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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I was out late again last night collecting green food for the pigs. It’s been windy all day and I might have to go out and tie down the piglets.

The Cook has been doing some great work in the wood fired oven – I’m putting on my winter condition no trouble. Tonight it’s vegetable soup.

Oh I forgot – don’t mention vegetables, the pigs managed to break in to the Cooks garden yesterday and eat all her cabbages. Boy am I in a world of bother! Never min, we’ll just have to have the pickled pig’s trotters without the Sauer Kraut. That might even be a good thing.

We had a fox eating the bread in the trailer the other evening, it jumped up and walked across the car roof to get into the trailer. Ben scarred it off when he went to feed the piglets.

The Cook spent the best part of yesterday building the piglets a new, bigger home – seeing there are now five of the buggers.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Start of a new week.

Okay, so it’s not “really” TV, it’s a media thing which is a little K2C promo event being organised by DECC for use by Bush Heritage and the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative when promoting both K2C and the wider initiative which stretches from the Atherton Tablelands to the Alps (affectionately known as GER). So there you go – we’ll be kind of famous.

I don’t know what happened last week it all just went by so quickly. Yesterday we spent a fair bit of the day feeding green feed out to the pigs. I let out a small group to wander around the front paddocks whilst we worked. They were so happy I had to go muster them back up to the shelters for dinner. They quite like the front paddock; it has a lot of green pick and a mix of good thick rooted thistles that they can graze on.

The boys gave the two piglets in the house a bath on Sunday morning – first time I can remember piglets getting a bath. We moved a few pigs around in the yards, we have at least one that is going to farrow soon and needs to be in a clean and warm area.

The Cook had to chase the horses back from across the river last night. They had escaped and were grazing on the neighbours oats for a while. She’ll take any excuse to get a leg over!

There is another load of green feed to pick up tonight, that will keep them going for another few days, so I won’t get back home until after dark.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What happened to the week?

Is it Friday already? Where has the week gone? Driving home tonight I had to stop on the side of the road and have a sleep I was that knackered. I’ve been picking up green scraps in the late afternoons and driving back over rough and windy dirt tracks, in the dark, through areas over populated with kangaroos. I’ve had four near misses in two days

And of course all this stuff has to be unloaded before I can take off the next morning. I haven’t been getting in at night until 8-8:30pm. The pigs love the green scraps and eagerly await the arrival of the next load.

This morning the animals got a little eager and I ended up with animals everywhere. George was in the back of the car hoicking stuff out to the other animals – I think they are taking over the farm.

The Cook has been savaged by another pig and I think she is starting a list of who is next for chop. I was reading a book that said Berkshire pigs, because of their smaller size were also known as the ladies pig. I keep telling her not to hand feed them.
This weekend we’ve got more fencing to do and if we are lucky and there is some time left over maybe some weed spraying.

Ben received his mid-year report card today and it was pretty good. Not like the ones I used to bring home that’s for sure, but apparently he needs to work on his spelling – I’m told he’s not the only one......!

oooh! better say something about our other big news - we're going to be on TV!!!!!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Going along

It was very foggy out this morning, a good morning to remain indoors I think. The Cook trailed in another four piglets this morning. They must be getting nudged out by the older ones and aren’t doing as well. After a couple of weeks feeding they should be fine again.

The small growers have been venturing out to the front paddocks to graze the past few days. It is very green out on the paddock after we had 5mm of rain over the weekend. The black pigs against the green field is a great sight, I’ll have to take time to get a shot of that one day.

Archer has started nicking off to the Pancake Parlour again, he’s had to be dragged back twice from there in the past couple of weeks. I think he fancies the female Golden Lab they have in their yard – wait until Shadow finds out.

Nature is looking after itself out in our back paddocks, while I was digging holes I noticed a number of healthy signs which surprised me given the season we’ve had. Firstly the springs in the gullies have all started to flow again and there is more water out there then I had imagined, the river has also increased its subterranean flows. There are well defined layers in the soil in some parts of the paddocks. A lot have a clay layer about 40cm down which separates the moist earth from the dry, and the dry is very dry. In some holes the soil was so dry it was like talc powder. The upper layers showed more promise and we found a variety of earth worms and grubs inhabiting the layer.

Once this fence is complete I can look at extending the pig paddocks down into an area between the railroad and the conservation areas. The soil in this part was very good and will be our truffle area once the pigs have turned things over and removed the African Love Grass. I plan to keep our barrow growers down there to fatten on the grass, we’ll also be able to plant some nice short term pasture grasses down in that area for them.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It was all worth it!

It’s a quite Sunday evening here in Bredbo. It’s been a very busy week – starting last Monday and it finally finished for me at 5:30pm this afternoon. Friday I had a day off ‘sick’, the Cook had other ideas and I spent the day doing various things including preparing feeds and picking up fencing. I didn’t fell like doing anything – but like the Cook says ‘the farmn wont run itself’.

I had to go into Sydney early Saturday morning to visit the Eveliegh Farmers Markets for our porks debut. When I arrived – an hour late, thanks to NSW Rail, I was quite impressed with the Market setup and feel. The young lady who was running the stall and selling our pork did a magnificent job with the presentation and display of the products. Sha had made some really nice fennel and cummin sausages amoung others and savory meatballs, the rest of the meat was packaged in 1kg lots.

Our Pork

This was the first time that I had tasted our pork and I was a little anxious, but all I can say is that it was beyond description. I was a little anxious about how good it would be, but to my great relief it was better then I had imagined – and I have to confess I got a little emotional. At this point I realise how much we had achieved over the past 18 months and how far we had come from nothing. I also got to try some of the sausages that Melinda had made – exceptional!!!!!
She put me on sample management and I wandered around the crowds handing out small cooked samples of the pork loin. While I handed out the samples many people complimented the pork and brought other people over to try, at times ther e was a line two deep at teh coiunter, by about noon almost all the pork had gone.

The Stall at a quite time

Lots of people stopped and asked about our farm and how the pigs were raised, what we fed them and how many we had. People were really interested to hear where their food had come from and the story of how it got to the markets. We even had a couple of ‘Famous People’ by the some for their Sunday Roast – but I’m not saying who unless I see them again and they say nice things. One of these people stared in an Australian series that I really enjoyed – I even have the DVD set. Here was somebody who had done something that I had enjoyed, now he was going home to enjoy something I had done.

By the end of the day I was drained, I had to walk back throught the rain to the train station and head back to the car. It was dark and cold by the time I got home but I couldn’t wait to ttell the Cook about my day.

Today we had the tractor contractor come over to dig a batch of holes for our conservation fencing project. We managed to dig a good number, some will need a crow baring but the majority are fine. It took all day and I didn’t get back to the house until very late. Tomorrow I have another full day to look forward too.

So in the end, I didn’t like going to the abbitour, luckily it was all over very quickly. Next time I’ll be a little more prepared for what happens, but that’s going to be a couple of weeks away from now.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's almost winter Solstice

I've just realised it's 194th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo today - the end of the Napoleonic era. When I was a lad my father bought me the Airfix Waterloo Farm House for my 13th birthday, it was probably my favourite present I'd ever recieved - until I got my very own Stock Saddle one year for Christmas, I think I was 17 then. So happy Waterloo day.

A note from the Cook

I finally have a day off and I am having a do not too much day. I am waiting for Ted the man who delivers the wood to arrive and then it will be back to work unloading and stacking. If he gets here late enough the boys will be home to help. The oven is roaring and biscuits are finally being made, with hopefully a cake or two. I'm sure that was a part of the order. It will probably be pizza to night (and not the bought one) as the wood oven is on. Bread rolls for the boys tomorrow also part of the order.
The boys start skiing again next term ‘my at least a month of hell’, getting them there. Ben does 4 days over 4 weeks and Harry is having 8 weeks - both on different days. Hopefully I can jig it all with work. We went to the high school ski sale on the weekend and stocked upon clothes because of 2 growing boys. Not too many toboggans, and they were nabbed pretty quickly. I'll have to try at the end of the season at the ski shops. I won a National Park pass for a year, so we will have to go to the snow this year and make good use of it. The boys are keen to show off their skiing prowess and really keen to toboggan down the hills wildly while I hold my breath. They are growing quickly.

The pigs are selling thick and fast and soon we wont have too many big ones which will likely cause problems on the selling side. It is either a flood or a drought. The first pigs went to slaughter on Monday and are off to Sydney to the Everleigh markets. We have negotiated with a lady who is taking our pigs to sell and we just have to get them to the abattoir - she does the rest. At least it will start moving them and we can gain a little more control over the stocking rates. Hopefully put up a few more fences and spread them out.

The temperature is looking abit low these days and we had some snow a week or so ago. As cold as it was it was also very pretty. First real snow for ‘Valley View’ since we have been here.
Life has just been too fast for me to catch up. Today has been a great day. Work is hell at the moment, incredibly busy, so many really sick kids not enough staff. The winter has really hit with a bang and we are in bronchilitis/RSV land. Last year wasn't this bad. Then there is always a swine flu scare to throw in some more chaos. All fun. I better go and pick the kids up.

So what doesn’t she say – The poor old Cook has been bitten twice by a pig in the last week, the second time right on the end of the thumb - drawing quite a lot of blood. I noticed the chain on the gate had blood all over it and took a walk around the pigs trying to find one with an injury. I eventually gave up and went inside, I mentioned the blood to the Cook and – well, you can guess the rest. She spends every evening wrapped around the column heater next to the fire and by 10pm is sound asleep.

Boy; I'm going to cop it this time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Wednesday already

Back to the weekend; a quick trip into Cooma for some tattoo ink and I was home in time to make up the evening feeds. About lunch time the local farm contractor arrived unannounced, in his brand new second hand Range Rover, to have a look at a fence line we are putting in along the gully. The Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) has given us a grant to complete the job. Whilst we were out in the paddock the DECC people rang to let us know the fencing was ready to pick up as well.

By the time we got back to the house it was getting into the late afternoon. Some people from closer into Canberra had arranged to come out and have a look at some pigs. They arrived at about 3pm and stayed for a while; they liked the pigs and arranged to pick some up in a couple of weeks.

The Cook was working Saturday night so things were a little rushed in the afternoon but she managed to leave on time.

The next morning at about 8am I was in the shower. The phone rang, the people who had been out on Saturday had decided they wanted to pickup their pigs that afternoon – keen. I had to go into town and pick up feed and drop in at the local hardware store. I needed a tarp for Monday morning and the wheel barrow needed a new tyre. I should have learnt, the feed bloke was a couple of hours late and I spent a couple of hours sitting on the side of the road. Once we had loaded up I was gone, I still had to catch some pigs and the Cook had called to say someone else was coming out to look at a pig.

By the time I arrived home people were everywhere and things started getting out of hand. We managed to load a sow onto the blokes ute, but we still had two weaners to catch. Harrison managed to catch the first one easy enough – but we were miles away from the ute. I ended up having to carry the pig across the paddocks, trailed by grunting mums, all the way to the house. The second one was heavier and even further away from the vehicle and by the end of it all I was knackered.

Anyway, they were happy and left a little before the sun went down. We then had the second person arrive, he was an old Italian, and was looking for a pig to turn into salami. He needed a 100kg dressed male pig – nothing else would do. Now I have a great 100kg pig but 100kg of pork is worth over $600 and these guy’s only wanted to pay $100. This is after he’s told me how he had run pigs in crates and sheds out at Braidwood in the past – they left without a pig and I wasn’t at all upset.

Sunday night came and we still needed to get the two pigs on the trailer before dark, did I say before dark? That didn’t happen did it, and we were all trying to load the pigs well after dark. IN the end I’d forgotten to tattoo the two that were going and had to end up doing it on the way to Sydney the next morning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm a big fat sook.

The trip to the processor was a lot more confronting then I had expected. I'm going to have a think about it all before I post my thoughts. All be it though, the pigs have been done and now I am anxious to find out how they turned out. And we will get our chance on Saturday when the Cook and I head off to the Markets to see our pork debut - I hope it all goes well.

The next issue is to choose a couple of pigs to prepare for the same trip in a fortnights time. I'll try and catch up with what happened over the week end tonight.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This little piggy is going to market

The first pigs have been choosen and tomorrow morning I take them off to the processor. It's been a busy weekend and I've got lots to tell - tomorrow!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Next phase of Operations

I’m keeping a low profile today, The Cook was bitten by Floppsy the pig last night – they had a fight over a loaf of bread, The Cook won but Floppsy had the last mouth full. I still haven’t had a chance to even look at my new computer so I’m still running on the old one.

Big news is that we have two Pigs booked in at the Abattoir for 6:30am Monday – so it’ll be an early one for me. It’s our first run and I’m a little bit anxious, I also need to pick the lucky two pigs I want to send first.

These pigs are going to be sold via the Farmers Market in Sydney the following weekend – so basically that’ll be the launch of our line of free range pork – there’s a big week ahead. I might have to go down to Sydney for the day to see how it all goes, fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thawing out

The snow faded as the day wore on but the chill stayed in the air all day. By the time it came to feed the pigs in the evening everybody was hungry. I bought in some Lucerne for the mother pigs to give them extra roughage as the paddocks have now dried off almost bare.

I think I’ll start feeding them a adjust their feeds and put a higher corn ration in and cut back on the wheat. They seem to be doing alright but are starting to lose their summer condition.

The sun has been out all day today and the ground has started to thaw. Hopefully the weather will be fine for the next few days and everybody will recover from the icy blast.

We also did some gardening over the weekend, dug some new beds and planted garlic. The Pigs where free ranging outside the garden fence so we threw them all the tomatoes and zucchini that had fallen on the ground. They loved it, but I think we’ll have tomatoes shooting up across the front paddock for years to come.

I finally was able to replace the old computer yesterday and things should start to pickup soon. I’ve just got to load the new machine with all my software and we are off. Its nice having something new – but I’d rather a tractor, oh well…. I have nothing to complain about really.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Well below zero

A happy pig

We had a nice weekend; unfortunately I had to go into Cooma to do a couple of jobs on Saturday and the places I need to go where shut for the weekend, I don’t recall them shutting for previous long weekends. It was also the start of the snow season so the Police were every where. I was eventually pulled over twice for random breath tests. The first time was in Bredbo on the way home and the second time at Berridale – by the same Police officer.

On Sunday morning I was taking a shower, the window to the bathroom was open and I was looking out across the paddocks. I was amazed at how mild the winter had been. The first winter we had I would have frozen solid in ten minutes with the window open in June. Later I drove into Canberra to pick up the weekly pig feed. Unfortunately the feed guy took the day off also and I wasted a trip. I headed home and did some cleaning up instead – by 4:00pm it was dark and raining, cold and windy – winter had arrived.

Sunday Afternoon on the farm

Monday was the real highlight. The morning was bright and clear, I had to take a couple of pigs up to Jindabyne for a lady. I went out via East Cooma and through Dalgety to stay away from the snow traffic. Harry came with me and we had a nice time. Somewhere out on the plains we came across a drover pushing a mob of cattle across along the long paddock. He was ridding a stunning little buckskin mare which the Cook would have died for. I dropped of the pigs – there was no loading ramp so I backed the trailer up to a dirt mound, the pigs jumped off the trailer and we walked them up to their new home. It was surprisingly easy. They settled in very quickly and were reunited with a weaner the lady had taken from us when she came to look at the pigs earlier.

Some of you may remember an American magazine called “The Western Horseman” It was a magazine about life on the range land in the American West, full of Cowboys and Buckaroo’s and tails of hard horses and harder cattle. A lot of the magazine was made up of picture essays about the range lands. I remember as a kid I used to wait for the monthly magazine to arrive, and then wait until our father had read it so I could have a turn – it was probably the only thing I read for years apart from the required reading at school. I used to love the stories about the Rendezvous of Mountain Men that happened every autumn.

Anyway, Tuesday night I arrived home late. I needed to pick up the bread and had to get feed and straw as well. By the time we had unloaded the feed, fed the pigs and given them all straw for the cold evenings ahead it was 9:00pm. The Cook arrived home a little later after a long day shift and went strait for the heater. Just before we went off to bed it started to rain, just a little and only for a few minutes. The Cook had come in and cursed the cold but I was surprised it had rain because the sky was clear earlier.

Tuesday morning front the front gate looking back at the house

At about 3:30am the goat decided to seek shelter under the eaves of the house – right under our window. I put up with about an hour of her ringing her bell until I had to go outside and move her on. I jumped out of bed and the full moon was shining through the window so I ducked out the front door bare footed only in a t-shirt. I jumped down off the veranda ankle deep into fresh dry snow. That woke me up! I pushed the goat out of the yard and went straight back to bed, my feet freezing. I did wake the Cook and tell her it had snowed which I think she appreciated.
So After I had my shower this morning and while the moon was still up, I wandered around outside with my camera. I watched the sun come up, reminded me of many mornings in the Army freezing on the Pucka Range whilst on piquet duty. The snow was only an inch deep but the ground was frozen solid. As the sun rose and you could see more detail, it all reminded me of the photo’s I used to see in the Western Horseman Magazines all those years ago.

As a by the way, all the roads south and west of Cooma are still closed – it’s 2:00pm. We shouldn’t get anymore snow however – and all the piggies are fine.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Long Weekend ahead

I'll catch up on Tuesday - after the weekend. I should have lots to tell by then. Have a safe longweekend everybody..........

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Everthing is swine

So Its winter – the days are so short right now. I only get two jobs a day done properly and finding the pigs fence isn’t working at 5pm in the afternoon is a real pain.

We did a lot of things wrong last year, between the water issues, sowing oats a little late and bad fencing, planting the potatoes in the wrong spot, the pigs and the sheep’s lice things never worked out as we planned. So this year, with a little hindsight and experience behind us hopefully things will turn out better. The list so far goes like this.

Potatoes – chit them before we plant. Chitting is when you leave them in the sun to sprout before you plant them. We will plant them in a better spot, with a little less shade.

Oats are going to be fenced properly and the ground is going to be biologically treated before we plant.

Pigs – we’ve sorted a couple of our problems but destocking is still a priority. Hopefully we will find the centre of gravity on that this year. It will probably be a dry year so we need to have good control on numbers – or a constant turn over.

Sheep – do we keep up with the sheep? Is the wool cheque worth it or do we go for a grass fed meat variety that sheds??

Where do we go from here? I’ve been thinking about doing geese, we have a few now and they seem pretty easy to care for. Ducks are another thing I would love to try.

Anyway, I’ve got winter to contemplate all these things.

I’ve been let down a couple of times lately by people who’d ask to take some pigs. I was going to have a butcher sell our meat as well, but that went belly up too. Now, I can take a couple of disappointments. These things happen, but it makes me really reconsider dealing with people instead of doing it all on my own. We live and learn I suppose.

So we are at the cusp of having our first pigs processed and trying our first Valley View pork. I’m considering changing the name of the product to something else – more regional that will be recognised else where. I’ve got my eye on something – I’ll reveal it later.

We’ve had more piglets arrive and last time I looked they where fat, healthy and fine. We had a little bit of rain last night, about 3mm last time I looked. Everything is starting to get a little muddy. We haven’t had a frost since mid May which is really unusual.

The piglet inside the house is having the tie of its life. Every evening it gets let out and runs around the house until feed time. Eats, then sleeps. The kids have named her Snowy which is supposed to have some reference to when she was born.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

There's a long way to go

With the Cook back everybody is happy again at home, especially me. We managed to get a couple of things done over the weekend– fixing the pigs electric fence was one and hanging a gate on the pig yards was another. All together things are ticking along.

I had to drop some paper work off at the DECC offices in Queanbeyan this afternoon and I was listening to the ABC. They ran a story about the Animal Liberation Group and a planned advertising campaign about intensive/factory chicken farming. I’m no fan of any intensive farming, and any attempt to make people more aware of hoe their food is grown has to be a good thing. Anyway the poster they had produced to hang in places like railway station and bus stops showed a family sitting at a table having a roast dinner. The caption posed a question asking how cruel the dinner was and then described the farming practices and methods used to supply the chicken in the dinner.

But apparently this dialogue was seen as being offensive to children; it may scare them or frighten them. What a load of bull. Surely a child would have to be over eight or nine to understand the language and much older to understand the concepts. People need to be aware that animals need not suffer to provide us food and they need not be farmed so horribly to provide us cheap food. No body argues with Telstra when they charge you 25c to make a phone call – then charge you line rent, then charge you installation for your modem and so on, it’s just a cost people pay. And food should be no different, if it costs a little more to produce best quality and ethically farmed produce then people should have to pay the farmer.

This opens up another array of issues, about how profits should be shared and who should be payed what. Dairy farmers, for instance, are paying higher water, feed and energy costs then ever before but are having their returns cut by milk processors. We haven’t seen any reduction in price of milk at the supermarket, there is no shortage of milk and we aren’t exporting more. So where is the money that we pay for milk going? I don’t know – I’ve searched the internet looking for a reason, but I’ve come up blank. The only thing that has gone up are the share prices of the multi nationals that extort our farmers.

One day we are all going to wake up and find out there aren’t any farmers anymore. There won’t be any fresh fruit, meat or milk. We’ll have to pay above market prices for below quality food, food that we don’t really know how it’s been produce or what has been sprayed onto it.

I was also disturbed by another issue that I discovered last night whilst watching Australian Story. I’ve never been a fan of the CSIRO either, they’ve been the lynch pin in a number of disasters over the years, remember the cane toad and more recently gene technology – I won’t blame them for DDT but they did encourage its use.

The story was about Maarten Stapper a former CSIRO Scientist who now specialises in soil biology and fertility. Biological farming has been around for years, but because it uses natural methods that are easily produced on the farm the requirement for the Agro industrial’s to supply millions of litres of chemicals is significantly reduced. So there are no grants of funds form the Agro giants or the Government for research or testing. Dr Joan Daly Head of CSIRO Agribusiness basically spelt it out; if you can’t commercialise something then it’s not the type of science that CSIRO is interested in. As a tax payer who pays her wage and foots the bill for her organisation I am dumb struck at her attitude – is she really a Scientist or just a grant chaser not really interested in the real out comes that will benefit peoples health and the environment – I question her ethics.