It may be just 20* out there but I just know that spring is coming and we'll all be ramping up our farming activities. Hopefully you've got your confidence up and are ready to take on raising some pigz. But what about the harvest part of pig raising? Are you ready for that? By now you've read our How to Hog Harvest Step by Step... but can you really get out there and get 'er done?
Sure! You know that we can do it...you know that our friend Duncan can do it... but do you need more encouragement? Ok - how about our friend R from Harmonious Homestead? Does everybody know HH? What a great site - and she offers classes on all kinds of homestead skills. Everything from making home dairy products, to cooking and preserving, and even how to build a hoop house! If you are in Central Ohio and want to get some good teaching you've got to check out these classes.
And....they butcher pigz. That's right, regular people doing home butchering. If we can do it, you can do it.
OFG: Thanks for doing this interview with us, HH! First, tell us a little about your farm... and you teach classes for folks, is that right?
HH: In October we moved from 1/10 of an acre in a neighborhood of Columbus called Clintonville to 2 acres a few miles away. We're surrounded by the city but technically live in an unincorporated township. Our property right now is a lot of lawn with some older growth trees but we have big plans.
We are receiving chicks today (yay!) to raise into laying hens. These will move into a new bigger coop with our 3 year old Australorp chicken soon. We're hosting a hoop house building workshop in early March that will result in a 10x20 house to grow seedlings and extend the season for greens, lettuces, and roots. A blueberry patch is already planted and 25 fruit trees are on their way. We are building top-bar hives to prepare for bees in April. Because we aren't sure of soil quality, we are planting smaller gardens in several areas of the property to see where vegetables will grow best.
We are inclined toward growing edibles because we love to eat. My husband worked in a restaurant and does much of the cooking and charcuterie while I focus on canning, preserving, fermenting, and baking. I teaching cooking classes around Columbus on homestead/DIY topics and record our homestead adventures on www.HarmoniousHomestead.com.
OFG: So, you are an old pro at home butchering, what is your experience and how did you get started?
HH: Three years ago, a farmer we knew had an extra full grown pig and was open to us slaughtering and butchering ourselves. We wanted to preserve the offal and certain cuts for charcuterie. On an early spring day we headed out to the farm and did the deed. It was fascinating to learn on the job as we gutted, skinned, and butchered.
Since then we have slaughtered a couple chickens, several squirrels, a deer from our own backyard (free meat!), and we slaughtered a pig from Six Buckets Farm.
Butchering a large animal is exhausting work. Pigs and deer take at least three days - one to gut, skin, and get into primal cuts, the second to make meal-friendly cuts, and the third to make trim into sausage. We actually haven't made the sausage from deer and pig yet. We should get on that before the weather warms too much to air-dry sausages.
OFG: Aside from the logistics, what did you learn about about "making" your own food with a first timer? How did they do?
HH: It's amazing how universal people seem to react to slaughtering an animal they've known alive. There is initial anxiety and nervousness before the shot. Then, a pause and maybe some words of reverence. Next comes gutting which is fascinating to every kid and adult that's been around when we've slaughtered. It is an amazing way to learn about anatomy. During the skinning or plucking, everyone gets a little silly with exhaustion and then there's a final push of energy when we cut the meat into pieces that can fit in coolers.
Every time we've slaughtered, we have included friends or family who are first timers. No one yet has had a bad reaction or not been helpful - it's always an educational experience.
OFG: What does your family and friends think about you "making" your own food?
HH: Some are a little grossed out at the things I choose to make and consume. But I come from a family that is thrifty and so they understand why I would cook heart - otherwise it would be wasted.
Some friends are thrilled to taste meats like venison that are difficult to purchase if you live in the city. I believe the desire to know your food is expanding and I am happy to be part of the community allowing this exposure for city folk.
OFG: What is your best advice for someone who is hesitant to do this?
HH: Be prepared with tools and energy. Slaughtering and butchering doesn't take many pieces of special equipment beyond a way to hang the animal and sharp knives. A bone saw is extremely useful but even that isn't absolutely necessary. The killing shot is what everyone is worried about but the hours of standing and working with heavy meat is what they will remember.
OFG: Thanks, HH for all the great info. I really loved how you said it takes 3 days from soup to nuts (as it were) when butchering a large animal. That's what we've found also. I'm also glad to see that we aren't the only ones with stupid butcher day jokes. I also really liked that you said that first timers are nervous about the shooting part of it...but then they become really interested when they get into the work and that's what they will remember.
It seems the theme of "community" really comes out for a lot of people who do their own butchering. Working together to provide for your family is really rewarding.
So friends, what do you think? Has R's story given you some confidence? Do you think this will be your year to butcher at home? Can you do it? Yes you can! Now go back and re-read some of the posts about raising pigz and butchering and get up your gumption!
Happy Monday everyone!