Tuesday, November 8, 2011
We got started around 9 am on the 25th. Charlie came down from Wasilla to help us process the pigs and I was glad that I didn't have to do any of the killing. I don't like it (what can I say, I'm a girl). Dad did the deed and I went out to help get them onto the trailer for the trip to the barn.
They decided to do Bacon first, don't ask me why. Dad made a gambrel many years ago to do moose and it has come on very handy. He set a clamp on the I-beam in the roof of the barn and used the come-along to hoist the carcass up.
The chickens were in the big, fat, middle of everything. Because we have no way to heat the water, we chose to skin them. I wasn't happy about losing all that skin and the fat that was attached but it couldn't be helped this time. When the barn is done, our butcher room will have the equipment necessary to scald and scrape. In the meantime, we skinned and the chickens were gathered around trying to peck bits of meat and fat off the hide. I had Dad carve the big chunks of fat off the skin so I could save it for lard.
I was so busy collecting fat, kidneys and liver that I forgot to get pictures of the skinning, gutting and splitting process but I'm sure you get the idea. I had to go in and make dinner while they were doing the smaller pig so I didn't get pictures of that one either. oops
Here are the feet, leaf fat and, as "luck" would have it, the missed testicle from Pork Chops. I can't believe that happened! When a boar is raised in confinement and fed a commercial ration his meat is usually so rank that it is inedible. Sped, our first pig, was this way. Mom couldn't stomach the smell of it cooking, I didn't care for it but Dad just ignored it and plowed through the entire pig by himself. Gah!
I couldn't smell anything on his fat, he was raised on pasture and was not fed a commercial food so I was hoping that he wasn't tainted.
When rendering lard (or tallow for that matter) you need to put a little water in first so the fat doesn't scorch before it starts to melt. This was the leaf fat from the bigger pig that I rendered the first night. They didn't take any fat off the second pig until it came in to be butchered. I got a little over half a gallon of rendered lard the first night. Some was leaf lard and some was regular lard.
Dad was pointing out the various cuts and asking me if I wanted them reduced a little more. Some primal cuts are fine as they are, some need to be made into final cuts. Here we have a couple roasts that were left as they were, a shank and the ribs/chops.
Part 2, coming soon...
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
I went around taking update pics of the farm today and I forgot the coolest thing. We hung a zipline off the barn, going down to Cody's pen so that I don't have to haul hay to him. I just hang a bale on the trolley and let it go. We tested it and it works great. The only issue is, Cody started banging it around with his horns before I got down there to put it in his feeder. Once I got down there he was very well behaved and waited until I got it untied and in the feeder before he started ripping big mouthfuls out of it. I think it will work great.Bonnie and her boy LeBoeuf. He is nearly 3 months old and weighs about 220 lbs. He's gaining about 70 lbs a month
Happy boy! I ♥ milk slobber. :)
Daisy slicked of very nicely and is busy growing her winter coat. Her coat isn't nearly as long as Bonnie's but it's definitely getting thick. I ordered the kit from Biotracking and we'll find out this month whether or not the girls are expecting. If Daisy is pregnant then I am drying her off at the end of November, just in case Lulu managed to impregnate her before he was butchered. I hope not because that would mean a January calf!
Sweet Pea and LeBoeuf, big sister and little brother. Sweet Pea is almost 7 months old and weighs almost 300 lbs. For those who don't know, that is not very much. I am a little worried about her being 500 lbs by July, when I want to breed her. I hope that better nutrition and being on mama's milk until she's 8 months old will help her with the weight. She is only2 inches taller than LeBoeuf, at the hip and 4 months older than he. I think shes' going to be a very petite cow.
Cody's feeder is a deli case that Dad scrounged many years ago. I used it for a hothouse for awhile, then she moved it and it just laid there. I wanted to use it (and may still) as a broody house for hens. For now, it works fantastically as a cow feeder. We almost have his pen done so for now, he is tied to the big birch, inside the pen. He shares a side with the girls so he's much happier and not so noisy.
The Bourbon Reds are growing great. It looks like we have at least 5 toms but the two younger ones may be toms as well, just behind in growth. I'm not closing them in this year, like I did last year because that much testosterone cooped up all winter is begging for catastrophe. When they are 6 months old they are going to be transitioned off the commercial grower ration and go onto sprouted grain, organic corn, suet blocks and clabbered milk.
Bacon and Pork Chops have a date with the freezer on October 25th. For some reason Bacon passed Pork Chops in growth and he will have no problem reaching 250 lbs before the 25th. Pork Chops has something wrong with him and isn't growing as fast. He may be a bit under 250 at butcher time but we can't let him grow any more because it would be too cold. All his calories would go to warmth, not growth. I can't wait to have two freezers full of yummy pork and organs to make things like, head cheese and scrapple! I'm going to make gallons and gallons of pork stock and I might make some gelatin powder so I can make my own Jell-o! Ooo yummy. I'll be documenting the processes and will be posting pics and recipes and taste reviews. :)
Friday, September 9, 2011
But again, it is awkward to talk about. When she died everyone was on hand to console her parents. Oh, how sad, their daughter is gone how hard it must be for them. But what about me? I was there nearly every day of her life. I fed her and changed her and bathed her and dressed her and cuddled her and took her temperature and gave her medicine and kissed her boo-boos and told her no and kissed her face and slapped her hand and snuggled during long nights of crying. I did everything that a mother does for her child, but nobody came to me and gave me the hug meant to console. Very few people called to offer a shoulder to cry on after she died. I am deeply grateful for the people who did but it was so awkward, so I didn't talk about my feelings. Instead I wrote and I cried and I stuffed and I moved forward with living.
I wanted so desperately for her parents to have another baby and I was ANGRY that they never would. Did I ever say that she called me mama? Whenever I went out of her sight she would stand in her crib/playpen and call softly, "Mama? Mama?" I playfully told her, "I'm not your mama! I'm Pam!" but it touched me that she had such a precious name for me. I know that she knew her mother and her mother was special to her, as they are to every child, but I still thrilled to hear that word.
Last month a couple that I know from an internet forum lost their twins at 14 weeks gestation. I was heartbroken for them but I can't let them know that I know the pain of losing a child because it's awkward. I know that my, "I know how you feel because..." will not be welcome. I don't know how they feel. I don't know the struggle with infertility and the hope that shoots through them when the test comes back positive. I don't know the devastation of knowing that this long and painful journey is going to end in heartbreak. But I know what it feels like to have your heart ripped from your body. I know that feeling of being underwater while the world continues on. I know the rage at the fact that the whole world isn't in mourning with you. Don't they understand that YOUR BABY IS DEAD? I know the incessant "what ifs" that plague your days and fill your dreams. I know the regrets and the questions. I know what it's like to be on your face crying out to God, asking him to take you too just so you can see the face of the child that is gone. I know what it's like to cry so hard that you throw up and still it doesn't ease the pain. I know the ache of empty arms and a shattered heart. But I can't explain that, because it's awkward.
I thought this burden had grown lighter. I thought the wound was a scar but tonight I realized it was a scab, a deep one that when peeled, allows freshets of blood to course down. It feels like the day after she died all over again. There's that familiar lump in my throat and that catch in my chest as I fight to suppress the tears because it would be awkward to have to explain them.
I know it's awkward but I miss my baby girl.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
by H. D. Sloan
Over from a land called Scotland
Where the natives like their meat,
Came this rugged breed of cattle
That, my friends, you cannot beat.
From the stories told on Scotsmen,
They are thrifty folk indeed.
So they naturally raised cattle
That they did not have to feed.
I see cowmen in this country
Hauling hay and freeze their nose.
If their cattle were Highlanders,
They could sit and toast their toes.
But were of a different stock.
Every spring before the snow left
He would have his cows in hock.
Borrowed money to buy feed with,
Boy! Was he in a rut.
If he tried to save a dollar
Then they died from hollow-gut.
He would cry and cuss his banker
'Cause he'd pound his desk and shout,
Seems like every time he saw him
He would have his stinger out.
Told me when he met Saint Peter,
(If up there the cowmen dwell)
He would ask him if it snowed there,
If it did he'd go to Hell.
If my friend had raised Highlanders,
He would now be riding high.
And would never doubt the climate
Of that big Range in the sky.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Cody in the foreground (obviously), Daisy and Sweet Pea behind him.
Daisy still has her winter coat. I'm hoping she finds the mineral feeder soon so she can start building herself back up.
Sweet Pea, watching Jasher. The only dog she had ever seen was Hezekiah, the Akita who liked to chase her. She's polled (naturally hornless) and she's pretty friendly. I was worried but the family did a good job socializing her.
We are treating Cody like a bull now, as in, I don't move him, ever and he only gets to come in the corral whenever there's a cow in heat. Most likely we will end up keeping him as our herd bull which means he will be breeding Bonnie. It's not a big deal because we are breeding for beef anyway. Sweet Pea will be ready to breed sometime next fall and I am really excited to see what the Jersey influence does to her milk. The family wasn't milking Daisy so I'm not sure how much she is giving but I'm going to find out soon. :)
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
In a week or so I am going to band him and in 18 months or so we'll have lovely, grass-fed beef for our freezer. :) :) :)
So, without further ado, here are the pictures of his cuteness, LeBeouf!
This is 12 hours old, nice and dry!
He's doing much better about nursing and has finally realized that there are at least 3 teats for him to choose from. Her left, rear quarter is still really swollen and the teat is not easy for him to nurse, plus he's really tall and that quarter is really low that I'm not so sure he even knows it's there.
We'll see how much I can work that quarter tonight and hopefully tomorrow will be easier on him.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
As soon as the poults are ready to go outside at 6-7-8 weeks, then we will butcher the turkey hen that is gimpy. She can't really raise a clutch of eggs because she will break them so she's not much good as anything but food. I will keep 2 hens, if I get that many, to be breeders.
They will be ready to butcher this spring and I am already salivating at the thought of homegrown turkey. I know I love the taste of the Bronze so we'll see how these compare.
From The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, which puts Bourbon Reds on the Watch list:
Bourbon Red Turkey
The Bourbon Red turkey is named for Bourbon County in Kentucky’s Bluegrass region where it originated in the late 1800’s. It was developed by J. F. Barbee from crosses between Buff, Bronze, and White Holland turkeys though the initial steps actually took place in Pennsylvania, where Buff turkeys of darker red hues – called Tuscarora or Tuscawara – were bred and then taken west with settlers bound for Ohio and Kentucky. These dark Buff turkeys would be the primary foundation for the new variety.
After some years of selection, Mr. Barbee was able to produce consistently good-sized dark red turkeys with white wing and main tail feathers. He christened these “Bourbon Butternuts.” For some reason, perhaps because the name did not appeal to the public, the birds did not attract attention. Barbee rechristened them “Bourbon Reds,” Bourbon for his home county and red for the rich, chestnut color of the plumage. The name change seemed to work, and better sales were reported.
The Bourbon Red variety was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1909. It was ambitiously selected and promoted for utility traits, including a production-type conformation with a heavy breast and richly flavored meat. Early breeders of the Bourbon Red also claimed that their birds would grow as large as any Mammoth Bronze, a precursor to the Broad Breasted Bronze. The Bourbon Red was an important commercial variety through the 1930s and 1940s. As time went on, however, it declined in popularity as it was unable to compete with the broad breasted varieties. Since 2002, renewed interest in the biological fitness, survivability, and superior flavor of the Bourbon Red has captured consumer interest and created a growing market niche.
Bourbon Red turkeys are handsome. They have brownish to dark red plumage with white flight and tail feathers. Tail feathers have soft red bars crossing them near the end. Body feathers on the toms may be edged in black. Neck and breast feathers are chestnut mahogany, and the undercolor feathers are light buff to almost white. The Bourbon Red’s beak is light horn at the tip and dark at the base. The throat wattle is red, changeable to bluish white, the beard is black, and shanks and toes are pink. Standard weights for Bourbon Reds are 23 pounds for young toms and 14 pounds for young hens. Since, however, the Bourbon Red has not been selected for production attributes, including weight gain, for years, many birds may be smaller than the standard. Careful selection for good health, ability to mate naturally, and production attributes will return this variety to its former stature.
The Bourbon Red is an attractive bird for either exhibition or just for the backyard. They are active foragers, and would probably do well in a pasture production system, either as purebreds or when crossed with white turkeys. They also present an attractive carcass when dressed, since the light pinfeathers leave no residue of dark pigment showing the feather follicles as with the Bronze. Unfortunately we have no recent information on growth rate, feed conversion or egg production for any of the rare varieties. Documentation of performance information is urgently needed so that this variety can be promoted for use in sustainable agriculture as well as for backyard breeders.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Craig, The Egg. 2 years and a total Mama's Boy, in a good way. He's tough as nails and no sissy.
Callie Ann, Mouse. 4 years old and caught between 3 older brothers and 2 younger. She can't decide whether or not to be The Princess or as tough as the boys.
Orrin, Tubby. 13 months old and would be velcroed to Mama if he could.
This is the land being cleared so we can run pigs on it this year. It will be seeded behind the pigs and left to grow this year. I'm hopeful that it will be awesome pasture next year. So cleared pasture and pork... Win, win!!!
Dad and his slave, er volunteer pulling wood up onto the driveway.
Tomas, Toady. 12 years old and extremely handy to have around. He is chainsawing up the joint so I don't have to.
Back of the chicken coop and the gate to the pen. Dad says it's hokey but I think it looks like a fortress!
Happy chickens!! The roosters have an uneasy truce and everything is peaceful most of the time.
Mama Turkey, patiently incubating a clutch of chicken eggs. She started with 8, I managed to feel 4 but we'll see what hatches the first week of June.
Bonnie, uncomfortably gestating. She is due on June 22nd and is bagging up really well.
Happy piggies, nestled in their new straw bed. I cleaned out bad grain and chopped/chewed straw and gave them a new bale. They were squealing and running around. Bacon flopped on his side and rolled around in it while Chop just burrowed into it.
The front of the coop with the chicken door.
The roost. It's big enough for 22 chickens with room to spare but some have to roost on the nestboxes or on the bungie that holds the door closed. Silly chickens!!
Nest boxes. They came with the chickens so they know what they are for. It's nice to have clean eggs.
Cody, being a bull. He is 13 months old, 800 lbs and about 45 inches tall at the hip. I'm sending his away in July to, hopefully, breed a Dexter cow. I'm not sure that he is old enough but we're giving him the opportunity. Hopefully, they will love his personality and buy him so I don't have to feed him through another winter.
The side yard/pasture. Bonnie gets to graze for the first time tomorrow afternoon. It's not as lush as it will be later but it's ready to be grazed. We need some rain so the rest of the pasture will green up and they can both go out.
Friday, April 1, 2011
When I think of something profound and exciting to post I will be back!
Monday, February 21, 2011
I've replaced the miles of corn with acres of lush green pasture and row upon row of heirloom produce. I grow many varieties of melons, tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, tomatoes, corn etc. Children come and watch the laying flocks cruise around the pastures eating bugs and scattering cow patties. Turkey hens carefully shepherd their poults while strutting toms defend their families. Heritage hogs, Red Wattle or maybe Ossabaw, grunt and sigh in the the shade of an oak tree. Spry piglets run and squeal and romp around their patient parents, living the life they should until it's time to meet the butcher in October. I don't know the raw milk laws in Iowa but on my farm I sell raw milk, yogurt, cream, butter and cheese to anyone who wants it. The lovely white gold is produced by those beautiful cows lounging in the sun, rumens stuffed with grass. I have many breeds, both dairy and beef, because each has it's strengths and it's weaknesses.
Beside the barn is my orchard. I grow apples, pears, cherries, some hardy peaches and apricots. My favorite tree of all is the plum tree. I LOVE plums picked fresh from the branch. I love them more than my grapes or even my strawberries. It's a little bit of a struggle to keep the tree producing but did I mention how much I love plums?
Before the sun sets I need to be out picking up what's been harvested. I bought a couple of older horses from a local family that couldn't afford to keep them anymore. I don't know what breed they are but they are gentle and easy to work with. They trained to pull the farm wagon in two days and that makes them awesome. They stand patiently while I hitch them up. I hate the noise of a tractor so my trusty horses pull the wagon down rows of plants. Many of the local teenagers come here in the summer to make a few bucks harvesting. I don't hire illegals, no matter how little they work for. I prefer to give the local teens a sense of pride in their community and hope to educate them about the need for farms of this ilk.
As I pull up to each worker they load the wagon with basket upon basket of goods, then jump on for the ride. We chat about the weather and they tell me about Farmer So-and-So down the road apiece. Monsanto is suing him for letting his corn get contaminated by their patented GMO corn. I shake my head in sadness, then grin as my high tunnels come into view. I do not grow sugar beets, alfalfa or soybeans, but I do grow many varieties of corn. To protect my beautiful plants from contamination I built a dozen high tunnels. They are similar to greenhouses only they don't get as hot during our Iowa summers. Agents from the big corporation descended on my piece of paradise once. They accused me of stealing their product by "allowing" GMO corn pollen to fertilize my heritage corn. When I showed them my high tunnels their heads hung in disappointment and they slunk off my farm. They aren't getting their hands on anything of mine!
Spring and summer is spent sowing, growing, tending, selling and repairing. Fall is spent harvesting both plants and animals, and making sure I have enough food put away for me and my animals. Winter is spent sitting in front of my fireplace sipping homemade cider and watching the snow fall. There's a peace in my heart from knowing that I used the time that the Lord gave me to provide for my family and my community in a way that stewards the land and furthers the Gospel of Christ.
Now, let's put this fantasy in Alaska, which is far more realistic for me. Up here there's 28 acres that I can use to create my farm. A full third of it is actually swamp land that I intend to use as a water fowl hunting area. It is not protected be The Wetlands Act so we're going to clean out the stream and build a pond. Hopefully it will attract cranes, ducks and geese in the fall, during hunting season. Our lifestyle fills the freezer with fish and the odd moose. Because of this the pressure to grow my own meat is reduced. I can concentrate more on plants since our growing season is so short.
Our pigs are temporary, no breeding. But, they get to fully express their pigness while they are here. We are building pens that will be 10' x 10' for them. They are movable pens so the piggies get new ground to root and destroy every couple of days. Two pigs can be incredibly destructive so we're using them to loosen stumps and clear land that we can later use for pasture. When the ground freezes and our pigs have reached a desirable weight then we will put them in the freezer, starting with new pigs next spring. I do intend to find a source for heritage pigs in the state but not this year.
My wonderful cow, Bonnie, is already a pasture fed, grain-free cow and she has provided a bull calf for us to beef, unless she has another bull calf her second time. If number two is also a bull then Cody gets a stay of execution and hopefully will live a long life breeding someone else's cows.
My turkey family is short a tom this year. He had a heart attack when Marathon Oil Company drove a brush hog ten feet from the coop. I am currently in contact with a lady who has her own hatchery in Sterling. She may have an extra Bourbon Red tom this spring that she is willing to part with plus I am on her list for poults. If she doesn't have a tom at least I will have some more turkeys to raise. I intend to keep a hen and butcher one of the hens I already have. She was injured by the tom last summer and is not getting along like I want. I doubt she would successfully breed, even to a lighter tom, and then I'm not sure she'd be able to protect her babies from foul weather and the odd eagle. I'd rather butcher her now than find out she's not up to the job and lose an entire batch of poults. Their pen will be moved as well, to the other side of the barn which is a good 200 feet from the pipeline. Their pasture will be large and lush and the perfect place to raise pastured turkeys for Thanksgiving tables.
My plan for a garden is somewhat complex and yet so simple. I want three permanent corrals somewhere close to the house. They will be the garden. The first year I will let the pigs clear the first one. That winter it will house the calves and finishing beeves. In spring and summer I will put my meat chickens in it. It will lay empty that winter. The next spring and summer I have a tilled and fertilized plot to grow my veggies in. They will rotate so I don't grow in the same one year after year. The corral that is attached to the barn is for my momma cows and the current year's babies. Each spring the rich manure and leftover hay gets carried out and placed in a mound to begin composting. If someone wants some they just have to come and get it.
In a neat row, next to the pipeline, we have teeny, tiny apple trees. We have yet to harvest a single apple but every year we have hope. We rejoice over every single new leaf that bursts from each branch. Next to our apple trees is a row of raspberries. Those we have no issues growing. They thrive in our climate and produce big, succulent berries year after year. This spring I will scope out a place for a blueberry bed. Because we have neutral soil the spot needs amending and forethought. I cannot simply plunk them in the ground and forget about them. I will move my gooseberry and give it a buddy so I actually get gooseberries from it. Because of the plans for the pasture the lilac doesn't need moved and I'm sure she will be so happy when all the shading cottonwoods are cut down. My beautiful Red Leaf Rose is sending suckers every which way in an attempt to survive marauding cattle. I will cut out the suckers and prune the poor thing this spring. Then I will sink posts deep into the ground on both sides so cattle chains don't get drug over the top of it anymore.
Because he is almost a grown up, Cody is spending the summer at the neighbor's house, being her lawnmower. I couldn't do it last year because Bonnie didn't like him being out of her sight. She will have a new baby to look after in June and Cody will be just another cow.
I sit at the computer, gazing wistfully out the window as snowflakes swirl and dance, knowing that my farm is waiting for me, in two short months.
If I had a farm I would be over the moon ecstatic, but I am building a farm and that is so much more satisfying.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Stay tuned for a riveting series in the month of March as I try and find new and creative ways of eating liver, halibut and salmon roe. Actually, I happen to like all three of those things so maybe I'll have to get creative with the pig kidneys and turkey giblets. Hm, sounds good already!
- ▼ 2011 (11)
- ► 2010 (14)
- ► 2009 (56)
- ► 2008 (20)
Comment from a SMART President
Thomas Jefferson President 1801-1809
Died on JULY 4th, 1826