Archive for the ‘Fellowship’ Category

Rendering Lard

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Hello out there! I got swept away from updating our beloved website for a while. . . by life and all its demands. I’ve missed writing Farmlet posts! It feels like high time to be getting back to writing regular updates again.

I’m breaking my long silence with a few words about something very dear to my heart: lard.

We were lucky enough to find a source of local free-range pork fat. Finally! I was actually given this precious fat for free because nobody else wants it. The farmer told me he doesn’t kill many fat pigs any more, except for the occasional older sow. He and his wife now aim to breed and raise lean animals, which are preferred by the “health conscious consumer.” This is a sad state of affairs for those of us who recognise lard as a delicious, nourishing and healthy food.

Straining the lard

I decided to try rendering batches of lard three different ways: stovetop, oven, and slow cooker. The slow cooker (crock pot) got the thumbs down. My usually-reliable recipe book claimed that much of the fat would have liquefied after 4 to 5 hours on low heat in the slow cooker. I left it for three times this long and still felt that I was wasting too much of the fat due to incomplete rendering. Both the stovetop and oven methods worked well, though.

How to render lard

I used about 2kg of pork fat for each batch (belly fat is especially good), cut into small pieces.

Put it in a large enameled cast iron casserole (any heavy-bottomed pot or casserole with a lid will do) with about 1/4 cup of water.

Add an onion and a handful of herbs if you want to give your lard some extra savoury flavour. We rendered some of our lard with onion and herbs and kept some plain.

Heat the casserole on the stove (over medium heat) until the fat is cooking nicely. Then turn the stove down very low or transfer to an oven preheated to about 140 centigrade.

Cook for about 4 hours, or until most of the fat has turned to liquid.

Strain the lard and cool it a little before pouring it into glass jars. I warm the jars before pouring in the lard, so that they don’t crack from the heat of the hot fat.

Let the lard cool to room temperature before storing it in the fridge or freezer. Lard should keep for a few months in the fridge, and will stay good for over a year in the freezer.

Please be very careful handling the hot fat!

Out of Our Own Back Yards

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Out of Our Own Back Yards is an excellent social networking site for people who are growing their own food, interested in growing their own food, looking to buy/sell/trade locally produced food… in New Zealand. This Ning started in December 2008 and already has over 700 members.

Back Again

Friday, February 6th, 2009

This post marks the beginning of a serious campaign to get back to regular Farmlet entries. We’ve had a busy time recently with my sister and her fiance getting married, as well as the normal business that comes with the height of summer and fielding a very lively little boy. The wedding was loads of fun for all of us, including Owen, who partied and danced until late into the night. The weather was perfect for the big day, the food was delicious, and the bride and groom looked radiant with happiness and love.

Simon and Heather

Notice how the feedies curtain matches the bridesmaids’ dresses

There’s lots going on around here on the Farmlet, and I have no shortage of things that I want to write about. I’ve already started on our year of the Rat wrap-up post, and a list of goals for the Year of the Ox. Yes, I realise I’m a bit behind the pace on these, but I’ll get there eventually!

Slaughtering a Heifer

Monday, December 22nd, 2008


Last week, we slaughtered our eighteen month old heifer, previously known as Henrietta Hamburger (Sucky).

After the difficulty I had with getting the last steer into position for slaughter, I decided that I wouldn’t risk another outcome like that. The slaughtermen are busy and they don’t want to be waiting for people to chase their animals around. I’m convinced that the animals are somehow able to sense death. They normally follow buckets that contain their molasses treats. That is, until I try to lead one of them to the slaughter. I don’t know how they know, but somehow, they know.

When Sucky’s time was up, I decided that I was going to put her, Coco and the new calf down in the driveway overnight. This would make for very easy access when the time came. There’s plenty of grass in the driveway, and I put a water trough in there for them. Sucky was obsessed with Coco’s calf, so I thought that it would just drive her crazy if I separated them.

The next morning, Charlie arrived, ready to do his work. The kill that he’d done that morning, just before he showed up at our place, involved chasing an animal around. He was very pleased to see how I’d sorted things out.

I tried to get Coco and her calf away from Sucky, but they wouldn’t split up. They were trying to stay together. (I was trying to avoid having the other animals around when the shot went off. Apparently, they remember situations like this. So, if you have to do this, don’t let your other animals see it.)

Charlie used a rifle with a scope, so he hung back a bit, maybe five or six metres. He rested the weapon on the gate and took aim. I was expecting the hear the shot right away, but it didn’t come. He was waiting for exactly the right moment. He starting talking to the cows in a low voice, trying to settle them down. And they did settle down. They started to eat grass again.

“Look this way,” he said, over and over. “Come on… Look this way.”

Finally, Sucky turned to looked at him.


Charlie delivered a very clean shot.

Since black pudding was on the agenda again, as Charlie drew his knife to bleed the animal, I had the containers ready. We decided to use a small plastic container to “bail” the blood into the larger bucket this time.

With my bucket of heifer blood in hand, I headed back up to the house to deliver it to Becky. (Thanks, by the way, to Becky’s mum, who came out to help with little Owen while his mum and dad went about their business on that busy morning.)

The rest of the job went just like it did with the Herman slaughter.

Here’s what the entrance to the Farmlet looked like that day. A couple of our neighbours drove past… You know you’re living in rural New Zealand when people drive by a scene like this and just give you their usual, customary wave as they go past.

I asked Charlie if he wanted us to mention his contact information on the site, to maybe help him drum up more business.

He said, “Mate, thanks, but I’ve got more business than I can handle. Please don’t recommend me to anyone else.”

In harsh economic times like these, I wonder what other occupations are around where the people involved beg you not to send any more customers their way!?

In a different development, Becky called one of our other homekill meat contacts and ordered a lamb to be slaughtered for sausages. (Christmas is coming AND Becky’s sister is getting married, so we needed to be well stocked for upcoming sausage sizzles! We thought we’d try lamb sausages this time.) Well, our homekill meat man (let’s call him ‘Joe’) called Becky back and said he didn’t really have a suitable sheep to do in just now, “But how about a pig? I’ve got a great big sow that’s ready.”

Becky consulted me and her mum and dad and we all licked our chops at the thought of having a large pigaphant turned into sausages.

The next day, Joe killed that sow and had the carcass hanging up. He called Becky.

“You know that sow… She was huge. You can’t have possibly wanted all of that turned into sausages.”

He wound up selling half of the meat to someone else and we took the other half. I think we wound up with something like 35 kilos of sausages. Becky made several different seasoning fills for them. I think she’s planning on writing about making sausage fill in an upcoming post.

So, that’s our meat situation sorted out for three households (our neighbours with whom we share grazing, Becky’s mum and dad, and us) for the next several months, plus part of the food for a large wedding after party.

Goose Park Blog

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Our next door neighbour, Jacqui, is an extremely talented flax weaver. She has put up a site that describes her flax weaving in great detail. She has also made some of her individual pieces available for sale. The site is called Goose Park Blog.

She rang me up the other day and said, “I’ve put up this site, but nobody’s coming to visit. Do you know what I can do to get people to visit my site?”

I said that I had an idea about how to get a few people to have a look. *grin*

Jacqui and her partner B (I don’t know if he wants me to mention his name) are living totally off the power grid. They have solar panels and a Pelton wheel microhydro system. It’s a BEAUTIFUL place. Jacqui also loves her geese, so don’t forget to read all about them if you’re curious.

Jacqui has offered to pay Becky and me a commission in honey (she’s a bee keeper too) if any of you decide to buy some of her kits. I like the idea of an affiliate relationship that compensates the referrer in honey. HA

I know that many Kiwis are familiar with flax weaving, but I had never seen it and was taken aback by it when I saw it for the first time. Jacqui makes each piece by hand from wild flax that she harvests on her land. Anyone who has created anything with natural materials will find this fascinating.

At a minimum, I thought that you guys might be curious to read about what’s going on next door to the Farmlet / Cryptogon operations center.