Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Bush Tucker: Yabby

I mentioned our feed of Yabbies in yesterday's blog post. They are one of my favourite foods. Here's some bits and pieces of information and observations.
Catching Them
We tend to use about 1.5 - 2 m of cotton. On one end is a stick in the mud on the bank and on the other end is tied a piece of raw meat. It's best not to have any fat on the meat otherwise it floats. Mum's preferred type of meat is lambs heart! Once noticing the string being pulled out in the dam (by the Yabby) it's then on to using a very light touch to gradually pull the Yabby to near the edge and then swoop it out of the water with a hand-held net. The nets we use have frames of fencing wire and fill of bird netting.
We tend to only eat medium to large Yabbies, and throw back those that are small or have eggs or young under their tails.
Time of Year to Catch them
There's a syaing that the best months to catch Yabbies are "any with the letter 'r' in them". This means September through April. The reality, though is that you should avoid the winter months as they do tend to hibernate in mud holes.
Factors that seem to reduce Yabby numbers
Here's a list of things that seem to reduce numbers in a dam:
1. Clear water. Water with high clay content seems to be a good thing i.e. water that is not clear or translucent. They do live in clear water but the density seems to be lower.
2. Areas that use inorganic fertilisers. These substances are water soluble and by default qualify as 'salts'.
3. Areas that have been sprayed with chemicals. Like frogs, Yabbies seem to be very sensitive to chemicals.
4. Dams that cattle can access. The reason, it seems, is that cattle do tend to like walking into the dams during hot spells; and when they do this they crush the mud holes that the Yabbies occupy.
All of the dams on our place have Yabbies in them, with the highest density being the one that has milky-grey coloured water.
According to the Bush Tucker Field Guide ISBN 1-74117-028-1 Page 175, Yabby numbers can be as many as 20 per square metre.
Preparing the Yabbies for cooking
Most people seem to just pour the Yabbies straight into hot water and bring them to the boil. Our own family 'clean' the Yabbies prior to cooking. The process is:
1. Very Large Yabbies: Remove and retain the front main claws for cooking.
2. Separate the tail from the body, discard the front section
3. Remove the bowel from the tail. Yabbies have 5 fins at the end of the tail. Twist and pull on the central one, and the bowel is removed.
Cooking the Yabbies
Place the tails and large claws in a saucepan with freshwater in it. Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil and wait until contents are orange - usually takes about 8 minutes.
The easiest way to shell the tails is the same as for prawns. Remove the first 2 or 3 shell sections, apply pressure near the end of the tail, and the white meat should come out easily. With claws it's best to crack the shell using a nut cracker or similar. I use my back teeth, but advise against it as it's probable that at some point I'll crack my teeth!
I prefer to soak the flesh in a bowl with some Malt Vinegar in it. After that, I make a sandwich out of fresh either bread rolls or bread and butter (NOT margarine). Superb!
Tips for Picking them up
Start with a small one first!
Approach from behind, be fast, and grap the Yabby around the body at the base of the main claws i.e. in effect gain control of the main claws and force them to be pointing away from your hand.
Care MUST be exercised when handling the live Yabbies. The claws are extremely strong and will inflict serious pain plus a bit of blood loss to boot. I think everyone finds this out the hard way at least once! Oh, and this is stating the obvious I know, but Yabbies fresh out of the cooking pot are very hot to handle as well.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Australia Day, Ochre Arch 2009

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Jan and I headed to Grenfell this morning to watch the Australia Day celebrations, held at Taylor Park. It was a glorious morning with a very good roll-up.
We were both very impressed with proceedings. The Town Band played some catchy tunes, the program was run through without a hitch, the speeches were 'just right', the awards were relevant and well deserved, a great many locals volunteered their time to make the event a success, and the atmosphere was very positive.
The key-note speaker was a lady by the name of Valerie Parv who arrived in Australia as a "10 pound pom". Her parents brought the family to Grenfell when she was very young, with her father being the Manager at the local Fossey's store. What was truly amazing was that Valerie is now one of the leading Romance Writers on the planet. Here's her website for those who may not have heard of her before: http://www.valerieparv.com/.
We were also very pleased that Valerie was accompanied by her sister, Maureen, who just happens to have been awarded with an Order of Australia Medal (AOM) some years ago in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Camp Quality.
Some of my learnings for the day included:
* Camp Quality is run in NSW on geographical boundaries, recognising that the children who they help are unable to travel far. Some of the centres are Sydney (350 children 'on the books'), Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Canberra, and Wollongong. Children from the Grenfell region are assigned to Canberra.
* Camp Quality cares for children up to the age of 18. A partial contributor to the large number of children is the fact that 70-80 % now recover, although as Maureen rightly points out it would be marvellous if this figure was much higher still. Many children live munch longer simply as a result of an increased determination to live (hope) stemming from the supportive care they receive.
* I had the privilege of meeting a long term local resident who happened to be a member of the whip-cracking demonstration duo on the day. He served in the Armed Services in WWII for 4 years in the Solomon Islands as a Stretcher Bearer. At one point when he was there the Japanese troops population outnumbered the locals.
* The Year 7 enrolments at Henry Lawson High School for this year are around 30 and the school's total enrolments are just under 200. My first year at HLHS was in 1970 and from what I recall the 1st Form (now Year 7) enrolment numbers were in excess of 110, with total numbers in excess of 400. Thus the school has seen over a 50 % reduction in secondary school numbers over a period of almost 30 years. Despite this the school continues to have an outstanding academic, sporting and community reputation. That said, no-one wants to see numbers cut in half again over the next 30 years.
After the event we made our way back to the farm. Given it was around 37 degrees C we figured it was time to fill up what we affectionately refer to as the "Ochre Arch tub-for-two", and kick back and enjoy a celebratory drink or two. For dinner we dined on a superb catch of our very own Yabbies. All very nice, thank you very much!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Honesty Survey

Recently I obtained a (replacement) copy from the principal author of the publication titled “Fraud Resistance: A Practical Guide” written by Martin Samociuk and Nigel Iyer ISBN 0 7337 5028 1. Funding for this 126 page booklet was made available by SIRCA (Securities Industry Research Centre of Asia-Pacific) Limited as part of their Strategic Value Management Series. Business Excellence Australia was the publisher.

I’d had a copy of this booklet previously whilst working as Program Director, Fraud Solutions for one of Australia’s major banks. I’d lent it to a colleague but never saw it again.

Yesterday I took time out to re-read the publication as a break from thinking about our farm. It really is a superb read for anyone working for organisations who might be thinking about whether or not fraud is occurring where they work and what approach they can take to managing various major aspects. On page 48 there is a provocative little ‘self test’ that I thought was worth sharing – in the context of just how ‘honest’ each of us really is. For those who have a minute or two to burn, please ask yourself what our answer would be to the questions that follow:

Honesty Survey:
Have you ever (in the context of businesses you’ve worked in):
* Taken items of office stationery or equipment to use at home?
* Exceeded the speed limit whilst driving?
* Under-declared or omitted items from your tax return?
* Brought items through customs which you should have declared?
* Submitted slightly inflated petrol or other expenses?
* Paid cash to a plumber, builder or tradesman knowing they were not going to pay tax?
* Declared incorrect figures on timesheets; claimed hours you did not work?
* Used company facilities or services such as photocopying, mailing, fax, telephone for personal use?
* Added extra items which had not been stolen to an insurance claim?

The point of the survey is simply to say that there are various degrees of behaviours that may or may not be acceptable to different parties. My read on this is also that if you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions then it’s fair to assume others you work with might do the same. Unfortunately some people don’t know where to draw the line as to what is acceptable/unacceptable behaviour at work. If employers don’t draw the line for them, it can lead to fraud occurring in the workplace.

I’ve published the above with the permission of the author. If you’d like a copy of the booklet you can order a copy from SAI Global via the following web address http://infostore.saiglobal.com/store/Details.aspx?productID=465031

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Rainfall on Ochre Arch 2007 and 2008

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The attached image shows monthly rainfall on Ochre Arch for 2007 and 2008, together with estimated monthly rainfall based on figures from a neighbour kept over in excess of 45 years.
Actual figures for the years are 2007: 380 mm, 2008 473 mm, long term 600 mm
Some of the key messages are:
1. Rainfall for the past 2 years has been substantially lower than the long term figures. That said, one could well ask the question "Is 45 years really long term"?
2. On 5 out of 12 months in 2007 and 3 out of 12 months in 2008 the monthly rainfall exceeded the long term monthly figure of 50 mm.
3. Yes - it remains dry!