A day with the cows:

We always seem to be writing about something Shannon has invited us along to, well this morning was no different.   We’d gone out to check on Stretch and Kim’s place late yesterday evening as they are away on holidays.

Coming back we noticed about a dozen head of cattle eating the winter crop of Barley.

We managed to chase them out and Chris informed Shannon first thing this morning.

Chris and Shannon jumped into the Ute to have a look and again found even more cattle eating the precious crop. Continuing to drive over the almost vertical retaining walls they found another herd of about 30 cows. They needed to be rounded up!

Now these cattle belong to an adjoining property and we’ve had considerable damage caused to crops for a while now.

The cattle took off into a more densely wooded area and the boys would need the quad bikes to get them rounded up.   Like we’ve said before, life for us can change at any moment so when Chris walked in the door I thought it was to have breakfast. It turned out quite differently with the words,

“Come on Shannon’s getting the bikes to muster cattle and we’re taking the Ute to help!”

We really need a grab bag because I’ve learnt to wear boots (you never know where you will end up), get the camera (something I do forget and miss some amazing sights) and we never seem to grab a hat, of which we have several, but we never think to grab one if we end up in one of Shannon’s escapades.

Jason, one of the farm workers had turned up at the workshop so both quad bikes went on the trailer and we grabbed another Ute.

 

Getting the quad bikes ready.

Getting the quad bikes ready.

 

The plan was to pen them in the stock yards at Stretch’s place. This was where one of the three stockmen lived when Koramba ran cattle before the last drought.

The boys took off on the bikes and Chris and I went to open the gates of the stock yard.   Well I have never seen such cranky cows. They didn’t want to go in the pens. Two got away from the others and took off in opposite directions. Shannon ended up shutting those gates and bringing them in from the other side.

Bringing the cattle out of the scrub.

Bringing the cattle out of the scrub.

They did not want to go into the paddocks from this way.

They did not want to go into the paddocks from this way.

A few cranky cows in this lot.

A few cranky cows in this lot.

They chased after one of the cows who thought she was a bull and charged the boys on the quad bikes. She broke off the front guard on Shannon’s and luckily for Jason rammed into the tool box on the front of his bike. Shannon came back and took off with Chris in the Ute as he said, “The land cruiser’s bull bar is tougher than the bike.”

They finally got this cranky girl into the holding pen and when they tried to move her into the other pen with the rest of the herd she charged at the boys.

Now no one was hurt but it was the funniest thing to watch!

Chris had gone into the holding pen to help Shannon shoo the cow into the other enclosure but when she refused to cooperate and turned to charge, the boys ran for it. I had just turned off the video and failed to capture the next scene. Shannon was, of course, up the fence in no time at all. Having lived with cattle all his life he was more adept at avoiding their antics and has done this numerous times before.

Chris on the other hand is another matter. I so wish I had captured his facial expression as he ran for the fence, put one foot up onto the first rung and knew he would never be able to hoist his body over the fence in time. The look on his face as he realised this… omg hours later and I’m still in tears of laughter over this.

Luckily for Chris the cow must have thought it funny too and she stopped charging and walked into the other pen quietly with the rest, seemingly having a laugh to herself.

 

The other cow was not to be found but Shannon said she would wander back towards the pen later looking for her calf. We’ll come back this afternoon to try and pen her then. This one is even crankier than the other so maybe Chris will stay on the other side of the fence this time!

When we were finished Shannon took us back to a nest of Emu eggs he nearly ran over while looking for the cow. These eggs are just in the middle of the paddock, not very protected.

Emu Eggs in the middle of the paddock.

Emu Eggs in the middle of the paddock.

Well Shannon picked us up late afternoon to head back down to the stock yard. On the way we came across this Turtle looking very sorry for it’s self and in need of water. As it was a couple of kilometres to the river we put him in one of the reservoirs.

The turtle that was trying to get to water.

The turtle that was trying to get to water.

We would have not been able to climb out of the res if we had gone done to free the turtle. So "Fly be free"

We would have not been able to climb out of the res if we had gone done to free the turtle. So “Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle”

 

… Now back to the cows.

Unfortunately the cranky cow was nowhere to be seen so off we drove in the Ute while Shannon searched the area on the quad bike.

Shannon did find quite a few more cows in a herd but chased them back through the fence on to their own property.

We then all hopped into the Ute for another quick search around the area and came across another herd with a variety of owners. You can tell this by their ear tags.

So Shannon rounded them up using the Ute. Thankfully most of this group were quiet but we did manage to pick up the cranky cow and add her to the herd.

He then sorted them all out in the stock yard.

The stock yard is made so that you can place the cows into the middle enclosure then divide them up using different gates.

Shannon did this like a pro. It was quite funny watching as he sat up on the fence rails and asked the cows very nicely. “Herefords in here please, other strays over here!”

The funny part was they seemed to know what he was saying and did what he asked! Well at least that’s what it looked like to us amateurs.

Now it’s just a matter of getting the owners to come and collect their cattle.

When we arrived home, Jack (Shannon’s new Cattle dog) had a few cows baled up on the wrong side of the fence near our caravan. It was dark by this time and we could just see them.

Oh no!

They were Shannon’s cows, including Topsy, they’d escaped from their paddock.

So it was back in the Ute for Shannon, us in our Ute and Jimmy, a friend of Shannon’s on his motor bike.

They took off heading towards the main road.

Cows aren’t easy to spot in the dark. But lucky for us Jimmy tracked them down across the road and they were herded back home.

By the time everything was back in order it was 8.30pm

We were cold, hungry and over cows by now.

But when we thought about it after a drink and dinner, sitting in a nice warm caravan would we want to give up our life style?

The answer NO way!

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

How can I explain the taste?

T-Bone has been hanging in the cold room now for over three weeks. There’s a lovely crust over the meat which is exactly what we’re looking for. We don’t want the meat to be sticky to the touch.

T-Bone the steer

T-Bone the steer

Butchering a cow is a bit different to a pig, sheep or goat so, with a book in hand, Shannon, Stretch, Kim, Chris and I headed down to the Meat Shed to have a go at one of T-bones hind quarters.

The Meat Shed on Koramba

The Meat Shed on Koramba

Jason was there but his eldest daughter had fallen on her arm at school during the day and was in pain. So, after giving the hospital a ring to make sure someone would be there to do an X-ray, and since none of us are doctors, it was a trip into Moree for his family to visit the hospital. The arm turned out to be badly bruised.

Why is it when working from a book, the product never looks the same as the diagrams? We all knew where the T-Bones where so they were quickly sliced up with the ban saw, but the rest went something like this:-

Is that the topside?

No it could be the rump?

Well where is the chuck?

What other parts are there?

Look at the book. This book said Topside but I’m on the internet and it’s saying Silverside.

Get the picture?

Anyway we divided it up the best we could, steaks, roasts and bits we weren’t quite sure of but looked good.

Some of us went home and sliced whole pieces into steaks, other left the same pieces for roasts, but what I can tell you that after being divided into four, we each took home half a large garbage bag full of meat, and that was only one quarter!

Shannon had decided to ask Freddy to come out and show us how to butcher the rest of the meat. Freddy is a local from Boomi who has been share farming in this area since he was 17 (he’s now 75 and fit as a fiddle). He’s also a butcher who used to come to Koramba in the old days, butchering for the quarters. It was a thrill to spend the morning watching him quickly and easily seperate the cuts from the remaining three quarters of T-bone and to listen to him recount stories of what went on at the farm in the yester years. As he held up a crooked finger he told us how he cut it off when he was younger and he had us in fits of laughter as he told us about the finger still jumping around the floor as his father tried to catch it!

He patiently explained what he was doing to T-bone each step of the way.

We’d been waiting to taste this meat for a long time. Most people we speak to out here butchers some portion of their own meat and the biggest comment you always hear is, “You will never buy meat from Coles / Woollies again after you taste it.”

Now this is where the heading of this blog post comes from.

How can I explain the taste?

Well, firstly there IS a taste! Not a gamey, strong taste but a meat taste that is emphasised more by the freshness and other things such as marbling that is seldom seen in shops these days.

Let me try to explain it another way.

Have you ever eaten home grown vegetables? They taste more pronounced. A tomato straight off the vine sends your taste buds into a frenzy, the same way fresh herbs do. Even just the smell of them makes your mouth start producing saliva.

So does this meat.

A T-Bone from T-Bone hmmmm you could cut it with a butter knife.

A T-Bone from T-Bone hmmmm you could cut it with a butter knife.

The animals haven’t been injected with anything, they have only eaten grass or some hay or grain if they’re lucky. They are always left to hang for a few days at least with cattle hanging for at least three weeks. Their lives are stress free.

We now have in the freezer fresh beef, lamb and goat and every day we are looking forward to our meals like never before. We add fresh herbs from the garden and cook most of the meat in the Weber BBQ. Add to that vegetables grown fresh from the greenhouse like peas, carrots and eggplant and both of us are moaning with every mouthful. Seriously, it’s better than sex???

We can’t wait to pick up our Kitchen Aid and start producing our own gourmet sausages. Can you imagine being able to add anything you want to change the taste? An amazing array of different sausages is available from the butchers these days but even they use powered products. Look on the internet, you can purchase them online.

We want to add only fresh natural ingredients to our sausages like fresh apples to the pork mince or fresh tomatoes to the beef. Prunes, basil, garlic and Paprika will go into the lamb sausages.

MMMmmmm is your mouth starting to water?

After Freddy dissected the rest of T-Bone in less time it took all of us to do one quarter, we borrowed Freddy’s mincer and produced 30kg of lean mince. In today’s prices that was between $300 – $400 worth, just in mince.

With everything we learn out here it changes our opinions of where and what we want, when we settle down again. To be able to have a piece of land big enough to shoot on (min of 30 acres). To make sure that land has animals on it you can shoot or place animals on to use for food and still have a place that is close enough to the family and health facilities as we get older. That’s our dilemma.

But in the meantime hmmm “What’s for dinner?”

The Endeavour Rally at Koramba:

The 2014 Endeavour Rally from Warwick to Bundaberg via Corner Country came through a part of Koramba Farm.

Some of the cars that were entered in the Rally.

Some of the cars that were entered in the Rally.

This rally uses forestry roads and private property to create a fascinating rally through seldom viewed parts of Australia.

As described by their website:

You’ll travel through the outback visiting remote destinations that few others get to see. Enjoy breathtaking scenery by day and relax around the campfire each night.

Stanley, one of the farm supervisors, had graded the River Road so that it could be driven on by the cars and the other myriad of vehicles that would be traversing through Koramba.   This makes it a bit easier for the drivers and helps them to stay on track and not get lost on the property.

Keeping with the whole spirit of the charity event, Toby had caught several pigs in the traps that day and layed them out along the path, as well as setting up outside “dunnies” to add to the country atmosphere and convenience of the travellers.

Last dunny for 100km.

Last dunny for 100km.

Most of the residents on Koramba met up down by the river to watch the cars come past.

Toby had supplied sausages for lunch and drinks, and with the addition of a warm fire it turned into a great afternoon.

Social gathering by the river.

Social gathering by the river.

 

Some of the contestants drove by in a cloud of dust with their variety of musical horns blaring while others decided to stop and have a chat, with Toby offering liquid refreshment to anybody who required it.

The cars were cheered on by the residents of Koramba.

The cars were cheered on by the residents of Koramba.

One of the cars threw out bags of Macadamia's

One of the cars threw out bags of Macadamia’s

Chatting with the organiser's

Chatting with the organiser’s

 

The Army joined in from the Enoggera Barracks and there were some contestants who had been on every rally right from its inception in the early 1980’s.

The army joined in.

The army joined in.

Topsy is back:

Remember our beautiful little Hereford calf Topsy?

Topsy would sleep beside the van at night after we had given her a good brush.

Topsy would sleep beside the van at night after we had given her a good brush.

Well, when we moved her over to the paddock behind Shannon’s place and put her in with T-Bone, she wouldn’t come anywhere near us.

When we tried calling Topsy she’d put her head up and take a couple of steps towards us but T-Bone would go between her and us stopping her from coming any closer. Protecting her maybe?

Now don’t get me wrong we appreciated the fact that she was safe from dogs and other animals while around T-Bone, but we did miss giving her a pat or cuddle. And as her coat changed to the more fluffy winter coat we would have liked to rub our hands down the softness of her neck.

With T-Bone now gone we tried again to see if she remembered us.

Slowly walking towards Topsy with a nice handful of hay we softly spoke to her encouraging her to stay. She was a bit hesitant at first, jumpy at every noise but the hay being offered was too strong a deterrent and she came towards us for the food.

Once there we were able to finally give her a pat and be able to stroke her soft neck. Her whole body seem to give in and relax. She used to like her rub downs that we would give her using a horse brush, often nudging our hand if we stopped to let us know she wanted more.

Topsy and her beautiful coat.

Topsy and her beautiful coat.

Happy to sit there beside us chewing her cud

Happy to sit there beside us chewing her cud

Shannon had been watching from the workshop and told us later he was very surprised she let us pat her as he thought we had been apart too long. He was even more surprised when she sat down at our feet and started to chew her cud, meaning she was at total ease with us.

We now go back every few days to give her a pat. We don’t take food as we don’t want that to be the only reason to come to us. She is still beautiful and has a wonderful nature. We are learning that every cow has its own personality, some are sweet like Topsy, some psychotic like T-Bone, some are just plain cranky but they’re not all the same.

Shannon’s property at Emmaville:

Three day weekends are now the norm for the few remaining staff at Koramba Farm.

Shannon often takes the opportunity to go up to his 250 acre property at Emmaville.

He invited Stretch & Kim, Chris and I up to visit.

Shannon left Thursday afternoon to make the slow trip up driving his John Deere tractor while towing his Nissan and various other implement’s and odds n sods on the car trailer. The rest of us left Friday morning, Stretch and Kim with their camper trailer and us with the Aussie Wide.

Shannon with all his bits and pieces loaded up ready to go to Emmaville.

Shannon with all his bits and pieces loaded up ready to go to Emmaville.

Shannon made this blade to go with his John Deere.

Shannon made this blade to go with his John Deere.

Meet Shannon's new dog Jack. Yes we spoil him.

Meet Shannon’s new dog Jack. Yes we spoil him.

 

We met up at the pub in Emmaville before venturing up into the hillside to Shannon’s place. It’s tucked away off the road and is accessed by a common road used by other properties in the area and is very much Shannon.

Why?

There’s no manicured lawns or views of the ocean. It is flat to undulating terrain with some large peaks that are rocky and wooded which sweep down to large cleared areas.

The road into Shannon's.

The road into Shannon’s.

The views are spectacular!

You overlook the Northern Tablelands of the New England region of New South Wales, with the Torrington State forest and Recreation Area at your door step. He has a shed and water tank, an abundance of firewood, plenty of goats and pigs to shoot (as well as the occasional deer) and great phone and internet service.

What more could he ask for?

He has already taken up his International bulldozer (nicknamed “The Ant”), his Nuffield tractor (nicknamed “Nuffy” and now has his John Deere tractor up there to be able to get some of the jobs done.

The Nuffield Tractor

The Nuffield Tractor

It didn’t take long to knock down some dead trees (a fire had gone through the property a few years ago) and a roaring fire was started.

As usual with Shannon – nothing small. The logs needed to be pushed onto the fire with the bulldozer!

Nothing beats a warm fire and good company.

Nothing beats a warm fire and good company.

Please note for future reference of where Jack is sitting...On Shannon's lap

Please note for future reference of where Jack is sitting…On Shannon’s lap

 

As Stretch and Kim had already been to the farm Shannon took us around for a tour.

WOW!

There are spring fed dams, a waterfall and seriously the views are to die for.

The mist in the valley.

The mist in the valley.

The sun rising over Shannon's property.

The sun rising over Shannon’s property.

He has started putting up fences around the area and will be bringing some of the cattle he got from his father up here to graze.

While out and about we came across a herd of feral goats. The guns were out and we quickly had dinner for tonight. A goat BBQ.

The next morning Shannon and Stretch started to clear a path down to the waterfall using the John Deere tractor and “The Ant”, knocking down trees, moving dead branches and unearthing large boulders. They had to stop when the valve on the JD broke off the tyre causing a flat. They’ll fix that later, so then we all piled into the Nissan to hunt for another goat. Chris wanted to cook a Goat Curry for the evening meal and he wanted at least a couple of hours for it to simmer. That’s the benefit of taking our home with us as we had all the ingredients.

Shannon working the John Deere to clear a path to the waterfall.

Shannon working the John Deere to clear a path to the waterfall.

Up and down hills chasing goats. When they say its goat country they mean it. The down side of shooting is the retrieval. That means climbing up the hill finding the animal and carrying it back down the hill over rocky ground. Chris was very impressed with himself that he managed to pretty much keep up with the younger guys.

The boys hunting the goats, why do they always have to be at the top of the hill?

The boys hunting the goats, why do they always have to be at the top of the hill?

Getting around the property. Stretch, myself, Kim and Shannon.

Getting around the property. Stretch, myself, Kim and Shannon.

 

With the curry in the camp oven to simmer, the others went down to Emmaville to the pub. Chris and I stayed at the property to enjoy the fire and keep an eye on the curry. It was so peaceful and in the dimming light the shed posts reminded me of “Craig’s Hut”. I do love “The Man from Snowy River” movie.

Craig's Hut (as seen in the Man from Snowy River movie) in the Victorian alps, Australia photo from Fotolia.

Craig’s Hut (as seen in the Man from Snowy River movie) in the Victorian alps, Australia photo from Fotolia.

I don’t know about the others but I will have to say Chris out did himself with his Sweet Goat Curry. We’ve now decided we want to take a goat home with us.

So with an early morning knock on the caravan door and Shannon calling out to Chris that there were goats down at the water hole, we all made a dash for the guns and headed off to bring home a goat.

The goat we brought home. Killed, skinned and butchered by Chris.

The goat we brought home. Killed, skinned and butchered by Chris.

Success, here is Chris coming home with his kill, the goat thrown over his shoulder, skinned and wrapped in a cotton bag.

My man home with the kill.

My man home with the kill.

Now I had asked how on earth do we get it back to the farm as it’s a 4 1/2 hrs drive? Shannon was very helpful by suggesting we put it on the back seat with the air conditioner on cold.

Not bloody likely!

It turned out to be a lot colder outside than in the car and the goat and ourselves made it home without mishap.

We had a wonderful weekend and hopefully will get to go again to Shannon’s place.

On the way home we stopped at Glen Innes to visit with Maxene. Ian and Maxene have a 100 year old house there that they are doing up. Maxene was down during the school holidays and it was lovely to catch up. Lovely place Glen Innes but Oh so cold.

T-bone is now….T-bones.

The instigator of most of our learning curve out here is Shannon and as usual it started with him wandering over and letting us know something was about to happen.

This time it was, “I’m giving T-bone some anesthetic and then hanging him. Want to learn how to skin an animal?”

T-Bone the steer when he first arrived. He put on a lot of weight in the 18 months.

T-Bone the steer when he first arrived. He put on a lot of weight in the 18 months.

Now we knew this was coming, it had been coming for the last 18 months.

It had to happen soon as Shannon had picked up another 15 cows and weaners from his father and as these were all very quiet and placid he didn’t want to put them anywhere near the psychotic T-bone. Cows apparently are impressionable and can pick up habits from other cows in the same paddock.

Anesthetic out here is a bullet to the head, after which the throat is cut to bleed the animal.

Jason, one of the farm hands, had come over to give Shannon a hand as Chris and I watched, fascinated. Shannon used the hydraulic crane on his truck to hang Tbone as they skinned and gutted him.

They then used a chain saw to quarter him up so he would fit into the cold room.
That was a sight, Shannon standing on the back of his truck with his determined half smile and his chainsaw with pieces of meat and bone flying in all directions splattering anything within 10 metres – especially Shannon.

T-bone was no light weight and it took 3 men to lift and hang his hind quarters into the cold room.
He would hang for approx. 3 weeks to tenderise the meat. This is done to stretch the sinew, the longer you hang the meat the better it is.

Now you need a good cold room, one that doesn’t produce moisture. The cold rooms out here on Koramba, we’ve been told, are the best in the area. The meat needs to have air circulating around the carcass to form a crust over the meat.

Woohoo our first skinning, now it was our turn!

Jason had purchased 10 sheep from a farm outside of Gundy and we had bought 1 from him. This was going to be the first animal that we killed and butchered ourselves.

Now killing a sheep is a bit different from Tbone as you need to physically catch it, slit it’s throat and then break it’s neck, all without causing the animal stress.

We went down to Jason’s house further down the farm to watch him with the first one (there were 6 in total to be done that afternoon) and then we did ours.

Of course Chris didn’t come out unscathed from this exercise – it normal happens with most of his endeavors that he ends up bleeding from somewhere.

He banged his head on a bar getting into the pen – bleeding from the left side of the head. Then he nearly fell over a barrier inside the pen – bleeding from the right side of the head. Then he smashed his head again on the shed roof – bleeding from the face. As he was wrestling the sheep he fell against some barbed wire – bleeding from the arm. He did however manage to catch the animal, slit it’s throat and he nearly pulled the whole head off while snapping the neck, but he got it done!

Now to skin it!

We’d taken Chris’s kitchen knives but found that we needed a finer pointed skinning knife which we borrowed some of Jason.
Jason had his own meat hanger set up to hang the sheep from his hind legs to make it easier to skin. Luckily for us Shannon arrived and we used his crane mounted on his Land-cruiser to do ours.

Now Chris was doing the skinning and I was giving directions, hmm sound familiar?
“Jason did it this way”. “Put the leg that way.”  So when Chris said, “Do you want to have a go?” I jumped at the chance.

It’s surprisingly easy.

Just don’t put the knife into the meat which I did straight away. It’s just a careful process of separating the skin away from the muscle. Most of the time it will just pull away, well you’ve gotta get ya shoulder and fist into it, but it’s not as messy as I thought it would be.

The gutting process follows and again as long as you’ve cut around the bum hole and sliced down the stomach carefully so you don’t nick the bowel or stomach and allow the contents to pour over the meat, it seems to just fall out rather easily with gravity, after a little persuasion from your hand inserted behind the guts.

Chris and I skinning our first sheep.

Chris and I skinning our first sheep.

You can pull off the skin if you put your fist into it.

You can pull off the skin if you put your fist into it.

 

We were a lot slower than Jason and ended up doing two sheep while he did the other four.

We hung these in the cold room at Trefusas, the group of houses on the property where most of the permanent staff live, to be butchered in a few days.

Now Koramba has its own meat room which was once heavily used as were most of the meat rooms on farms a few years ago.

A local Boomi resident called Freddy who is a butcher came out to prepare Tbone and he told us how he would come out to Koramba farm along with other butchers and cut up sheep and cattle for the quarters.
This was when 50 + men lived at the quarters (unlike our maximum of 28).
What a time that would have been.
Freddy said that one day alone they did 250kg of sausages – In one day!

The meat room is equipped with a band saw, mincer and sausage maker as well as the large cool room with rails set up to allow a beast to be pulled straight from the cool room around to the butchering section.

The sausage maker and mincer need new blades and a few other bits to get them in working order again so in the mean time we’ve purchased a mincer and sausage maker to fit our beloved Kitchen Aid.

Kitchen aid meat-grinder

Kitchen aid meat-grinder

Sausage maker goes on the end of the meat grinder

Sausage maker goes on the end of the meat grinder

Unfortunately we took our Kitchen Aid back to the storage shed in Brisbane on the last visit so we’ll have to wait until we head back to Brisbane to retrieve it and make some gourmet sausages.

A couple of days later we headed down to the Meat shed to learn to butcher our sheep. We did OK, though a real butcher probably wouldn’t agree.

Now we have chops and roasts all bagged up and frozen and we are looking forward to our first meal of “self killed and butchered” lamb.