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The taste of terroir this weekend. An ox braai at Spier on the 31st.

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Terroir is a term that has become as meaningless as free range and sustainable and natural and organic. It is supposed to encapsulate the unique aspects of what happens in a place over a period of time, at least a year. It is mostly weather related but there are many other factors that go into creating that sense of place.

The true terroir of our farm is in our beef as they graze everywhere (even at specific times managed in a very specific way in our vineyards) and throughout the seasons. They are on the farm for a minimum of a year before they are slaughtered. The minerality of our soil is expressed in their meat through their only source of food, namely the  grasses and legumes that grow on the farm.

This Saturday we, my grass fed beef colleagues from Boschendal and I, are teaming up to give you the true taste of terroir from our respective farms. We are going to spit roast two forequarters, one from each of our farms. Above is photo taken of their half ox braai they had on National Braai day on the 24th of September. Mark Muncer, their butchery and grass fed beef expert, is attending to the meat on the spit that he designed. 16 hours on the coals.

You can start eating at 9am and I hope you come hungry and have stamina as the market only finishes at 2pm and we don’t want to take any meat back home. My beef is also the only official Carbon negative beef in the country so you can feel extra good about eating it. Saturday is the launch of the Spier Market that will be held every Saturday. Details below of what you can expect at my stall.

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Spencer is holding the forequarter we are going to braai. This was taken at the beginning of the 2 week dry ageing process. All our meat is dry aged at 0.3 Celsius before we touch it with a knife. The forequarter weighed 106kgs when he was trying to get his arms around it. Spencer is just one of the benefits you get for free with our beef.

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The ox that Spencer was trying to come to grips with was half Limousin. This is a French cattle breed that has the highest dressing out percentage (carcass as a % of live weight) amongst cattle breeds. As a butcher/farmer this is a very important metric for me. The folk at Boschendal have realised that they want higher dressing out percentages and last week introduced Limousin and Brahman bulls into their Angus herd as the pure Angus cattle cannot compete with these crosses. The Limousin’s are the light brown guys with the big backsides and the Brahmans are the grey guys saving themselves for mating season.

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Of course if you want to come and see a proper Limousin bull then you need to come and meet Jeremiah, Spier’s god of fertility.

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Another good reason to come to Spier this Saturday is that when the meat becomes too much for you then you can get to try as many breads and pastries as you want in the fabulous new bakery that opened last weekend. It is run by PJ Vadas who managed to get the head baker and head patissier from Ile de Pain in Knysna to show their skills in what is known as the Hoghouse Bakery and Cafe.

At my stall I will be selling eggs from our outdoor hens (we don’t use the meaningless term free range anymore), biltong, droewors, bone broth (the most nutritious product from our farm, click here for more on this elixir), books that have inspired me to farm, t-shirts from the amazing guys at Hemporium and my 2009 Ezibusisweni Straw wine.

Hope to see you there.

Angus and Jeremiah

27 October 2015

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Arguing for meat on South African tables, at TedXCapeTown.

Hello Reader

I was on the panel arguing for meat on our tables at a recent TedXCapeTown salon event.

Please click here to see the abridged version on youtube.

Also on the panel with me was Margot Janse, executive chef of  Le Quartier Francais and Jacques Rosseau, who thankfully used all the big words and big ideas.

The main point I was trying to make is that we are all farmers by proxy and considering that agriculture is the greatest environmental polluter whilst mostly producing food that makes people sick we have to take that proxy seriously and choose regenerative farmers (the 1%) as opposed to destructive farmers (the 99%) every time we eat.

Angus

 

Our vineyard berm management strategy

The discussion below relates to vineyards that are irrigated. Dryland has its own challenges but weed management is not one of them.

The vineyards on Spier are in their second year of conversion to organic status and then to biodynamic status. I have been managing my dryland Chenin vineyard according to biodynamic principles since 2005. I produce my straw wine from this vineyard.

In my limited viticultural experience the two biggest problems faced by organic/biodynamic vineyard mangers are feeding the plant and weed management. Feeding the plant is a subject for another day. Within weed management the tricky part, in our experience, is the berm or the bankie.

The berm needs to be kept with as little plant material on as possible so as to first allow no competition for the vine and second allow light to penetrate the canopy and and air to move freely. The air flow is almost most important because conditions conducive for fungal diseases need to kept to a minimum as we don’t have the weapon of a systemic fungicide in our arsenal.

With conventional management nothing beats glyphosate (I lie, rye grass does) but organic/biodynamic vineyard managers can’t/won’t/are not allowed to use that tool. Also we don’t want our soils without Zinc, Managanese or Iron (glyphosate chelates these minerals and we have the soil tests to prove it).

Most organic/biodynamic managers use the mechanical method of either using various tractor drawn implements to rid the berm of weeds or use labour to hoe the berm clean. Our problem with this is that the soil is left bare and bare soil is between 8 and 20 Celsius hotter than covered soil so then we need to use more water and the microbes get hurt.

Our biological method was inspired by Nick Kotze of Agricol, improved by Bennie Diedericks (082 452 7263) and is being perfected by my colleague Orlando Filander.

The first thing to do is to clean the berm mechanically. As soon as possible after harvest. Turn on the irrigation to see where the dripline is and then clear a hoe width on that dripline. Then mix Subterranean Clover seed, obtainable from Agricol, and some compost and apply this mix through a 2 litre Coke bottle in your newly created trough. Water regularly to give the clover a chance to get growing before the winter rains stimulate the other weeds to grow. The above photo was taken on the 22nd of May.

Above is one our better examples, taken on the 6th of September, of where the sub clover has established and is covering the berm and not allowing too much competition to grow on the berm. Please don’t forget that clover is a legume that is fixing Nitrogen for plant growth into the soil.

There are some other areas where we have not established the sub clover that well and accordingly there is more competition that has grown through the sub clover and we have had to use weedeaters to cut them back.

The photo above was taken on the 27th of October and shows where we want to get to with all our vineyards. The sub clover has almost entirely died, only after burying it’s seed. So not only did it fix Nitrogen whilst living, it has created a mulch to keep the soil cool and finally it has reseeded itself which absolves us of that duty next year. Every year that subclover blanket gets thicker and fixes more Nitrogen.

 

 

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