Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Everything but the oink - butchers cuts

When we took our hogs to the butcher he asked what we wanted, what type of cuts. We looked at him with the blankest of looks. I finally told him that we were new to having our animals butchered and could he please explain to us the different types. The butcher was very patient as he went over the different areas of the pig and what cuts come from each area. We also asked him for suggestions as it was kinda overwhelming in the moment.

As we were leaving, Mr. Wild and I laughed at each other, in that "I thought you knew about all this" kinda way. When we got home I got online and started looking for meat cutting information. I came across Ask The Meatman meat cutting chart posters. We ordered the notebook size charts for pork and beef. The came a couple of days later and just in time because our cow went to the butcher last week!

One of the questions the butcher asked was did we want everything? The organs, the ears, the feet, etc. I told him that I didn't know what to do with all of that and to please donate it or use it for his family. It was a bit embarrassing! In my defense though, Las Vegas doesn't have butchers like Kentucky does. We'd happened to find one in Arizona but his wait time was over a year and his prices were astronomical! One thing we learned is that when deer season is in, the butchers fill up fast, that's good to know for next year!

In researching how to use all of the pig, not just so I can answer the butcher next time, but also because we've talked about eventually doing our own, I found Using everything but the oink. Very, very informative!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dealing with the not so pretty side of raising animals

Almost everything we raise is for food, the goats, peacocks & horse being the exceptions.

We are raising rabbits, turkeys, guineas, chickens, cattle, hogs and ducks to feed our family throughout the year. We've bought most of our animals as babies, so we have control over how they are raised and fed. Our one mistake being the first set of hogs.

We're raising California & New Zealand rabbits. We picked those because they have a great feed to meat conversion rate and they're big, up to 14 lbs! We currently have 8 bucks and 15 does at breeding ages. We also have 8 kits (baby rabbits) under 2 months old, from 3 different litters. For me, one of the hardest things to separate is the excitement and sweetness of new babies. I keep detailed records of breedings and births, so I know when its time and I watch to make sure the does are ok during and after.

This morning during feeding I noticed that one of our does was pulling lots of hair really fast. It was time! This will be her 2nd litter, her 1st litter didn't survive. I gave her some straw and moved a heat lamp over her cage, ready to be plugged in after she'd given birth. We don't like to interfer, other than offering extra nesting materials. This evening when I checked on her, she'd had the babies and I could see lots of movement under all the fur! I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

On November 6th, one of our New Zealand does had her first litter. She made an awesome thick nest and everything was looking great, lots of movement under the fur and straw everyday. Until this morning. I shine a light into each of the nesting boxes to watch for movement. I saw a little bit of black fur, looked like a tiny ear, poking out of the nest. I didn't disturb anything and watched for movement. There was a little, but not like it'd been the days before. I checked mama, she was good. This evening when I checked again, she'd uncovered the babies and they were dead. There weren't any marks on them, everything was were it should be. Its so hard when you don't know what causes them to die.

I took them out and put them in a small box. It brought tears to my eyes. One of them had its mouth open and I could see the tiny teeth. I wanted to hold it, to somehow breathe life back into it. Writing about it is making me tear up again. I know that they are raised for food, they don't have names and aren't pets, but it doesn't make dealing with the deaths any easier. I write everything down in the rabbit binder and brush my tears away, hoping that her next litter will be stronger.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Making your own salt

I came across this blog post on Facebook by Handjobs For The Home. How awesome is that name!! You've got to check this out!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Have you tried Kombucha yet?

I've been reading about Kombucha tea for a couple of weeks, so I was really excited to see that Food Renegade was hosting a giveaway for The Ultimate Kombucha Starter Kit! How awesome is that!! Click this link to check it out!

Squirrel hunting & an awesome recipe!

This image is from Scary Squirrel World. It made me laugh =o)

Its been squirrel hunting season for a few weeks now. I've been determined to get a few of them, especially the big grey one that sits in the tree out front, taunting me every time I come outside. He even followed us up the hill when we were running fence, sitting high up in the big oak tree dropping acorns around us. He sits and watches. Until I get the gun out. Then he starts jumping around, up & down from branch to branch, even from tree to tree! He is still taunting me, every morning.

Mr. Wild and I went hunting on the back of the farm and actually got 3 squirrels! I'd not cleaned one before, but was happy to see how its just like cleaning a rabbit! My next plan is to learn how to cure the skins and use them.

Here's the recipe we used (courtesy of The Wild Butcher From Field to Table book:

Southern Fried Squirrel (or Rabbit) with Gravy

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (We used 1/4 t. sea salt)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (we used cracked pepper)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional (we used it)
2 squirrels or 1 wild rabbit, cut up
Vegetable oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt & Pepper

(We had buttermilk that was getting ready to expire, so we added it to the recipe. After coating the squirrel pieces in the flour mixture, we dipped it into the buttermilk and then put it into the oil. Delicious!!!)

Makes 2-3 servings

1. In large plastic food-storage bag, combine 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper & 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Shake to mix.

2. Add squirrel pieces; shake to coat

3. In large skillet, heat 1/8 inch oil for squirrel, or 1/4 inch oil for rabbit, over medium-high heat until hot.

4. Add coated meat; brown on all sides.

5. Reduce heat; cover tightly. Cook over very low heat until tender, 35 to 45 minutes for squirrel, 20 to 25 minutes for rabbits, turning pieces once.

6. Remove cover, cook 5 minutes longer to crisp. Transfer meat to plate lined with paper towels. Set aside and keep warm.

7. Discard all but 3 Tablespoons oil. Over medium heat, stir flour into reserved oil. Blend in milk.

8. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly.

9. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with meat.

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig ... a lesson learned

I picked up the meat from our butchered hogs yesterday. As I was paying, I told the guy that I'd see him in the spring. He said "so you guys are raising up some more then?" I said yes, that we'd gotten a couple more from the market. He stood there for a couple of seconds and then said "Ya know if you lay the feed to them you'll get a good bunch of meat off 'em. These hogs, they didn't look so good when we cut them open, you could tell that, well, they weren't fed real well."

I smiled and nodded as I exploded with anger inside. I told him that we'd bought these hogs from our neighbors friend 2 months prior to bringing them in. I thanked him again and left.

Now, I wasn't angry at the man for telling me the truth about the condition of the hogs. I was angry at myself & my husband for not knowing better and I was angry at our neighbor & his friend for screwing us! They knew that they hadn't taken care of the hogs properly & had stunted their growth.

When we moved here we started going to the auctions & markets, to see what was for sale & to talk to the other farmers & ranchers. We slowly started purchasing our livestock. We got invited to go to a private pig sale with one of the guys we'd met. We were sitting up in our barn a couple days later talking about going to the sale when our neighbor tells us that him & his friend have been raising up hogs & that they'd sell us a couple & save us some money. So we drove out to the friends house to look at them. We were told that they were babies, about 3 months old & that the big one was a great mama, was ready to be bred back as soon as a boar was found.

They told us how they'd been feeding them, when they'd bought the babies, when the mama had last had a litter. We felt like they were being really upfront and were truly trying to help us save some money & get started. So we said we'd buy them, but could we keep them there for a couple of weeks while we got our hog lot ready. They said sure, if we supplied the feed. No problem we said, we went that day & bought 200 lbs of feed.

The friend told us he was going to separate our hogs from his. Mr. Wild went & helped move them. There were 5 babies and we'd picked ours out. Two weeks later we went by & it was time to move them. The friend said he'd round them up & get them in the trailer so that when Mr. Wild got there, they'd be ready to go. They were unloaded as the sun was setting & everyone was hot & ready to be done for the day. So we fired up the grill, got some beers & kicked back by the creek.

The next morning we went out to feed the hogs & they are really small & thin. I asked Mr. Wild why they were there, those were NOT the ones we'd picked out. He looked at me and said they were loaded before he got there. He said he thinks we were given the smallest of the bunch, that that was why the "friend" offered to load them for us. He said "we'll lay the feed to them, we'll fatten them up!" That was the end of July. Our plan was to take them to butcher beginning of December.

A few weeks go by & we notice that they don't seem to be gaining weight. We ask if they'd been wormed, no they hadn't. So we give them deworming medicine. We're sitting around in the barn again with the same neighbor & he starts talking about how he's upset with the friend because he's just found out that the friend isn't feeding their hogs right, that he's letting them go days without feed. He says he wants to move his hog but doesn't want to make the friend mad. Mr. Wild & I just look at each other. We're new to this area, we don't know all the "rules" yet, so we don't say anything.

We go to market the end of August & buy two baby hogs. Our sole goal is to feed them through winter to butcher in the spring. In the 2 months we've had them, they have already grown larger than the original hogs. We feed them every morning & every evening, make sure they have fresh water everyday & all of the table & garden scraps we have. You know, common sense stuff!

Two weeks ago, we get invited to a hog roast. The neighbors friend has sold one of the hogs to another friend & its bbq time. Mr. Wild goes to help butcher & while the hog is hanging from the tractor, the guy that bought it says "man this hog isn't very big, where's all the meat!??!" The guy that sold it just laughs.

As I stood listening to the butcher talk about how to take care of hogs, all of the stuff that had happened was running through my head. I wanted to call the neighbor & tell him off. But I won't. I also won't buy another animal from him or his friends. We've learned over the last few months that there is a big difference between the guys that play farmer and the guys that actually ARE farmers. Knowledge is a big key factor in that. I'm thankful for the meat that we did get, which only filled the big chest freezer about 1/4. Lesson learned!