. So, we now have true farm grown, grass fed beef in our freezer from our friends, and our own chickens...that's gotta be a good thing.





Saturday, July 5, 2014

Not the best start to the day...

we like to keep it exciting around here...no boring country life for us. Damian's Friday Fallover...
On his way to a job yesterday morning, and there was a BIG roo on the road. He wasn't even travelling that fast, but the road was newly graded and had lots of marbly little stones on it making it very slippery. He slowed down for it, and the back end of his truck flicked around and then he ended on his side. So it is now back here on the farm after being put back the right way with the help of our friend who owns a tilt tray, and another friend who was near by, waiting for assessment by the insurance company....the whole passenger side needs fixing, his back tray and boxes are buggered as they have all been shunted over, he's only had his new ute for about 2 months....he is totally fine which is the main thing...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

It's nearly time to do the farmer thing....gulp...

A few garden update pics. I put these few plants in front of the verandah to brighten things up there a little.



 



  
I had to put lots of statues, rocks and ornaments etc to keep the plants safe from the dogs running through the garden until they all get established. I also planted up some new lettuce, spinach and silverbeet in pots for a bit of fresh produce. Now that the cooler weather is here, things are managing to survive. We have been wanting to try our hand at making sausages for a couple of years now, so we purchased a sausage maker yesterday, and as soon as we get the casings, we'll give it a go. I purchased a sausage making book about 2 years ago, which has recipes and tips, and there are lots of recipes online. I will probably be able to make up some gourmet chicken sausages as well after the weekend.
 We are planning to cull our roosters on the weekend....gulp. We have about a dozen roosters, and they are just costing us money in feed, and I have to keep most of them locked up away from the hens, as there are too many of them, and they give the girls a bit too much attention otherwise. We will just keep 1 or poss 2, to keep the girls more settled and to look after the girls. So we have done heaps of reading, and watched plenty of DVD's on the process, and Damian has had to cull a few of our chickens over the last couple of years if one has been really sick, so he is ok with that part, we are just not familiar with the gutting side, but figure we'll just give it a go and we should get quicker with each one.  Damian had this old hot water unit which has an element and temperature control, so he is going to use this to heat up the water so that we can dunk the chickens prior to plucking.
We'll just set ourselves up behind the shed with a clean table, a tree, hot water, the engel for refrigeration, and see how we go. Wish us luck, I sure the first time will be the hardest. I will watch a couple of videos on preparing the poultry in to the more familiar cuts, and a couple of whole birds for roasting, and then freeze everything up for future use. If things go well and we think we can make it a regular thing, we might look at getting some chickens just for meat. It's going to be difficult deciding which breed roosters I want to keep...as they are all heritage breed roosters...I need to decide by tomorrow though...I need to let my head make this decision based on their overall dual purpose, and not how attractive they are... it's going to be a bit tough I think...