Today’s Project
December 28, 2014, 9:59 pm
Filed under: December 2014, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,
Hams and bacons smoking

Hams and bacons smoking

December 28, 2014

Instead of working on firewood this weekend, I got the hams and bacons from our recent butchering into the smokehouse. They have been brining in a mixture of salt and brown sugar for a week. Today, I smoked them with hickory wood. It took all day, but was well worth the effort.

I babysat the meat as it smoked. I, and my dear wife, stayed busy putting order in the slaughterhouse. Santa Clause brought us a couple of new tables. We continue to work on traffic patterns and ease of operation, but our little meat house is coming together nicely.

This building doubles as a summer kitchen for canning our vegetables. It also makes a nice place to wash maple syrup filters and equipment. It is a multipurpose building that is working out well for us. It is even a nice place to warm up and drink coffee with my boots on! I sure do like this place!

a great place to work

a great place to work

A Real Cut Up
December 18, 2014, 11:35 pm
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Two nice hogs cooling

Two nice hogs cooling

December 18, 2014

Tuesday, I butchered these two nice hogs. They walked outside to their play area, looked up at me and dropped in their tracks. There was no stress, no shouting, no problem at all. They led a happy stress free life here. They had a clean dry bed, all they could eat and drink and access to a play area every day. The meat tastes wonderful.

Today we cut them up, made fresh sausage, pork chops, roasts and spare ribs. The hams and bacons have been brined and await smoking and cooking in a few days. It was the first big job we did in the new slaughterhouse. The building and equipment worked flawlessly. There was plenty of room to work and having the hot and cold water was awesome!

We had a nice full day with friends and family. My grandchildren made their own sausage, then cooked it in a pan. Fresh sausage sandwiches don’t come much fresher than that ­čś«┬á The children helped stuff sausage into casings and even leant a hand during clean up. They were very involved and have a good understanding where their food comes from. They are 5 and 8 and well on their way to becoming homesteaders.

I am tired, but very happy. I see the next generation learning skills handed down to me from my grandparents. My son worked right along beside me. He does better every time we butcher. He made the primal cuts, took the spareribs off his bacon. He deboned many pieces and helped with the brining process. He did most of the grinding and paid close attention to the seasoning process. My wife gave lessons to our daughter-in-law as she wrapped her family’s meat. Yes, it was a very good day!

Primal cuts, ready to go!

Primal cuts, ready to go!

Butchering Day
December 16, 2014, 8:05 am
Filed under: December 2014 | Tags: , , ,
No more working outside!

No more working outside!

December 16, 2014

Today, we will butcher a couple of pigs. The weather isn’t the best for woodcutting, so I will switch gears. It will be nice to have the fresh meat. I also plan to make some summer sausage and a few other meat treats to be eaten over the holidays. The smokehouse will soon be filled with all sorts of yummy treats. The best thing about butchering this year, will be using the new slaughterhouse… no more working outside!

We do the killing, skinning and gutting part of the job outside, but the job of cutting the meat, making sausage and preparing hams and bacons will now all be done inside. The big sink and hot and cold running water will be a welcomed addition. It is so nice to be able to wash hands and equipment any time you want to do it…and without a bucket of water!

December temperatures continue to be unseasonably warm. It is still cool enough for butchering and a nice day to keep fingers warm. The pause from farm work and wood chopping is a welcomed one. I like to do this job every now and then. It was once the way I made my living and fed my family. Now, it is just a job I like to do and ultimately… I’m still feeding my family ­čś«

I will stretch this work out over the next few days. The smokehouse will run by the end of the week and even in to next week as we smoke the hams and bacons. It is a wonderful time of year. The tree is mostly trimmed. Rows of cookies line the table. A few wrapped packages are under the tree and now the harvest for our freezer is underway. Yes, I like butchering day.

Still Chewing Away!
December 11, 2014, 8:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
That is a big tree!

That is a big tree!

December 11, 2014

Little by little and piece by piece I am getting this tree made into firewood for the sugarhouse. After almost six straight days of work and eighteen large sled loads of wood, I have only just begun to make a dent in the job. It is almost fun watching the wood pile up,  like the loaves and fishes story, there seems to be an unending supply!

Yesterday, we dragged all of the top logs up out of the water and to a place where they can be cut and split. It took most of the afternoon, but at the end of the day, progress could be seen. We will have two days working up those logs, then the real work begins, as we tackle the large trunk.

I am sure we will be much of the winter reducing this old dead matron to sugarwood, but at least I won’t be looking for something to do. I have been involved with trees and logs for much of my adult life, but this giant of a tree still amazes me. The work is hard, but worth every minute of effort.

I think the horses enjoy the cutting and splitting days, because they get the day off. I am not sure how that all works, I don’t get a day off ­čś« But I do get the benefit from all of the hard work….theirs and mine!

Top logs waiting to be worked up.

Top logs waiting to be worked up.

Bringing It Home
December 10, 2014, 9:33 am
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Headed for the woodshed

Headed for the woodshed

December 10, 2014

Yesterday, we spent the entire day hauling the cut and split wood to the sugarhouse woodshed. We needed to make room to be able to split more. We hauled four sled loads, then switched to the wagon and hauled two very large loads with it. The woodshed is filling up.

A friend of mine who heats his house with an outdoor wood burner, has been working with me. We are working on the “share” plan. I fill his trailer once or twice a day along with the loads to the woodshed. There is plenty of wood and it is good to have the help.

I am sure that I will have the sugarhouse woodshed full before the next round of bad weather comes. My buddy will have more wood stored away than anytime since he started burning wood. I want to keep right on going, making wood for next year. It will be a very good thing to be ahead of the game!

As I gather the lines, after the sled or wagon is loaded, and head for the woodshed, I am filled with a sort of peace. It feels as good as going home. The abundance of wood, stored under a dry roof reminds me of mom’s Christmas cookies. Maybe it is the anticipation of the maple syrup season, maybe its the dry wood shed, or perhaps it is just the feeling┬áthat all is well? I can’t describe it, but my heart is full, my mind satisfied.

I remember getting off the school bus and walking in the backdoor of my childhood home. It was mid December, snow was on the ground and Christmas decorations were about. On our old chest freezer, on top of a holiday table cloth, were rows and rows of Christmas cookies. The frosted ones were my favorite, but the other kinds were eaten with joy too.

Perhaps the rows of wood in the sugarhouse woodshed, remind me of the rows of cookies. I only know that it is mid December, snowflakes are falling and I am as happy as a child. My memories of mom are on my mind and like a full woodshed…that is all good!

It’s as easy as 1,2,3!
December 8, 2014, 10:29 am
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Hitching the boys to the sled

Hitching the boys to the sled

December 8, 2014

In my quest for wood, as many of you know, I am working on a large white oak tree that blew down a year ago. She landed in a sort of bad spot, crushing my fence when she fell. My time is getting short as winter looms, soon much of that tree will be frozen to the ground.

The fact that I will get this wood out until the winter weather puts it on hold, has me scampering like a squirrel gathering acorns. I am cutting and splitting almost every day. The horses and I try to haul some every day too. I am using all three geldings. They, like me, are a little “soft” so having plenty of help allows us to work faster and longer.

I like to show up with plenty of horsepower and believe me…three Percheron horses supply plenty of horsepower! The time it takes to get the third horse harnessed up, is nothing compared to the amount of work we can do. They stand while I hitch, load and unload, so, it’s as easy as 1,2,3!!

Keeping My Word
December 7, 2014, 7:29 pm
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Knight says, "You talking to me?"

Knight says, “You talking to me?”

December 7, 2014

Yesterday, I finished cutting, splitting and hauling firewood for a man who I have known since childhood. His son and I are friends and have been for a very long time. The man’s son moved to a neighboring state. I told my friend not to worry that I would make sure his dad got his firewood in each year.

The man who gets the wood was a block mason. I have seen him grab a twelve-inch concrete block, mortar the edges and form a wall. He could do that all day long. His grip was like a vise. His arms looked like “Popeye’s”. He was one of the strongest men I even knew.

Today, those hands are crippled, worn from hard work and old age. The man is near eighty years old, but still cuts much of his firewood. He hunts and traps much of the winter, trudging through snow and mud satisfying his very soul. He is an inspiration to watch. He is a tough old bird who defies pain and a broken hand to accomplish anything he puts his mind to.

I take him a large pile of split and seasoned wood. This year’s loads were white oak and ash wood. The pieces are gnarly , twisted and hard. They burn long and hot and warm the old man’s hearth almost as much as my memories of him, warm my heart. Taking wood to him is an honor. I am glad it worked out this way.┬á Keeping my word, is important to me, but this job has nothing to do with that… I get great pleasure from pulling up with a loaded trailer full of wood. The smile on the old man’s face says more than he ever could.

Thanks John, for letting me help your dad. My father has passed, this simple gesture of looking after this small job for your father, makes me feel good. I remember helping my dad and grandpa get wood for grandpa’s house. It was a good time.┬áHelping your dad takes me back to┬áthat time. There is a lot of warmth in that wood…

The Line Up
December 6, 2014, 8:42 am
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Soup is on!

Soup is on!

December 6, 2014

Chore time for me is a great time of day. Morning chores signify the beginning of a new day. I am greeted by my animal charges as if I am an old friend. They are very happy to see me. The dogs act as if it has been weeks since we last met. The rest of the animals make a ruckus too. I used to think it was because they were happy to see me, but then I realized they were just impatient waiting for breakfast.

In the evening, the last job of the day is usually chores too. The animals all get fed again. Stalls are cleaned and general order comes to the barn. Then, after everyone has been fed and watered, a quiet peace settles over the barnyard. The cattle start looking for a place to bed down for the night. The piglets push straw into a pile with their noses and settle in under it. The hens are sitting on their roost waiting for sleep to overtake them.

In the horse barn, the horses stand quietly munching on their hay. I like to sit on a hay bale, pet the dogs and reflect on the day’s work. The dog’s eyes are almost closed as I pet their heads. They enjoy this quiet time too. The soft music that is the horses chewing, fills the air signaling that all is well. The day is done.

How many of us rush about? Jump out of bed hurrying because we got up late. Speed off to work. Spend the day jammed with work and other people’s problems. We skip lunch so we can leave on time to fly home to work on a project or attend a meeting. Finally, an hour later than we wanted. We flop down in front of a television and watch other┬áfolks having fun. We sleep fitfully fearing that we won’t hear the alarm clock…and sure enough we don’t…or we hit the snooze too many times! So tell me… why do they say that “animals are dumb”?

Eating an Elephant
December 5, 2014, 11:08 am
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One bite at a time

One bite at a time

December 5, 2014

Much of my work is done for this year, corn still stands in the mud waiting to be picked, but other than that and cutting up this old white oak┬átree… I’m done ­čś« This is going quite well. I haven’t had much time to work on it. The days that I did, however, have been productive. I will really miss this old tree and am thankful for the abundance she provides.

Imagine the massive shade her branches made. I told my boys, that Indians probably sat under her and ate their lunch, before white men had visited this part of our state. The amount of acorns in one year were immense, just imagine if all the nut crops from all of her living years were put into a pile…it would look like a small mountain. The deer,┬áturkey and other wildlife that benefited from her mast, span centuries. Now, even in her death, she is still giving. This wood will heat homes and make many gallons of maple┬ásyrup… even the ashes, swept from the spent fire will enrich the soil of our farm…. Her whole life, given for the benefit of the place where she lived.

There is a lesson here. People travel the world trying to make a difference. Some folks┬áspend huge amounts of money trying to make others or themselves happy. Others tend to live miserably, keeping to themselves always negative and unhappy. I can’t speak for others, but I choose to live like the old tree.

I was born and raised in this little spot on our big planet. My travels have been few and I am okay with that. I try to give of myself, realizing that some will think I am a crazy fool, but many enjoy listening or reading about my life experiences as I share knowledge. I hope that I have sown some “acorns” along the way. I hope that I have provided comfort and safety for a few and enriched the lives of many, by just being me… That way at the end of my life, only┬ámy ashes will┬ádrift on the wind, because my memories, my┬áhopes and my┬ádreams will live on…. through the lives of those that I have touched… What a wonderful thing!