River Cottage Australia Series 2 Ep 2: Inside story

WELCOME to the next inside story behind Series 2 of River Cottage Australia!

The Narooma News just like during the first series will again be bringing you running coverage of each episode.

We will highlight the local characters and scenery of the Far South Coast of NSW featured in the hit show that airs on The Lifestyle Channel on Foxtel.

Episode 2 of Series 2 starts with another appearance by local, young cattle farmer Tracie Madden, who lives next door to River Cottage Australia and host Paul West.

We ran into Tracie Madden at last year’s Tilba Easter Festival when she had brought along one of her young male dairy calves - a 3-month-old Illawarra-cross calf Boof

“Bobby” calves are normally sent to the abbatoir at a very young age but Tracie reckons they also make great companions and she now has 10 of her own, and she even rides around on Boof’s back.

As we know River Cottage Australia doesn’t shy away from the reality of farm life and Tracie and her family is roped in to split up Paul’s young Jersey calf, which we came to know as “Stevie” in the first series.

Bessie will now stop producing milk too so Paul whips an Italian cheese in the River Cottage farm kitchen – as you do…

With all that lush Tilba grass, “little” Stevie is now not so little and was sent off to become the latest prime, fresh and local ingredient in Paul’s larder. And it’s one of the show’s favourite butchers called in, but more on that later.

This series’ theme of expanding production continues in this episode with Paul wanting to expand his chook production and making use of his land.

So he is off to Symphony Farm just on the other side of the Tilba villages where an organic family operation truly makes the best use of their land.

When it comes to livestock, you name it and Graham and Amanda Thompson and their boys Brohdan, Denham, Huon and Heath and daughter Sarah farm it – cattle, pigs, chickens and more – and all sustainably using the practice of rational agriculture, rotating the animals across the paddocks and rationing the available feed.

We ran into the good folk of Symphony Farm most recently at the Tilba Festival on Easter Saturday, where the family was serving up dishes of their organic beef. They are also regulars at the Saturday Tilba Markets selling their freshly killed organic meats.

Paul asks them whether they methods would work on his small-holding of 23 acres, and they are quick to say it’s not about the size, it’s about how you work the land.

With that, Paul takes off with a box of chicks that will grow up working the land over in “chicken tractor” contraptions that are moved over the land.

Later in this episode, Graham and the boys rock up at River Cottage to help build the tractor boxes, and of course they are repaid.

Paul in reward makes a meal of a rib roast and salad from Stevie the calf for Graham and wife Amanda.

Earlier we see that the calf is expertly butchered by none other than John Tracey of Barrabarroo Farm Fresh Meats just down the road at Quaama.

John and Paul are impressed with the quality of the meat produced and it even comes up trumps in a blind taste test.

Next it’s off “prawning” – a popular pastime for Far South Coast locals in the summertime when these tender seafood morsels are free for the picking for anyone with a fishing license, appropriate nets and lights and some knowledge of the secret spots.

The humble estuary prawn actually some elicits some high emotions on our precious coast and we have written about “prawn rage” when fishers collide in the dark, as well as the controversy over the illegal opening of lakes – “free the prawns” read one sign recently much to a fisherman’s chagrin – but that’s a whole other story!

This time the spot is not secret and the lake is in good prawning form, just high enough for the prawns to attempt to make their way out to sea, coming into the shallows for Paul and his fishing partner to net up on Corunna Lake, a short drive and downstream from Central Tilba and the farm.

That fishing partner happens to rock lobster or crayfish expert Dave Crass, also making a reappearance, as he showed Paul how to go lobster diving in Series 1.

Crass who apparently does work with the state fisheries department and is involved in the local catchment management authority is also adept as scooping prawns.

Of course Paul repays the favour by cooking of a flavourful prawn dish – and trust me these morsels are worth spending a night out, knee deep in sometimes murky water full off eels and other crazy creatures.

Back on the farm, it’s time to do some slashing. The grass is so thick that it needs to be slashed so the chooks in the tractors can get a start.

Local farmer and provider of excellent advice Darcy Hoyer is back to help out slashing around the spring he helped Paul dig out in Series 1.

You can tell it’s the height of summer as Digger dog is just as keen as Paul to hop into the air-conditioned cab of Darcy’s tractor.

Speaking of fast growing things, Episode 2 or Series 2 finishes off at the fantastically popular and ever growing Tuesday’s famers markets at the town of Moruya to the north.

Started by local growers involved in the Sustainable Agriculture Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) group the farmers’ market has quick become an institution in the region.

Paul is selling Jersey beef burgers, which turn out to be hugely popular, plus he gets to meet many of his new friends and helpers, a quickly growing list.

Next week we hear there’s going to be even more chicken action and lots more growing and rearing on the River Cottage Property.

We hear that the show is doing well in the ratings and don’t forget a third series has already been commissioned, so there’s lots more River Cottage Australia to come!