Sunday, January 30, 2011

Life and Death

Our farm now has 3 new additions. Our beautiful Large Black has just had 3 piglets - 2 gilts (girls) and 1 boar. I will post some photos soon. She had 4, but one died at birth. This is a very small litter and so I was a little dissappointed. It may have been because she is a bit young. She escaped down the paddock to have them, so we've built a pen around her and set up water down there for her, luckily it's a nice shady spot. We will bring her back up and probably put her back with the others soon I think. We are a bit new to pig farming, so are learning as we go.

My daughter turned up over the weekend with her dogs, and a friends dog. We are now short two game/rhode island red cross chickens! I was so upset yesterday when I discovered it. We had left them locked in their cage while the dogs were here, but they managed to get the gate open. What really annoyed me, was that it was done mostly for sport. I couldn't find one of them, but one was virtually undamaged. I buried this one in the chook yard and planted a Jack Fruit Tree on top of it. They were ear marked for eating, but not by dogs - by me! They were about half grown and growing really well too.

One of the Rhode Island hens is sitting, but I don't think that she has a clue what she is doing! I found one chicken half hatched yesterday - and dead! I could have given up raising chickens yesterday, but I suppose that unfortunately life on a farm is all about life and death. Actually all food growing is. Everything we eat is living and must die for us to eat it. This applies to fruits, vegetables and meat products. It's all a cycle. What we must be aware of is, that it's important that nothing gets wasted in the process. Which is why I've planted the fruit tree on top of my dead chicken. As the chicken rots down, this will fertilise my tree and it will grow strong and healthy. It will also act as a reminder of my first attempt at chicken breeding and ...... that chicken pens need to be VERY dog proof.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicken and Pork

There is such a huge taste difference between Pasture Raised Chicken and Pork and the conventional product that is available, that it could be considered a different meat product. I have read and heard different opinions - like you can't taste the difference or that people prefer the conventional product. The only comment I would make is that they must be too used to the conventional product. I think that conventionally raised chicken meat is very tasteless and has no texture - it's like a paste! Free range, pasture raised chicken will have more flavour and will be moist and juicy. Pasture raised Pork will also be juicer, however I think it actually tastes LESS porky, but more tasty than conventional pork. That may sound strange, but conventional pork is stronger flavoured and I believe that's probably due to the fact that they have to live in their own filth! Apart from the taste, the nutrient value of the meat is far superior with the pasture raised product. And if those reasons aren't enough to make you consider changing from conventional to pasture raised, think about the animal welfare issue. The animals are housed in sheds where they can't experience the sunshine and fresh air and to live the way nature intended. They love grass and it would surprise you how much grass chickens and pigs actually eat.

We rotate our pigs around and also let them out to graze around the house and sheds. At this stage we only have 4 sows and a boar, but when they start reproducing, we will install more paddocks so that they can be rotated, ensuring that they always have fresh grass to graze. We have one sow due to give birth in the next few weeks, so this will be the beginning of our Pork enterprise. These pigs are all heritage pigs and some of the breeds are quite rare. They are breeds that naturally free range well. Conventional Pork comes from pigs that have been bred to grow fast to ensure a quicker turnover for the producer. They are pink and therefore can't handle being raised free range very well, as they get sunburnt too easy. We have had them here and they do get a little sunburnt, but they usually rest under a shady tree in the heat of the day anyway. Our pigs are real characters! They all seem to have a unique personality and love a scratch and a bit of attention. They can also be a nuisance - you can't leave a houseyard gate open, or they head straight for the vegetable patch.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More Mangoes

I made a lovely Mango Ice to go with homemade icecream last night for dinner. See the recipe on the recipe tab. I stole the recipe off Jamie Oliver after watching a bit of his show the other night. Served with the icecream, it was just really nice and very refreshing. The weather has been so hot the last couple of days, and no let up for a little longer yet.

Sorry, forgot to do a picture!

Monday, January 17, 2011


I am not going to say that I am sick of mangoes, but I am sick of cutting them up! We have had a bumper crop of mangoes this year off our single tree. Although I just wish it was a Bowen Mango tree rather than a common one. However, I've discovered that when you dry them, they are equally as good as the Bowens.
So most nights will find me cutting up a batch of mangoes to go into the food dryer, and of course I then have to suck on the seeds, so my teeth are constantly full of strings!!!!

Having so many mangoes and any other fruit you may grow that is seasonal, you notice that when you've got them, you've got lots. You eat them until you feel like you could go the rest of the year with out eating another. Wow, that's what seasonal eating is all about! When you go to the supermarket in winter and you can buy cherries, do you question where they come from? Some of our fruit and vegetables we can grow for most of the year somewhere in Australia, and while there is certainly food miles attached to these, I think we need to think seriously about buying something that is grown in another country, or that has spent months in cold storage. Apart from anything else, food that is in season will taste so much better than something that has been in cold storage. Funnily enough, it will taste like real food. The best way to start is to take a little bit of notice what grows when and where. You won't be able to buy local mangoes or bananas in Melbourne, and you won't be able to buy local cherries in Rockhampton. Once you start growing your own, you get a much better idea of what is seasonal and you will also taste the difference.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flooding and Supermarkets

The floods are now finally easing, and life will gradually get back to normal for most people. My thoughts go to those in the Lockyear Valley though, our problems all pale into insignificance compared to them!!

I was talking to my brother recently and he said that there were two issues higlighted by the floods.
  1. Our reliance on road transport and transporting food across the country, and
  2. Our reliance on the supermarket.
He is so right on both counts and while we an't do a lot about the first part of the first one, we can certainly do a lot about the rest. Most regions in Ausralia (well, the coastal ones) have farms that can provide: dairy products, meat products, fruit, vegetables, wheat. Why aren't we directly accessing these or at least why aren't there more Farmers Markets. With the Bruce Highway cut in so many places, it shows how crazy the transport system is, as well as our marketing strategies. They truck Bananas from Cairns to Brisbane, so that they can then be sent half way back to Rockhampton to be sold at the supermarket.

We need to think about supporting our local farmers and working out how to buy direct. The consumer needs to start by asking for it and as I've said before, if there are customers, there will be suppliers. And, of course, the producers/suppliers need to stop worrying about how to do it and just start doing it. The term for this kind of buying is called Farmer Friendly purchasing. The consumer and the farmer just need to get to know each other. In Central Queensland alone, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Biloela and Emerald would be big enough centres to each support a Farmers Market. It would certainly be a bonus now as the supermarkets in those towns have shown some very serious food shortages.

It's a little ironic that when I think of the average city consumer, I think of the very same brother mentioned above, who use to go to the supermarket on his way home from work to buy the ingredients for that nights dinner. Anyone can change the way they source their food, they just have to WANT to. One of the impressions I got from the media during the flood crisis was that people were panic buying. I'm lucky, because I'm used to stocking up as I live in the bush, so I could cope for months - although it would get a bit boring! We got to the shops on Monday and bought some lovely stone fruit and some more vegies - these are things I can't grow. I didn't NEED food, but the variety is good. I'm as guilty as the next person for ignoring food miles, but really, we all just need to compromise a little and try and buy whatever we can locally and then treat ourselves to those luxuries from further away.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I made the yummiest icecream last night. I usually make my own icecream and it's usually vanilla flavoured, but because we have so many mangoes I thought I'd make mango icecream. The mangoes are the common ones and are very stringy, so I wizzed them in the food processor first. I will put my ice cream recipe on the Recipe Tab. It's just so easy to make because I don't make a custard first - it's made with all raw ingredients, and of course with my icecream the only thing that I don't produce is the sweetener. I'll need to get bees won't I? Kim doesn't particularly agree with that idea! I don't know why.....but I'm sure it would be easier to make honey than grow and process sugar cane!

Friday, January 7, 2011


I weaned my two Aussie Game chickens yesterday. Took Mum back over to the main chook pen where she can get friendly with our Rhode Island Red Rooster Roger. She seems to be bossing the hens around, but Roger is sorting her out a bit. The chickens (see the photo tab) are a cross between these two so should be good eating. Knowing where your food comes from is an important part of a healthy diet. Chickens raised on pasture, as opposed to free range will be more nutritious and therefore tastier than any other chicken. I won't even compare them with caged or barn raised chickens! Unfortunately, sometimes free range just means that they have access to an exercise run - it's not all that different to what I imagine a prison yard would look like! Although this is so much more ethical than barn raised birds, at least they get sunshine and fresh air. There are people around growing out chickens in a rotational system on pasture - source them out and taste for yourself.  I have a chook dome in my garden, which I have my egg laying hens in. These hens are moved around and then the garden is planted on the area vacated. Then when those vegetables are finished, the chooks are moved back to clean up the bed, before planting again. I would like to have a simillar system in the paddock with meat chickens and also our pigs. A more substantial cage will be needed though, as my dome is made out of pvc and is very light.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


The majority of the beef we eat in Australia is finished on grain. By finished, I mean that at least for the last 100 days of its life, the animal is enclosed in a Feedlot and is fed a sole diet of grain. Cattle aren't designed to eat grain, they are grass foragers. I was at a workshop once, where there was also the manager of a Feedlot. The facilitator asked him, "what do you do with your sick cattle?" I hadn't really thought about it before this, but apparently it's someones job to ride the pens every day and take out any cattle that are sick. They are then given anitbiotics until they are well or they die - the ones that get well then enter the meat market. I'm not exactly sure what is the cause of this kind of sickness - is it the small confined pens, is it the grain feeding, or is is simply that none of it's natural to the animal. We as a society are eating this beef. Until we have a certified grass fed market we won't know whether we are buying a cocktail mix of chemicals and poor nutrition when we buy our conventional beef. If you are interested in your health, but also the welfare of the animal, it's really important to find grass fed beef (or any other meat product for that matter). It may not always be as tender as grain fed meat, but the flavour is so much better and it's so much better for you too. It's not even about buying organic meat, as long as it's diet is freerange and is based on good quality pastures, the meat will have the nutrtional value that it should have. Beef that is raised on green pastures will have a good balance of omega 3's and 6's. Grain fed meat is predominantly omega 6. The smaller butcher, CSA groups, organic buying services or getting to know a farmer may be all that is needed to find a source of pasture fed beef. Once the customers come, the product will be available.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


We are currently flood bound (as is a lot of Queensland), but a long way from needing food drops. I did a bit of a stocktake of what food I have, and apart from the meat, eggs and milk, which we have heaps of, my garden is producing pretty well. There is only two of us to feed so that helps. Normally it would be far to hot to grow many vegies at this time of year, but with having so much rain, the garden is going really well. I've got squash, zuchini, beans, tomatoes, cumumber, pumpkin, NZ Spinach (Warrigal Greens), Brazilian spinach, a few miserable lettuce that don't like so much rain, and then carrots coming on. I dug about 10 kg's of potatoes about a month ago, which we are still eating. The other day we picked a bunch of bananas and are now picking mangoes and passionfruit. We are still picking the odd paw paw too. So all in all we won't starve. The flood has highlighted the reliance on outstide souces of food and so we could all benefit from growing SOME of our own vegies - you don't need a big yard.

If I can work out how to use Blogger, I will add some pages to show recipes, photos and suggested books to read. If anyone can work out how to do that, it would be good. I think I'm a bit computer challenged at times.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Food Philosophy

The purpose of this blog is to share my food philosophy and to hopefully help people to understand better ways of farming, gardening, cooking and eating. I am confident that the leading cause of disease today is our food. We need to eat healthy nutritous food to lead healthy lives. One way to ensure that we are eating healthy food is to eat food that is produced without or with minimal chemicals. You either need to buy it or produce it yourself. I do produce a lot of our own food but I know that not everyone can. What I would like you to do though is to think about where the food you buy has come from. How was it produced? How far did it have to travel to your local shop? These are the two main questions you need to consider, however when you consider how it was produced, you need to think about so many things: organic, biodynamic, pasture fed, chemical free, hormone free, free range, and the list goes on. Hopefully through this blog you will get a better understanding of these two questions and can then make your own decisions. The food we grow on our farm at the moment includes: beef, chicken, duck, pork, vegetables, milk and eggs. We aren't self sufficient, and it would be difficult to be so as I enjoy cooking too much and need ingredients that I can't grow. I am passionate about food - from growing it, to cooking it, to eating it. I will share my adventures in these endeavours - from sharing recipes to just sharing my experiences.