Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Our first Home Butchering experience

Our First On Farm Butchering Experience

(Warning: This post contains graphic details and images of butchering.)

Well, it has finally happen, our first experience in producing our own meat on the farm!
I always knew this day would arrive, but I wasn't to sure how I was going to cope with it. It is a very satisfying and joyful experiencing to be pulling veggies out of the garden and cooking beautiful country meals with them, but actually getting your own farm animal butchered for the purpose of eating him/her, is a totally different story.

If we want to enjoy a balanced diet on the farm and live self-sufficient, it is necessary for us to produce our own protein to provide for our family.

Jackson's first day on the farm May 2014
In the process leading up to the day of butchering, we have been very specific on how we want it to be done and by who. We wanted the process to be stress-free for the animal and the other cows (and for us as well ;-))
We also chose to exclusively grass feed our cows and not use grain feeding to fatten up the cow before butchering. It is important to us to raise our animals in the most organic and natural way possible. 
In our decision making process on which animal we should chose, we always knew that the young lowline Angus Bull was going to be our first choice. 
Jackson (middle) November 2014

After doing some research we chose an incredible 'On-Farm' Butcher that kills, butchers and processes the meat all on your property, which to us was an amazing concept. We chose a company called  'Wilson's On Farm Butchering'. 

He killed our bull in a very quick, stress-free way that also minimised stress on the other cows around.  The butcher then skinned and gutted the animal. As part of the job, he had a trailer with him which is a mobile cold room. This was placed beside the house with easy power access. The carcass was then hung in the cold room trailer for several days.

After this process was completed, the butcher returned very early one morning with a special truck and processed the meat on site. 
We were able to fill out a form of what cuts we wanted and got exactly what we asked for.  We decided to half the meat and split the cost with my parents in law. Because the bull was a small animal it just filled our large 5 drawer freezer.

Amy watching the Butcher from our rain water tank

Processing the meat

I have been completely new to the process of raising your own cows with the purpose of either selling or eating. I only have been used to having pets, so this was an entire new concept for me. It did take me a while to get used to this idea.
What really has helped is that I know what I am eating, when we enjoy our own farm-raised beef. We know the life that it has had, we know what he has eaten, and we know that he has had a good life. Knowing what we put in our mouths as a family is one of the big motivations we have in living a self-sufficient life. 

And again, we are one little step closer to achieving this dream, and living a real sustainable, organic lifestyle on our beautiful little farm :-)

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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Farm Tour

Farm Tour

It has been a little while since I have posted. I have been busy getting together photo's for this post. To give you more of an idea of how I live and how things work around the place, I would love to give you a farm tour!

Paddocks and Cattle
Having cows has been an amazing learning experience for both of us. When we bought our first couple of cows, we honestly just wanted to have a go, but we have  had no experience whatsoever with handling these funny animals!
We started of with a 3 year old Heiffer Angus/Brahman (Brangus) and a 7 month old little bull. The bull is meant for either selling or the butcher and the 3 year old Heiffer we want to use for investment to produce calves for us. Before we bought our 3 year old Heiffer, she had been with a bull in the paddock so we knew there was already a chance of pregnancy.
Over 2 months ago she gave birth to a beautiful little bull that has kept us all on our toes from birth till now! She has proven herself to be an incredible natural mum. Our cows share the paddock with two Angus cows, around one year old.
The house and land has previously been used for horses, so all the paddocks are fenced. We use electric fences as double protection. Unfortunately in this time of drought we have had to supplement their feeds with hay. As we have a cow who is producing milk for her little one, we have to make sure she get's enough nutritious food. Most of the paddocks have shelters and include water troughs that automatically fill with our bore water.
I'm not sure how I'm going to go with having one of these animals on my plate one day. If I really want this self-sufficient lifestyle though I better deal with it quickly and enjoy my T-bone, knowing what meat I am eating and what kind of life it has had.

We were blessed that our house had an existing chicken pen and roosting area. Right in the middle of the pen is a huge fig tree that hopefully is going to give us lots of fruit this year. We have 1 rooster and 8 laying hens at the moment. We are keen to increase our flock of birds and add some pure bread Australorps. Eventually we would love to have meat chickens in removable chicken tractors that will work the land for us.

Veggie Patch
At the moment we have a total of 40m2 of raised garden beds, divided into 4 beds of 10m2 each. Besides these raised beds, we have a patch of approx. 20m2 that we use for veggies as well. All our veggie patches are fenced as there are lots of rabbits and kangaroos around who would love to have a nibble of the juicy lettuces we grow!
Also fencing the veggie patch means our chickens can free range on the farm without ruining our harvest. We mainly grow our vegetables from seeds. Most of our seeds are Heirloom varieties.
Although we are not (yet) organic certified growers, we grow our veggies without the use of poisons, pesticides and only use natural fertilizers.
Our own little rule is that the main goal of the patch is to produce seasonal vegetables for our family to use. Our access we sell to friends and family.

As we have lived in rentals for the previous 5 years, we have grown some fruit trees in large pots. All these fruit trees are dwarf varieties.
It was such a delight to finally give these fruit trees a permanent home and let them spread their roots into real soil.
We have created a dwarf fruit orchard close to the house that includes an Orange (kara kara), a pear, 2 blueberry bushes, a nectarine, peach, and a multigrafted apple tree (3 grafts).
A bit further from the house we are slowly creating our normal sized orchard. We would love to have lots of fruit and ultimately be self-sufficient in growing our own fruit. At the moment we have an apple, mandarin, cherry, lemon and fig tree. Through the seasons and the years we will be adding a lot more fruit trees to our collection!

When we first bought the house the gardens were very overgrown. It definitely showed signs of potential but you could see that the gardens hadn't been looked after for a while.
The front garden is devided by 2 long gardens with a drive way in between. The garden closes to the deck has a big bottle tree that gives us much needed shade on the deck. It also has a little pond.
I will share our front garden transformation in a future post.
The other 'front' garden closes to the road is a very overgrown and mainly infested by weeds and weeds and weeds. We have started clearing some trees to give us a better view from the deck. The garden has got an interesting mix of plants, shrubs and trees in it, but is mainly dominated by randomly placed roses, citrus trees, a macadamia nut tree and a mulberry tree. This garden needs a LOT of work and will be a future project to tackle.
On the side of the house we have created a rose garden. On this side of the house we have a lot of windows and when the windows are open we really enjoy the fragrance of these beautiful roses.

We have lots of ideas and dreams for our outdoor areas and gardens. We have to take it one step at the time. Sometimes I have to really chose to enjoy the slow process, but on the other hand it teaches me a great lesson. We know that we really work hard physically and financially for every little transformation of our house and gardens. This really gives us great fulfillment!

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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Introduction to the blog

Welcome to Knife, Fork & Spade,

For the last couple of weeks I have been working on this blog and I am so excited to finally share it with you!

For about a year I have been tossing and turning about the idea of starting a blog about my gardening and cooking adventures. I absolutely love to grow my own vegetables and transform them to healthy meals for the family.  Over the years me and my husband have developed a passion for organic gardening and we love to take on the challenge to be as self sufficient as we can be.

We have always lived in rental homes since we got married. We have been blessed throughout the years with some amazing landlords and have been able to create a veggie patch and keep chickens for fresh eggs.

Since December 2013 we bought our own house and land. A whole world has opened up for us! We are now experiencing the freedom to take our passion for self-sufficient living to another level and are starting to live our dream.
We are in the process of turning the house and land into our own self-sufficient farm that accommodates several veggie patches, chickens, livestock and that embraces organic living and permaculture principles.

The process that I am talking about is a process of trial and error and years and years of transforming, creating and developing. Our farm is our hobby. It gives us joy, fulfillment and it really enriches our life as a couple and a family. I would love to share our exciting journey with you. I hope it will inspire you and give you some of the joy we experience in this process.

Please check out my 'about' page to find out a little more about me and my personal journey so far.
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