With spring rain, there's spring grass. And plenty of it. But at last a clear spring day. And some blue sky from time to time, even. Tick.
On the road again, off to visit Salty River Farm, and Louise, who with husband Daryn and their two sons, are some of New Zealand's fantastic artisan farmers. A place where the grass on the hill was aplenty, with roaming goats, Jeanie the lovely bearded collie, and quite a few chooks. Yes, farmed goats, here in New Zealand, no kidding.
The wether and the adorable does
Our first introduction of the day, after Jeanie’s welcome, was Moglie the calf-club wether - a charming and slightly inquisitive fellow.
Over the fence, it was time for some free ranging, joining the breeding does. We met Nutmeg, Knight, Sooty, Milo, Ginger, Honey, .... It's true, you can only remember a few names at once. Even when those adorable names are nibbling at your knees, and the top of our gumboots.
If you needed any more reminding that goats will eat anything, there was the delicately sculpted gorse topiary. Who says gorse can't be stylish? And walking along the goat track, literally, up the hill, there’s a fantastic outlook to Whanaki River (yes, that's the salty one) leading down to Kaipara harbour.
So how did this wonderful farming venture start?
The family moved from Waiheke, to find some land and try something different. Farming free range goat meat is a pretty new undertaking for Louise and Daryn - their first product was available in February 2016.
Not to mention a pretty new undertaking for New Zealand. There are very few goat meat farmers, and they are generally further south, in the drier and more rugged areas of the Hawkes Bay, Canterbury and Central Otago.
Be that as it may, goats have been New Zealand residents for a while now. Captain Cook brought a milking goat with him on his first trip to New Zealand. On his second trip he released goats, in 1773 no less. So you can see they have been around here, although mostly feral, not farmed.
As in the regions further south, Salty River Farm started out farming with boer goats (a breed originating from southern Africa). But in Northland's wetter and humid climate, their feet suffered. Goat pedicures are hard work. So it was time for a rethink.
A move to kikonui, the road less known
A chance comment from a nearby buffalo farmer set them looking at different ways of doing things. Down the road less known. And we all have much to be grateful for. Their obviously free range products, now from a different goat breed, kikonui, are outstanding.
We were fortunate to leave the farm with a fantastic supply of free range shoulder, legs, and sausages, all of which have been produced on a traceable basis. When available there's some beef, and we had word of plans of more to come... can't wait.
A clear philosophy
There’s much to admire about Salty River Farm’s philosophy. By virtue of the authentic and artisanal way they do things, supply can be limited. They do what they do, and when there is no more, there is no more. Just something to look forward to one day.
There is no doubting that, with their farming approach, there have been and will be challenges from time to time along the way too. But, in the face of these, Salty River Farm has always held faith in its product, and its pasture to plate philosophy. As do we. If you would like to follow Salty River Farm's story, check it out on Facebook.
So, what to do with wonderful goat meat product? Our simple lunch goat sausage tart idea is here. And thinking of summer, you could also use those sausages in a simple sausage salad - check out that idea here too.
And for our sign off today, a big thank you to Louise and Daryn and their family for all their hard work, perseverance and care. We felt privileged to have a morning on the farm, talking and walking the goat tracks, literally. The family has been three years on the land, and we wish them many more successful years at Salty River Farm, doing what they love and are so obviously very good at.