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Showing posts from January, 2013

Guinea fowl keets

As usual, its not until we get a new animal at Eight Acres until I really do some research to find out more about it.  I knew I wanted to get guinea fowl to help us with tick control, so I had been looking for some to buy in our local area, but I had not yet read much about them.  Then I was told about keets for sale and I contacted the seller and bought 10 day-old keets.  The seller mentioned that they were “pied” in colouring, that’s when I realised that I might have a bit to learn about guinea fowl.  So here is what I’ve found out.

Guinea fowl were originally from Africa.  There are several species, and the domesticated guinea fowl is descended from the Helmeted guinea fowl.  It seems that guinea fowl have been domesticated for thousands of years, with records of them in Roman and Egyptian literature.  More recently, in the 20th century, they have become popular with poultry “fanciers” and various different colours have been developed.  Ours are "pied" (meaning two or mor…

Tanning another hide

When we have a steer butchered we like to try to use every part of the animal.  We eat the meat and some of the offal, the dogs get the bones and the rest of the offal, we render the tallow and tan the hide.  The only waste is the head, which we bury, so at least it enriches the soil.

Tanning the hid is a big job.  This our third hide, so we are getting better at the process every time.  I posted some detailed instructions (here and here) when we did the last hide this time last year.  The most important thing to get the hide spread out somewhere safe and dry and covered in salt as soon as possible after the animal is skinned.  If the hide is dried out sufficiently it will last for months, and we have found that it actually improves as it dries.  This hide was in the shed since August, so it was about 5 months, and it was very stiff and dry, which made it easier to work.

In the past we have fleshed the hide using a scraping tool, which took several days and was very hard work. This …

Dried zucchini slices

My zucchini plants suffered a set back due to chicken attack back at the beginning of spring and I haven't harvest any of my own yet, but a friend was struggling with zucchini overload and gave me several kgs.  I have been wanting to try drying zucchinis, so this was the perfect opportunity.  The last time I had a glut of my own zucchinis I resorted to making zucchini soup!  It was awful!  I though dried zucchini might be more useful.

I sliced the zucchinis using the slicer on my grater, which was very quick and produced a nice thin slice.  Then I laid them out on the dehydrator trays, about 1 zucchini to a tray.  I ran the drier on and off for several days until the zucchinis were dry enough.  I then sealed the chips in vacuum bags, so that they will last longer.  I hope to be able to get these out occasionally in winter when we miss zucchini, so they can be added to soups and stews.


How do you deal with a zucchini glut? Have you dried anything interesting recently?

Making tallow soap

For some reason I've always thought that making soap seemed too hard.  For a start the number of ingredients required was confusing and all the safety warnings about using the alkali put me off.  The worst part for me was that most of the ingredients had to be purchased, and some even imported (palm oil and coconut oil), which never seemed very self-sufficient.  I can definitely see the benefits of using homemade soap instead of mass produced soap (that often contains synthetic fragrance, colour, preservatives, and has had the glycerine removed), but it seemed to me that if I was going to buy all the ingredients I may as well just buy the soap and save myself all the hassle.  For the past several years I have bought homemade soap from various market stalls and websites, and that has suited me just fine.
Then we had the steer butchered at home and I saw just how much excess fat we had to dispose, it was nearly a wheel-barrow full, and that made me think about how we could use that…

Rendering tallow in a slow cooker

When we had our steer killed back in August, I asked the butcher to keep some of the fat for me, so that I could render it to tallow.  With the previous animal, I had attempted to render in a large pot over an open fire.  This is not how to render fat, I just made a big black sticky stinky mess.  So this time I put the fat in the freezer and did some research first.  This post was very helpful and I decided to use the slow cooker to render the fat.  We don't have a food processor that I could use to chop the fat, so I fed it through our mincer/juicer, which was very messy, and would have worked better if the fat was more frozen at the time.


I forgot to take a photo of it in the slow cooker, but you get the idea, a slow cooker full of minced fat, turned on low and left for several hours until all the fat had melted.  Pete then helped me to pour the melted fat through a sieve and into old homebrew cans.  From a nearly full 5L slow cooker, we got 1 and a half cans - over 1 kg of pure…

Fermented lemon and barley drink

I don't know if lemon and barley is so common here in Australia, but growing up in NZ, I remember drinking lemon and barley flavoured powdered drinks (I don't know if powdered drinks are even that popular in Aus, seems to be all about cordial here).  Anyway, it goes without saying that I don't drink anything powdered (or cordial) anymore, but when I saw a recipe for barley water in Nourishing Traditions, it did catch my interest.

At the time I had no barley, so at the first opportunity I bought some.  Our local organic buying group does quarterly bulk purchases of grains, beans, dried fruits etc, so I ordered some barley.  I accidentally got a carton of 6 1 kg bags instead of 1 bag, so now I have a lot of barley to use.



The recipe for fermented lemon and barley is very simple and much like the lacto-fermented ginger ale and beet kvass fermented drinks that I had already tried.  The only complicated part is preparing the barley.  In this case the recipe said to wash 4 table…

Cleaning without chemicals

I'm not much of a cleaner.  Our house is pretty messy most of the time.  About once a week I try to at least tidy everything away and sweep the floor (we have tiles throughout the tiny house).  I try to keep the kitchen clean and sanitary (what will all the crazy things fermenting on the bench!), and we wipe the bath out before we have the next bath :)  I have never been one to buy lots of cleaning products.  I find the range of different products quite bewildering and try to avoid that isle of the supermarket because I can't stand the smell of the fake fragrances.

The things that we do buy are dishwashing liquid, toilet cleaner and a bench-spray-cleaner-thingy (we already replaced laundry powder with soap nuts).  I've been thinking for a while that we really need to find an alternative to all these products.  I hate the smell of these products, I hate that they have unnecessary blue and green colouring in them (why do I want to wash my dishes with flouro green? when did …

Permaculture - Observe and Interact

Last year I discovered Permaculture and I couldn’t stop reading and thinking about it.  I tried to explain it to you back then, but its hard to explain something that you’re just starting to learn about.  I decided that I needed to know more before I could share, so I went away and read every Permaculture book that I could get my hands on:

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (David Holmgren) Permaculture One (David Holmgren and Bill Mollison) Permaculture: A Designers' Manual (Bill Mollison) The Permaculture Home Garden(Linda Woodrow) Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture (Toby Hemenway) The Basics of Permaculture Design (Ross Mars) The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture (Nicole Faires)
And now, I think I’m ready to share some thoughts about Permaculture and how we can (and do) apply it on our farm(s).  In case you want to know more yourself, I recommend both Linda’s book and Gaia’s Garden for a start, and particularly for smaller gardens.  If you have…

Healthy salt?

So here’s another public health stuff up for you.  Add this to the list of things you have been avoiding for no reason, which already includes the dangers of raw milk and the evils of cholesterol.  Good news, it turns out that there’s not really any conclusive evidence that salt actually causes high blood pressure, and not getting enough salt is most likely more dangerous than too much salt.  See all the details here.



However, not all salts are the same (see this article):
sea salt - evaporated directly from sea waterrock salt - mined from deposits of salt from old seas (where sea level has changed)table salt - sea salt or rock salt that is refined to almost pure sodium chloride with optional added iodine This left me wondering which salt I should be using.  At different times I have used iodised table salt, non-iodised table salt, rock salt (particularly Himilayan) and sea salt (the one most recently was "evaporated naturally in ponds and stirred by hand using wooden paddles"…

Brafords - a versatile Queensland breed

It may seem strange that we bought our herd of Braford cows without knowing much about the breed, but when we decided that we wanted to buy cows, it was more important to us to find a herd of a consistent breed in the local area on a (cattle) tick-free property, than worry about specific breeds.  If we had done all the research at the start and had our heart set on a breed, chances are we would never have found a herd of cows in that particular breed.  When we started looking at the Brafords, we found out a little about the breed and they seemed to be suitable for our property, so we went ahead and bought them.

By coincidence, an acquaintance of ours happened to own a book called “The Australian Braford”, which was published by the Australian Braford Society to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the breed in 1987.  The book details all the early stud breeders and, more importantly, the origins of the breed itself.  I found it absolutely fascinating to find out the origins of the breed …