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.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hog Harvest 2010 Recap - Day One

We just had the best supper - fresh pork fried up in a pan. Nothing fancy just cut up pieces, salt and pepper, and sauteed in olive oil. It made the whole Hog Harvest a roaring success. Yesterday, we gave "the business" to the pigz.  Tonight we dined like kings!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Lets start from the beginning.

And we should have a disclaimer.....so:

Gentle Readers, due to the mature content of today's post,  the very young, vegetarians, and folks who don't want to know where their food comes from should look away. There are no pictures but I'm gonna tell you what happened. If you're part of the "meat is murder" crowd, just turn aside...I'm fixin' to tell you about a couple a pig-o-cides.  Tomorrow I'll provide a detailed, technical explanation of the process. But for now, this is generally what happened. Don't read it if you don't want to know. I'm not kidding. Ready?

We missed our opportunity to have my pal and Farm Master, Bourbon Red and his Poults come on down and lead the hog harvest effort. Normally we'd have a big time - but last week didn't go so well for us and we had to cancel. So this year we had to just man up and do it ourselves. Solo. No training wheels. Just us. Yikes!

So yesterday we marched out there after a night of working up our gumption by punching each other in the arm, calling each other a variety of disparaging names doubting each others courage and fortitude, and then finally double dog daring each other to get out there.

We marched out. Well armed. Extremely well armed, just in case. We also called the Good Neighbors and told them to look for our bodies, just in case. And I checked to make sure I knew where the insurance cards were, just in case. And we had Bourbon Red on speed dial, just in case. And all the clucks and ducks and geese and such were still locked in, you know... just in case.

We kept our little Kai away from the action, as well as Dog#2 who doesn't like shooting so he stayed inside and peed his pants.  Dog#1, however, had a job to do so he came out with us.

Here is what we learned:

1.  We can do this. YOU can do this. Really.
2.  Pigs are big, mean, and destructive. I hate them.
3.  I can do some things well. Skinning a pig is not one of them.
4.  Wow do I love that dog - Dog#1 - Titan, that is.

So our clever plan was that we'd lead the pigs, one by one, up the hill and into a pen we constructed of hog panels. While the pig was blithely eating from a bucket we'd blast it to kingdom come... I mean.. we'd shoot to stun, then "stick it", then stay out of the way.

As for me, while The Big Man was doing the shootin' I would stand at the ready to take the gun out of his hand so he could stick that pig. I would also provide back up if the shootin' went sideways.  "Back up" meant a 12 gauge pistol grip Winchester Defender, with deer slugs. Can I get a hell yeah?


I wasnt exactly comfortable with that because I'd be shooting TOWARD my hubby, the hen house, or the Good Neighbor's cows. So instead I took up my weapons of choice...

my beatin' stick, the full sized axe, and my trusty war hound.

Of course, things don't always go exactly to plan and both pigs came out of their pen and up the hill to have a look around. We got the biggest one in the pen, closed the gate...

...the dog and I took up our position well behind The Big Man, axe in one hand, stick in the other, dog beside and slightly behind me, crouched down and as forward on the balls of my feet as I could be in my big barn boots....

...and that stupid pig climbed up over the hog panel like it was spun from spider webs... completely crushing it as she went. And then she sauced away.

The Big Man turned to me and we just looked at each other.  Clearly this was gonna be an ordeal and our plan was out the window.

But the other pig had waltzed up and was near the ruined heap of my hog panel.

"Baby, take the shot!"

He did. It was picture perfect. The pig was down, my hubby stuck him, a good bleed, we stood back and waited for the thrashin.'

It happened (the thrashin').

We thought it was over....

"Hey Baby, is he fakin' it?" I called out (See? it gets funnier every time).

Just then, that pig breached like a whale, flipped over, and slammed into the ground.  His head hit so hard the ground shook. I'm telling you the ground SHOOK!

The dog and I leaned closer to each other.

Then it was over.  And he wasn't faking it.

I saw that stupid big pig out of the corner of my eye, destroying my hen yard like it was nothing. We went to get her.  The dog and I circled wide and started herding her back toward the pen.

Now to be clear, by any measure that stupid big one was twice the size of me. Twice. And she was givin' me that stink eye and she made like she was gonna take her move on me... but then she saw the big wolf behind me and she just moved off toward The Big Man.

She met her just end.

I have a buddy who says the meanest pigs are the best tasting. She's gonna be the best one ever.

So then it was a matter of catching our breath, looking around at the battle field (our hen yard completely covered in blood), and then figuring out what we were supposed to do next. Honestly, the both of us hadn't really thought further than "kill them pigz."

Good thing we had Bourbon Red's step by step instructions - which I'll post later, of course. They were perfect.

We took our time because we didn't know what we were doing and every pig thing looks different than a chicken.

"Say, what's THAT?" We'd ask, both of us cocking our heads slightly sideways and looking curiously.... "I dunno...." Was the reply. So we'd shrug and toss whatever it was in the "ick" pile.

By the time our adrenaline wore off we found some hilarity. The Big Man called me "Lorena Bobbit" when I was... um... er... removing the male pig plumbing. He thought it was hilarious.  I made him hold gross stuff. Then he wasnt laughing so much anymore.

Mostly I did all the dressing since I'm on "guts"...and most of the sawing. However I draw the line at the trotters which gross me out.  He sawed those off.

We took a break before we started skinning and let all the poultry out. They ran directly out to the pools of blood and cleaned everything up. Debbie and Nibbles looked out of the goat house, wide eyed, and swore they'd be really good milkers next spring.

The skinning went badly. I cannot skin a pig to save my dang life. I shoulda just used a weed whacker. It was just plain ugly. But I got a huge bowl of fat from my failed attempts that I'll render into lard. So I was happy.

Then we sawed the carcasses in half - The Big Man did that and he did a great job. Then we strung up the halves, went inside, and fell into a heap.

And thats what happened.

Through out all of it, Dog#1, was really the hero. He didn't even flinch at the shootin', the thrashing, nor the carnage - and he never left my side. He didn bark or carry on, he didn't go wild over the blood, he stayed in position beside and slightly behind me  - even when we were herding that pig. Wow.  I was completely impressed. That's one good dog. I cant wait for Kai to be that big. She and he are gonna be a force to be reckoned with, for sure.  He was rewarded for his good efforts. Today when I was trimming up some of the pieces he stood by the door waiting quietly for some extra bits. He loved it.

After some initial trimming and removing the hams, we took them down to our local butcher shop and I made him swear that he would not judge me by my extremely bad skinning job. Tomorrow I'll work on getting the halves cut up into the normal cuts you'd find at the store. Then we'll wrap them and put them in the freezer. Or we'll just eat it all in one sitting...that was some good dinner.

Stay tuned for a technical explanation - that will be tomorrow. Then there will be more pictures of a cute puppy.


Veggie PAK said...

You guys must have been exhausted after all that. Just think. That's how the pioneers had to do it to survive. It was a normal part of life for my grandparents too.

Mr. H. said...

Good job guys! I now know who's brain to pick about butchering if and when we ever get back into raising pigs.:)

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks VPak! The old timers we know just love hearing about our antics. It lets them remember how they did it. Hog time was a big event and provided a wonderful time of community for everyone.

Mr. H, I'm telling you for the money home hog raising and harvesting is the beez knees. We raise 'em up cheap and then laugh laugh laugh as we walk by the Honey Baked ham display at the store. Tell Rowdy I got a plate of trimmin's for him too. And one huge bone

Grandpa said...

I knew you'll get around to frying some bacon sooner or later, OFG!

That was some party there. I hope the one that got away will return...

Look forward to more, and those photos

Anonymous said...

I made it to "the trotters" and wimped out. Great read (as far as I got!), and you are quite a woman !

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hi Grandpa.. dont worry that one didnt get away.. because.. (wait for it....) WE ALWAYS GET OUR HAM! oh golly.. the ham jokes.. i just cant get enough

hi Kris!! wow am I happy to see you! Sending tons of hugs and kisses!
:-) Hey does everyone know Kris? she is the best:

Veggie PAK said...

You know, I'll bet those old timers really, really enjoy hearing that what they used to do as hard work is now a desired practice. I'll bet it makes them feel very good inside. I hear that during those times, everyone would help everyone. Kind of make the rounds helping each other. What a good way of life! Let's bring it back everyone!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Absolutely, VPak. Folks ask me and I tell them we had a great time - and I get weird looks. But talk about a time of community and teamwork! Its a great feeling to know you've accomplished something that will help your family.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

I think it's hilarious that with all the blood and nastiness around, it's the trotters that gross you out. Reminds me of my sister, who is a veterinarian and routinely does incredibly gross things in her day-to-day life, and yet can't stand to wipe the little bits from the counter into her hand when she's cleaning up the kitchen.

I'm impressed that you handled such huge animals. Just maneuvering them around to cut when they're dead must have been a workout. Two thumbs up to you and your fellow butcher.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks for tuning in, Kristin! I was going to come looking for you - thought our pal Drew might be interested.. but this could be a bit too "farm" for him.

And thanks for the well wishes... we were glad to find out we really could do it. Next stop.. a beef cow. A small one. Yikes!

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