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.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hog Harvest 2013 - Round One

Thursday was a terrific day here on the farm. We had Hog Harvest Round One. By the time you read this on Sunday morning we'll be elbow deep is Hog Harvest Round Two.

I thought this was a terrific still life of our butcher day tools.

We only butchered one of the two mammoth Tamworth hogs on Thursday and wow are we glad we didn't do both. By the end of the day we were exhausted and my arms hurt. In all, we were only in the field a couple hours but we were at a disadvantage this time - the pigz were still down in the woods at the bottom of the hill. There was a lot of trudging up and down the hill that day.

Then I spent about 8 hours straight on Friday parting up that first pig. And it was the small one. We had to work quickly because we are losing the killing season. We need cold temperatures so we can hang the pork halves in the garage over nite. These pigz are so big there is no way we could get them in the fridges like we did with the smaller ones last fall. As it was we only had our choice of a couple of freezing days and nights. Anything over 40* and you risk spoiling the meat.

Dog#1 stands at the ready with the Bacon Wagon of Doom.

But first, here are the exact step-by-step instructions we used took to butcher our hogs. Here is a list of the exact tools we used (and thanks for everyone's support with my Amazon store!). Can you butcher a pig yourself? YES you can! It's not to difficult and really fun. Fun?!? You heard me - it was totally fun.

But first we'll put this disclaimer here.  If you are gonna burst into tears or have a break down or puke on your laptop because there is gleeful talk of shooting a pig and pictures of meat everywhere you should probably just look at cute pictures of Nicholas - he will commiserate with you. If you send me an email whining asking how could I possibly do that I will mock you openly to my friends and we will butcher the next pig in your name. Proceed at your own risk! Don't look if you can't handle it!

Thursday was glorious - it was 20* and sunny and we marched right down there and shot that pig. When I say "we" I mean my husband did the shooting and Dog#1, Kai, and I were back up. When I say "back up" I mean to tell you that I was armed with my full sized axe and two burly dogs just in case the shooting went bad. What do you do if the shooting really goes bad? Lean in and I'll tell you.

Before we even marched into the killing pen (a small pen we whacked together the previous day to separate that hog and keep it out of the mud) we discussed all of the variables and things that might happen - just in case. Most of the time nothing goes wrong but what happens if the pig does not immediately drop? What if you just wound it and make it mad? That's why you need to have a contingency - have a plan so there isn't any confusion. We came up with a short list and solutions:

What if TBM had to shoot him again? Hopefully that wouldn't happen. The best thing is not to panic and to wait and see what happens. Mostly you should just see the pig go down on his knees, fall over, then you stick him with the knife,  and then there is some thrashing. If that does not happen you might have to make a second shot. But only if it's a safe.
What if the pig ran? Then we'd get out of the way and let Kai and Dog#1 run it down. Because we have houses around us it would be foolish to try shoot at any other direction then a downward-ish killing shot to the head of that pig. Plus running and shooting is stupid and ineffective.
What if the pig turned on TBM? Then he would not fire additional shots and assume the dogs and I would rush in and I would sledge that pig with the axe. We had a back up gun but again, firing a gun in the direction of another person is foolish.
Why did I have an axe and not a sledge hammer as indicated here?  A war axe is my weapon of choice and it's lighter and easier to wield than the sledge.

But nothing bad happened, that pig dropped like a rock and never knew what hit him. Easy peasy.

My beautiful Kai. Normally she doesn't even wear a collar but we put a halter on her just in case I had to get ahold of her. We told her it was a "pretty girl necklace." She loved it and was very proud.

At this point I'll tell you that Kai did a stupendous job. This was her first official chance to help us. Normally it's just Dog#1, who's real job is to protect me - or TBM - if things didn't go well. We didn't know how Kai would do...but she did great!

She stayed right with me, she wasn't nervous around the pig. she didn't try and chase it as we were getting him into the pen, she didn't make a sound, and best of all - she didn't flinch at all at the gun shot. She didn't even blink. For a dog that is astounding and we were really proud of her! She did, however, tried to haul "her" kill off to her den which was pretty funny. But we called her to 'leave it' and she did. Kai was absolutely the star of the show.

Our only real glitch was that the we didn't have the hoses set up the night before. So they were a little frozen. We should have made sure we had them working so we could have done a better job of hosing off the carcass. The only other weird thing that happened was that my wedding ring got tangled up in the hog's colon and there was some surprise poop when I tried to untangle it...but I guess I shouldn't have told you that because now you are all probably vomiting on your fancy phones or laptops. Sorry. Here! Quick! Look at Little Mo.

The best thing that happened was that we used our Bacon Wagon of Doom to gut and skin the pig. It was the perfect work surface for me (I'm on guts). We could wheel the trolley... I mean... BWofD to a new spot if the sun shifted or the ground got to muddy. This worked out perfectly.

This was the small pig. A half a pork is a beautiful thing.

Once skinned we trolley-ed the carcass up the hill to the garage, used our sawsall to cut the carcass in half, then strung up the halves of pork in the garage to cool overnight.

Friday we marched right out there at the crack of 10am and got the first half of pork. We were racing against time tho because the temperature was climbing to about 50* and we couldn't risk the meat spoiling. I immediately set to cutting the first side up into manageable sized chunks so we could shove them into the exceptionally cold and cleaned out beer fridge. I also prepared other chunks to immediately be portioned up and put in the freezer.

Once I had the first side into big chunks and cooling in the fridge or freezer TBM carried the second half of pork into the kitchen so I could do the final cuts without worrying about it spoiling.

 That is some serious back fat, people. And look at that marbling!

Along about 3pm we realized we were in the soup. We were just about out of freezer space. And this was only the first monster pig. After a mild amount of panic we decided to resurrect an old plan to get another chest freezer just in case this kind of emergency came up. TBM was dispatched into town while I finished up cutting.

Chops. That's how they are supposed to look. 

So now we have a new freezer set up (our third chest freezer!), some bacons so beautiful a grown man would weep over them, a host of belly pieces set to be cured into pancetta, a heap of "stew meat" set to be fried in a pan at a moments notice, and two full hams that I have to do something with soon. You can read about my parting up strategy here... I basically followed the same formula. I didn't track the results this time but it seems we had twice as much meat as the day in that post.

I also had a huge kettle of leaf lard which is already rendered. There is a bucket of fatback and "regular" fat that will be rendered later. We also canned 14 quarts of leavin's and odd bits for the dogs.

See the chops to the left, bacon to the right, and I'm sawing generous ribs on both sides.

We are going to have the best fed dogs in the state - I can tell you that for sure. I put some of the long bones (that were generously covered in meat) in the crock pot overnight to be cooked for the dogs. It turned out spectacularly. It was so incredible that I took out some of the meat and made a "pulled pork" sandwich (complete with slaw) for myself! Yeah, those dogs aren't going to be suffering at all. 

Our Battle Princess fell asleep like this - tuckered out after a hard day's work.

Now that we know we know we can depend on her Kai will be at my left side the next time we butcher. And then you can bet that she will get a big plate of meat and bones. Next year Zander should be mature enough for this kind of work. I'll have a brace of curly-tailed bear killers in one hand, an axe in the other, and Dog#1 at my side. What a glorious day it will be!

Happy Sunday everyone! Now who wants some chops?


Provender Place said...

I love the picture of the chops/bacon. Glorious! And those chops did almost make me weep and start singing some ol' time religion songs about bringing in the sheaves or something.

David said...

wow! you're my heroine! That's some beautiful pork!

House Sparrow said...

I have pig envy!

Chai Chai said...

I think this is the first time I even noticed that you have a steel table in your kitchen. How wonderful! What a great surface for "farm" work.

If my dogs were out with me and I fired a gunshot they would either die of immediate cardiac arrests or hide in places where we could never find them again. (neurotic Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd)

Horst in Edmonton said...

You've done a great job with training the dogs. Wow, you have a whole lot of great looking meat there. Love your story of how the slaughter went, quite descriptive. I'm sure a lot of people reading your story will be a little queezy, but that's ok. I've don't a few butcherings in my time on the farm. The hardest ones I did was the older baby male goats, they were so cute but the job had to be done.

Unknown said...

Wow that looks awesome! Being a city person, but hoping that will change, I find this all pretty interesting! Do you ever worry about losing you freezers? Do you can some of the meat too? And your dogs sound great- do you do a traditional kind of training or?

Amanda said...

Does Lucky get in on the action at any point? Like guarding you or rounding up chickens or anything like that?

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi PP! You know it... I think that hymn goes "Bringing in the pork, bringing in the pork, we will come rejoicing bringing in the bacon!" or something like that... ;-)

thanks David!

Hi HS! These porkers were envy inducing for sure.

hey CC - even better the stainless steel top isnt secured - i can take the top outside when we butcher and use it out there too! its my favorite thing in the kitchen. aside from that bad ass knife.... ;-)

Hi Horst! thanks for stopping by and yep, I try and warn folks but hands down the most popular posts are my 'how to butcher' ones. We know its a job to be done and really - its such interesting work.

Thanks Nancy! Nope dont worry about the freezers at all - we have a generator and a power inverter for our truck. Plus the freezers are superduper efficient. If we ever get to the point where we cant keep them going with the generator/power inverter then we figure we have much bigger problems. Then we'd bust out all the meat have a huge BBQ and feed all the zombies.

As far as the dogs go, we work with them everyday - or I should say they work with US everyday. Our crew arent house pets - they are hard working farm dogs with jobs. And yep we train them rigorously. You can find out more under the What I Know About Dogs page here:


Samantha said...

I admit I'm queasy...with envy!
All that glorious pork.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Amanda, (sorry i missed you yesterday!), Sadly Lucky doesnt like the shooting part of it - so he stays in the house. but he does a great job of guarding that dog bed!

hey Samantha! there's sooooo much pork! wow!
ps glad you didnt hurl ;-)

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