So much catching up to do since my last post! When last we spoke, your intrepid farmeress had just taken her two pigs to the butcher. Everything went smoothly, and the following weekend we were able to pick up all of our fresh meat: chops, roasts, ribs, sausage, scrapple, etc. Both hogs dressed out at 180lbs hanging weight. Out of this we got about 220lbs of fresh meat, including 72 pork chops, four (of course) racks of ribs, 25lbs of sausage, one 17lb fresh ham, 20 roasts ranging from about 2.5-3.5lbs, and 50lbs or so of scrapple. In another week or two we’ll be able to pick up the other 3 hams and the bacon, which are all being smoked. The fresh meat just about filled my father-in-law’s car! We’ve tried both the chops and the sausage so far, and both were absolutely spectacular. The meat is so dark compared to store-bought pork; you can really see the difference in the way they are raised. Check it out!
While Avery and his dad were picking up the pork, his mom and I were on our annual trip to the NY Sheep & Wool Festival, aka Rhinebeck! We had a fantastic time shopping for knitwear, visiting the sheep in the breed exhibits, and spectating (but alas, not bidding) at the bred ewe auction. We have a great time every year, and this one was no exception. The fall colors were even more stunning than usual.
When we got back, autumn was in full swing at home. The pumpkins and squash are ripening up, although a little behind schedule for October 31 due to the early nibbling by deer. I did manage to scrounge up one fully orange pumpkin for a Jack O’Lantern, though, and by an incredible stroke of luck, it is absolutely perfectly shaped for the job! We carved it tonight, so it’s all set for tomorrow evening.
Next weekend we’ll be paring down the ducks to those we plan to keep for breeding next year, with the help of some friends and a borrowed chicken plucker. My friend Rabbit Darling will be there enthusiastically gathering duck livers and gizzards. If you’re curious about cooking with offal, you should check out this post for a very seasonal Dracula-inspired paprikash!
Today was butchering day for our pigs, Bacon and Pork Chops. As their names imply, they were always intended to be meat pigs. We knew this day would come, and in fact have been eagerly awaiting it. This was our first foray into raising our own pork, and I’m having a predictable assortment of feelings as it comes to an end. Overall, I consider it a resounding success. Our pigs had a joyful life. They loved every minute of the time they had on this earth. When my time comes, I will not be able to say as much. I am very happy that I was able to provide that for them, and that I will be able to remember their happiness whenever I eat pork in the coming year. I feel, as I always do when I take the life of an animal I’ve raised for food, a deep and profound sense of gratitude. In this case, I am not only thankful for their sacrifice that I might eat, I am also so thankful for everything they have taught me. I will miss the particular character they brought to the barnyard. I will miss their squealing for treats every time we approached. I will miss their contribution to reducing our waste by eating food scraps. I will miss watching them root through straw or roll in the mud on a hot day. But I will never forget them, and I will see them in every pig I raise for the rest of my days.
The pigs on their first day with us
We took them to a small local family butcher shop, mostly because I was unable to find a mobile slaughter unit in my area, and because I had a personal recommendation for a butcher that a friend had found to be reliable, clean, and kind. It was harder on me than I had expected, but I think much easier on the pigs than I had feared. I did not particularly like taking them in a trailer on a ride to a new pen where they’d never been before. I worried that they would be frightened and uncomfortable. In truth, it bothered me far more than it bothered them. They loaded with little difficulty (more caused by distraction with all the new things to investigate than any true reluctance to enter the trailer). When we opened the trailer after the journey, they were snoozing in the thick straw, not a care in the world. We guided them down the ramp into a comfortable pen, and they started looking around curiously, and without concern. If in the future the option is available, I think I would still opt for an on-farm slaughter, because I think it would be more satisfying for me and my human sensibilities. But I certainly don’t think that there is anything inherently cruel about taking larger livestock to a responsible small-scale butcher, and that belief is borne out by my experience with these pigs.
All grown up
Our setup here is not conducive to raising pigs over the winter, so the pig pen is empty for the moment. We plan to plant some winter rye to keep the soil from eroding and to get some green growth on the ground. In the spring, we’ll look for another pair of pigs to raise up for next year’s pork. The cycle will go on. And it’s all possible because I chose to take the first step, and take the risk, of bringing these two little pigs home, and they rewarded me beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you, boys. For everything.