Processing Pigs – How to guide

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Warning! – This post contains graphics and processing details. Please take note before you read.

We raised our first 2 pigs this year and they were so entertaining. In February 2014 we traveled to a local farm to pick up our new wiener pigs. We loaded them up in a dog kennel and brought them home.

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Little Piggies

We fed the pigs fruit and veggie scraps that I gathered from various stores and dumpsters. We also had a great bread contact with a local bakery. In December we made cottage cheese from raw milk and we froze the left over whey for our pigs. They absolutely love whey and it is really good for them. For their last week I feed them oats and barley mixed with milk. Raising pigs is very affordable if you are willing to put in the effort to find contacts. It is very reassuring to know exactly what you will be feeding your family.

Lazy Mud Day

Lazy Mud Day

We raised our pigs until September and did all our own processing on the farm. The pigs weighted out at 250 lbs. 24 hours before processing date provide only water. This was our first experience doing it so I am sure there is room for improvement (suggestions welcomed). Here is what we did:

Estimating Weight Formula
We estimated the weight by doing a simple 2 step formula. 
Step one(length) measure from rump to head (between the ears).

Second step measure the girth just behind the shoulders. 

Then it is girth squared times length divided by 400. 
We used a piece of string because we didn't have a measuring  tape.
 
TIP - Give them something delicious or they will sample your boots!

Here are the steps we followed to get the job done.

  1. Boil lots and lots of water. Get some rags, a knife for scrapping, sharp knives for butchering, a bone saw, a hoe, and a tiger torch.
  2. You need to be a good shot for this part. I put out some delicious food, cried a little, and took a step back. Shoot the hog just above the eyes slightly off center, it helps to draw an imaginary line from ear to eye and aim off center of that. After that was done a good friend stepped in and cut the jugular and collected all the blood for blood sausage.
  3. We placed the pig on a large piece of plywood. Using a tiger torch burn the skin until black.IMG_3633
  4. Put the rags in the boiling water and place on the burnt skin.
  5. Using a dull knife scrap off the skin. IMG_3636
  6. Once all the skin is off clean everything well with water and a wire brush.
  7. Flip the hog onto his back and cut from the genitals up to the neck. When you cut be very careful not to puncture any internal organs. Using a bone saw cut through the breast bone. Carefully scoop out the organs, it helps to roll the hog on his side. If you are going to keep the liver, heart, and kidneys place in a separate bowl full of water to prevent them from drying out.  Aviary Photo_130644665773348519
  8. Luckily we have another great friend who let us borrow a hoist that hooked up to the truck. We cut a slit in each hock and placed the pig on the hoist. We used twine for extra security.
  9. Cut off the head and with a bone saw cut the hog in half. Take down one half and take it to your processing table. Make sure you wash down your table with bleach water to completely sanitize the work area. Aviary Photo_130644672198925828
  10. Next you need to decide what cuts you want. We use ground meat the most so that was our priority. We also cut some ham, roasts, loins, and of course BACON.

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Bear Attacks

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About a month ago we had our first ever bear attacks on the farm. I have 4 chicken coops and one is a small A-Frame that I had in our middle field. Well that silly bear came one night and pretty much destroyed it.

Many people in the area were talking about a momma bear and her 2 cubs hanging around. My friend up the road called for me to get 8 of her birds because the rest of her flock had been killed by the bears. Unfortunately she didn’t set up defenses after the first attack. Bears take note of what is left and you can be sure they are coming back.

Unfortunately we were next on the bears list. They broke into my little A-Frame and ate 3 chickens. I was making my morning coffee and saw my rooster from the A-Frame ranging in the back. I thought that crafty rooster got out somehow before I unlocked the door. But no the others were gone and he somehow managed to escape a dreadful fate. Because he defeated all odds he will get to live out his days on the farm. Sometimes you get overrun with roosters especially when you hatch your own. This roo has achieved permanent status in my opinion.

After the attack we went out to the back coop and circled the coop with an electric net. I did not want to satisfy any other bears! We didn’t have an extra electric fence but the other coop is right next to the house so I thought it was pretty safe. Not so much.

That night the bear came to the front coop. Luckily my husband has the ears of a fox and woke up. We went running out to see a bear standing up peering into the back vent of the coop. We started screaming at it to scare it off but it cared very little of us. The bear looked at us reached down and pulled out the floor. He swiftly reached in and pulled out a chicken. Our screams intensified as we searched our sleepy brains for something else to do. My hubby grabbed a five gallon bucket and chucked it at the bear and ran in the house for the gun.

I stayed outside to continue screaming at the bear. Then I realized hubby left with the flashlight and I was left standing in the dark screaming at a bear. Holy crap I was alone screaming at a bear in the DARK. I couldn’t see it anymore but I could hear grunting. Sometimes we do dumb things on the farm to protect our animals! As you can see I am alive…phew! The bear ran off and we were back to string up more electric. We protected the coop with electric and so far no more attacks.

Lessons Learned
*Electric works best

*Act quickly to protect all animals
*5 Gallon Bucket, although extremely useful, don’t scare bears
*Don’t put yourself in danger….its scary

My 1950s Housewife Project (Well kind of)

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I have a confession to make, turns out I am a terrible housewife. I should probably be fired. The laundry is piled in laundry baskets on the dining room table. There are toys on the floor and dog hair everywhere. The dishes seem to be never ending and are often stacked on the counters. If you saw my room you may think it belongs to a college student.

When we decided I would stay home with the children I think we both thought it would be easier. We would always have a clean house and hot meals would be ready to be served. Confession number 2, I am a messy person. I am not a perfectionist. I keep wishing this will change but it looks doubtful.

When I realized I was not the greatest housewife I thought who is the ultimate housewife. The 1950s came to mind instantly. So I began to research how to become a 1950s housewife. Have you ever looked this up? CRAZY! For those of you who don’t know here is apparently a reference guide created in 1955 by Housekeeping Monthly Magazine.

Good Wife Guide 1955

I actually like some of the ideas on here. I believe that modern homemakers loosely follow some of these suggestions. How happy would my hubby be if I had the house clean and dinner ready. I bet it would be nice to see me in actually clothes instead of my jammies. Imagine if I brushed my hair! I would have a very happy husband. So maybe it is not so crazy.

In 2015 I am going to start my 1950s housewife project. I am going to commit to this project for 8 weeks. I cannot follow this to the letter though. I believe I have very interesting things to talk about. For example the boys, the pigs, the chickens, school and after school activities, it goes on. Also I don’t wear makeup and I have no desire to start now (it hurts my poor face). And I am certain my hubby knows how to take off his own shoes. But I am going to attempt to be carefree and bubbly (ish). I will keep this house clean and I will cook dinner.

I am curious if this will strengthen our marriage even more. I want to see if this 8 weeks makes everyone extra happy and carefree. I am going to involve the boys in the chores. As I said in a previous post I want to make sure I teach the boys life skills and cleaning is one for sure. I hope that after this 8 weeks we have all established a new routine.

Stay at Home Momma Fears

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I was both excited and terrified to become a stay at home momma. I worked a great job that was extremely flexible. They worked with my schedule as much as possible. But I was still missing moments.

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We were very fortunate to have family who watched our boys when we had to work. My wonderful sister in law would pick my oldest up for school. I would arrive to get the boys about an hour after school. By that time my oldest had lost all interest and excitement to tell me what happened at school that day. I would ask what he did at school and his response was usually “Nothin”. I was starting to feel slightly jealous that my sister in law was hearing all about his day and there was a ‘nothing’ left for me. This jealously started to spill over at work. I was starting to dislike the job I always loved so much. It was time for the change I knew that but why was I so panicked by the idea?

I felt I was losing this sense of independence and self worth by leaving my job. I had so many questions running through my head

“People will think I have no skills and that is why I stay home?”  
“Will my kids think I just don’t work?”  
“What about women who fought for my right to work. Am I letting them down?”
“Will we be able to pay the bills?”

All these questions made my transition to stay at home long and drawn out. I gradually left work instead of just doing it. But working the farm and taking care of the house and kids and working was wearing me thin making me short and miserable.

I finally made the switch to a stay at home momma. For the past year I have been learning what a blessing it is to be apart of their everyday moments. I have also been learning how hard it is! For the next while I will be sharing my stay at home momma fails and triumphs.

First things first ‘The Routine’. In an earlier post I spoke to this and got some wonderful advice. I also found great inspiration on Abundant Mama. I hope that you too can find some inspiration there too.

Here’s to early mornings in the new year! I will be attempting to be out of bed by 4:45pm each day. I am shedding a tear as I write this! More to come.

Inspiration1

The Routine

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I often think (like daily) I need a routine. Then I quickly think a routine is better started on a Monday or the beginning of the month or better yet the beginning of the year. Well 2015 is a few days away and I don’t have a routine or the drive to start a routine.

I look around here and think my poor house. Without a doubt I have happy kids because I will always sacrifice cleaning to play cars with them or go outside and play on the swings. But am I teaching them to skip the cleaning?? I am supposed to teach them life skills and cleaning up after themselves is one of those skills. I need to step it up! So the search is on for inspiration to get started.

The thing you should know about me is I am really good at things for 2 weeks. For the whole 2 weeks I am devoted to the new change. The change could be cleaning, decluttering, lifting weights, waking up early or running. It doesn’t matter the change it always has a 2 week maximum. Will 2015 be different? I will be sure to update you on my progress. If you have any tips and tricks send them my way. I need all the help and advice I can get!

DIY Dog Treats

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Ever year we make dog cookies as Christmas gifts. We give them to neighbors, family and of course our pups. We have made a ton of dog treats over the years. There are great recipes here, here and here.

This year we came up with our own recipe. The kids loved coming up with different combinations and trying to get the correct consistency. Finally we were successful and the dogs really enjoyed our healthy treats.

The cookies are loaded with fantastic healthy ingredients. I love that I know exactly what my pups are snacking on. The cookies are so easy and totally worth it.

Apple Carrot Pumpkin Doggie Goodness

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup Oats
1/2 cup Pumpkin Puree (I baked a pumpkin from the garden until soft then threw it in the magic bullet)IMG_4192[1]1/2 cup Carrot Juice
1/3 cup Apple Juice (seeds removed)
1 cup Carrot/Apple Juicing Pulp
2 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

The kids love using the juicer so for this recipe we juiced the carrots and apples.

Mix all the ingredients in a big mixing bowl. I mix everything in one bowl to save on dishes. It hasn’t messed up a recipe yet.

On a floured surface roll out your dough to about 1/2 inch thickness. We used quite a bit of flour to help with the stickiness.

We used heart shaped cookie cutters because I don’t have a bone shaped cutter (hint hint to my hubby 🙂 )

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

Cool completely and store in an air tight container.

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Farming Dreams – The top 5 things I never pictured myself doing

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A few years ago my farm dreams were just that – Dreams. I never in a million years thought I would actually have farm animals and operate a small farm. I mean come on we were suburbanites without any prior knowledge. But with dreams come a drive to learn and exceed. Here are the top 5 things I never pictured myself actually doing!

1. Owning and caring for animals – On the farm we have bees, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits. I keep everyone clean (so much poop!)….this makes great manure! This is a huge learning curve. I have had to deal with births, deaths, fleas (ick), illness, sore legs or hocks, runaways, the list goes on. I help out at my friends farm down the road and recently her and I had to cut spurs off a huge buck. This goat was unhappy to be apart of this. I have loaded sheep into a pick up and guided an escaped pig back to where she belonged.

A rootin tootin pig

A rootin tootin pig

2. Processing animals – We process all our own animals on the farm. We have processed chickens, pigs, rabbits, and turkeys. I don’t have specialized equipment so I do it all by hand.

3. Canning and Preserving – I still have so much to learn but I can all my own fruit and make all my own jam. This past year I made up a lot of my own recipes too. I traded chicken for a dehydrator and use it often. The honey harvest yields many jars and I render all the fat from the pigs.

Rendered Fat

Rendered Fat

4. Loading Hay – I go out to a farm a few hours away to get the best hay. The bales are 80 to 100 lbs and I manage to toss them from the field into the trailer. I’m working on my farm muscles. It is very clear that muscle is key and on the farm you use muscles that you didn’t even know existed!

5. Dumpster Diving – I find myself at the dumpster often. I am a scavenger! Looking for delicious fruit and vegetables for my chickens, pigs, and rabbits. People drive by and give me the side eye but I stand tall (from within the dumper) knowing I am giving my animals healthy food.

Dining on Scraps

Dining on Scraps

DIY Suet Bird Feeders

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This week we made bird feeders for Christmas gifts. The kids were so excited to pour all the ingredients.

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We made 2 different kinds. One for the chickens and one for the wild birds. The beauty of DIY feeders is you can do anything really. Play with the ingredients and molds. This time around we used heart shaped molds for the chicken feeders and a loaf pan for the wild bird feeders.

Chicken Feeder

1 cup Lard
1 cup Peanut Butter
1 cup Wheat Bran
1/2 cup Old Fashion Oats
1/2 cup Grit
1/2 cup Barley
1/2 cup Raisins

Melt peanut butter and lard. Mix the rest of the ingredients together with melted ingredients. Pour into any mold or pan. Place in the fridge or freezer to set.

Wild Bird Feeder

2 cups Lard
1 cup Grit
1 cup Barley
2 cups Bird seed

Melt lard. While the lard is melting mix all your ingredients in the loaf pan. Pour the melted lard over the other ingredients. Place in the fridge or freezer to set. When set cut into blocks.

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There are several ways to hang your feeder. You can poke a hole in the feeder with a skewer, loop in a ribbon or my favorite, twine and hang from a branch or the fence. I saw these great little houses on Fresh Eggs Daily. Check them out, they are a cinch to make.

Have fun! You will love watching the birds come and devour the new delicious treat.

Finished product!

Finished product!

Surviving the Homestead: Five must-have qualities

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Life on the homestead is always interesting. There is never a dull moment. Fences need mending, animals need food and water, eggs need to be collected, garden needs to be weeded and watered, stalls need to be mucked, chores go on and on. If you love the homesteading life these chores are more fun than work. I created my top 5 list to help survive the homestead.

  1. Okay with Poop

    You will get poo on you! If you are really unlucky you will slip in the chicken run on a rainy night and slide for a bit.

  2. Bad sniffer

    A farm is smelly, so so smelly! If you are sensitive to smells living on the homestead will be hard for you.

  3. Creative with Twine

    Twine fixes everything. As a frugal homesteader you will save everything and twine is as good as gold. Twine can fix fences, hold up gates, tie down tarps, hold up whatever needs processing, the list is endless really.

  4. Covet the Pallet

    Pallets are another item that is as good as gold. Pallets can be used in so many ways. All you need is an imagination or Pinterest. You can create fences, a strawberry wall, furniture, again the list is long.

  5. Love Creatures Big and Small

    Homesteading = animals. It is a must that you have a love for the furry and feathery creatures that are on the farm. That includes rats and mice! Just kidding you don’t have to love them but you can’t lose your mind when you see them. A shutter and a curse are absolutely acceptable!

DIY Christmas Gifts

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Every year our family make gifts for grandparents instead of buying “stuff”. We gave up buying presents for extending family a while ago, I think they enjoy getting something homemade from the kiddies much more.

I have always wished I could go outside collect some branches and make something stunning, like those super crafty savvy moms. I am just not that mom. I try really hard so I get bonus points right?!

So I find the cute crafts and the kids make them. That way I can’t place the expectation of perfection on myself. Lets be honest…I can’t even keep the house clean! Perfection is not for me 🙂

That being said, we have made some great projects over the years. I will highlight some of them. They are all quick and easy and make great gifts.

Fence Post Snowmen

I saw a picture of these cute snowmen last year and I knew we had to make them! I have bits and pieces of just about everything in my junk, aka treasure shed.

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Material Needed
*Fence Post Pieces
*Scrap Wood
*White Paint
*Orange Paint
*Paint for Buttons (your choice)
*Permanent Black Pen
*Old Toques and Scarves
*Nail Gun or Wood Glue
*Staple Gun
*Round Drill Bit

  1. Cut your fence posts in 3 different sizes (big, medium, small)
  2. Paint the posts white
  3. Cut out 2 round buttons for each snowman out of scrap wood and paint a color of your choice
  4. Cut out 3 triangles for the noses and paint orange
  5. Assemble snowman: Nail the buttons to the posts, staple on the scarf (I cut my scarfs in half), nail on the nose, place on toque, draw on the eyes

Pasta Ornament 

Material Needed
*Cardboard
*Different Shaped Pasta
*Elmers Glue
*Gold or Silver Spray Paint
*Cute Picture
*Hole Punch
*Fishing Line

  1. Cut out a star shape on the cardboard
  2. Measure your pictures to fit in the middle of the star and leave that area free
  3. Glue on the pasta (Find interesting shapes) let it dry before moving on the step 4
  4. Spray paint the star, make sure to get the sides of the pasta
  5. When it is dry glue on the cute picture (school pictures, picture with grandma, whatever you like)
  6. Punch a hole at the top and add fishing wire to hang on tree

Snow Globe 

Material Needed
*Any jar will do, I use baby food jars
*Glitter and Sequins
*Water
*Baby Oil (I also heard glycerin and corn syrup work)

Optional Materials
*Cute Picture
*Trees
*Snowmen
*Packing Tape

  1. Measure your jar and cut your picture to fit. You will need to laminate or cover the picture with packing tape. Make sure the picture is completely covered with tape to avoid leaks.
  2. Your picture should fit snug in the jar, a little bend in the picture is totally fine.
  3. Add your glitter and/or sequins. I found that you should add more then you think. They tend to get suck in the trees or on the picture.
  4. If you are adding a winter theme. Glue your trees and what not to the lid. Make sure you leave space to secure your lid.
  5. Fill with water to the top of the jar to avoid any air bubbles. You can add a bit of baby oil if you want, the oil will make the glitter fall a little slower.
  6. You can add decorations to the outside of the jar (ribbon, stickers, lace). I like to paint my lids to add a little color to the jar.
  7. If you want you can glue the lid shut. I don’t do this step because if I need to fix something I want to be able to open it. You can also change the water or empty it to pack away when it is not in use.

Natural Ornaments

Material Needed
*Sticks
*Popsicle Stick
*Beads
*Yarn
*Elmers Glue

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Check out the Rainy Day Mum blog. She has great ideas for natural ornaments. My boys loved making the stick tree ornament and they look great!

Leather Tassel Key Chain

Material Needed
*Piece of leather
*Key Ring
*Elastic Band
*Scissors

  1. Fold the piece of leather in half
  2. Cut slits into the leather leaving an inch space at the top

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3. Unfold and roll up
4. Fold over the key ring
5. Tie with elastic and wrap an extra piece of leather, secure with glue

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All of these make such cute gifts made with LOVE from the kids. Do you make any handmade gifts? I would love to hear your ideas. We are always looking for more ideas.