Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Living off the land

Our neighbour Graham has a few sheep. Last week he had six slaughtered on his property. He offered us one. We jumped at the offer. What could be better than knowing where your food comes from?! In fact, the sheep graze in the paddock close to our big old shed. So paddock to plate is around 200m.

When we lived in the city we would walk into a supermarket or butcher and pick out a packet of meat wrapped in plastic, resting on a polystyrene tray. That's how you buy it in the city. You have no idea where the meat came from, or even what breed. Having the opportunity to buy some of our meat direct from a grower is a treat. Frans and I have tossed around the idea of keeping a few sheep, but our neighbour says 'no'. Too many hassles. Fences have to be sheep proof, and ours arn't. It's easier to pay for one when Graham does his twice yearly 'paddock shopping'.

A young butcher came to do the first part of the job. He slaughtered the sheep and they then got hung in a mobile cool room for a week. The cool room stayed on the property. A week later, the young fellow returned with his very competent butcher mate and a girlfriend. They brought their own tables, saw and knives. The three of them expertly cut up the sheep to our specifications. "What cuts do you want?" I was asked. Think quickly.. Ok. I'll have the hind legs as roasts. The shoulders deboned for stew, or in our case for a big potjie for Sara's 25th birthday coming up, chops, cutlets, ribs and mince. Done. Nala also did very well from this excersize. We minced up a heap of offcuts for her. You may be wondering how much this excersize cost us. Well, we paid Graham $150 for the lamb. Well, it was a bit larger than a lamb. Probably more like a two tooth. That's ok. Slow roasting will deliver a delicious meal. We ended up with around 15kgs of meat after all the fat and bones were removed. So it means we paid around $10 a kg for an organically grown lamb. And there was not a white polystyrene tray in sight. Not a bad deal I would say.

The two young butchers and the girlfriend. Our neighbours Graham and Lorraine. Frans and Graham watched from the side lines with a beer in hand while the young fellows wielded sharp knives! The cool room. Frans picking out which sheep we were to have.  And a 'blokes' truck. Complete with whip arial, spotlight and dog cage.

Once our sheep was cut up, we loaded the meat into a washing basket and headed home. Out came the Kenwood mincer and Frans started cutting up the 'bits' for mince. We minced some of the meat for ourselves and the offcuts for Nala. It was a late night. But a fulfilling one. Next time it will be a steer. Our own. We'll need to be very organised so we can make sausages, biltong and mince on the day of the cutting up.
More chickens
Some time ago a friend of Stephen offered us some chooks that belonged to the friend's grandfather. The grandfather was going to a nursing home and a new home was needed for the chickens. We were happy to take the chickens. So this past weekend we went to Melbourne and picked them up. Nala went with us to Melbourne and on the way home she had to share the back of the car with the chooks. When we got home, Frans and I tagged the newcomers so we could identify them from our original brood. There is no problem with identifying them at the moment. They are a mangy looking bunch. Half of them have missing feathers. They've obviously not had much attention the past few months. So we're hoping that a diet of good food and fresh greens will sort them out. We're not sure if they're still laying. Time will tell. If we don't get a rise in egg production in the next month, then we will need to consider which ones will become chicken soup!  

Nala and the new chooks. Frans tagging a new girl, one with a fair amount of skin showing! Now we have 11 new chooks. Here they are after we put them into the chicken annex. They rushed to the food and seemed at home in no time at all.

This week I bottled dried tomatoes. I have a small tomato bush growing randomly under the netting where some of the vegetable beds are. It self seeded from last season no doubt. I know I didn't plant it there. This bush has been amazing. I have picked many many mini romas from it. I decided I'd try drying some and bottling them in olive oil. I cut the tomatoes in half, sprinkled them with castor sugar, salt and pepper, then laid the halves cut side down on the drying trays. It took around 12 hours to dry the tomatoes to a leathery feel. I then heated some olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar in a pot then poured the hot mixture over the tomatoes. It seems like a lot of effort for two jars of end product. But I'm sure we're going to enjoy them!

And this was sunrise this morning. Proof that winter is on the way. A couple of months ago this would have been 5.30am. This was taken at 7.20am.

Have a happy week.

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