Cardi alla Parmigiana – Back Yard Farmer’s Lunch

2015-08-10 - Farmers Lunch 1


Today’s all home produced lunch was beautiful!. Firstly the Ancona cockerel that did not make the breeding pens was slaughtered at 12 weeks of age. At this young age the meat is soft and tender, but not as tasty as an old hen, which I prefer for slow cooked poultry dishes such as “Pollo alla cacciatora in bianco”. Nevertheless, it was very good. I vacuum seal the chickens (and all other animals) when slaughtered and keep them in the fridge for some three to four weeks to age – never frozen. The organic carrots were from a friends garden and I wish that I could have claimed origin as they were so tasty. The cardoons were from my garden and they grow so well in Dunedin that the rabbits have a serving every day. Whatever is left over, we eat.

Cardi alla parmigiana went well with the chicken and carrots and of course some home brewed wine. I am drinking from a damigiana of cherry wine which is dry and fruity and a good compliment to any meal. The only criticism may be that it lacks some body, but all the other wonderful attributes overrides any shortcomings.  The wine of the house is not always perfect!

Cardoon Recipe

Select the biggest outside leaves of the cardoon and strip the leaves of the stem and use  a potato peeler to peel the strings from the outside, (almost like preparing celery)  of the stem.  Cook in salt water and the juice of one lemon until tender. Drain and set aside. Dip the dried cardoon in flour and egg and fry until golden in a bit of olive oil. Prepare bechamel sauce and arrange the cardoon pieces in a baking dish, ( I use individual serve cast iron pots)  cover with bechamel, parmigiano and cracked black pepper and repeat the layers until the dish is full. Place some butter pieces on top and bake in the oven at 180 C for 20 minutes.

Do not forget the wine.


Making Compost


2015-08-10 - Aerate Compost 3

Today was compost aerate day at Back Yard Farmer, but it was not such a huge effort as I fortunately had a lot of help, as can be seen.

Organisms such as those we want to propagate in our compost heaps require oxygen to survive (Aerobic), therefor all high temperature aerobic composting needs to be aerated frequently for rapid odor free decomposition. The process of turning over and aerate the compost heap also helps to reduce the initial high moisture contents, but also turn those materials that were on the outsides to the center and expose these to higher temperatures as well.  It is also an opportunity, if turned by hand as most small gardeners would do, to sort larger pieces which are slower to decompose as well as any foreign materials such as rocks, etc from your compost.  A good healthy compost heap would smell like good fresh soil with a loose consistency with no compaction and slimy wet parts and contain a ton of worms, which more than often is a good yardstick of the general well being of the compost.

At Back Yard Farmer we keep a number of bins under the sink in the kitchen and sort our waste immediately when generated. We have bins for Compost, Worm Farm, Rabbits, Chickens and Quails as well as waste for disposal. Then all of our garden greens, poultry and rabbit used bedding and manure also goes into compost.


National Poultry Show – Oamaru

2015-07-17 - Poultry Show Lunch

Today Mrs BYF and I took the two grandsons and their mother to the National Poultry Show in Oamaru,  The poultry show was great and we admired all the not so functional efficient poultry breeds, as well as those that have a purpose of existence. The grandsons were very intrigued by the pigeons that swallowed balloons and those who forgot to tame their punk hairstyles. One of them wanted a balloon pigeon to take home, the other opted for a goose.

The other reason for attending the show was to see if their were any Anconas worth adding to my flock. I found the organisation a bit haphazard. Following my inquiries days before the show about birds for sale, I was informed that there would be “silent” bidding for animals on sale but nobody seemed to know anything about this “sale”. Also trying to find which animals, if any, were for sale delivered little results. Needless to say, I came home without any Anconas – to the delight of Mrs BYF.

The best of the trip was experiencing the Victorian part of the city – very impressive. The picnic on a stone table with the harbor on the one side and the playground on the other, was a great success attracting lots of comments from passers by, as we were the only picnickers. I forgot the home made wine as well as the tablecloth at home, but a bottle of local plonk went down well with the home grown salads, quail eggs, home cured salmon, focaccia, lamb and cucumber sandwiches and bread. By the end of the picnic the kid’s sandwiches lived up to their name – containing real sand from the playground.  After the lunch the trip back seemed much longer than the trip going.

Miniature Feed Mixing Plant for Health and Profit

Anconas 053

Feeding is such an important component of any animal husbandry operation. Not only is it the single most expensive component, but it also effects the health and well being of each individual animal and therefore contributes to the profitability and success of the whole operation. Research has been done over the years indicating exactly what any animal requires in terms of nutrients for what ever system you follow, this information can be applied to the benefit of your farming operation. One fact cannot be argued away – no animal can produce optimally without a balanced diet. 

In my own case, I have set up a small blending plant with great success. I do not process any raw materials, as I buy every ingredient in ready to use format, but purely blend it in the right ratio and consistency.


I use an average of about eight dry raw ingredients, depending on the final product, and have sourced regular,  suppliers who offer high quality  products and are reliable for these. After the initial blending, I add either molasses or oil, both adding mainly energy to the finished product and helps make the product virtually dust free. This method prevents the product from separation and finer ingredients such as limestone, diatomaceous earth and vitamin / mineral premixes from segregating and moving to the bottom of the container. All of this makes it easier and more enjoyable for the animal to consume. Also, each and every mouthful supplies a balanced diet with the required nutrients in place to be healthy and produce optimally.


2015-03-20 - Feed Mixing Plant - Ingredients - 12015-03-20 - Feed Mixing Plant - Wisk 1

I use a large number of two liter plastic containers to accurately weigh each ingredient  to make up a batch which is around 1.25 Kg in total. I do this product by product, which eliminates confusion and limits  possible errors. In other words, I would weigh in all the wheat, then all the blood meal, etc,etc always ending with the diatomaceous earth and lastly the vitamins and minerals. As soon as I have about twenty buckets each containing all the raw materials, I would  blend the contents of each one using a food blender / wisk, blending for about ten seconds.


2015-03-20 - Feed Mixing Plant - Wonderful Cardoon - 1

Even though I do not formulate to have green material into the ration, I always have a surplus in the garden and mix about 50 – 100 grams into each batch, hoping that it may supply some natural ingredients over and above what I have already catered for (I of course  do not do this for my free ranging animals). I only take the finer and softer parts of the plants and feed the more fibrous parts to the rabbits.  Cardoon has stood me well here in Dunedin as it grows vigorously and even though I eat the best part of the cardoon, it still leaves enough for the rabbits and poultry. If I have other surpluses like cabbage, salads, spinach, etc I would use that instead.

2015-03-20 - Feed Mixing Plant - Mix in Greens - 1

As soon as I have blended the dry ingredients I add the greens and blend everything for another 20 seconds, chopping and mixing the greens well into the dry mix.



2015-03-20 - Feed Mixing Plant - Molasses - 1

After the greens are mixed into the feed, I ad the molasses or oil and blend for another 10 seconds. The feed is now complete and ready to use


2015-03-20 - Feed Mixing Plant - Screening 1

Screening the final mix is very important as a last mixing exercise  to ensure there are no large parts that may be inedible. The final feed must be an even bite size  and well mixed together in  a uniform consistency that would not separate easily.


Once you are in operation and all your ingredients and final feed containers are all close and within easy reach, it is very easy to weigh out new batches while, at the same time, mixing the feed of the already weighed ingredients. Mixing cycles are about two minutes and doing 30 Kg per hour is relatively easy. A morning session of four hours delivers 120 Kg plus, depending on how often you break for coffee. This is enough for a reasonable sized operation, like my own, for one week.

The advantage here is  that you have a well mixed feed, you know that all the essential ingredients are in the product and the feed is always fresh.  By mixing your own feed you   are assured that your animals are always well fed enabling them to produce optimally and make money for you.




Peperoni Ripieni (Stuffed Red Capsicum)

Today, while I was building a Rooster Box to shut up Alvin (literally as well), Mrs BYF really delivered!! Peperoni Ripieni di Riso e Peperoni Ripieni Melanzane.

2015-03-09 - Peperoni Ripieni 3 2015-03-09 - Peperoni Ripieni 2 2015-03-09 - Peperoni Ripieni 1

We found some perfect, ripe, small capsicums, just right for a great antipasto. Half of them were stuffed with risotto made with onion, a bit of home made pancetta and one mushroom that had escaped yesterday’s lunch. The rest were stuffed with eggplant, and here is the recipe with a hearty Salute! to the great Marcella Hazan.

Pepperoni Ripieni (with eggplant) 

4 small peppers, if you are using large ones adjust the recipe to suit

1/2 cup fresh unflavoured breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon anchovies chopped

1 big pinch of oregano

1 tablespoon capers chopped

2 cloves of garlic (adjust to taste) chopped

1 ripe, fresh tomato, chopped. It should really be peeled but I could not be bothered

1/2 cup of fried eggplant chopped

2 tablespoons of fresh flat leaf parseley chopped

olive oil for sprinkling at the end. The fried eggplant will have enough oil so you do not have to add to the mix

pinch of salt

black pepper

retain 3 tablespoon of crumbs to sprinkle at the end

Place the whole peppers under the grill and roast on all sides until the skin is charred all over. Let cool and when you can handle them, remove the skin and seeds carefully. retain the ‘pocket’ shape of the pepper.  The roasting makes the flesh of the pepper dense and luscious and imparts a smokey flavour.  I always have fried eggplant in the fridge under oil but it is very easy to fry the eggplant in a bit of oil until soft. Slice the eggplant in slices about 1cm thick, sprinkle with salt and leave for 20 minutes at least. Rinse off the salt and dry well with a paper towel. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and and fry the pieces of eggplant without overlapping or overcrowding.

Mix and chop all the ingredients together, adjust the salt to taste. Stuff the peppers tightly with the mixture. Pack them in an ovenproof dish big enough to contain all of them and keep them from falling over. Sprinkle with the left over crumbs, add a tiny drizzle of olive oil, and bake for 20 minutes in an oven pre heated to 200 degrees

Remove from oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes or bring to room temperature before serving. Do not refrigerate before eating.

All of this enjoyed with some perfect red home made wine and afterwards I would be excused extending my siesta to 90 minutes in stead of the normal 60. ENJOY!!


Lunch today

2015-03-06 - Chicken Feet Pot2015-03-06 - Chicken Feet

Dairy prices are down, venison keeps falling, electricity is up and the courier companies are screwing us left, right and center, so here at Back Yard Farmer we are not wasting anything.  We have worked out using almost everything from the garden and are now working on using every part of the back yard chickens, starting with what we always discarded, the feet. I have often eaten chicken feet, mostly in some Asian restaurant, and the very best I had was on a recent business trip to Qingdao, China (along with an assortment of scorpions, tasty bugs and larvae like things – the food of the future). Strange how Chinese food does not taste as good in restaurants outside China. The same goes for Italian food, I suppose, unless one cooks oneself, so, here is Mrs BYF’s version of chicken feet – delicious although the cook was a bit squeamish to start off with.

Zampe di Gallina 

Chicken Feet Arrabiata  (Arrabiata means angry – so this is quite hot)

4 chicken wings or any other part of the chicken that is not dry white meat, skin on

6 to 8 chicken feet, nails removed (I had to do that myself, Mrs BYF baulked)

1 piece of fresh ginger just bigger than a thumb finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic finely chopped

1 large red chilli or as much as you can take, finely chopped

1 litre of chicken stock

small handful of parsley and sage finely chopped

4 table spoons of olive oil

1 cup of wine, red or white

Pre heat the oven to 200 deg

Use a cast iron pot with a close fitting lid, big enough to take all the chicken. Heat a tablespoon of oil in the pot and brown the chicken pieces well on all sides. Remove and add the feet,  cook on medium high for a few minutes. Remove the feet. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pot and add the chilli and garlic. Cook until the  garlic is soft but not coloured. deglase the pot with the wine, cook until the wine bubbles.  Add the chicken, feet and all to the pot, and cover the chicken with the stock. Bring to the boil on the stove, cover the pot with the lid and place the pot in the oven. Cook for 3 hours, twenty minutes before serving, add the parsley and sage. Eat with polenta.

Do not forget to enjoy this dish with lots of red wine!  ENJOY!


Anconas in the Backyard : welcoming Sparklespot

2015-02-23 - Sparklespot

When I started my small flock of Anconas I knew that the genetic material for breeding would be limited.  In the struggle to find additions to the happy family is ongoing, with long road trips to collect chickens not related to Alvin the rooster and consistent lobbying on the internet has become a way of life. Sometimes I celebrate a new arrival. The 4 year old grandson went up to the coop to inspect the new girl, and to give her a name. To our delight he announced: ‘she IS Sparkelspot!”. Great name for such a spotty chicken.