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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hog Harvest 2014

We finally butchered our pigz on Saturday! What a day! Despite being ill-prepared, not having the best weather conditions, forgetting to plug in the new freezer, and feeling a little rushed.... everything went very well. The last couple days have all been about processing meat. There is more of that on the agenda today.


As always we used this step by step method as detailed by my pal, Bourbon Red, to butcher the pigz. This is the only reference we use and it works perfectly for us. Altho, I could watch this guy all day. Talk about having your processes down! We were not that elegant.

But before we continue.... here is your official warning. This is going to be a detailed post about butchering! We are going to have PICTURES and we are gonna talk about making meat! And when I say making meat I mean we are gonna talk about slaughtering, gutting, and all kinds of stuff! Proceed only if you can handle it. It's OK if you can't - just look away... But if you are going to cry or be offended then you are doing it to yourself! If you send me a mean comment, a nasty email, or heaven forbid, write a blog post about how horrible I am or whatever I will:  1. Laugh at you. 2. Make fun of you to my real friends. 3. Not read or post it anyway. 4. Never think about you again. Thoughtful comments and questions are welcome! But keep your nastygrams to yourself. This is it.. your very last warning...I am not kidding! Are you sure you can handle this? How about if you just read about how Nicholas has a hard life instead? Are you SURE!?! OK here we go....

So we marched out there at the crack of 10am which was way too late but we didn't want to hurry. While I prefer it to be about 20* when we butcher we were standing on the edge of a warm front and we really needed to get this done before the rains made everything a horrible mess. It was already muddy enough and the ground was not entirely frozen.

After. That's a lot of pork.

Previously we have been able to get out there, get the pigz positioned, and then the shooting goes like clockwork. That's not what happened this time. The first pig did not go down immediately so it took a while. We'll talk more about this a different day. But the second pig was picture perfect. The Big Man shot him once, the pig fell to his knees, and then my hubs stuck him for a text book bleed out.

Unfortunately this all happened far from our intended work area and in the mud. The deep mud.

My Fighting Uruk-Hai's best day ever.

We spent a good deal of time devising a method to drag the carcasses out of the mud and implementing our plan. In the meantime, Kai thought this was the best thing that every happened to her. While we set up the pulleys and such she stood triumphantly over "her" kill. My Dog#1 just eyed the pigz suspiciously lest they spring to life.

Where was Zander? My biggest disappointment for this day was that our Bubby was not at my side. All that time spent this summer training him to work the pigz and "Guard Momma" was for naught. If you combine a Big Rowdy Dog + Bad Joints + Ice then you get... Rest + Rx's + Restricted activity. So our Bubby was inside so he could not do further damage to his knee. But he came out afterward and thought it was amazing. And yes, we are aware that we may be looking at one or two expensive knee surgeries for him.  Our Lucky never likes the shooting so he kept Bubby company inside.

My work surface. We use a piece of wood to keep the carcass from rolling around.

Once we got the pigz out of the mud and hauled the first and biggest one up the hill with the ancient garden tractor we were able to quickly and easily gut the carcass. We used our Bacon Wagon of Doom as a work surface. This lets me sit down to work and then also we can trolly the carcass to where it needs to be hung. Using the trolley is definitely our best idea yet. The sides of the trolly fold down for easy access and afterwards we can just hose the whole thing off.

Since this was taking longer than we expected we hurriedly hung carcass #1 up in a tree to cool while we went to retrieve the second carcass. Unfortunately the tractor was then out of gas but we just used the Bacon Wagon (of Doom) to get it up the hill.

Due to being cold, tired, and hungry I skinned this carcass very badly. It looked like a old blind man skinned it using a dull spoon. We shrugged, got sandwiches, and then halved the carcass using a new blade in our sawsall. It worked perfectly. Then it was easy to trolly the carcass into the garage, hoist it up, and hang it from the rafters. The garage was staying about 30* so it was perfect.

Due to sandwiches, the second carcass went much better... which was just what we needed because later today I'm going to take the two hams and the two bacons from this pig to our local custom butcher shop to be cured, smoked, and wrapped.

Why aren't we doing them ourselves? No matter what, professionally processed bacon is just more bacony. We don't have a slicer so having the pros do it results in a more store-like product. I like our home cured bacon better than pro processed... but my hubs likes it better from the butcher. So we split the difference. I'm keeping two bacons to do here at home and taking two in to the butcher. We can - and will - cure and smoke small hams but not a full one... we just don't have a big enough smoker. 

The second carcass was also hung in the garage. Then we just needed to get cleaned up, warmed up, and get our chores done.

I ended up being really dirty.

About this time I start getting questions so I'll tackle the most common ones.

Wasn't it horrible?!?! Did you cry??
No. No, it is not horrible. It was not stressful. We had a great time and no one cried... well... Kai had actual tears of joy in her eyes when she saw them pigz on the ground and realized she could run right over and try to eat one or both of them. Then later she had tears when I told her to Leave It! And Go Watch The House... then she walked away really really really slowly while grumbling about how I was not the boss of her. Well, turns out I am the boss of her. So, yes, Kai cried. But not us.

But... but you touched something DEAD! And it was MEAT! Are you now suffering from PBDS (Post Butchering Day Stress)?
Under that skin is a whole lot of pork. That's how you make meat.  Yes I touched it and no, I was not grossed out. We don't think it's stressful - other than we weren't particularly well organized this time. I think it's a "thing" now that you are supposed to feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained and have some kind of existential crisis over butchering... but we just don't. We are exceptionally grateful for our full harvest and all we can think about is that this is the culmination of all our hard work. We were over joyed. We focused on the task and make a lot of stupid jokes. So no, we don't think it's stressful.

The only part I think is gross are the trotters. Ew!

I could NEVER do that!
Yes, you could. The only thing holding you back is your own thinking.  As a man thinketh, so is he. Have you convinced yourself that you can't do this? Then you can't. Did someone tell you that you couldn't do this? Who told you that lie and how long have you believed it? There used to be a time where just about everyone was involved in the process of making food - now it's becoming a lost art. Don't fall into the trap of believing that just because the people around you think it's gross - or that they tell you can't do it - that you really can't butcher at home. Sure you can! We are just regular people and the biggest reason that we are able to butcher is because we are willing to do the work. So you can too.

Doesn't it take a whole group of people? 
Nope. Two reasonably strong people can do this just fine. Sure one person could do it alone - but you probably shouldn't. There are some things that could go wrong so butchering alone is not a great idea. In fact, we make sure that someone offsite knows what we are doing just in case we aren't heard from again... at least that someone could send the sheriff out to look for us. And it's more fun to have someone to work with and extra hands to help do the work.

What tools did you use?
Here is my list. I kind of went between a couple different knives... mostly I used my scimeter because I love it so much. The sawsall (with a new blade) makes parting up the carcass very easy.

Chickens love to peck a the hide.

What did you do with the guts n stuff?
One day I will tell you a very hilarious story about this. But for now just assume our garbage guy really really really hates picking up at our house. And also...I left one of the hides out for the chickens to peck at - it was their best day ever.

We heard on 'the facebook' that you were stomping around in the yard at nite with a flashlight looking for the pig heads - did you find them?
No comment.

I've got to get busy breaking down the rest of these pork halves. Our fridges are totally stuffed full of meat and the new freezer was finally plugged in and is doing great.

Happy Monday everyone! Are you butchering?


David said...

nice job. I be the sawzall does an awesmne job parting up them pigz. Brilliant Idea!

Jenna Woginrich said...

Well Done and enjoy the meals! Got five here going into freezers soon

Unknown said...

very nice. i appreciate your non-sugar-coated look at this. we sent our pig off to the butcher this year, mostly b/c we love how they do us the sausage, scrapple, hams & bacon for us. i had them save all the lard for me too. rendering for baking, etc. :) happy full freezers!

Karen said...

Give Kai the trotters. My dogs love them.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks David! I'm going to be looking for an "official" electric butcher saw but for now this does a great job.

Thanks Jenna! Can't wait to see your post on the 5 - I remember that your butcher guys have great tools. I'll be taking notes. :-)

Hi Heather! So great to meet you also on the fb. :-) Wow - i have not thought about scrapple...hum...

Thanks Karen - wow look at your dog crew! I have some happy dogs here - they are getting some of the bones too.

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