Pig Yard

DSCN9521Struggling_along built the piggies a new home and fenced them in a nice outdoor area. Rio and Tokyo love it! The kids love it too. They’re scheming to turn it into a playhouse some day.

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Tokyo

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Rio

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Tokyo and Rio

DSCN8218Our new little piggies, Tokyo and Rio, joined us this past weekend. For now they’re in the extra stall in the chicken camper while we close in the front of the pole barn. Tokyo is the pinker female on the left; Rio is on the right, he has more of a gray to his shin. They’re both red Tamworths.

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In other piggie news: Singapore is getting big! She’s done a fine job of rooting up her pen. I’ll be able to expand the garden there next year.

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Pig Butchering

Another 10 inches of snow. So much for thinking spring was on the way.

DSCN0055Despite the snow it was time to butcher and process one of the pigs.  I helped to separate the girl pigs then Struggling_along did the deed and hoisted her up.  DSCN0072

The kids were happy it was snowing and that my brother and his girlfriend were showing up soon so they danced around.

DSCN0070 DSCN0091 DSCN0092 Struggling_along tended to the gutting and hair removal as we headed inside to start supper. Plus, I needed to sharpen all the knives for breaking down the pig into chops, roasts etc. the next day.

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The few photos I took while we were cutting up the meat were too blurry. Besides, most of the time my hands were too busy breaking down the hams into more manageable sized roasts and ham steaks or wrapping the meat for the freezer. Ezra decided to help label the bags.Now we have cute bags with H A M scrawled across; a few even have smiley faces.

I did snap these as I finished up grinding the sausage.

DSCN0148 DSCN0149Then we (and when I say we I mean Struggling_along and my brother) moved Mercedes in with Chevy. Hopefully he will indeed “make good things happen” and we’ll have an early fall litter of pigs.

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Winter Around the Homestead

Snow, snow and more snow! This is what it’s looking like around here:

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I believe Manson’s expression sums up!

DSCN9190On the bright side the huge snow banks provide plenty of fun for the little guys. All that climbing, digging, sliding down. And taking a hike is quite the undertaking. Only Struggling_along, Noah and Megan have made it up into the woods – and that required snowshoes. They reported back that there’s easily 3 feet deep of snow back there.

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This isn’t Ishi’s first winter but this year he’s old enough to explore what this winter season and snow is all about.

DSCN9171He’s been quite the helper; joining me everyday (well except for those -10 below days) to go and feed and water the animals. I believe the chickens are his favorite. Likely because they’re not very bright birds and we have no roosters right now so they’ll squat there and they’re easy to pick up (or if you’re a pig – eat. And that’s why we have 6 chickens left).

DSCN8626The chickens are back to laying well though – 5 or 6 eggs a day.

DSCN9084The pigs (Mercedes and Lexus) have taken up camper remodeling and have thus far striped a large part of their section; after all that hard work they enjoy a fresh chicken. Chevy hangs out in his dog shed full of hay but readily comes out for a scratch and some scraps.

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DSCN8731I make many trips like this. Ah the days of hoses, grass and not spending a half hour putting on layers will soon be here (relatively speaking).

DSCN9071I’m thinking more and more that Manson did his job and Ellie will be kidding this spring! Milk again! Rita isn’t pregnant as Lenin has continued to nurse. He’s getting quite big and has beautiful colors as Rita is 3/4 Oberhasli and has color variations too.

I have to feed Manson separately or he’ll just ram everyone else away and eat it all himself.

DSCN9059Since the goats can be a little pushy before they get their grain I have Ishmael wait a second before we water and hay the goats. He just loves this part because he gets to sit and pretend to steer.

DSCN9199Winter around the homestead also means a lot of snow removal. Thank goodness for Struggling_along! He works the snow plow and shovels bits by hand.

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Breakfast Bacon

I love pigs. They’re smart, friendly, and they can be a great resource to any homestead – turning unusable food scraps into food and they are great at turning up soil and removing tree stumps. Admittedly, they can also present a challenge. They can eat a lot, they’re smart, persistent, and strong (that can add up to escape). So what makes it all worth while?

Pork.

Or more specifically pork tenderloin, chops, roasts and….bacon.

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Bacon comes from the belly of the pig. I wish I had a decent photo of Mercedes. She is growing into such a bacon pig! Long and well-built. What makes bacon bacon is the curing process. The curing process adds flavor and can help preserve the meat too. Most store brought bacon is cured using sodium nitrates. The way I do it does not.

Here is the way I make it most often:

Place a side of bacon in a bag or dish large enough to hold the bacon. Mix together 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup kosher salt. Coat the side of bacon with this wet cure; seal bag or cover dish and refrigerate.

DSCN8387The next day flip the side of bacon and return to the fridge. My bacon is skin on. You can cure bacon with or without the skin. I prefer to leave the skin on until right before slicing.

DSCN8400Everyday, once a day, turn the bacon. You’ll notice the meat firming up.

DSCN8413After 7 days remove the bacon from the wet cure and allow to dry on a cooling rack in the fridge for a day. Now if you have a smoker I’d smoke it. However, I do not so I go the liquid smoke route.

DSCN8531First I brush on a thin coating of liquid smoke. A little goes a long ways. A quick once over starting at one end working towards the other as to not miss a spot does the trick. Then place in a low oven. My oven (a gas range) doesn’t actually have any markers under 260F so I have to guesstimate, with the help of an oven thermometer, to get 180F.  Leave the bacon in the low oven for several hours – until the bacon registers 150F.

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Cool and slice. A meat slicer will give the thinnest most even slices but with a little patience and practice hand slicing can do a fair job. Fry up a few slices and refrigerate or freeze the rest.

DSCN8562I have to admit that home made bacon is a bit different than store bacon. It looks a little different and it’s a bit chewier. Not using sodium nitrates mean the pork is a little less pink and tastes a tad more porky. I find it helps to fry the bacon over a little lower heat than you might normally fry up bacon as to avoid burning it. That said, it’s still delicious!

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Chevy “It’s exciting”

Over the weekend another farm animal has joined the ranks of Fried Farm! It’s always exciting so perhaps it’s especially fitting that this little boar is named Chevy  (in case you don’t know “It’s exciting” was the Chevy slogan during the 1960’s); this also continues the new pig naming theme of automobile brands. Last time around we had a Mexican theme: Sanchez (the previous red boar), Rosalie (our sow), and Carlita and Juanita (who went straight to the freezer).

So without further ado meet Chevy:

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DSCN8338He’ll be our new boar. He’s quite a nice friendly pig which is a good start since there will likely be a day we have to coax Chevy, at  500lbs, into doing something he’s not too inclined to do. How do I know? It’s been “tried,tested and [it’s] true”.

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Fred’s Campa

Meet our two newest additions to Fried Farm: Mercedes (the all white one) and Lexus.

We’re very happy to have pigs again! We miss Rosalie (our previous sow) and especially  Sanchez (our big red boar- see photo below) and all the subsequent little piglets. Of course there were many hours of frustrated pig chasing/fence fixing with the little ones in tow or as in the case of our youngest, strapped in the baby wrap and I sincerely hope not to repeat those adventures.

So far we seem to be off to a great start. Since the big barn will be coming down in the spring we needed a different place to shelter the animals- ideally mobile so we can move their housing about to new pastures. Struggling_along found just the thing: a pull behind camper.

He stripped it out (saving the stove for a future outdoor kitchen!!) and partitioned an area for the chickens on one end:

The hatch struggling_along is looking thru is for easy cleaning out the coop. The Freds also  have a small door for access to an outdoor run and the old storage cabinets are now laying boxes. The Freds are laying very well! I don’t know if it’s the breed (Gold star sex-links) but compared to other chicks we have gotten in the years prior these have started laying sooner and are very consistent. Right now we have 11 freds and we usually gather 9 eggs everyday. All the boys LOVE the chickens but I think Ishmael does most of all. He just can’t wait to go feed them in the morning or visit them any chance he gets to wander over there. Give him 30 seconds and he’ll have one in his arms.

On the other side of the camper- after leaving a spot for grain and shaving storage-is an L-shape stall for, right now, the piglets but struggling-along built the walls high enough we could but the goats in there too.

Just have to slap a little tin on the roof and we’ll be ready for winter. The best part is that this campa project only cost us 150 dollars. Scratch that- the best part is that we’ll be having Fried eggs and bacon.

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Unplugged

It’s been an unplanned, but very enjoyable, hiatus from the internet and computers due to computer problems. They have been resolved and so I’m back! Hopefully I can share a post or two with you this week. At the moment we are butchering our pigs so I must get back to cutting and wrapping.

In the meantime a sneak peek at an upcoming chicken recipe using fermented lemons:

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