Archive for December, 2008

Farmlet Style Gin and Tonic and Sausages on Christmas Eve

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

On Christmas Eve, we had some showers earlier in the day and then a mild, almost fine, afternoon. After the weather cleared, while Becky attended to some business in the kitchen, I carried Owen on my back in the babypack and we toured around the farmlet, checking on the animals and generally enjoying our realm. Owen loves to visit the cows and “Moo” at them. It’s true. He sees the cows and lets out a gleeful, “MOOOOO!” as he points at them.

Now, it’s very easy to break a sweat in steamy Northland during the Summer months, and I’d done just that walking up, down and around the farmlet with Owen (~12KG) on my back. Luckily, the last time we were in town, I decided to stop by the liquor warehouse to see if any “Christmas Cheer” was on special; you know, something which might be useful for mixing up adult refreshing beverages. Would you believe me if told you that there was a big yellow “Special” tag on the large green Tanqueray bottle?

Spirits, especially nice ones, are too expensive for me to make much of a habit of, but the thought of a refreshing gin and tonic on a warm Summer afternoon quickly had me heading to the checkout counter with that iconic green bottle of quadruple distilled tipple.

Sadly, I don’t see us being able to produce anything like this on the Farmlet

I’ve rarely encountered a gin and tonic in a bar or restaurant that measured up to my weird standards for this particular drink. They’re usually made with way to much ice and not enough citrus. Additionally, regular highball glasses are too small for the job. Your taste will almost certainly vary, but I like a really good belt of gin and a strong citrus flavour, coupled with the bitter quinine finish of the tonic water. The pint glass is the way to go on this one.

Farmlet Gin and Tonic:

* Fill a pint glass half way with ice

* Slice about 1/3 of a lemon into thin rounds and squeeze over the ice (throw the skins in if you like)

* Slice half a lime into wedges and squeeze over the ice, run a lime wedge around the top of the glass (throw the skins in if you like)

* Pour gin, covering ice and citrus skins

* Top up with premium tonic water

* Stir well

Farmlet lemons and limes bathing in icy gin and tonic water

Wow, that’s a nice drink. It was so nice, in fact, that I had to try another that evening.

It’s hard to describe, but, somehow, these delicious cocktails seem to heighten the anticipation for the meal ahead. Becky was preparing some of our recently homekilled sausages—these with her herb fill—green beans from the garden, and spuddy mash.

Herb sausage dinner

Ahh, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable Christmas Eve.

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.

A Big Welcome to Miss Scarlett Beef-Shanks!

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

This morning, Owen and I went for a walk out to the cow paddock. I wanted to check on Coco. Last night she could hardly waddle up the hill on account of her huge belly and swollen udder. Surely her calf would be born soon.

Scarlett Beef-Shanks, about twelve hours old

When we reached the fence, what a sight met our eyes: A wobbly-legged rust-coloured heifer calf was just finishing her first feed and testing out her feet at Coco’s side. Owen smiled and pointed and said “mmooo.” Coco was mooing in a very maternal way and licking the new calf. Miss Scarlett Beef-Shanks is a healthy, good-sized calf, and she and her mother are both doing very well. This is such a joy to us after all the difficulties of last year when Coco’s calf was born dead.


Rosie, Coco and Scarlett Beef-Shanks

Henrietta Hamburger (Coco’s foster calf from last season, due to be put in the freezer next week!) has been making a nuisance of herself with the new calf. She keeps getting between Coco and the calf when the little one is trying to feed. She has also been trying to lick and bunt the calf. Luckily Miss Scarlett Beef-Shanks is strong and determined, and is managing to feed ok despite the interference. Coco doesn’t seem to mind. She has been seen licking Henrietta as the little one feeds!

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.