Gratitude & Progress!

Like an old world barn-raising (2.0), you came and helped us build a dream. When the clock ticked over past the 40 days and 40 nights of seeking funding for our on-farm boning room, we’d just hit $27,570 - $6,120 over target (which we reached on Day 19!)! It’s a testament to how much people do want to know about where their food comes from that we’ve had such a success, and we’re grateful to all of our wonderful supporters and to Pozible for providing the platform that connected us. Last week the Weekly Times ran a feature on Jonai Farms (p.65-66), as well as a news piece about our success. And then we were on ABC Statewide Drive to talk about our plans and the benefits of crowdfunding. Apparently we’re the first farmers in Australia to crowdfund on Pozible!


We've already been able to deliver over 70kg of ethical pork rewards to the wonderful people who have supported us, and look forward to delivering another 450kg over the second half of this year. We've also got the shed ready for a day of fun, feasting and learning for Salami Day, at which we look forward to meeting many of the people who've so generously contributed to our project.

Well supporters, once again we thank you. The 40-foot refrigerated container arrived last Monday after a week’s delay due to very wet weather and a boggy driveway, and one of our lovely neighbours came around to help us drag it into position with his tractor. Stuart has commenced the fitout, and the knives are ready and sharpened. ;-)



We’ll keep you posted on progress, but we hope to be doing the butchering here on the farm by the end of August… wish us luck!

Thank you so much to all of the people who supported us, all of whom are part of the real food revolution in Australia!

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On transparency...

In response to last week's spot on Radio National Bush Telegraph, we had a lot of negative reaction online from people who don't agree with eating meat. So a friend of mine and I wrote a response, which was posted on the RN site just before I went on air again to discuss the reaction and our decision to castrate in spite of a very close poll that voted against it. Unfortunately, RN edited out Nathan's part, which really is a shame because he's wickedly smart and reflexive, and also happens to be a vegan.
Here's the full text, unedited (you can see the RN version here):


Showing a vegan a photo of an adorable piglet and then asking them to help decide whether to castrate is undoubtedly a red flag to a bull. But it wasn’t vegans we were asking, it was omnivores. What some will call ill-considered (I did briefly), I will here defend as a serious exercise in transparency by farmers who want to educate the public about the realities of food production, and especially the raising of animals for meat. And my vegan friend Nathan and I will argue that vitriolic attacks on those of us committed to transparency create a perverse incentive to retreat to secrecy and obfuscation of regular food production management practices.

We’ve been farming free-range rare breed Large Black pigs for a year and a half now. We came from Melbourne with a clear vision to contribute to what we consider ethical farming - raising pigs on the paddocks who are free to root and wallow at will, and basically express what Joel Salatin calls ‘the pigness of the pig’ until they have ‘one bad day’, which they don’t even know is coming. We believe it’s morally right to eat meat, but not from animals who have suffered or been raised in close confinement their entire lives up until slaughter. Our views and farming practices are not especially controversial, and generally our efforts to raise animals for food humanely and with care and kindness are met with appreciation - both for our practices and for our openness.

So it seemed a great idea when Cameron Wilson of Radio National Bush Telegraph asked whether we were willing for them to do a series tracking one of our animals from piglet to Christmas ham. Too many people don’t know where their food comes from or how it’s raised, though the tide is hopefully turning as information is now more readily accessible and people are realising there’s a lot that happens from paddock to plate.

The idea is a monthly radio interview where we update listeners on what’s been happening with the pig, who we’ve called Wilbur 101 (we call all the boys Wilbur and all the girls Charlotte unless they’re our breeding stock, in which case they have individual names, such as Borg, Big Mama, Keen, Pink and Prudence…). Many people believe you shouldn’t name your food, but we take the view that we’d rather know the animal on our plate well than not at all.

Supplementary to each month’s interview, we agreed to allow a poll to be held to seek the public’s view on management decisions. It gives an opportunity to inform people of the multitude of issues and decisions farmers face daily, and we hoped that using a poll in addition to the podcast and information on the website would lead to more buy in from the public, and in turn more care about the type of system animals are raised in. The first question we posited (as it’s the first management decision we face with newborn boars) was whether or not to castrate.

Unfortunately, while the omnivorous public might have wanted to discuss the practicalities and ethics of castrating boars, a significant number of those opposed to eating meat joined the discussion and turned it into a rant against us, the ABC, farmers generally, and meat eaters specifically. We were called ‘sick freaks’, ‘Neanderthals’, and ‘animal abusers’, to name some of the milder insults.


There are a number of things worth considering here: namely, the ad hominem attacks, the issue of transparency, and the illusion that either veganism or vegetarianism are without their own set of complications, also linked to transparency.

The issue of ad hominem attacks, whether against Tammi and Stuart, the ABC, or meat eaters more generally, brings into question the motives of those willing to utter such comments as to what they are trying to achieve. Considered, respectful discussion is never going to be the effect, nor is any type of conversion from eating meat tenable if the basis of an antithetical argument is vitriolic abuse. Moreover, it lacks all credibility and illustrates a lack of knowledge and understanding not only of farming processes and practices, which is seemingly what this project is attempting to bring to light, but also appears to lack an understanding and knowledge of why people become vegans or vegetarians in the first place, or why people may 'de-convert' — a phenomenon equally present to the phenomenon of people becoming vegan or vegetarian.

All these considerations are not only deeply philosophical, but are also sociological, religious and political. If the conversion to veganism or vegtarianism is well considered, it would be charitable enough to expect that an argument against eating meat is equally considered; calling someone a 'sick freak' or 'Neanderthal' does not range in the category of a rationally considered argument.

Of course, the idea behind this project is transparency. While I as a vegan may disagree with the killing and exploitation of animals for various reasons, the kind of practices brought to light through this program are refreshing to see. In the wake of footage and articles that surround the practice of live export and animal abuse in abattoirs, the program undertaken here ought to be a welcome relief to vegans and vegetarians as we have farmers not only willing to transparently show how animals are treated, but also have public involvement. The outcome of transparency and public involvement is the basis of a descriptive set of guidelines and practices that can be adopted by all farmers. In effect, this program has the potential to become a national standard whereby consumers have the confidence to purchase animal products that have been treated in an ethical manner; whereby the ethical treatment of animals has been considered.

The issue of transparency and the ethical treatment of animals is also a problem for vegan and vegetarian foodways. The ethical treatment of animals is not just to be considered for the animals we can see, but also for the ones we don't.  What consideration is there of the countless rodents and small marsupials that are killed through the processes of producing a loaf of bread? Are the numerous animals killed in the process of pest control of wheat crops, the storage of wheat and flour worthy of our moral consideration? What about the fish whose parts are used in the mass production of beer? Or what of the environmental cost of the global shipping of processed vegan and vegetarian food items? Is the environment also worthy of moral consideration to vegans and vegetarians?

Often the mistreatment and exploitation of animals and the environment is a symptom of a much larger problem. With the spread of global capitalism, the need to feed the starving, unemployed, underemployed and low waged is met with with cheap meat, dairy and eggs at the expense of animal well being. How does veganism approach the problem of starvation, unemployment, underemployment and low wage employment with highly priced soy products? While veganism can betray the maltreatment of animals through analytic critique, the sense in which veganism is able to confront issues of starvation, low wage, under and unemployment betrays itself as being unable to satisfactorily confront environmental and everyday living conditions; veganism requires a level of wealth and prosperity that isn't afforded to the underprivileged. While it is important to analyse and critique the way animals are treated within the global economic market in which we live, it is equally important to engage with farmers and producers willing to be transparent about foodways and the way in which animals are treated in a respectful and considerate manner, as well as being aware of the issues of transparency within our own vegan and vegetarian foodways.


All issues and concerns around the ethics of food production and consumption are worthy of discussion and open scrutiny, but when one group restricts itself to shouting the loudest abuse, or refuses to engage even marginally with the topic at hand (and makes it very unpleasant for any who do engage), there can be no winners - especially not farm animals.

Surely we can all agree that a farming community unwilling to share its practices with the public due to sustained, personal attacks by so-called ‘animal rights activists’ is a very bad outcome. We here at Jonai Farms won’t be frightened away from the challenge of transparency - we understand why people choose veganism or vegetarianism (I was a vegetarian for seven years, and write frequently on my blog about these very questions), and we quite simply disagree with that decision while respecting one’s right to make it. Vegans have every right to disagree with our position, of course, but should think long and hard about what can happen to our food system when they so zealously shout farmers off the stage.

BIOS: Tammi Jonas is a free-range pig farmer with her husband Stuart and three children near Daylesford, Victoria. She is also a cultural theorist nearing completion of a PhD on the role of engagements with multicultural foodways on the development of a cosmopolitan, sustainable society. Tammi blogs atTammi Jonas: Food Ethics and on the farm blog, The Hedonist Life.

Nathan Everson is currently undertaking a Masters of Research degree through Macquarie University, Sydney, focusing on the structural intersections between humans and animals and how these intersections form the basis of our conceptions of politics, ethics, and law. He is a vegan working with his wife and two children on self-sustainable practices within a suburban environment.




To castrate or not...

IMG_2193 It’s been exciting times around the farm as we welcomed 37 new piglets in five days, though three litters were the result of unplanned teenage pregnancies… yes, that can happen on a free-range pig farm, especially when you don’t castrate. Let me tell you more about our decision to castrate after all…

As someone concerned about animal welfare, I took it as a given that we wouldn’t castrate, and that the only management strategy we would require for that decision would be to send boars to the abattoir no later than six months old, before they reached sexual maturity. The primary argument against castration is that it causes unnecessary trauma to the pig. The primary arguments in favour of castration are to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the herd, avoid boar taint in the meat, and control undesirable behaviours commonly manifest in boars (aggression against other boars, and occasionally people, though I think this is uncommon amongst well-treated pigs in free-range systems). To my knowledge, most free-range pig farmers do not, as a rule, castrate.

And so we didn’t castrate. What we observed in the paddocks was boars from tiny little piglets through to 60kg growers appearing to ‘play fight’ a fair bit, and to hassle the gilts regularly from a couple months old, including clumsy mating attempts from a young age. They tend to be dominant in the herd, making the gilts less likely to get their fair share of the feed, and if they come together with another young boar from a different family group in another paddock while we move stock, they fight fairly vigorously from about four or five months old. We’ve not had any seriously injured, but torn ears and skin abrasions are common consequences of such aggressive interactions, which also occur around feeding time (amongst gilts and sows too - not just the boars).

When we slaughtered our first pig, I lived in fear of boar taint, as we’d had trouble finding a butcher and had let the pigs grow on to nearly eight months, well past our planned six. The first loin chops had a very mild taint to them, but were still quite delicious. I cooked our Christmas roast for a huge extended family gathering on a bed of aromatics to try to ward it off, and was clearly successful given the reviews that day. The boars we’ve had slaughtered since have been free of taint until the last one, which had a mild case of it, as noted by The Hangry Bitch who came along to Eat Your Ethics during Harvest Week.

Boar taint is a funny thing - not everybody tastes it to the same degree, and allegedly some can’t taste it at all. It can definitely be managed to some extent in the cooking process, or by turning the meat into sausages or salami where lots of other flavours are at play. I am very sensitive to it, which is rather handy as a pig farmer - we taste some of each pig before we sell the meat. I’ve heard stories from other pig farmers of entire carcasses being pulled from sales due to taint - that’s a lot of lost money in expenses to raise and slaughter that pig with no profit in sight, and a very sad outcome to take a life and be unable to serve it at all. (And to confuse matters, it really is a matter of taste, some people like the flavour of boar taint, though few in Australia.)

And then came the pregnant gilts. We keep our pigs in family groups - pigs are very social animals, and have to adjust to new social orders when the groups are mixed. Plus if they’re kept as a litter their feed rations are collectively appropriate for their development stage, and we can easily manage those ready for the abattoir if they’re all in one paddock. Our reading and discussions with other producers had somehow never brought to light the fact that boars can reach sexual maturity as young as four months. The rounding bellies of a few gilts at six months, however, brought it clearly to light.

Not only were they younger than is ideal (younger gilts have smaller litters, and reportedly may not be as good at mothering as if they have their first litter a bit older), we don’t in-breed our pigs - the boar (Borg) and our breeding sows are from different lines. In-breeding is an old practice, and as one of our favourite books (Pig raising in Tasmania, 1966) says, if it’s successful, it’s line breeding, if not, it’s in-breeding! Still we choose to keep our lines separate, except in the case of wayward young boars.

And so we separated out the boars from the gilts, a practice we now do routinely when the pigs are around three months old. At first the boars suddenly fight more, even though they’ve been together. Something about the steadying influence of women, etc. ;-)

Given our experience with boar taint and unplanned pregnancies, we returned to the debate over whether to castrate. This time, of course, we had the benefit of having farmed pigs for over a year, rather than having our inner urban, leftist, idealist glasses on. Okay, I will never take those glasses off except for the inner urban bit, but a year and a half with pigs has taught me that they have an extremely high pain threshold (they’re quite hard on each other when it comes to scrambling for feed, as attested by the number of torn ears in the paddock, no matter how well fed the lovely blighters may be), and that castration would not be any more traumatic than being shoved down the social order by an older sibling when there’s delicious grain to be had.

And that’s the whole story, and why we do now routinely castrate the males. We still don’t vaccinate, and nor do we use sub-therapeutic antibiotics (there’s absolutely no need in a free-range system), and of course we don’t nose ring or dock their gorgeous, curly tails. The sows still farrow in a nice warm, safe stall with fresh straw and a heat lamp to attract the piglets away from cumbersome, dopy new mamas and their lethal squashing accidents, and piglets aren’t weaned until six to eight weeks.



And those barrows (the castrated boars) give a short squeal when they’re cut, antiseptic is applied, and they scamper off as though nothing has happened. I imagine they’re sore, it seems only logical that they would be (as were our cat and dog when they were fixed). But for that period of soreness, they in turn get to have an extra couple of months on the farm, and all within their family groups to the end, as we have been growing our pigs on to seven to eight months with good results.

For us, the trade off is worth it on many levels. Some may disagree with us, and some may think we’re crazy to even tell you the details of management decisions like these, which have real commercial as well as ethical consequences. But we signed up for a transparency model, so that’s what you’ll get, and if you don’t like what we’re doing, please say so, and if we can’t agree, there is surely another system out there that will work for you.


If you’re interested in following one of our pigs through his entire life, from birth to Christmas ham, through decisions like whether to castrate, vaccinate, when to rotate through the paddocks, what’s the right feed ratio, and what to do if he gets sick, you can each month with Radio National Bush Telegraph, as Cameron Wilson visits us and gets to know Wilbur 101. He’ll be putting up polls each month where you get to have a say about our management decisions - though we do reserve the right to make the final decision in line with our knowledge and philosophy of what’s best for the pig and the planet.


Oh, and if you really like what we’re doing and why we do it, you might like to support our Pozible project to do our own butchering right here on the farm! We’re 76% funded on day 14 of 40! Thank you to the wonderful, generous ethical omnivores who’ve already supported us! If we go over our target, we’ll be able to put a smokehouse in straight away - the possibilities are endless!


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Jonai Farms in Epicure!

Today we got a short write up of our Pozible project to build a boning room on the farm and do all our own butchering. If you haven't seen it already, check out the video 13-year-old Oscar produced for us, and spread the word about re-localising and bringing greater transparency to our food systems! And if you'd like some of our uncommonly delicious ethical pork, the rewards we're offering through the campaign are primarily pre-orders of pork! Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 4.06.12 PM


For those interested in more background on why we're farming the way we are and why we want to do our own butchering and curing, Amanda at Lambs Ears & Honey did a great interview with me last week that answers a lot of those questions. :-)

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Eat Your Ethics at Jonai Farms!

We’ve said since we arrived to farm free-range pigs that we’re working on a transparency model, and we’ve been clear that anyone is welcome to visit and scrutinise our farming practices. Last Sunday we really put the model to the test by hosting our first Eat Your Ethics at Jonai Farms (as part of the wonderful Daylesford Macedon Produce Harvest Week Festival)- a real paddock to plate journey for our visitors as we took them on a farm tour, then onto the back patio for a butchering demonstration and barbecue of the chops and ribs they’d just seen me cut up. IMG_1956

In keeping with our general life philosophy, we were keen to do everything ourselves, from bread to boning, scones to slaw.


We greeted our ethical enthusiasts with platters of American-style scones - Jonai ham and cheese for the savoury palates, pumpkin scones for the sweet tooths, and plenty of plunger coffee, and a selection of black or garden-fresh mint tea. I explained the Jonai journey to be ethical farmers, and then we were off to meet the happy piggehs.


We stopped at the empty nursery paddock, where we diligently bring every sow the week before she’s due to farrow after losing one entire litter to foxes out in the back paddocks. We now have five gilts in there all due to farrow within the fortnight - a story I’ll post soon.


We walked our guests along the road we had built at the start of summer to ensure we have bog-free access to our growing herd, then showed them the five paddocks we’ve created out of one 8-acre paddock, plus the 9-acre paddock where Borg still reins supreme with his rotating bevy of beautiful Large Black sows. We’re now hard at work fencing to break that paddock into nine 1-acre paddocks for quicker rotation through winter, when the pigs turn the soil much more quickly.


The aim is to rotate the pigs more quickly to ensure they improve the land rather than degrading it, which can happen from too much rooting or hard pack in the feeding areas. As we move them out of a paddock, we’ll seed fodder crops behind them, reducing our feed inputs and diversifying the pigs’ diet even further when we restock those paddocks a few months later.


Back at the house it was time for the butchering demonstration. I’ve been apprenticing with our butcher Sal, who is generously teaching me the trade in preparation for setting up our own boning room here on the farm. Having now butchered  (or helped butcher) six pigs and one steer, I’m getting the hang of it, but with a huge respect for the skills of this trade!


I showed how to break half a carcass down into the forequarter, the barrel, and the hindquarter, then talked through the cuts, including a discussion of why muscle meat (the shoulder) is tougher but more flavourful, so very responsive to slow cooking for a fabulous result, whereas a rolled leg roast has less flavour, but is much more tender. I may have carried on too much about my preference for the shoulder, as we sold a lot of those at the end of the day, and not a single leg roast!

There were great questions and comments throughout the day, such as when one person watched me bone out the ribs and exclaimed, ‘so that’s all the ribs you get from one pig?’ That’s right - just 14 per side, or 28 ribs per pig, and the first four or five are typically left on the shoulder roasts. And if you have loin chops, you won’t be having the full length of those ribs, and nor will you be having traditional Australian-style bacon, which includes the loin.

Many people’s exposure to pork is predominantly bacon and ham, and plenty of others really only add ribs and chops to that repertoire. Many butchers will simply turn a lot of their shoulders into sausages to account for these preferences. While we love the sausages Sal’s been making for us (seriously, our bratwurst turned me back to sausages, and our new single estate pork and sage sausages with sage from our garden are delicious), we also want people to appreciate all the cuts, not just the primes.

In fact, next week’s Melbourne delivery will be mostly shoulder and leg roasts (and a few remaining packs of chops), as we’re not slaughtering any more pigs until we move the last of these roasts - the bacon disappeared first, ribs were next, and we’re down to our last two blocks of ham and three packs of sausages…

Most of us wouldn’t know what to do with a pig’s head, though many are comfortable with trotters and hocks. We’re lucky to have a great relationship with the wonderful Lake House here in Daylesford, who buys all our heads and trotters to make their sublime ‘Charcuterie’ entrée from our Black pigs - it includes a fromage de tête, a crumbed galette, rillettes, and a black pudding (that sadly isn’t from our pigs’ blood as we have yet to negotiate with the abattoir to secure it). We are delighted to be making full use of the pig (we’ll work on the rest of the offal with the abattoir down the track), and to have our ‘uncommonly delicious’ ethical rare breed pork on such a distinguished and delectable menu!


As the day drew to a close, everyone full of beautiful pork marinated in my secret American-style spicy bbq sauce, slaw made from kohlrabi, celeriac, fuji apples, red onion, chives and cabbage and dressed simply in olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, roasted spaghetti squash direct from our garden, and my freshly made sourdough rolls, I think we all felt we’d eaten our ethics with gusto!

Special thanks to my dear mate Bronwyn who came up from Melbourne to help the day run smoothly with her tireless efforts!

Stuart’s generous parents then treated five tired but elated Jonai to a celebratory meal at the Lake House, where we not only got to taste the superior results of rare breed, ethical farming, combined with artistic cookery in the Charcuterie entrée, but an abundance of other beautiful dishes by the talented Lake House team in the warm, convivial setting Alla has created so well. Our brood were suitably impressed with this level of dining, just as the staff were suitably impressed with our brood’s sophisticated palates as they savoured everything from the fromage de tête to eel wrapped in pancetta, and of course left room for plenty of dessert!

We’re already looking forward to hosting the next Eat Your Ethics, and sharing our passion for ethical farming and the finer skills of butchering with more people who can keep spreading the word about how we might best inhabit the planet lightly and deliciously.

And if you want to support our efforts to shorten the supply chain and do on-farm butchery at Jonai Farms while being rewarded with plenty of uncommonly delicious ethical pork, check out our Pozible campaign to fund the project!



The First Pig

"I awake each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savour the world. This makes it hard to plan my day." E. B. White

Here’s a little irony for you. The quote above (which also graces our homepage) is by E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, a book about a spider who saves a pig, and about friendship and kindness and love. The little girl Fern, supported by Charlotte’s amazing web-spelling efforts, also spends a great deal of her time and energy saving Wilbur the pig from the usual farm pig’s fate to end up as bacon. And yet White’s sentiment in the quote above so helpfully captures the spirit of what we’re trying to do at Jonai Farms - raise happy pigs who only have ‘one bad day’, and then eat them.

Prudence enjoying the 9 acres she shares with Borg & Pinky Slash Black.

Sorry, Wilbur, but we savour while we save.

If that’s not disconcerting enough, of the pigs who will be slaughtered, we’ve taken to calling all the boys Wilbur, and all the girls Charlotte. Accuracy be damned. And so we found ourselves 15 months after arriving on the farm ready for our first slaughter.

Six months ago, I wrote about our first piglets and all the learning that got us to that point. Since that first, we’ve had another five litters born, though Big Mama’s entire second litter was taken by foxes in the night. She was the first we’d allowed to farrow out in the back paddocks, and it proved to be a huge mistake. The poor sow was distressed for a couple of days, and we were all deeply sad at the senseless loss of so many little piglets. As a result, all sows are brought back to the nursery paddock next to the house to farrow, where we can keep a closer watch while Danny Boy (our Red Heeler) patrols the perimeter.

Our first winter on the farm was an endless series of frosts and Stuart’s regular stress of getting bogged trying to haul feed to the pigs out in the back paddocks. A new road is going in next week to resolve that particular issue.

The orsmkids embracing winter on the farm.

We watched too much Portlandia, and Stuart grew a beard and took to milling some of the pig’s grain with an old grinder bought from another pig-farming friend.

Portlandia Farmer Stuart ;-)

We harvested our first full crop of Calabrian garlic, courtesy of the charming Stefano Manfredi on a visit to his charming Bells at Killcare in 2010.

Calabrian garlic

Holgate Brewery kept us in spent brewer’s grain as a proportion of the pigs’ diet - keep an eye out for Jonai Farms pork sausages on their menu soon…

Pilsner-fed pork (and that's not just us Jonai...)

And at last, spring came, the pigs were big enough, and it was time to test out our systems (and taste our pork!) before commencing sales next month.


Stuart took one of the Wilburs to Diamond Valley abattoir in Laverton, where he was satisfied with the professional and humane handling of the pig as he was escorted in. The pig didn’t appear stressed, and everything went smoothly. The next day, he picked up the carcass (split lengthways in half, cleaned and de-haired with the head removed - though we had requested the head back - we need to formalise arrangements with them if we want offal). He then collected me from work (I work five days a week - three in the city, two from home - a story I will tell soon about how many farms are surviving only by bringing in other income), and we arrived home around 6pm to commence butchering.



From paid labour to labour of love, I thought. :-)


The kids were excited, and remarkably philosophical about the first Jonai pig to end up on the butcher’s block. It’s obvious that our message has been absorbed intact - they are a lot more comfortable eating animals who have lived good lives than those who haven’t. We all found the butchering process fascinating.


At around 9pm, the pig was fully butchered into shoulder roasts, Boston butt and tenderloins (saved for sausages), belly for rillette, belly for bacon, loin rack roasts, leg roasts, hocks and trotters. We quickly cooked up the spare ribs with salt and pepper on the barbecue and served them with grilled polenta as a little tasty reward for our efforts, delighted to have our first sample of Jonai pork and to find it to be delicious!

spare ribs & grilled polenta

The next night I roasted one of the rack roasts, which you can see was luscious…

Loin rack roast

Next came jars of rillette for chrissy pressies for the fam...


A shoulder roast cooked on a bed of Jonai-garden-fresh leek, celery, fennel, garlic, and tarragon, plus cinnamon and star anise was the centrepiece of the extended family christmas lunch…

Roast shoulder on Jonai garden greens...

Finally it was time to make sausages, on the first free day since slaughter. Many hands made… if not light work… at least loads of fun with our assortment of grinders - the clear winner was actually the oldest of the three! Bratwurst, chorizo and Jonai garlic sausages have all since been enjoyed by many, and soon diners at Holgate will be enjoying these and other variants as well.

recipes & implementsMany hands

Old mincer chorizo links chopping garlic

Atticus mincing


bratwurst & cabbage

Our first bacon is too salty, and we let it dry out a bit much in the fridge, resulting in more of a pancetta. It’s been a welcome ingredient in such delights as my first ever pork pot pie (which also featured a luscious stock from the trotters - thanks @tomatom for the inspiration and recipe!), though less welcome to grace the plate with fried eggs. We’ll work on our recipe before moving into selling cured smallgoods in a few months.



And so we’ve done it. We’re truly eating paddock to plate - homegrown single estate sausages, if you will. And we’re ready to sell this wonderful pork to the public, starting in a fortnight. We’ll post a price list and details of how we’ll be selling (small, medium and large boxes of mixed cuts and sausages) in the next week.

Those who have expressed interest, I promise there is a newsletter coming soon as well! If you haven’t already expressed interest and would like to, you can do so by emailing

It’s a pleasure raising your pork, ethical omnivores! :-)


P.S. A big thank you to so many for the support and advice through our first butchering, but especially to the unwavering enthusiasm and recipes from @nopigtoobig, aka James Whetlor!




Here at Jonai Farms we had what seemed a long wait for our first litter of piglets. First, it took a few months longer than expected to get any pigs. Then they were younger than we’d planned, so we needed to wait a bit longer before we bred them. Then we waited (3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, to be exact - not a bad gestation period, hey? And by the way, before their first litter, the girls are gilts. After they farrow (give birth), they’re sows). Big Mama was meant to be first, but she didn’t get pregnant during her first cycle alone with Borg. While we waited and wondered, another gilt busted through the electric wire to get to Borg when she cycled, and low and behold, she was up the duff. We named her Keen.

At last, spot on her due date, the 3rd of May, Keen farrowed, giving birth to eight little black piglets - one stillborn and one we think was squashed before we got to them in the early hours of the morning. And they were totally adorable.

Keen has proven to be a good mum. She was in the nursery paddock with Big Mama, who was very pregnant (or ‘in pig’, as they say) herself by this stage, and who shouldered the auntie burden with panache, minding the little piglets once Keen was able to hoist herself out of the barn and head out to eat voraciously to meet her increased energy demands feeding six mad little suckers.

Sadly, we made some mistakes. The new piglets were just as happy to suckle off the heavily pregnant Big Mama, and as we’d read that they often adopt each other’s piglets when they don’t have enough teats, etc, we didn’t think this was a concern. But when it was Big Mama’s turn to farrow, the new piglets had to compete with ‘the adolescents’, as we started calling the now two-week-olds, and they didn’t compete well. Big Mama had given birth to seven piglets of her own (of which one was stillborn and another squashed again), and they were no match for Keen’s solid little progeny. Within 24 hours, we’d closed Big Mama and her brood in away from the others, but the damage had been done - the new piglets had missed out on their mama’s colostrum.

When one fell sick at about a week old, we were perplexed. She was having trouble walking, and I thought perhaps it was an overlooked case of splay leg. We brought her inside to keep her warm and feed her various concoctions based on recipes from old-school pig-rearing books, other pig farmers, and observation of what she liked to eat. The bottle failed (was she simply too small still?), but we could get a decent mix of raw cow’s milk with a bit of sweetened condensed milk and corn meal into her with the syringe, and soon she was happy to slurp it from a flat dish.

But the little piglet’s appetite was very changeable, and her willingness to walk was as well. She appeared to be in pain when she stood up. The day before Stuart and I were to fly to Tassie to visit Mount Gnomon and Black Ridge free-range pig farms, she seemed stronger, and Antigone had proven a good nursemaid.

While we were away, the dear little piglet struggled on, and then came the call from our friend Clare, who was looking after the farm & its menagerie of animals and kids while we were away: another sick piglet, same symptoms. Clare and Antigone (and Stuart’s parents, who also did a stint of farmsitting during our five-day Tassie adventure) did their best, feeding both sick piglets and keeping them warm.

The night we returned, the first little sick piglet looked frightfully frail, and died overnight. Stuart took the second one to the vet that day, and though the local vet doesn’t have a great deal of experience with pigs, he thought it was probably a kind of pig arthritis bacterial illness, contracted through the umbilical cord, leaving the piglets incapacitated with painful joints. He didn’t believe she would recover, and so she was put down with a lethal injection. At $80 for the consult and shot, this will not prove to be a viable way to humanely euthanise sick piglets, an issue we’re now discussing.

Alas, a couple days on and one of Big Mama’s remaining two piglets showed symptoms of the same illness. By this stage, we were in contact with Chris Richards and Associates, who are specialist pig vets. They were scheduled to visit us the next week. So we started giving the new sick piglet supplementary feeds, but leaving her out with the others to hopefully keep her stronger and more competitive with the others. She responded well to the increased feeds and began to put on weight.

When the vet visited a week ago, she was pleased with the little piglet’s progress and thought that with some penicillin she would get over the illness entirely. In fact, she made a full recovery before the penicillin even arrived a few days later. We’ll always wonder whether the second one would have been saveable as well.

As well as the sick piglet, however, it seems Keen was losing weight too quickly - those six little suckers are clearly very avid feeders and now a robust six weeks old. So we made a quick decision - we put Keen on her own with Big Mama’s two dear little piglets to ensure the sick one especially doesn’t have to compete for lots of healthy mama’s milk, while giving Keen extra rations, and left the rowdy six out with Big Mama, meanwhile giving all of them endless supplies of spent brewer’s grain, fresh, crushed commercial grain and the usual (no meat) kitchen scraps, including whey from my cheesemaking.

Come November, we’ll be shipping the same piglets we’ve worked so hard to protect off to the abattoir. I’ve named our little survivor ‘Charlotte’ as a roundbaout nod to Wilbur, but we’ll still send her to the abs. As an article in the Huffington post recently said,

“Ethical meat eating begins with ensuring the animals we eat live well, and ends with an open-eyed acknowledgement of what we do to turn those animals into dinner,”

and the author argues that we should ‘love, kill and eat’ them. It’s simply not right to refuse to love animals while they’re alive - that’s how we ended up with an industrialised animal farming system, where animals are referred to as ‘production units’. It’s complex territory, this loving the animals you want on your plate, but we’re up to it.



The Great Container Conversion

In May 2011, we had a moving/storage/accommodation challenge. We needed to move all our material trappings from Melbourne up to our new farm near Daylesford, but store them for four months while we traipsed across America, and then accommodate our growing (vertically, not numerically) family in a small three-bedroom house on the farm. The obvious solution was a shipping container for all three jobs. That’s how we came to buy a high-top 40-foot container rather than simply hiring one to do our move. It cost us $2500, plus $500 to get it delivered to us in the suburbs and then hauled up to Daylesford.

The day the container arrived, we watched in trepidation lest the truck’s cranes broke the low wires overhead…

Then we filled it up… to the top, grateful we had an enormous shed at the other end to supplement our new little house…

Our intrepid truckie, Bluey, arrived to collect the now-heavy container, and drove it fearlessly through the rain and up our slippery, narrow driveway onto the farm. I held my breath the entire time, certain there was a very expensive towing bill in our near future, but Bluey was amazing, and our life’s treasures were planted carefully in front of the shed to wait out the winter while we gallivanted off to a life-changing northern summer.

25,000km of flying, 7000km of driving and a full season later, we returned to commence our new life as farmers. Our design for the interior of the container was inspired by the RockVan (a 1977 GMC motorhome), which had terrarium-like windows that made us feel constantly connected to the outside world. I demanded my bed replicate the RockVan pleasures of waking to the gentle visage of trees and sky, and embed the night sky’s constellations in tranquil sweet dreams.

I had imagined cranes and costs and the stress of working with contractors to move the container into position as our new bedroom/office with ensuite, but Stuart had better ideas. All we had to buy were some pine fence posts, which we needed anyway for, well, fencing, and borrow Stuart’s folks’ 4WD. Oh, and faith. 20 years with this man has taught me faith…

Stuart dragged the container into place, using eight round fence posts as rollers. In total, he had to move it about 50m, and 90 degrees. Genius. He then jacked it up and put pad footings with brick piers under each corner.

The building commenced in earnest then, with the roof we had pulled off the house’s superfluous, low carport becoming a fabulous feature on the container.

Stuart ordered double-glazed, aluminium-framed windows and doors for this and another 20-foot container due to be converted next for guests (The Guest Container…) for a total of $5500, including delivery, of which about $3500 was for the big container. Stuart wanted me to be sure to warn you all about dealing directly with suppliers in China, as quality can vary, and the logistics require a lot of knowledge and time, but he has been dealing with manufacturers there for the past 10 years.

He cut the door and windows out with an oxy torch, which he learned how to use by watching YouTube videos… (nobody mention The Infamous Thumb Injury.)

He framed up the inside and we installed the (very heavy!) windows, before fully insulating - the roof is reflective aircell, and the walls are a mixture of secondhand and new recycled pink batting (R2.0). We got an electrician in for the day to wire everything up at a cost of about $1000. Stuart roughed in the plumbing himself for the bathroom.

The walls were then skinned with plasterboard, and painted entirely with paint sourced from the local waste transfer station.

The panelling above our bed was a discovery from underneath one of the houses we used to live in, and because the container is quite narrow, Stuart built a shelf at our head for books and bits. The bed is also intentionally quite high to capture that feeling of sleeping in the garden we had experienced through the glorious state parks of America, as mentioned above. :-)

We lined the bathroom with corrugated tin to maintain the industrial/Australian aesthetic, found a pedestal sink at the waste transfer station, and bought a fancy composting toilet for $600.

The shower has exposed copper plumbing (another score from under our old house), a slate floor with stone sourced at the Trentham secondhand building supplier’s for $30, and tempered glass from the same source that cost us $100.

Stuart sealed the beautiful hardwood floor in the bathroom, we hung an old mirror we inherited somewhere over the last decade, and we’re on the lookout for a charming little old bathroom cupboard. A brass towel rail completes the picture.

So all up, our ‘parents’ retreat’ cost us about $9000 - that includes purchase, delivery and all building materials - which we reckon is pretty good, especially since it also bought us four months’ storage of all our belongings and our entire move up here!

Working in the container is incredibly pleasant, as the room is full of light from so many windows, and consistently warmer or cooler than the poorly insulated house with its single-glazed windows. It also gives us a genuine retreat from the kids, who, no matter how beloved they may be, are still noisy in the way of children…

The only thing the container can’t contain is our joy at being here, on the farm, in such lovely trappings. :-)



Tales of Jonai Gardens Past and Present

Before we were farmers, we were gardeners. Our suburban backyards have been farm-like for 20 years – a fact frequently noted by friends at our regular solstice and equinox gatherings.

Our first garden was out the back of a rental brick venereal on busy Shannon Avenue in Geelong in 1992. We were 21 years old. Although we were only there for six months, I mattocked out of the lawn some six rows, each around six metres long, while Stuart constructed a greenhouse with the same-size footprint from scavenged metal framework and old plastic. This is where I learned that broccoli and coriander bolt in summer, zucchinis keep growing beyond edibility if you don't pick them while they're small, and spinach is a generous gift that keeps on giving. We even planted gum trees out front in hopes of screening the house a bit from the traffic – rather ambitious for short-term tenants! We still drive past every few years just to see how those trees have grown... last we checked they were over 8 metres high.

Nine months in a log cabin on the South Umpqua River in Oregon in '94 saw us establish a four by five metre plot where strawberries reigned supreme.

So keen were we to learn more and contribute to organic food production that we spent a fortnight on an organic ginger farm on the Big Island of Hawaii WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). We learned how to harvest papayas with a long stick of bamboo with a rubber stopper on the end, and coconuts with an even longer stick with a blade. Farmer Andy taught us not to waste precious energy in the heat shaking dirt off the weeds as we pulled them easily from the hyper-fertile soil, and before we left told me if I wasn't already married to Stuart, he would have proposed. ;-)

A few years later we arrived with six-month old Oscar to a tiny little rental on the lower west side of Santa Cruz, California, where we would spend two years. The front yard was razed earth and the back was concrete to a five-car garage. I hired a till, had a truckload of mushroom compost delivered, and established the most productive garden we've ever had on one side of the front path, and a postage stamp of lawn & cottage flower border for Oscar and his new sister to play in when she arrived a year later. I rang up a local tennis club and secured two of their old nets to use as fencing to keep the toddlers in and the dogs out, and that intense little garden was the wonderland where Oscar learned that mummy wasn't kidding when she said don't eat the Serrano chilies. We sat on the miniscule front porch and watched as gophers pulled whole corn stalks deep into their tunnels, and returned from a long weekend to discover that all 20 or so of our madly abundant tomato crop had been infected with late blight from the relentless summer fog, and were putrefying on the stalks.

Back in Melbourne, in the back garden that separated the house we rented from Stuart's parents from their house, we laboriously re-shaped the beds with gentle curves and circles of bluestone designed in conjunction with a round chook tractor, and I hand pounded hundreds of bricks into a spiral patio under the date palm where we could dine and gaze across the herb spiral at our bounty.

And then two more rentals started to kill our spirit, and Stuart planted haphazardly while I charged off on work missions and left the garden behind. So tired of sculpting spaces of such aromatic and aesthetic pleasure only to leave them behind in the hands of landlords who quickly returned them to lawn, I'd lost my gardening mojo. Stuart, though a chaotic planter, remained ever committed and still managed to keep us in some tomatoes and leafy greens and what seemed like acres of Jerusalem artichokes and horseradish, and we've never been without pots and pots of basil in summer, and mint, rosemary and lemon verbena are the first things we establish in every new garden somewhere close to the kitchen door.

And then we arrived at Jonai Farms. And it's ours. And it's 69 acres of fertile alluvial soils teeming with worms. I got my mojo back with a vengeance.

We'd always intended to let the pigs turn the soil – long devotees of the principles of permaculture, we'd relied on chooks in our gardens for weeding and fertilising for these many years. Now we would have bigger tractors who can do more than scratch, they can dig! One of the reasons we chose the Large Black pigs was for their rooting power – they are renowned for being one of the best foraging breeds, so we figured they'll work perfectly in a paddock rotation system where we plant fodder crops after they've turned the soil to eat when they return to that paddock. But first, dig us a vegie garden, please!

And dig they did, creating us a patch 15 x 30 metres where we could plant to our hearts' desire. Taking the lazy path, we laid newspaper and cardboard over all of it, had 8 cubic metres of mushroom compost delivered and laid it out in rows (with the help of a few lovely visitors such as Zoe & Owy and Clare & Warren), finally laying old woollen carpet and underlay that Stuart's been scavenging on every trip to Melbourne or Ballarat down the paths.

About a month ago it was ready for planting, and in went the rhubarb we'd managed to keep alive in a pot even through four months of sitting up here while we drove across America. I'll take you on a little photo tour now...

We also decided to put in our herb garden just outside the back door and under what will be our bedroom window when the container conversion is finished – as Des said, it's our 'sensory garden'. :-)

And a grape vine to climb up and hang above our new bedroom window...

As Joel Salatin says as he offers his blessings:

May all your carrots grow long and straight, may the foxes be struck blind by your chickens, may your customers love cooking your food in their kitchens, may the rains be gentle on your pastures, may your fields grow with soil, may your earthworms dance with celebration, may the wind be always at your back, your children rise up and call you blessed, and may we all leave a better world than we found…



On milk, farming, and life

Everyone's crying over spilt milk, or rather the calves who are sacrificed so that we may drink milk. Dairy farmers are crying over the reputational damage to their livelihood – and it's not exactly a cushy job commanding six-figure salaries. And it seems to me that everyone is a little bit right, and a little bit wrong, but that there is a clear way forward.

To backtrack, this Animals Australia video which depicts the short life of a 'bobby calf' in a manner designed to evoke the most emotion possible managed to upset consumers and farmers equally, from what I can tell. According to the dairy farmers who are commenting on thoughtful blogs such as @milkmaidmarian's, they don't send their calves straight to the abattoir, and are acutely conscious of the value of each life they nurture and take on their farms. They frequently make the point that it is the city-based consumers who are too often utterly unaware (and uncaring?) of the conditions under which their food is grown.

I think it's fantastic that animal welfare groups apply pressure to the livestock industry for humane treatment during an animal's life and at its death. As an omnivore, I'm frankly not that interested (but also not really fussed) in being told I shouldn't eat meat – I've made my choices thoughtfully and I'm happy with that – but I do want my meat ethically produced.

I also think it's fantastic that farmers like Marian speak up about their practices, which are different from those displayed in the Animals Australia video. I know the dairy farmer near us has a similar practice – he raises the bull calves to 2 years then sells them for beef (and not for a lot of money, remember, as Friesians are not considered great eating for primal cuts) and the heifers are grown to be more milkers on the farm. I applaud farmers like Marian joining in pressuring for ethical treatment of animals – people like her can help by demonstrating alternatives.

But of course the reason the video exists is because there are apparently 700,000 bobby calves going to slaughter at around five days old – they are 'waste products' – and their few days of life entail an existence with which most people are deeply uncomfortable, both for its apparent brutality but also its brevity. I know I'm uncomfortable with the system, and grateful to be in a position to choose organic milk from a farm whose practices I know and trust.

I'm very conscious of the sensitivities in these debates – nobody wants to be 'that guy who abuses animals', and 'abuse' is far more relative than any of us care to admit. People running intensive animal operations (or CAFOs, aka 'factory farms') claim that the animals in their care are 'happy', 'fine', 'safe', or 'healthy', but by my definition that's simply impossible, because I believe in respecting the 'pigness of the pig', as Joel Salatin says. So for me, farm animals should be able to graze, dig, forage, scratch and wander in a manner as close to how they would if we weren't constraining them with some fences and the like as possible. But every time a consumer is happy to buy intensively-farmed chicken (or pork, or beef...), s/he is complicit in the system, and I have been too at times.

But when consumers (or the media or government) cry out in horror over the treatment of animals, they should think long and hard about the precarious position most farmers are in. Farms are at the mercy of the elements, which in this age of climate change has seen Australian farmers cope with constant rounds of drought and floods. Add to this an ever-narrowing range of distribution and retail outlets who control farm gate prices, which have plateaued for years in the face of rising costs of production.

As my limited experience as a producer grows and my interactions with other farmers deepens, I am keenly aware of how difficult it is to simply make a living producing food. And if all the farmers like us are forced out by low prices, consumers will be left with only intensive farms, the same ones where bobby calves are waste products, and pigs and chickens are raised in sheds.

So my thoughts are this: we farmers need to be transparent in our practices and let consumers judge for themselves whether they're happy with how we treat our animals and the land. The internet is our friend – we can show pictures and tell the stories of our animals (well, slowly slowly until there's a National Broadband Network, but that's another post), so long as we are happy with what we're doing. Those who won't show us their animals certainly seem to be hiding something, though they protest they're not. As @greenvalefarm said recently, 'transparency is the best certification'.

And as consumers, we need to ask questions and listen to farmers. We need to value the people producing our food, both socially and economically. We need to better understand that the reason that farm gate prices may not have been immediately impacted by Coles dropping its price to $1 per litre for milk is because farmers have been getting around 50 cents per litre for over a decade anyway – any extra cash goes into the pockets of processors and retailers (that is, Coles and Woolworths, who have 80% market share in Australia).

I'm happy to pay a lot more than $1 per litre for my milk, but I want the extra to go back to farmers, not to those who would 'value add' to a product that I think is best straight from the cow! If you want that too, @flavourcrusader has an excellent alt.milk list on her wonderful blog.



I'm a farmer (so is my husband)

This was originally posted on Tammi Tasting Terroir, but the point was made that it is an important conversation for farmers, so I'm cross posting it here. :-)

'How does it feel to be a farmer's wife?'

'It feels great TO BE A FARMER, and ah, I dunno, I've been married to Stuart for a bajillion years – feels kinda the same as always to be his wife.'


'I'll go ask Stuart where to plant this,' our helper for the day says TO ME and walks away to find him.


'You don't have the strength or the skills to do what he does.'


These are just some of the phrases that have made me despair in these first two months of farming. We came here with a shared vision – to be sustainable, ethical pig farmers. We'd been heading towards this decision for a long time, and once we worked out what we wanted to farm, we spent the year researching pigs – emphasis is on we. We came armed with a reasonable amount of knowledge for city slickers, but also with a huge learning curve ahead of both of us.

I was obviously aware that sexism is an issue in agriculture, I just didn't consider how it would affect me. As a vocal feminist in academic (and previously secondary education and corporate) spaces, I'm no stranger to sexism in the workplace. But I thought I had a handle on it. Anyone can see from my blog and interactions with me that I (as part of we) have become a farmer – this is the newest phase in my many lives, and I am embracing it wholeheartedly.

So here we are on the farm, learning together. We have a mad menagerie of animals for whom I have largely assumed the leadership. Both of us care for them, but overall, I spend a bit more time feeding them, obsessing about their well being, and drafting a whole farm plan that will guide our paddock rotations and fodder planting schedule. We both spend hours out there working on fences.

Stuart's dad described this to me as, 'You're a planner, and Stuart's a do-er'. With all due respect, while it's true that I am more of a planner and Stuart can't seem to stop doing, I hardly think my planning habits are slowing down my doings, and I am growing the forearms to prove it! Ah, but see, there I go – being defensive. Oh, how I despise being put in this corner.

I have never been anything's wife. I've always been my own thing who happens to be married.

One of the most exasperating aspects of the seemingly relentless gendering of farmers is the ways in which we do in fact fall into traditional roles. The most obvious one occurs around cooking. I have not given up my role as the primary cook in our house, a role I happen to adore. But it results in me coming in from the paddocks an hour or more before Stuart (and other helpers on the farm) to do meal prep, and consequently less involvement outside, especially when others are here to stay. So visitors witness me inside more, and I feel the need to be there to provide for everyone – compounding both their stereotypes and my frustration.

There are other behaviours that compound the gender roles – Stuart's background is in building, so of course his skillset while we construct fences, erect new gates, and convert a shipping container into our new bedroom and study is a bit more useful than mine. I therefore defer to him on building matters, which I think is the right thing to do for quality control. :-) But this also leads to further assumptions about who is doing what and how much, most of which involve assuming Stuart is a farmer and I'm a homemaker.

Stuart is a lot stronger than me, but in fact very little of the work requires mega-strength, and most can be done by normal strength people such as myself, especially if we work in pairs. Sure, Stuart can lift and carry huge fence posts inhuman distances, but I'd venture to say most farmers actually either couldn't, or just wouldn't. They'd use tools rather than brute strength, just as I do.

It's interesting that nobody ever felt compelled to call me a 'builder's wife' or similar – perhaps partially because our professional identities were distinct? But farming is such a masculine space in Australia – nobody has asked Stuart how it feels to be a farmer's husband, I can assure you. And it's such a disenfranchising experience having people fail to see you – in no other profession have people failed to acknowledge me for my work.

Let's face it, we're both learning farming skills and we're both out there building and fixing fences, digging holes, feeding animals, and planting trees and fodder crops. I wouldn't ask anyone to call me a builder, which I'm not, but I do want the respect of being called a farmer, because I am one.



Pigs and chicks and cattle, oh my!

Yesterday I spent the better part of the day watching chicks hatch. My commitment, however, paled in comparison to Antigone's, who was awake and perched over the incubator at 5:45am, patiently watching the dear little beaks as they worked at the arduous task of birth from a hard shell. I never really thought about just how hard it is for birds to be born, and how different to a human birth, where the mama does the hard work while the bub copes with the big squeeze. Chicks are these tiny, weak, and fragile creatures, struggling to get a start on life in the open air. It was one of the most enthralling days I've had, perfectly rounded out sitting in the paddock in the evening with a glass of wine watching the pigs adjust after we separated Borg to keep him from impregnating Big Mama too soon.

What an enormous learning curve the first month of being 'real' farmers with livestock has been! We came here to be pig farmers, but ended up with cattle nearly a month before pigs, and here we are, finally on the land, experiencing our first time without chickens in over a decade! And then there's the dog...

So Danny Boy came first. Like many new farmers, we reckoned we needed a cattle dog if we were going to have stock. We may have been wrong. We've learned that Australian Cattle Dogs (the real name of Heelers) are so deeply bred to round up stock that it takes some concerted effort to teach them not to chase them unless you want them to. It took two steers jumping through the fences to teach us this lesson. A few days of taking Danny Boy on the lead amongst the cattle seems to have mostly taught him that they're not fair nipping game (thanks to @kristinmoore2 & @Colvinius for the tips!). We're still working on that in regards to the parade of children regularly gracing the farm, but he's learning...

The Lowlines were second. On a rainy, muddy day, we set out with the Volvo ('spot the rookies', I tweeted), picked up our hired livestock trailer, and brought the neat dozen home in two shifts, with the Volvo straining at the tonnage all the way, in trepidation lest we got bogged backing up to the boggy yards.

Alas, all went well and our boys are gaining rapidly. They're 4-7 months old, and will be with us for over a year, serving as excellent lawnmowers on our luscious grass before most are sold for beef locally and one for our own fodder for the year. In the meanwhile, I wake most mornings to a glorious sunrise while the 'cows are in the meadow, eating buttercups.'

Finding it a bit difficult to source heritage chooks nearby, we decided to go the route of fertile eggs. Stuart picked up a dozen Speckled Sussex and half a dozen Auracana eggs from a breeder in Woodend, who threw in a couple of bantam Auracanas as well. Those are the ones we're watching hatch at the moment, which is not only fascinating, but also no end of stress for those of us who are over endowed with empathy. It is excruciating to watch these tender new lives struggle to stand up on the first day, and losing one as it was hatching for reasons beyond us was very sad for everyone. I'm a little worried about one of the Sussex at the moment as well...

We had another dozen Plymouth Rock fertile eggs posted to us from Wallan, and much to our dismay received the carton with five breakages. As these breeds go for $45 a dozen, that's a pretty bad result, and we won't be doing mail order again. In fact, having watched these little daily miracles once, we'll let the hens do the work to hatch in future, and the incubator is now slated for cheese making.

But finally, the pigs. Oh, the glorious pigs!

Our six beautiful Large Blacks, a boar and five gilts, arrived late one night from the breeder in Bendigo, and hit the paddock eating. I could watch them for hours, whether they're sleeping in a porcine sardine arrangement (a phrase offered by the wonderful @th3littleredhen),

trotting across the paddock, ears flopping madly enough that I'm sure pigs do fly, or simply eating like pigs. We're learning their different grunts and squeals, and they're treating us like one of the family, eagerly stepping on our toes as we go in to feed them their morning and evening grains, often wet with whey from my cheese making or a tea of garlic, ginger and fennel for the colds two picked up in transit.

I had to go to Adelaide for an international education conference last week, and my waking thought was, 'oh, I hope I'm in time for sunrise and then I'll go see the pigs!' followed by 'oh, I'm in Adelaide, <sadface>'. Atticus, with the most finely tuned animal whisperer aura in the family, spends hours amongst the pigs, usually on all fours, mimicking their swinish habits.


As I'm writing this, our dairy farmer neighbour has just driven 20 Friesians over to agist on our side of the volcano. We struck this deal a week ago, cross-armed and broad stanced next to the tractor, when he delivered us a couple rounds of hay for pig bedding. It suits us all, as we need stock to eat more of the abundant feed in our paddocks and his animals need more feed. So now when I look up the hill past my darling black pigs, it's speckled with the rurally romantic view of gorgeous black and white dairy cows.

So is farming life all we thought it would be? Absolutely, and then some. It's a huge (and welcome) learning curve, and the reality of no travel for awhile is sinking in, but our only regret so far is that we didn't make this move sooner.

That's it for now, I've got chicks and pigs to watch...



And so we are farmers...

If you hashtag it, it will come. For over a year on Twitter (aka the twitterz), I had been using #Immabeafarmer as we scoured the area around food-friendly Daylesford for a farm. In fact, the story really starts in 1995, as I wrote on Tammi Tasting Terroir... But the reason you're reading this now is because our dream has finally been realised and this beautiful 69 acres is ours!

But who are we? Why, we're the Jonai.

I'm Tammi, aka @tammois on the twitterz, committed and happy cook, cultural theorist still mid-PhD, proud mama to a brood of clever, kind and ethically-minded awesome kids, and partner in all ways to...


Stuart, aka @solarvox, the brewer, the baker & the preserve-maker, seller of solar thermal systems, tinkerer and project man, no longer a wannabe farmer, and much-beloved Dada to...


Oscar, Antigone & Atticus, budding engineers, artists, and vets, not to mention damned fine cooks.

And then there's Daphne kitteh, who's still not at all sure she's cut out for country living.

And the newest member of the Jonai, Danny Boy, our 5-month-old Red Heeler, who seems determined to train his humans.

We've been here just over three weeks now, and already we know more than we ever dreamed we might about rural life, though we have a loooong way to go on farming knowledge.

What we do know is that being on the land is good for us, and we intend to be good for it. And we look forward to sharing it with you all virtually, but also right here on the soil for those able to visit.

And so here are a few short vignettes from early days:

What Internet?

We pre-ordered internet from iiNet while we were still overseas, and had been assured we'd get ADSL1. Upon arrival, we were told we'd have it by Friday. On Friday, we learned it might be up to three weeks as they needed another port at the exchange. What did that mean, I wondered, was it like waiting at a restaurant for a table? Did we have to wait for someone to finish before we could eat? No, we were assured a new port would be installed, but actually it might be up to three months.

The next week, we learned that actually that was impossible, and that Telstra (as the wholesaler) had no intention of upgrading the exchange, especially as they're now waiting for the rollout of the NBN. Soooo, in fact, iiNet could not offer us ADSL1 at all. And the final guy we spoke with sheepishly offered us mobile broadband, but when we pointed out how poor our reception is on our phones here, he just sort of grimaced and offered us our money back. Seriously.

Finally, we rang Telstra, and a week later we had mobile broadband, which actually comes with an antenna to improve reception, and which is mostly reliable, though it does seem to have mysterious little breaks from the job. The speed isn't great, but we've been on 3G for months now anyway, so what do we know?

Stuart finds a Snake

You'd think, given we arrived three days before the end of winter, that snakes would not be a great concern just yet. And you'd be right if you weren't Stuart, and didn't go sticking your hand up a stormwater pipe to work out what's blocking it down by the home dam. As he tugged on what he initially took to be strong, thick grass, his primal brain started to kick in just as he got the brown snake to the mouth of the pipe – SNAKE!

He let go before the snake's head made it out of the pipe, thankfully, and it slithered back up to what was probably its quiet winter hibernation spot, until the Jonai moved in, that is. An hour later he popped down to see whether it had cleared out, only to find it in striking position just in front of him. He used the shovel to whack it and that was it for the poor old snake, though I'm pretty happy it didn't turn out to be a child or the dog who found it as springtime warms things up.

The story is vastly improved by its epilogue, whereby Atticus takes the snake to school in vinegar in a glass jar, only to drop it as he shows it to his new teacher and classmates (on his third day at the new school, no less). With snake, vinegar and glass all over her classroom floor, Ms G rather graciously suggested that 'next time, perhaps not in a glass jar?'

What does power have to do with water?

We've lost power twice in big storms since we arrived. That in itself is not such a big thing, surely, except that when the power goes, so does the water. We're exclusively on rainwater, and the tank closest to the house has to be pumped in. The second time it happened we went without power for about 17 hours, which led Stuart to work out that if he switched us over to the tank up by the shed it will gravity feed, albeit with low pressure. Phew! No more hauling water in by hand!

Some other farmers on the twitterz commented 'just be glad it didn't happen while you were in the shower!' and recommended keeping the kettle full and a sizeable vessel of water by the back door. Thank you for this excellent advice. :-)


We've been blessed with really lovely neighbours, which has reinforced every stereotype we hold of 'people being friendlier in the country'. But stereotype or not, we really are lucky here. They've already popped 'round for a cup of tea, or to drop off a cake, offer local knowledge and advice about where to get our firewood – in fact one neighbour, half an hour after we met him, left us a note offering us his ute to collect wood if we needed it, saying the 'keys are in it'.

One also told us they already knew all about us, as the woman at the grocery is her good friend and I'd said hello and that we'd have three kids at the school... so she was expecting us at the bus stop that first morning. :-) We don't expect to keep any secrets here...

Farming Life

I know this first post is rather homely and not so farmy, but you can expect much more about the workings of Jonai Farms as we bring in more stock. Our dozen Lowlines have settled in well and Danny Boy is learning not to bark excitedly when they wander over towards the nearest fence. I'll write about the fencing we've done soon to prepare for the pigs, and the many things we've learned from others and from simply doing the work along the way. Our first fertile eggs arrived today – Plymouth Rocks and Auracanas, and we're waiting on Speckled Sussex to arrive shortly.

However, rural life, with all its domestic concerns and delights, will also feature on The Hedonist Life, as we strive to give you some insight into what it's like outside of metropolitan Australia.

I already wrote about the rhythms of our cooking, eating & heating at Jonai Farms over on my food cultures blog, which I'll continue to do.

A note on The Hedonist Life

As we prepared to make this move to Jonai Farms, many people commented on how it reminded them of The Good Life, The Simple Life, or, perhaps more pointedly, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies. And indeed I suspect there will be scripts from all such shows just waiting to play themselves out here in Eganstown.

I've written elsewhere about hedonism – about following a pleasure principle whereby one's driving motivation should be to seek pleasure, both for yourself and for others – and your pleasure should not be at the expense of another's. Vegetarians may quibble that because we eat the animals we raise happily, we are contradicting the principle, and I won't deny that the truest form of the principle could really only be vegan.

But for reasons I suspect I will need to write about in the future, we don't believe a vegan diet is necessary, nor naturally the best diet for humans, though reduced meat consumption is. So while we want you to eat our pork, we'd recommend you don't eat it too often, nor any other meat product. Kind of a weird sales pitch, right? We're not in this business to get rich by making the world sick, we're here to make it better. And we are having the loveliest time doing so, hence we reckon we're living The Hedonist Life. Stick around if you're into pleasure.