Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Meat Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our meat saga! Before we got to the butchering of the beast we slaughtered last time I posted, we said goodbye to our second calf. The usual manoeuvring ensued to get her onto the truck. Cows don't like to be singled out. They are herding animals and they prefer to move around in a mob. So even though we only needed one heifer (that's the term for a girl cow that hasn't had babies yet!) from our small herd, we still needed to move them all up to the cattle yard where we'd separate them. 
The deed done, the cows and bull were shuffled back to their paddock.
Thursday II (another original name!) looked through the yard rails at me with a very forlorn look... 
And just like that, she was loaded on the same truck that brought her mother to the farm just over two years ago.

The following day she was put into a pen and auctioned along with a couple of our neighbour's steers. The price we got for her was very reasonable, considering the poor state of the cattle market. Heifers don't usually raise as much money as steers, so our neighbour took great pleasure in letting us know that it was his steers that made our little heifer look so good. Thanks Graham!
I love visiting the cattle auction. It's the little things that fascinate me. There is an oversupply of testosterone. The fashions are impressive and the auctioneers' voices are loud and booming as they compete with the bellowing of the cattle.
The origin of the cattle is listed on a sign on the pen fence. And here's our sign. 
Thursday II with her sale details stamped on her backside.
One last look and she was sold! Bought by another local farmer. 
The auctioning is frantic. Heads nod imperceptibly, fingers raise in agreement and you never even get to see who the final buyer is.
I took this photograph of these four beautifully coloured beasts. My decorator's eye fancied the red one as a floor mat.
There are all sorts of interesting folk at the auction. Like I said, the fashions are always interesting. The fellow with the black shirt and red hair asked me if I wanted his phone number.... I said 'thanks, but no thanks'.
It was Andre's first visit to a cattle sale. Here he is with our lovely neighbour, Graham. Graham is nearing 70 and he still works the cattle sales, climbing over pen rails, prodding and moving the beasts around for the prospective buyers to view from all angles. Farmers never retire!
It seems our month has been taken up with cows and meat. The morning after the auction, we were up very early to get started on the cutting up of the beast that had been hanging in the mobile cool room for 21 days. The sun was just breaking as we grabbed our coffees and headed into the shed. 
Isn't this lovely? We never tire of the view. The cabin is nearing completion. Very soon we'll be taking bookings for the B&B that we're turning it into.
If you sit on the cabin verandah, then this is the view that will greet you in the mornings. 
Our butcher arrived on time at 6.30am and the work began. He hooked the cool room up and reversed it right up to the shed door.
Tables were arranged 'just so' and Chad began to do what he does best. He turned four huge lumps of meat into delectable cuts, just ready for cooking!

I love Osso Bucco. The meat is sticky and oh so tasty. It's the beef equivalent of a lamb shank in my opinion, except the shank is a shin and it's much bigger!

As Chad cut, I bagged the the meat while Jayne and Andre' labelled and stacked the different cuts into piles.
We are set for steak!
Chad made around 12kgs of sausages. Watching him turn the long worms into links is amazing. I must learn how to do that! 
Two full tables later and our meat is all ready for the freezer. 
Although we had regular sausages made by the butcher, we made our own Boerewors too. Somehow it takes much longer than when Chad does it! 
There are spices to be scorched and mixed. Frans looks after the coriander seeds on the stove. 

Kneading the meat to mix all the ingredients is next. 

Finally we start feeding the sausage mix through the skins. This is a slow process. One that we will hopefully speed up next time with a faster sausage filler! eBay, here I come!
The swirls of sausage grow as we keep going.
Besides sausages, we made dozens of burgers and here Granny Pat is making meat balls for pasta and soup. Once the weather cools, we'll make our annual supply of biltong. It's a bit like beef jerky, but has many more spices.
By now you'll be used to my ravings about living from the land and making the most of what we grow. To show that we're not exclusive beef eaters, here's a pic of a pie we had a couple of weeks ago. Yep, little Bunny Fufu (or Phu Phu or Phoo Phoo!) is no longer hopping through our lettuce beds! The pastry decorations were a nod to the hunter.
The vegetable garden is giving us plenty of zucchinis at the moment. We're eating them every which way! The ones we forget to pick that grow into huge marrows, we blitz and freeze for soups and relish.
I have to restrain myself from pulling spent plants out of the veggie garden when I know there's one last harvest to be gathered from them. Below are a number of scraggly looking dill flowers. But look... they're going to seed! Just what I want. I collect the seeds for future planting or use them in the kitchen. They're delicious in potato salads and I have been known to toss a few into my bread dough mix.
A morning in the vegetable garden towards the end of Summer usually results in the compost bins getting quite full!
The fennel is gone, leaving lovely clean, empty spots to sow new seeds.
Spinach, lettuce and other green leaves make it into the chook house where the baby chickens, mother duck and ducklings are given a chlorophyl treat!
We are light on with our egg supply at the moment. Well, it's been a while since we had more than 7 eggs a day. Some days we only have three. This spells CONSPIRACY!

Granny Pat collects the eggs each day and gets most frustrated when she knows the hens are hiding their eggs from her. Frans, by chance, spotted a new hole in the side of a fresh hay roll. He hesitantly put his hand into the hole
On his mind of course was 'snake'...
This was his reward! Clever girls aren't they?!
For now it seems the heat has passed us and the promise of Autumn is just around the corner. Till next time... enjoy the beautiful weather. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Farm Meat Pt 1

 It's rather confronting to slaughter an animal that you have witnessed being born, fed and raised yourself. It's been said not to name your animals, so we don't. However, we still have to identify them. So our first calf, born in on a cold, wet September day in 2012, we christened Sunday. He was born on a Sunday, so it seemed logical at the time to call him as such. After all, if Nicole and Keith can name their offspring after a day in the week, so could we! And we'd named his Mum Thursday. So let's not break with tradition! Little Sunday grew into a lovely handsome steer. Yes, we tied his balls off a few days after his birth. It's just what you do if you don't want a ranting bull running around in your paddock. We always knew we were going to slaughter him for our meat. He's lived a good life. Frans fed him on blistering cold days when the icy winds howled through the Cyprus Pines. The hay was juicy and the paddocks too wet to bother with. Sunday always came running when he saw the boss forking out hay. As Summer came along, he grazed with his mum and fellow siblings on the fresh green grass at the bottom of the paddock. When Frans mowed the grass along the fence, he was always there to munch on the clippings. Being a grass fed steer is a good life. There's freedom to roam around the farm, drink at the dam and rest under the shade of the trees. No dry earthed feed lots, cramped with other screaming cattle.
A newly born calf... Sunday. What a wild ride he gave us. He was a 'forceps' baby. His first few weeks were tenuous as he grappled with the cold winter rain and winds. His first time mum, Thursday, did her best. She soon got the hang of being a mum.
And then in a blink of an eye, it's a year and 4 months since the day Sunday was born. At this age, the meat on a steer is good. So with a deep breath, Frans called the slaughter man and made a date.
On the morning of the home kill, Frans moved all the cattle through the yard and separated Sunday from the rest. He was calm and not distressed at all. The key is to keep any stress from the animal as this translates into tough meat. Our butcher is careful, clean and has an attitude towards the animals that he has to slaughter that is commendable. He's not hurried. He takes his time to keep the beast calm. When the moment of death comes, it's quick and deliberate. I still find the transformation from 'farm animal that I love' to 'meat' amazing. One moment the beast standing in front of you is one you have a connection with, and the next you're observing the carcass and all connection has been severed. I have to remind myself that the reason we're doing this is so we have control of our food chain. We know exactly what our animals are feeding on, how they're being treated and how they're being processed. Although the process of killing one of your own animals brings a tear to your eye, (yes it did!), we're pleased that we can be a part of the cycle that provides us with our food, and with it, we are able to respect the animals that allow us this privilege. 

The tools of the trade. A bucket full of essentials... Knives, ropes and sharpening steels. The metal frame is used to balance the carcass while the skinning gets done.
Heavy machinery is required too! The beast weighs around 450kgs. Too heavy to manoeuvre easily. Frans borrowed our neighbour's tractor to help with the lifting.
The beast is moved away from the cattle yard and into our paddock for the slaughtering. 
Once moved by tractor, the skinning begins. Our butcher and his off sider work quickly and efficiently. 
These fellas are well practised. They know what they're doing. 
As the skin gets cut away, it's time to lift the carcass up.
Back breaking work! 
The first delicacy that is handed over after the kill is the ox tail. I'm planning a feast of Ox Tail and Dumplings. Just like my Mum used to make! The second delicacy was the cheeks. I've been trawling the Internet for the best recipes. Long, slow cooking is required for this rare treat.
Not long and the skin is off. Next it's the cutting away of the guts and the rest of the smelly bits. A wheelbarrow is a handy tool. It's not only useful for gardening!
A clean cut is what is required. We don't want any piercings of any tubes or other bits!
Mission accomplished. The guts are removed neatly and cleanly.
When calculating the size of the beast, it's generally worked out on 'dressed weight'. This means that the skin, head, feet and guts are removed. What's left is the useable part of the beast.

We are left with a cleaned animal. Next is the quartering.
The carcass is cut into four big hunks.
It's a lovely cool day. No flies about. This is good!
When we slaughtered our first beast a year ago, we hung it for 5 days. This time, we're going to hang it for 21 days. The idea is that the meat will become more tender as the muscle fibres break down. The cool room is supplied by our butcher. The challenge is to keep the temperature between 2 and 4 degrees on the hot days when we've had 43 degrees!
Hefting the beef into the cooler is heavy work!
Four quarters.... these will feed us for a good part of a year.
And there you have it... Approximately 250kgs of beef. We'll get steaks, osso bucco, mince, sausages and roasts. 
Stay tuned for part 2. The cutting up!

Wayward calves......

In the heat we've turned off our electric fences to prevent any sparks or fires. Of course this is just an invitation to our young calves to go wandering! Barbed wire makes no difference. Here's our youngest, Misty, breaking back trough the fence!
Frans and I headed down to our furtherest fence line to repair the break. First he did some weeding! Gorse and Scottish Thistle had to be removed.

Walking around the paddock is hazardous. The pug holes from the cattle are big and deep. Twisting an ankle is easy!
Fencing fixed. 

One day last week, when it was cooler, I toddled off to Port Campbell with Granny Pat. We had lunch near the water. What a view!
We took a slow drive home via the Great Ocean Rd, and stopped to say 'hello' to  one of the Apostles.

Till next time... have a cool week. Drink plenty of fluids!