Friday, December 7, 2018

December and the end of another year

I don't seem to write to many blog posts these days - usually rely on facebook or my newsletter to get messages out. That in itself is a bit risky as Facebook is not a reliable way to get to everyone, and not everyone is on my newsletter list!  Sometimes, life just gets really busy and we can't do everything! But I always seem to find time to do the fun things, like cooking/preserving. Don't these tomatoes look pretty! The grape tomatoes preserved in brine look interesting and can't wait to try them.

This year has been busy and the next couple of weeks will be also - 3 more delivery weekends and then we'll take a month off from markets. January is traditionally very slow and we are hoping that Kim and I might get an opportunity to take some time off and head away for a couple of weeks. January will also be a time for me to re-assess how we manage markets and delivery and we may make some changes to how its currently done.

Frequent Free Ranger Group - I'd love feedback on this - how it could be done better, what has made some people leave and why do those that are still doing it like it? What works and what doesn't? The idea behind the group was to enable us to manage stock better and to be assured of a certain level of sales. We've had a lot of people drop out, so it would be good to know what we could do differently to encourage people to have a regular order. Either comment below or email me direct for any feedback, good and bad.

Gladstone and Emerald Delivery - We go to these two centres monthly and only do pre-orders or we park up for a while at each place and see what else we can sell. Gladstone is mostly pre-orders which is great because we know exactly how much we need to take and it's a short time there. This works well for us. Emerald is further away and we stay longer because we don't have as many orders. I would love feedback on how this is working for those customers that do get meat from us - what would you prefer? What works and what doesn't work? More time, less time?

Only a few more opportunities this year to get our meat - please think about stocking up so that you can get through January. If you are in the Rocky area, we will be leaving the freezer in That Wholefood Place well stocked so you will be able to get supplies from there too.

Saturday 8th December - Emerald delivery - 9.30am to 12pm at the Roundabout near Coles and the Bridge.

Saturday 15th December - Yeppoon Community Markets from 6am to 10am
                                         - Gladstone Area - Benaraby Turnoff from 2.30pm to 3.30pm
Sunday 16th December - Rockhampton Kern Arcade Carpark Markets from 6am to 12pm

Saturday 22nd December - Yeppoon Community Markets from 6am to 10am and then in Rocky on the same day - That Wholefood Place from 11 to 2pm. This delivery is mostly to deliver hams. We will only have left over meat from the week before and look out for some good specials then too! If you live in Rocky and have ordered a ham, you will need to come and collect from me from That Wholefood Place. Yeppoon ham customers will obviously get there's from Yeppoon markets. Please note, I won't be going to the Arcade Carpark Markets on Sunday the 23rd.

If I don't see you over the next couple of weeks, I would like to take this opportunity to Wish you all a very Happy Christmas and I really hope you get to spend some time doing what makes you feel happy. Everyone has different ideas of what's important about this time, but for me it's about spending time with someone you love (or lot's of someones!) Lets hope it's also a wet, but not too wet Christmas too! Thankyou so much for the support you have given our business this year and we hope to continue to provide you with quality, ethical and healthy meat in 2019.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

October Update

We had some lovely rain over the last weekend - not enough, but a great start! We also spent a few days out mushrooming - I love it when we get drizzly weather at this time of year, as it usually means mushrooms. I tend to dry them as my preferred storage option. I can then crush them into different soups, stews or whatever as a delicious flavouring. When used fresh, they tend to contain quite a bit of grit, which is not so appetising.

We ended up with about 4 basket fulls of mushrooms.

Kim out foraging in the pig paddocks. The pigs don't eat mushrooms, but they fertilise the paddocks nicely for growing mushrooms.

This last weekend, our local school at Baralaba celebrated it's 100 year birthday! The town did a fabulous job of organising the festivities and it was so great to catch up with old school friends (not too much emphasis on the old!) and some more recent friends from when my kids were at school there. My mum was involved at the school on and off since 1949 when she arrived as a student, then came back as a teacher, then a mum of students after she married my dad and then she went back teaching when I started school. She retired a little while ago, but was involved for a long time. At one stage in 1976, my entire family at the time (my young brother had not been born then) were at the school. Mum as a teacher, Dad as the groundsman, my oldest sister in year 10 and my youngest in year 1. The remaining five kids scattered through the classes in between. I think Mum would've taught, at some stage, a fair percentage of the people at the reunion on the weekend! 

This weekend coming, will find me at the Markets in Yeppoon and Rockhampton and will include a delivery to Gladstone area. I'm planning on a delivery to Emerald in November and then again before Christmas if people order hams.

Christmas Hams
We will have some hams available for Christmas this year. Please let me know if you would like to put your name down for one. They will be bone in only and $26/kg. I'm guessing that a whole one could be up to 6 or 7 kgs, and halves may be 4kg, as we'll use the biggest legs to cut in half. I'll need to know the following when ordering:
  • NF or Conventional
  • Whole or Half 
  • Your phone number
Last night I cooked up some ham hocks. I pulled the meat off to serve with eggs for breakfast and will now use that broth to cook some beans for baked beans.

I will still have a few ham hocks if anyone wants them this weekend.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A very impromptu trip away

Sometimes you just need a holiday and if you can't get one, maybe a change will have to do. Kim and I were due to go away for a few days but it didn't look like it was going to happen. However, Edmund was going to buy a tray to put on his dual cab ute and he found one down near Brisbane, so we decided to pick it up for him. This was a decision made at the last minute without thinking about all the things I had to do at home this week. Not least, recovering from the Food and Wine Festival.  A days driving down to a quaint caravan park in the Mary valley, overnight stop, drive to Brisbane outskirts, and then back to the caravan park for the night and then a days driving home. 

The cabin we stayed in was a little plain, but had the best view.  Waking up during the night and looking out the window was just a delight! The moon was out after a drizzly day and there were misty clouds below us. It was just magical! The daytime view is pretty good, but not the same as night. And it was green - well greener than here anyway!

It is also so peaceful. Beautiful bird noises to meditate with, which is what I did on waking. And no mine noise! We have a very loud coal mine next to us at home!

The Capricorn Food and Wine Festival went well - it was a huge amount of work, but I think we can call it a success. It was certainly an experience to be part of and to work out how to do it all - the whole cooking for lots of people was a challenge!

But, now we are back home and I need to get a very much overdue notice out! I had hoped to do this while we were away but sadly we had no phone service and the place we stayed didn't have wifi. 

We will be delivering to emerald this weekend. We will be parked up near the roundabout near Coles and on the way to the Botanic Gardens. If you haven't ordered, that will be no problem as we will have plenty of meat available - beef, goat and of course all our porkie products - fresh pork, ham and bacon and salami. This is the best salami that we've made yet! Well (we) haven't made it, our butcher has. 

Then we'll be back in Yeppoon and Rocky on the first weekend in October. Wow October already no I haven't even thought about hams for Christmas! I will try and sort that out over the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Cheers for now, and hoping that the storms that are floating about will build up to give us a good drop of rain.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Pork and ways to cook it.

Pork is our main business. We started out with a few free range pigs and we now have hundreds. Over the years we've gone through various stages - sometimes we don't have enough pigs and then, like now, we have too many pigs! Pork in the shops appears to be very cheap and this is due to the fact that there has been a glut in the commercial market for a while. It has filtered down to us. So when you see really cheap pork, maybe think about how that pig was raised. It was most likely raised in a shed and never saw daylight until the day it was put on a truck to go to the abattoir.

Our pigs are happy pigs that get to live out side all their lives. They get to dig in the dirt, wallow in the mud and generally play around and explore.  We think that this improves the flavour - many people tell us that it has a clean fresh taste.

If you compare our prices with conventional pork, yes we are more expensive, but if you compare our pork with the price of meat in general, it's not so bad. So please consider that when you are next shopping.

Our free ranger packs have been quite popular with some of our customers and many say that they enjoy getting different cuts of meat that they don't normally cook with. Someone said the other day that they aren't sure what to do with diced pork. This blog to day is to mostly talk about different ways of cooking our pork.

Diced Pork  - I use this in a stirfry, casserole, curry or a soup. If you have a favourite chicken or pork recipe, think about swapping it out for pork. I do this all the time and there's quite a few recipes on the Recipe Tab that have pork - shanks or osso bucco - just use diced pork instead. I have even been known to make a Moroccan spiced pork dish - someone reminded me that that wasn't very traditional. I don't really care I'm a multicultural cook and love trying different flavours.  Please don't be scared to try something new.

Mince - If I have both beef and pork mince, I'll use a bag of each in spagetti bolognaise or lasagne, but if I only have pork (like now) I just use pork on it's own. You can use pork mince in any recipe that you would use beef or chicken mince. It makes excellent meatballs because it tends to stick together better than beef. I've also got plenty of recipes for pork mince. My favourite on the recipe tab of the blog is the Asian Style Meatballs, but just recently I made Low Tox Life Meatballs and they were really good. This is the recipe here. I basically followed the recipe but reduced the sweetener to one tablespoon honey and increased the broth because I like gravy/sauce.

And you can't go past a good lasagne. I like to use a grain free fresh pasta, but I have also made it with roasted, sliced pumpkin instead of the regular lasagne sheets.  You can also make tacos, nachos, savoury mince, pastry pie, shepherds pie (which Edmund cooked last night for us), or any mince dish really.

Pork Steaks - these can be cooked in any way you would cook a regular steak. The best part is that pork steaks are always tender! Don't overcook them, cook them about medium - you want them a little juicy still. They work exceptionally well, with a cream sauce (think Diane Sauce) or a mustard sauce, or just plain old onion gravy. We have collar, butterfly and sometimes leg steaks. The leg steaks are what you would use if you want to make schnitzel.

The other really important note to make with our pork, is that sometimes it does smell a bit stronger when you first take it out of the cryovac bag. The best thing to do, is to take the meat out and just leave it on a plate or in a bowl for a few minutes before actually cooking it. For some reason the cryovac smell seems to be stronger with pork than with any other meat.

If you have any doubts about how to cook our pork, please ask. I love cooking and should be able to give you multiple ideas!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Markets, Deliveries and other stuff

I finally have internet back!!! Our NBN has been on the blink for the last month and it has been a challenge. There are two parts to a business like ours - the farm and the marketing/admin. Marketing these days is basically all done online. We use this blog, an online email service (mail chimp) and facebook. Facebook can be managed using the mobile network but the other two require a reasonable internet service.  Our finance administration is also online. We use an online accounting program and of course all bills and other banking get done online. Hot spotting to a phone that has dodgy reception just doesn't cut it! So I apologise to anyone who may have commented or emailed and I missed it! I can now update the various tabs on the web that need updating - for example our dates for markets and deliveries on this Link.

Bundaberg, Agnes Waters and 1770
We have recently cancelled the Shalom Market at Bundaberg due to it not being profitable enough for us to travel there. There are also two other meat suppliers there so we thought we'd leave it to them. They don't have a free range pork product though, so if you are in Bundie and would like to be able to still buy our pork, please email me and we may be able to sort something. I have also had some interest from Agnes Waters/1770 so once again if you are from there and would be interested in getting a delivery, please send me an email. I prefer email as a communication tool as I can keep better track of orders as well as this, I can get one message out and know that the intended people will get it. I can't rely on facebook as not everyone sees every post. While it may not be profitable to actually travel for a market, a delivery once per month or every second month is certainly something we would consider.

Emerald, Blackwater and Bluff
Emerald (and area) delivery has been working out really well and we will be going out there again on the last weekend in September. If you aren't on my Emerald email list, please email me.

My email is:

Capricorn Food and Wine Festival
We have decided to be involved in the Capricorn Food and Wine Festival this year, however we won't be selling fresh meat. We are doing a collaboration with That Wholefood Place and selling ready to eat food. We will be selling Pulled Pork and Pulled Beef Tortillas, Pork Ribs, Vegan Dip Platters, Healthy and Yummy Dessert Platters and various other bits and pieces. Keep an eye out on facebook over the coming weeks for some free passes. The festival is 20-23 September.

Soap is back, as we have a new local soap maker. This soap is made from milk from my dairy cows and Lard from our pigs, and other good stuff - no baddies in this soap! It will be $6/cake or 2 for $10, and will be available for sale from this weekend.

Markets this weekend:
Yeppoon Community Markets - Saturday 1st September
Rockhampton Kern Arcade Carpark Markets - Sunday 2nd September

Bacon - we now have a new butcher processing our pigs so our bacon has changed a bit. I'm really enjoying the nitrate free version, although the regular is pretty good too. The ham is tasty too! Barritt's Butchery in Bundaberg are doing it and they have recently come first in the state for their Bacon. This award was using conventional pork, so imagine how good it is using our pork! Salami is almost finished, but we are hoping to have more available soon and then have it as a regular item. We will have some pet food available this weekend too.

If you would like any information on anything, please just ask.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What got us here, won't get us there......

Almost 20 years ago, Kim and I started a journey – a regenerative farming journey. It has been a journey that has seen us change our farming systems, our life style and most importantly gave us the tools to find a way to support ourselves with our farm. One of us always had to work off farm but when we made the move to begin a freerange pig farm, it was with the sole purpose of making the farm support us. We work incredibly hard and by hard I really mean that we just don’t have down time. It’s constant. We love the work but there’s just a little too much at times. 

Recently Chloe and Edmund – our two adult children that love the land as much as we do, have started going through the same process we did back then. It started with a Grazing for Profit School run by Resource Consulting Services. It is a week of light bulb moments! RCS supports you through a change in thinking processes, but more importantly they teach the financial skills necessary to assist in management change. Kim and I have been pretty switched on with the farming changes that we’ve made over the last 20 years but have probably been a little remiss in some of the financial management needed. Along come the young brains and with them wanting to be involved so that they can build a farming life of their own, we’ve had to look very closely at what we are doing.

The four of us have spent most of the last 3 days going over our business and analysing the cost of production, cost of selling and the return on assets managed. We are putting in place steps to monitor this better and to hopefully make improvements in the overall management of the business.

Like most of the east coast of Australia, we are suffering from the current drought. Due to our regenerative farming practices, we have been able to limit the on-farm impacts, however grain for our pig feed is all sourced locally and grain farmers have been greatly affected and not able to plant. Grain prices are at an all-time high due to lack of supply and strong demand. This is having a huge impact on our costs of production.

For us to remain in this business, we have to increase our bottom line. Unfortunately, to gain all the appropriate approvals from Council and Safefood Qld, a certain level of packaging is required which is costly. As I have mentioned previously, we are changing butchers who process our meat. This alone will result in quite a substantial increase in packaging costs, which we will need to pass on. It’s either that or stop going to the markets. Recently I’ve been going to markets three weeks of every month and a fourth delivery every second month. This is costly – both in travel and time. Time is one of life’s most valuable commodities. I lose 3 days every weekend we go to a market. I love the markets, I love meeting with our community, I love being able to provide a high quality, ethically farmed and tasty meat product. We want to keep doing this for a long time, however we may need to keep evolving our business in order to stay in business.

We have reviewed all our pricing and changes are able to be viewed on the web, at this link.  

We really value the support of all our customers and the community that we’ve built throughout our journey. We are going to continue to work out a way to provide you with quality meat produced with minimal impact on the environment.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that supports.  You are why we are still here and we are grateful for that.

Thank you

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sprout Fed Meat and Markets coming up

Markets are coming up this weekend in Yeppoon and Rockhampton - 30th June and 1st July respectively. 

Next weekend, instead of going to the Shalom Markets and delivering to Gladstone, I will be heading to Brisbane to do a course in salami and small goods with Tammi Jones. I'll post more on that after I attend it. My main purpose for this Blog today is because I'm concerned about the possible confusion regarding barley grass fed cattle. Barley grass is sprouted barley, but other grains can also be used and sprouted for feeding to cattle.

There appears to be a new “thing” around lately. Sprout-fed beef. I’ve been watching it with interest, mainly because I thought it might be something we could use to feed our pigs, especially if/when we go organic with the pigs. It’s actually not that new either, the idea has been around a long time, but never really took off. I think now that there is starting to be a reluctance to eat grain fed meat, then sprouts are moving into the grass fed arena. Basically sprouted grain is no longer a grain and is a “grass”. 

I think that in principle, sprouts (usually barley) sprouts are probably a good thing when compared to feeding cattle grain. We know from our own experience that sprouting grains for human consumption makes the grain far easier to digest and makes the nutrients more available. This is a good thing.

So how is grain sprouted? The grain is soaked for a period of time, drained and then put into trays. These trays are placed inside a container (modified shipping container) and with artificial light, are grown over about 5 days into a matted grass.

Insert picture of sprouts

Basically it’s a hydroponic system - no soil and no natural light. I am under the understanding that no chemicals are used to fertilise the grain, just water. The nutrition for the grass comes from the grain kernel.

I’m personally uncomfortable about the idea of no sunlight. The sun provides energy for the plant to grow - what is missing by using artificial light instead of sunlight?

Hydroponics are not a healthy way to grow food, but that’s mostly because of the chemicals that are used to artificially feed the plant. Plants grown in soil are a different product. The roots, bacteria, fungi and minerals all work together to feed the plant the nutrition that is needed for the seed to grow into a healthy plant. An interesting side note, is that hydroponically grown vegetables can not be certified organic, as the soil is an important part in the healthy growth of a plant.

The other BIG question is how the animals are managed while they are fed this sprouted grain? Are they in paddocks and under a rotation to ensure that the soil and pasture are maintained to provide protection from sediment run off and thus preventing soil erosion. Are the animals even kept in paddocks or are they in a feed lot situation? I know some sprouted grainfed cattle businesses that do feed grain at certain stages of development as well as having the cattle in feedlots, just feeding them sprouts rather than grain. 

This topic is a case of Buyer Beware. If you are buying meat that is advertised as being fed a sprouted grain. Then it’s probably a good idea to do some research - either google the business or ask the proprietor if it’s a market stall - how do they manage their cattle and their land. So please ask the question or do the research, do not assume that sprout fed meat is the same as grass fed/grass finished and not lot fed (Confined animal feeding). Then you can make an informed decision. 

I personally, and I think most of our customers, are looking for a grass fed, grass finished beef product. Our cattle are raised on grass until the calves are weaned. Then we move them into our leauceana paddocks where they remain until they are processed. Leauceana is a fodder tree and is planted in rows, with grass growing in between the leaceana rows. At no time are our cattle fed a grain ration.

We move our cattle around the paddocks in a manner that maintains ground cover to prevent soil run off and erosion. It also means that we move the cattle before they take the grass plant down too short. When grass is managed correctly the root mass remains large and this ensures that carbon is being sucked from the atmosphere into the soil through the photosynthesis of the plant.  To do this the plant needs sunlight, rain and soil. This keeps the plant in a healthy nutritious state. The animal then eats the grass and ingests that nutrition. This sort of farming is called regenerative farming/grazing and is one way to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere and keep it in a safe place in the ground.

You can read more about sprouted grain here, but please google the brand of meat that may want to purchase to see what their farming ethics are.