You can shear a sheep many times, but…

One of the reasons we moved to the Rock Farm was to ensure our kids have a well rounded understanding of our food supply chain.  One part of this food chain includes the raising of sheep for meat.  And whilst we could sell our sheep through the regular sale yards, and buy our meat from a butcher, I think we have a responsibility to teach our kids about what meat production actually involves.  By slaughtering the lamb ourselves, we reduce the stress on the animal significantly and save on food miles.

I appreciate that many people may feel uncomfortable with this process, and indeed many people make the choice not to eat meat at all.  I understand and respect those choices.

But I also feel that meat production often gets an unfair portrayal.  We are told it is bad for the environment, however I know that the Rock Farm has an incredible range of biodiversity that you don’t find on mono-culture cropping farms.  We have hundreds of native animals, lizards and birds, native grasses, shrubs and trees that live in harmony with our small scale sheep production. I also know that all who raise animals have a social responsibility to ensure the stock are raised in a humane, healthy manner.  I see small scale poly-culture or permaculture that works with the natural environment as being our future.

You may notice one sheep above that doesn’t look like the other ones.  Most of our sheep are wool shedding Wiltipolls, however the fellow with a full clip of wool is a first cross Meriono/Suffolk wether.  Despite his size, he still has a mouth full of baby teeth, meaning he is still a lamb.  He had been raised as a poddy by the boys, but we had always told them that his job (every animal has a job on a farm) was to feed us, and he was now ready.  His wool was also long enough to shear, and whilst it will never win any awards, the first cross wool is usually handy enough (medium fine) to make the effort to shear.  It did remind me of the old adage that “You can shear a sheep many times, but you can only skin them once.”

Butchering a lamb is a skill, and it had been many years since I had last butchered a couple of lambs.  I found a few moments to enjoy a cup of coffee refreshing myself with the excellent words of John Seymour in his Self Sufficiency guide.

The first thing to do with the lamb was to shear him.  Thankfully friends down the road kindly agreed to shear the lamb, and also give the Little Fisherman a lesson in shearing.  This is definitely something I cannot do, but Jimmy made it look easy.

After shearing, it was important to slaughter the lamb quickly and humanely.  Again I learnt from Jimmy, who after many years has perfected the skills of cleanly slaughtering and butchering sheep.  The principles were as described in John Seymour’s book, however Jimmy was unbelievably quick and in no time at all we had skinned and cleaned the carcass.

We then hung the carcass in a cool room for 10 days, before running it through a band-saw.  With the legs and shoulders making great roasts, we cut most of the rest into chops.  It took under ten minutes to turn the carcass into meals.

It was then a relatively simple process to divide the meat into meal size portions for the freezer.  The dog also managed to do extremely well out of the offcuts.

And the verdict?  Delicious 🙂

There are few rules that apply to home butchering in NSW.  The basic premise is that meat that is butchered at home is not able to leave the property.  You are not able to sell, swap or barter it, or even give it to family and friends.  This is to protect us all from disease and parasites that used to be common place in yesteryear.  Making sure the meat is well cooked is a good start, but you also need to wash your hands frequently, make sure you dispose the offal properly and keep vaccinations and dog worming up to date.

A huge thank you to Jimmy for his guidance, and patience in bringing me back up to speed.  It was much appreciated.

Pump woes on the Rock Farm

One of the joys of living on a rural property is beautiful fresh rainwater stored in your own tank.  The water tastes fresh, is free from chemical impurities and is deliciously soft.  It is your water, and you can use as much or as little of it as you like.  The consequences of your usage are yours alone to deal with.  It is a wonderful part of living on your small farm.

Until your pump dies.   And then you need to get it fixed. Quickly.

We were in a fortunate position that our pump gave us warning it was on the way out.  It would fail to operate, and a simple reset by turning it off and on again would fix it.  For a while at least.  When the interval between resets became daily, it was time to take action.

Davey Pumps were called, and their technical department were most helpful.  They told me that the most likely culprit was the pressure switch in the controller.  The type of controller we had fitted hadn’t been made in around 20 years, giving us some indication of the age of the pump.

I was advised to take the pump to a repair agent, where the pump could be bench tested.  One phone call later, and the pump was booked in the following morning for a thorough inspection.

The pump was easy enough to remove.  The worst bit was the cold fingers on the chilly morning easing the pipe fittings from the pump.

And in no time at all, the pump was in a tub on its way to town for inspection.

After a few hours, I was told that the pump itself was in good condition, however the controller was indeed stuffed.  Thankfully the new controllers are compatible with the older pumps, meaning we were able to fit the new controller.  A few minutes work and some new plumbing tape and the pump was reinstalled and working a charm.

This little process taught me the value of buying a quality Australian made pump, particularly for critical components such as house water.  The service and support offered was excellent, and instead of buying a complete replacement unit, I was able to save a small fortune by buying just the component I needed.

I am looking forward to another twenty years of trouble free water supply 🙂

Top reasons to live on a hobby farm

The decision to move to a hobby farm is not to be made lightly.  There are many considerations that must be thought about before taking the plunge and buying a hobby farm.  If you’re thinking of buying a hobby farm, or making a tree change, these are some of the best things we love about living on the Rock Farm.

Serenity

There is something incredibly peaceful about waking up to the sounds of nature, not traffic.  Whether it be the chatter of birds, the breeze in the trees, or the sound of silence, we take pleasure in these sounds every day.

Top reasons to live on a hobby farm

Nothing like the sun rising over the hobby farm

Our view is of rolling hills, not roads and apartments.  The air we breathe is clear, and at night the stars blaze in the sky.  Often on a full moon, we all walk outside and stand captured by the beauty of the night sky and the moon’s majestic rising.

I find there is a peace that settles on me after I come home after a long day at work.  A hobby farm should be a place that recharges your soul… each and every day.

Healthy active lifestyle

Being on a hobby farm, it is easy to find excuses to get outside.  Other than the obvious work tending the vegetable gardens, or harvesting firewood, there is plenty of scope to have fun too.  The Little Helper loves nothing more than kicking about with his best four legged friend.  Together the boy’s have a wonderful time building forts, tree houses or even helping me fix fences!

Top reasons to live on a hobby farm

The boy’s love living on the hobby farm

I find it much more rewarding to spend some time and effort doing something around the hobby farm, than to spend my money on fancy gym membership.   The physical activity keeps me healthy, and I feel good knowing I have contributed something to the farm or the family.

Top reasons to live on a hobby farm

Nothing like taking a walk with friends… on the hobby farm

There is nothing nicer than going for a walk around the property along the boundary fence.  It is good exercise, there is no traffic to watch out for, and often you have some friends follow along too!

Teaching kids

I’ve alluded to this earlier, but the hobby farm gives so much to the kids.  Both our boys love living on the farm.  For them it is one big adventure playground, but please don’t tell them they are learning far more than just how to ride horses or motorbikes.

Top reasons to live on a hobby farm

Who said checking the boundary fence was boring!

They are learning all kids of lessons.  Lessons about how to fix fences, repair small engines, care for animals, care for the land, the differences between weeds and grasses, and the list goes on.  By the age of nine, they were both driving a car.  They can check the oil, and change a tyre.

Best reasons for living on a hobby farm

Changing a tyre… adjusting the brakes or fixing a wheel bearing – these kids can lend a hand to almost anything

More importantly, they are learning responsibility.  They have to check and feed the chooks each day.  The horses need to be fed, and rugged in winter.  They know that we volunteer in our community and can’t wait until they’re old enough to join the Rural Fire Service.  In the meantime they come along  and help set up or pack up for fundraising functions.  Their little chores become foundations for a responsible life.

Top reasons to live on a hobby farm

The Little Helper loves his chooks on the hobby farm

Freedom – with consequences

Our hobby farm allows us enormous choice.  Whilst we still have council rules to comply with, we have a lot more freedom as to what we can do on our place.  We can run just about whatever kind of stock we want. If we want to paint our house purple, or make a track for the kid’s motorbike, we can.

Top reasons for living on a hobby farm

Watch TV, or go for a ride…. tough choice!

If we want to run a sprinkler on a 40 degree day, we can… it is our water.  That said, we are also responsible for the consequences.  If we run out of water, then we will have to buy some.  But I am much happier being in control of our destiny, than being dictated to by some council.

Healthy Food Choices

Whilst our little hobby farm isn’t self sufficient, it allows us to explore healthy food choices with our children.  We try to encourage our children to tend their their own vegetable beds.  Nothing teaches them the value of food more than trying to grow some vegetables themselves.

How to build a wicking garden bed.

Fresh vegetables on the hobby farm

We also can explore ethical raising of animals for slaughter with our children.  I think it is extremely important that we understand our food supply chain.  Our children are well aware that we have a responsibility to our sheep for their welfare.  We are comfortable knowing that our sheep have a wonderful quality of life, and that their slaughter will be humane.

Top reasons to live on a hobby farm

Poddy lambs – one will grow to make jumpers… the other will taste delicious. Both will have a great life.

Custodians of the land

One of the most exciting parts of owning a hobby farm is the sense of responsibility we have to future generations .  Instead of watching the TV and seeing the consequences of years of misunderstanding and neglect of the land, we see ourselves as part of the solution.

Top reasons to live on a hobby farm

Tree planting with the good folk at Greening Australia – restoring the health of the soil

Our land was cleared and then heavily grazed in its distant past.  We are excited to be planting thousands of trees in spring to start returning health to the soil,.  We  also  will be  trying to graze a small number of sheep (and the odd horse or two) in a sustainable way.  We believe that we can strike a balance between the need to conserve nature and our requirements to feed our selves.

Connection with nature

Our hobby farm abounds with native plants and animals.  In spring, a walk around our paddocks is a stroll of discovery, with so many native plants bursting into colour.  We have kangaroos, walaroos a plenty.  In the poa tussocks, we often find shingle back lizards, marsupial mice and the odd echidna.  Our hobby farm is a teeming hot-spot of bio diversity, but that is not to say we can’t do better.

Top reasons to live on a hobby farm

The shy echidna – a delightful visitor at the Rock Farm

When harvesting firewood, I generally cut green branches off living trees.  I leave a part of the branch on the ground to become a log for beetles and other animals to live in.   The leafy branches are left to mulch and return nutrients and organic matter to the soil.   Over time this will help improve the quality of our soil, but importantly increase the biodiversity on our place by providing habitat for the insects and small animals that underpin it all.

Community

It’s a funny thing, but I think the further apart people live, the stronger the community is.  We might not be able to see our neighbours, but our community is strong.  We are part of our local school, Rural Fire Service, and Scout Group communities.  Our children are growing up to be responsible members of our society.  It is wonderful to share this journey with them too.
Every day our choice rewards us with an immense feeling of satisfaction, but it does have some minor drawbacks.  I will talk about some of these in my next blog.

Let me know what you love about living on a hobby farm 🙂