Home Butchering


December 15, 2016

Home butchering is best done on a cold day. Using nature’s refrigeration only makes sense! This sow was a bad mother, who killed her babies.(It happens sometimes when farrowing in nests) I have no need for a mother such as her, but we needed sausage. I dressed her out before the storm yesterday.

Today, inside our farm’s little slaughterhouse, we deboned her and turned her into sausage for our family. The sausage was very nice, with just the right fat to lean ratio. We will enjoy it in the coming year. It is a wonderful thing to have the knowledge and the where-with-all to be self sufficient. It is even better to be able to share those skills with friends and family.

Perhaps I should make a photo story of the butchering process step by step? I will wait for comments and proceed from there. I would leave out the “yukiest” photos, and simply show my viewers how to dress a hog from start to finish. I skin our pigs. It is much easier to do them that way. Plus we don’t eat the pig’s feet, tail or snout,so there is no reason to scald and scrape the animal.

I confess that having been a butcher as a younger man, sure comes in handy here on the homestead. We will soon be doing beef and a few more hogs before winter is over and maple syrup season starts. Winter is for relaxing, resting and butchering. We make is a social event spending time with family and friends. The youngest people in our family learn early where our food comes from. They also learn to take very good care of those animals and treat them with respect. It’s the cycle of life for us carnivores.

The Best Laid Plans…
December 31, 2015, 8:40 pm
Filed under: December 2015 | Tags: , , , , , ,


December 31, 2015

The best laid plans of mice and men, oft go astray, is a quote by Robert Burns, I believe. I can say, as I look over this past year that was 2015, there were plenty of successes, but a few of my efforts went astray. This young gilt that we named “moo”, thanks to my granddaughter, was to be a great addition to our sow herd.

She was out of one of my best mothers. She was born on a sub zero night and has real survivor instinct. She has great confirmation, as well as, fourteen teats. She was a shoo in for the job of mom…or so I thought. I fed and cared for her for eleven months. I put up with her sometimes negative attitude. I tolerated her indifference to the other hogs along with her general aloofness.

She finally had her piglets three days ago. She made a nice nest, in the pattern of her awesome mom. I was so sure of her ability, that I only checked her a few times. It turns out, she is one of the worst mothers that I have raised in twenty-five years! She only had three piglets. She stepped on one and wouldn’t move despite his squealing. The other two, she laid on in the night and flattened the life out of them 😦

Her appointment for freezer camp is coming right up. She had the best of everything. She was content, well fed and happy. She just hates being a mom I guess. I watched her with her two surviving babies. She wouldn’t push them out of the way with her snout. She didn’t grunt little pig noises to them. Quite frankly, she paid them almost no attention what-so-ever.

I put up a cautionary rail to protect the little ones. I made sure they were warm, well bedded and dry. I did all that I could, but “Moo” simply was not cut out for “natural pig birth”. I don’t use farrowing crates or intense confinement pens. The sows, selected from many years of good mothering genetics, make nests then have, love and protect their babies until weaning. “Moo” failed miserably.

In times like that, I question my ability as a farmer. I rethink everything that happened. I look for places where I screwed up. In this case, it wasn’t me. She did everything right…except for nurturing. She hated that part. I have zero tolerance for this type of behavior, not to mention the negative effect to the farm’s bottom line due to her indifference.

So, on New Years day when we celebrate with sauerkraut and pork, I shall chew and swallow my pride with every bite. Ms. Moo reminded me that some pigs are destined to be sausage… I just wish that I would have culled her sooner. Hindsight really is a wonderful thing!

This experience will leave a rough spot on my year that went pretty smooth, but just one. The rest of the year goes down as a good one. We have much to celebrate and many good memories to reflect upon. So we say goodbye 2015 and Happy New year 2016.

Yippie, We Got An Egg
November 9, 2015, 7:45 am
Filed under: November 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Proud Little Lady

Proud Little Lady

November 9, 2015

Usually, each year we replace our old flock with a new one. The hens lay eggs very well for the first year. The second year they lay bigger eggs, but less of them. The third year the production drops way off and in year number four, you are feeding feathered pets 😮  I find that keeping the hens for one year is the most profitable way to raise your own eggs. This does mean culling every year. The old hens make great soup stock when canned and put in the pantry, but this job is a tough one for some homesteaders.

We raise our livestock, including our laying flock, in the most humane way we can. They are tended to twice daily. They have clean, warm beds, plenty to eat and are treated kindly. We raise all of these animals for a purpose. The mother cows give us steers and heifers, for meat and replacements. Once the cows reach the end of their baby raising years, they head off to freezer camp and provide us with yummy ground beef. Our sows are treated the same way. Again, they have a great life here, then we eat them.

Our pets are the dog, cats and my horses. All of these animals have jobs too and are expected to perform, but they don’t get eaten 😮 Culling is the hardest part of farming. I sometimes am guilty of giving a sow “one more chance” this is not the best way to farm. Giving “one more chance” often leads to a disaster. A bad mother pig will squash her babies or even eat them! This is not a pretty sight on either account. You have also raised, fed and hauled poop from that sow for an additional four months, only to be repaid by getting…nothing. Well, nothing except for a whole bunch of great tasting sausage when you send the ungrateful animal off to freezer camp.

We buy our replacement hens as young pullets ready to start laying. This year we bought them a bit younger that usual. They are good, healthy birds, but were a bit younger than we were told. In any case, we are starting to get eggs again. It is a fun thing to find the new eggs in the hen house nest boxes. It is almost like finding treasure. I will tell you that for those of you who have never seen the face of a child gathering his first egg or digging her first potato, it is a treasure!

The other night when I came home from work, my wife greeted me with the words, “Yippee, we got an egg!”  I realized just what a treasure it is….eggs, sausage, this farm and the love that holds it all together.

A Real Cut Up
December 18, 2014, 11:35 pm
Filed under: December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , ,
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 😮  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!

Groundhog Day 2014
February 2, 2014, 12:35 pm
Filed under: February 2014 | Tags: , , ,
Sugarwood, cut last fall, waiting to be moved to the woodshed

Sugarwood, cut last fall, waiting to be moved to the woodshed

February 2, 2014

   The old timers used to say, “Half your wood and half your hay is what you should have on Groundhog Day.” There is wisdom in that statement. Spring is getting close, but winter still hangs on tight. Today, the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter. I am glad that our hay is holding out and is about at the halfway mark 😮

   We don’t heat with wood anymore, except for the sugarhouse. We boil all that maple sap with wood. I enjoy cutting and splitting and have even started on next year’s supply. My son does heat with wood and this hard winter has him wondering if he will have enough. I much prefer to be way ahead of the wood cutting game.

   The rain yesterday fell on deep snow and hard frozen ground. The drive and farm lanes are a sheet of ice. I don’t like ice. In fact, I don’t like ice a little more each year. I’m not sure when I got so unsteady walking on it, but I sure am. I shuffle along like a very old man…perhaps I am 😮

   The warm day yesterday of almost 40 degrees F, was spoiled by the falling rain. I worked in it for a while, but finally said the heck with it. There will be better days coming soon for outside work. The last thing I need is cold or flu, so working in the rain, I will avoid. Many say that colds and flu do not come from the weather …mom said it did, I’m going with that.

   Many projects, here on the farm,  are on the brink of being finished. The syrup season will very soon start. The compost pile is large and needs spread, seed needs to be ordered and there is always sugarwood to cut. It is a wonderful thing to be busy…. and I sure am. Today is “ground hog” day. We will celebrate by having sausage (ground hog) on our Super Bowl pizza!