This 113 acre farm (located in Poowong East, ninety minutes south east of Melbourne’s CBD) was one of the original selections made by the Danes when they first settled in this valley in 1877 (still, this valley is mainly populated by Olsens). The ten acres or so around the farmhouse are used quite intensively, being home to the vegetable gardens, chooks, turkeys and pigs. The old walk through dairy is still used to milk the house cows – and is a lovely reminder of this place’s heritage. The balance of the farm is dedicated to native plantings (where the wombats hang out) and pasture for the cattle.
The farm sits in “blue gum country”, an area of West Gippsland renowned for its deep, rich and fertile soil generated by the mighty blue gum forests that once grew here. A small number of remnant forest trees still stand on the farm, dwarfing the trees in nearby Landcare plantations – if you press your cheek against their cool, smooth trunks and spread your arms out wide, you might measure out a tenth of their massive circumference.
The farm is also home to a colony of the rather far fetched sounding Giant Gippsland Earthworms, who make extraordinary gurgling sounds as they slip through their burrows.
Like many farms in the area, it ranges from undulating to hilly to steep, in some sections very steep. Although farms of this size and topography once prosperously supported small dairy farms, the dairying herds have now (mostly) made their way onto the flats, where management is easier and farms can be bigger. Now it is beef cattle that graze on the lush rye, cocksfoot and native grass paddocks of this hilly country.
I run up to 80 head of beef cattle depending on the time of year and am working towards a British White herd (currently most are crosses). British White cattle are renowned for their genial personalities, hardiness and easy calving. They are also rather handsome, with their white coats and red or black markings on their noses, ears, eyes and hooves. British Whites are classified as a rare breed, and the long term objective is for a pure bred herd that exhibits good dual purpose traits, that is, produce ample milk as well as fantastic beef. Cows only calve once a year, so this is a long term project.
The farm is also home to a handful of Jersey and Guernsey house cows; Suki, Tilly, Paulette and Molly. Actually, Molly is so old that she isn’t really milked anymore, but she is marvellous at training any new girls to walk calmly into the shed and stand patiently during milking. Paulette is the bossiest, Suki is the sweetest, and Molly is the matriarch.
When the grass is abundant, at least one of the girls is milked most mornings and this provides milk, cream and yoghurt for the house. If there is excess, a big bucket goes to the pigs (mixed with grains to make a mash) and another to the chooks and turkeys, who drink it straight. (Heading back to the house lugging a ten litre bucket of warm frothy milk, head full of ideas for puddings or ice-creams, has got to be one of life’s great pleasures).
A small flock of milking sheep also wanders these hills, and lovely eggs, meat and a lot of entertainment is provided by the melange of heritage poultry breeds and the turkeys. We also have Duroc x Berkshire pigs and piglets.
Many years ago I made the decision to only eat meat if I was absolutely sure the animal lived and died well. That’s a personal choice and I can understand that it’s not for everyone. Practically speaking that means that when we do eat meat, it is beef, pork or poultry produced and butchered right here on this farm. It’s hard not to see meat as a luxury, to be eaten rarely, respectfully and with gratitude, when you eat meat this way.
All the meat that we eat and use for lunches and events is produced here on the farm.