Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hog Harvest 2014

We finally butchered our pigz on Saturday! What a day! Despite being ill-prepared, not having the best weather conditions, forgetting to plug in the new freezer, and feeling a little rushed.... everything went very well. The last couple days have all been about processing meat. There is more of that on the agenda today.


As always we used this step by step method as detailed by my pal, Bourbon Red, to butcher the pigz. This is the only reference we use and it works perfectly for us. Altho, I could watch this guy all day. Talk about having your processes down! We were not that elegant.

But before we continue.... here is your official warning. This is going to be a detailed post about butchering! We are going to have PICTURES and we are gonna talk about making meat! And when I say making meat I mean we are gonna talk about slaughtering, gutting, and all kinds of stuff! Proceed only if you can handle it. It's OK if you can't - just look away... But if you are going to cry or be offended then you are doing it to yourself! If you send me a mean comment, a nasty email, or heaven forbid, write a blog post about how horrible I am or whatever I will:  1. Laugh at you. 2. Make fun of you to my real friends. 3. Not read or post it anyway. 4. Never think about you again. Thoughtful comments and questions are welcome! But keep your nastygrams to yourself. This is it.. your very last warning...I am not kidding! Are you sure you can handle this? How about if you just read about how Nicholas has a hard life instead? Are you SURE!?! OK here we go....

So we marched out there at the crack of 10am which was way too late but we didn't want to hurry. While I prefer it to be about 20* when we butcher we were standing on the edge of a warm front and we really needed to get this done before the rains made everything a horrible mess. It was already muddy enough and the ground was not entirely frozen.

After. That's a lot of pork.

Previously we have been able to get out there, get the pigz positioned, and then the shooting goes like clockwork. That's not what happened this time. The first pig did not go down immediately so it took a while. We'll talk more about this a different day. But the second pig was picture perfect. The Big Man shot him once, the pig fell to his knees, and then my hubs stuck him for a text book bleed out.

Unfortunately this all happened far from our intended work area and in the mud. The deep mud.

My Fighting Uruk-Hai's best day ever.

We spent a good deal of time devising a method to drag the carcasses out of the mud and implementing our plan. In the meantime, Kai thought this was the best thing that every happened to her. While we set up the pulleys and such she stood triumphantly over "her" kill. My Dog#1 just eyed the pigz suspiciously lest they spring to life.

Where was Zander? My biggest disappointment for this day was that our Bubby was not at my side. All that time spent this summer training him to work the pigz and "Guard Momma" was for naught. If you combine a Big Rowdy Dog + Bad Joints + Ice then you get... Rest + Rx's + Restricted activity. So our Bubby was inside so he could not do further damage to his knee. But he came out afterward and thought it was amazing. And yes, we are aware that we may be looking at one or two expensive knee surgeries for him.  Our Lucky never likes the shooting so he kept Bubby company inside.

My work surface. We use a piece of wood to keep the carcass from rolling around.

Once we got the pigz out of the mud and hauled the first and biggest one up the hill with the ancient garden tractor we were able to quickly and easily gut the carcass. We used our Bacon Wagon of Doom as a work surface. This lets me sit down to work and then also we can trolly the carcass to where it needs to be hung. Using the trolley is definitely our best idea yet. The sides of the trolly fold down for easy access and afterwards we can just hose the whole thing off.

Since this was taking longer than we expected we hurriedly hung carcass #1 up in a tree to cool while we went to retrieve the second carcass. Unfortunately the tractor was then out of gas but we just used the Bacon Wagon (of Doom) to get it up the hill.

Due to being cold, tired, and hungry I skinned this carcass very badly. It looked like a old blind man skinned it using a dull spoon. We shrugged, got sandwiches, and then halved the carcass using a new blade in our sawsall. It worked perfectly. Then it was easy to trolly the carcass into the garage, hoist it up, and hang it from the rafters. The garage was staying about 30* so it was perfect.

Due to sandwiches, the second carcass went much better... which was just what we needed because later today I'm going to take the two hams and the two bacons from this pig to our local custom butcher shop to be cured, smoked, and wrapped.

Why aren't we doing them ourselves? No matter what, professionally processed bacon is just more bacony. We don't have a slicer so having the pros do it results in a more store-like product. I like our home cured bacon better than pro processed... but my hubs likes it better from the butcher. So we split the difference. I'm keeping two bacons to do here at home and taking two in to the butcher. We can - and will - cure and smoke small hams but not a full one... we just don't have a big enough smoker. 

The second carcass was also hung in the garage. Then we just needed to get cleaned up, warmed up, and get our chores done.

I ended up being really dirty.

About this time I start getting questions so I'll tackle the most common ones.

Wasn't it horrible?!?! Did you cry??
No. No, it is not horrible. It was not stressful. We had a great time and no one cried... well... Kai had actual tears of joy in her eyes when she saw them pigz on the ground and realized she could run right over and try to eat one or both of them. Then later she had tears when I told her to Leave It! And Go Watch The House... then she walked away really really really slowly while grumbling about how I was not the boss of her. Well, turns out I am the boss of her. So, yes, Kai cried. But not us.

But... but you touched something DEAD! And it was MEAT! Are you now suffering from PBDS (Post Butchering Day Stress)?
Under that skin is a whole lot of pork. That's how you make meat.  Yes I touched it and no, I was not grossed out. We don't think it's stressful - other than we weren't particularly well organized this time. I think it's a "thing" now that you are supposed to feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained and have some kind of existential crisis over butchering... but we just don't. We are exceptionally grateful for our full harvest and all we can think about is that this is the culmination of all our hard work. We were over joyed. We focused on the task and make a lot of stupid jokes. So no, we don't think it's stressful.

The only part I think is gross are the trotters. Ew!

I could NEVER do that!
Yes, you could. The only thing holding you back is your own thinking.  As a man thinketh, so is he. Have you convinced yourself that you can't do this? Then you can't. Did someone tell you that you couldn't do this? Who told you that lie and how long have you believed it? There used to be a time where just about everyone was involved in the process of making food - now it's becoming a lost art. Don't fall into the trap of believing that just because the people around you think it's gross - or that they tell you can't do it - that you really can't butcher at home. Sure you can! We are just regular people and the biggest reason that we are able to butcher is because we are willing to do the work. So you can too.

Doesn't it take a whole group of people? 
Nope. Two reasonably strong people can do this just fine. Sure one person could do it alone - but you probably shouldn't. There are some things that could go wrong so butchering alone is not a great idea. In fact, we make sure that someone offsite knows what we are doing just in case we aren't heard from again... at least that someone could send the sheriff out to look for us. And it's more fun to have someone to work with and extra hands to help do the work.

What tools did you use?
Here is my list. I kind of went between a couple different knives... mostly I used my scimeter because I love it so much. The sawsall (with a new blade) makes parting up the carcass very easy.

Chickens love to peck a the hide.

What did you do with the guts n stuff?
One day I will tell you a very hilarious story about this. But for now just assume our garbage guy really really really hates picking up at our house. And also...I left one of the hides out for the chickens to peck at - it was their best day ever.

We heard on 'the facebook' that you were stomping around in the yard at nite with a flashlight looking for the pig heads - did you find them?
No comment.

I've got to get busy breaking down the rest of these pork halves. Our fridges are totally stuffed full of meat and the new freezer was finally plugged in and is doing great.

Happy Monday everyone! Are you butchering?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Behold the bacon!

We had a terrific weekend. Guess what we did?  But my hands are too tired to type. So...Behold! The bacon...

Me and Porter Cable gettin' it done.

More details over the next couple days.... In the meantime there is meat everywhere and the house smells like roast pork and sauerkraut.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2014

I think it worked...and you still have a little bit of time!

I think our goat breeding worked! At least... I think it did. We won't know for sure until about the 28th. But there is a lot of this going on.....

 ...they never lay like this. 

All of the goats are starting to look different - their belly shapes are different and they are all licking their sides. A lot. And laying around which is kind of weird for them.

I think Debbie already looks different.

The goats are also acting like crazy people. I think there might be a coup d'etat going on with Daisy making a play to be the Queen B. As in Queen B*tch. She is really something these days and may be trying to overthrow Debbie who has been our herd queen. Unfortunately, Nibbles is getting the worst of it. She is the only mini in a herd of full sized goats...and they are really beating her up.

It looks like she took a pretty hard hit to the face the other day - and when I opened the goat house Dahlia's scur was bashed off. So nothing but goat wars.

The tricky part is that Nibbles is extremely destructive when she is alone. Since she isn't getting along with anyone right now it's going to be hard to figure out who should bunk with each other. There is going to be a lot of goat shuffling this winter. 

And now a commercial word from our sponsor..................

Just in case you haven't done all of your shopping there is still time to get your last minute orders in! What do you need and who do you need to shop for? Need some help with suggestions? Please allow me...

How about the top 10 things that make my life easier? The milk frother is a huge hit - thanks to the folks who ordered it!

Or my favorite tools?

My wish list.... thanks to Farmer Liz's suggestion (congrats on your blog-anniversary!!)  I am now using the magnetic knife holder to also hold my huge spatulas...and all kinds of other things.

There is always my favorite book list - still my top picks for farming/homesteading.

Or canning tools?

Thanks to everyone who made their purchases from Amazon link or,  from my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. I never know who purchases what or I'd thank you personally. It doesn't cost one more cent extra to use my Amazon affiliate links but I get a small percentage of the sale that helps support this blog. You can buy just about anything from Amazon - tools, books, movies - especially their online service, kitchen stuff, or hard to find specialty grocery items.

Happy Friday everyone - thank you so much for your support!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We need some summer

These long dark days are wearing me down... we need some summer! Remember when it was summer and everyone was happy?

And there was so much sunshine!

And everything was growing.....

Everything was delicious....

Shine could just while away the days in the good earth and shade of all that green.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Do you miss summer?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Hens

I kept trying to take pix of my winter hens yesterday.. but they kept getting photobombed by...

this turkey....

and Daisy.

Get out of my pictures, people!

Imagine if you will big, fluffy, fat hens happily pecking around. The chickens are doing great right now. We are getting a steady supply of eggs and most everyone is over their bad molt. Fortunately we've had really mild weather so far so everyone is out chickening around.

They all want to stay out as long as possible but these short days are just really frustrating for everyone. There is almost always a chase at night to get the last ones in. I don't blame them. These short days are making my cranky also. We need to start heading toward more daylight.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Are your chickens out and about?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

10 things that make my life easier.

I was talking with a soon-to-be farmer and it got me thinking about all the lessons that I had to learn and all the things I had to figure out myself. I kinda wish someone would have given me a quick list of things that can make your life easier. Not the big stuff like canning supplies or favorite tools... but little fixes. Like this:

1. These stainless S-hooks from Ikea.  I have about 20 of these and I use them for hanging up most of my pots and all kinds of kitchen tools like strainers and big spatulas. Another great use? I use them to hang cheese to drain, or even wet jackets from the shower curtain rod. And outside for butchering. Be sure to get the big ones - 4.25" - they are incredibly sturdy.

2. This farm is fueled entirely by coffee - I love my stovetop espresso maker. What about a fancy Keurig coffee maker? I'm not a hater but I really don't have any real estate on my counter for something that big. Altho my full confession is that I have been extremely jelly of one of my pals for his ability to instantly have a coffee at any moment... you know who you are.

3. Don't forget a milk frother.  I can also make whipped cream with this one. You know... in case of an emergency. This happens more than you think. I love this little gadget so much. I use it everyday.

4. I have a stack of these colanders - they are the right size for my sink. They are easy to carry out to the garden and also to hang on a fence post until I'm ready to bring in some produce.

5. Mine fit in a food grade bucket like this. It's a great way to drain cheese.

6. We always have a bunch of these - I like the 20 cc syringes - without the needle. They are used for dosing the goats (or dogs) or whoever. The 3ML are a good size also. We have them by the gross.

7. Hands down, these are still the best hoof trimmers I've ever used. They are a dream within a dream and radically changed my relationship with the goats. Now, instead of a brawl, goat hoof trimming takes minutes and does not require Bloodstop. Or swearing. Easy peasy. I also use them for snipping the twine on straw or hay. It's not an appropriate use but that is OK.

8. When I march out there to get a goat for hoof trimming this is what I have in my hand. Well. Technically ours is a John Deere leash... but this narrow, 4 foot leash with a "clicker" on the end works perfectly. It's short to keep the goat by my side, it's thin so it's easy to use, and I use it as a slip leash. That is... I put the "clicker" end thru the loop to form a slip leash. It goes over the goat's head (or I put and end around their neck and thread it thru the loop) and voila! I have an easily controlled goat. I can also use the "clicker" to latch the goat on a hook or the fence if I need both hands.

We don't collar anyone - not the dogs, not the goats, and certainly not the cats. So having an easy to use "slip leash" is a breeze. But how do I get ahold of goats/dogs/cats? Friend, a loud hand clap and a "Come here!" works for just about everyone. Sometimes the goats need a bit of a chase but we just run them into the goat house and get them while cornered.

9. Everyone needs a fence tool - or five. No matter what you are doing you probably need a fence tool. Get a bunch of them and keep them where you work.

10. And buckets. I always need lots and lots of buckets. Get more buckets. Or better yet, get some good tools and fill a bucket for the perfect gift! 

Happy Thursday everyone! Do you have 10 things that make your life easier?

Editors note: Did you get your holiday shopping done? Were you going to order something  from Amazon today anyway? Give a click on one of the links on this page or my store or use the black Amazon search box on the side of the page. If you do I will get a tiny portion of the sale and it won't cost you one more cent. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. THANKS!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pigs. Not in the frezer.

You know... sometimes life is very frustrating. The other day I went downstairs to get something out of the freezer and everything was thawed out. AGAIN! I panicked. I swore. I hurried up and sorted out what was still mostly frozen and what wasn't. I couldn't believe we had another freezer fail.

Remember this foolishness from over the summer?

I ended up with about six packages of meat that were mostly thawed out. I didn't want to try and refreeze them... that would deteriorate the quality. So I just put them in our coldest fridge and we are working our way thru them. I was very mad. Very, very mad.

Thank heavens we didn't butcher the pigz yet!

When my husband got home we investigated the situation and we determined the cause of the freezer fail was..... cats. It seems our Gate Diablo is trying to work against us. Some how he (or Moose) stepped on the button on the power strip the freezer was plugged into...and turned it off. I must have been off for days and neither of us noticed.

We cursed ourselves that we didn't take one pal's suggestion and get and get a freezer alarm.

But believe me we have learned our lesson. And we moved the power strip so little paws can't turn it off again.We've also been eating our way thru all that meat. Fortunately we had divided up the pork we just butchered so there were only several packages and not most of a pig.

And this?

But my roasted corn and all those peppers are pretty much doomed. We are going to use them - but the quality is kind of poor. So I'll be using the corn in a corn pudding and such.

In the meantime, the pigz are still out there. We haven't gotten our ducks in a row to have a butcher day.  First I was too sick, then we needed to get another freezer to replace the one that really died.....and now it's going to be too warm this weekend. The one time I really need it to be 20* and it may not even be freezing!

So we are just going to keep moving along.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Did one of your cats turn off your freezer? Are you eating meat, meat, meat, and more meat because of it?

Editors note: Hey did you order something  from Amazon thru one of the links or my store? THANK YOU SO MUCH! I never know who orders what but I really appreciate it. Someone bought something big - you know who you are but I don't. I'm sending you hugs and many many thanks. 

Do you need to do some online shopping? You can just give a click or use the black Amazon search box on the side of the page. If you do I will get a tiny portion of the sale. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. THANKS!

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