Sunday, December 13, 2009

Current arrangement on the deck

I'm just about to head off to the country house to water the garden and prepare it for my absence over Christmas, so no time to write. I'll leave you with a couple of pics of the current arrangement on the deck.

Friday, December 4, 2009

La sagra della salsiccia (1)

While Lizzie and I were enjoying our lunch (vegetable soup and salad) during her recent weekend stay, the conversation turned to home-made sausages. Following a traumatic school excursion to an abattoir when I was 15, I barely eat meat, but I have to confess I do like a sausage. Living in the land-of-the-barbie (Q not the doll!) they are quite hard to avoid but often fall disappointingly short of expectations by being too fatty, too salty, or too heavy on the non-meat filler.

How hard could a sausage be to make from scratch ourselves we wondered? And why not make a fun weekend of it? So the plan for a Sagra della Salsiccia at the country house in early 2010 was hatched.

We decided that our sausages would have to be the from the best ingredients: the pork should be local, organic and from a farmer with humane and sustainable practices, and the herbs should be home-grown. Lizzie's homework was to talk to her mum Eva, who like all good Italian mamas would know exactly what cuts of meat we would need, my homework was to find a pork supplier.

Lizzie duly reported that Eva's recommendation was that we would need two shoulders of pork. My internet searching turned up only one pork supplier - Fernleigh Farms - who looked like they would meet our criteria. I won't darken your day by outlining here the kind of horrific practices that go on at many pig farms; thankfully information is becoming increasingly available to support those who want to choose animals raised and slaughtered humanely.

Last week I drove out to visit Fernleigh Farm to see it for myself. It's about one hour out of Melbourne in the Daylesford Macedon area. I had a lovely chat with the farm's Fiona Chambers who obviously loves her pigs. Fiona supports genetic diversity by breeding the heritage Wessex Saddleback pig. Her farm is accredited organic, her pigs are both bred and grown free-range, and she uses no antibiotics or growth hormones. There is no nose ringing, tail cutting, teeth clipping or use of farrowing crates or sow stalls. I asked Fiona how the pigs are slaughtered and she said that are sent to the abattoir at night, when they are more calm, and that they are put to sleep using gas, which is more humane than stunning them with an electric shock. I'm comfortable with that.

I'll post more about the Sagra as we progress our plans. The next step will be to source the appliances that we will need and some recipes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A sprawl of garlic

I harvested my garlic on the weekend. Here it is sprawled on the back deck for its two weeks of drying. Garlic was the first thing that I grew at the country house. I started in year one with about 20 bulbs , this year I have about 70. I made a garlic plait with my first crop and every visitor to the house was forced to admire it. I don't get quite so excited now. Garlic is so easy to grow: you just take a clove and push it into the ground (in winter) about ten centimetres depth with the pointed end upwards. Then six months later...voila...a whole bulb appears. There's a profusion of Chinese-grown garlic parading around the markets in Australia now that has been fumigated on its way in and sometimes local garlic is hard to find. Home-grown is so much better.