Bacon, Sausage and Lard…

Phew… we’ve had quite the busy week!

2 – 30 lbs hams curing and waiting to be smoked.

13 pints of lard rendered and canned just waiting for pie crust.

100 lbs of sausage (breakfast and Italian) made, stuffed and packaged.

Almost 70 lbs of bacon cured in molasses and maple for 5 days then smoked, sliced and packaged.

~Blueberry Maple Sausage

~Sweet Italian and Blueberry Maple

~Getting a little Maple Yumminess..

~Rubbed and curing for 4 days

~Resting an hour before the smoker

~Smoked for hours and ready for the oven!

We still have so much to do…I must have 80 lbs of fat left to render, but the majority of the hard work is done.

Rendering fat….

Thankfully a friend rendered fat from a pig that she purchased earlier this month and warned of the odor and being very sensitive to odor myself, I am glad that I decided to cook the fat outside on the porch in slow cookers…It definitely had a certain smell to it.  Outside it wasn’t bad, actually we were cleaning up the yard in anticipation of hurricane Sandy and my son yelled “it smells like potato chips!”, which it did. 🙂  That being said, when all was said and done I had the whitest snow-white lard I’ve ever seen.  Because our pigs spent their lives outside in the sun, their fat is chock full of vitamin D, second only to cod liver oil!  Can you imagine??  Have you ever tried to stomach cod liver oil?  Not my favorite by any means.  Good to know that my pastries and morning eggs will have serious amounts of vitamin D…perfect for the winter. Yay!!

Anywho, here is how I did it.  You can literally set-it and forget-it!

~Sunny day rendering a little lard

Cut your fat into small pieces, the smaller the better, the more lard you will render out.

Place it all in a crockpot

Add 1 inch of cold water to the bottom of the pan

Set the crockpot on the lowest setting

Cover and forget for about 6 hours

You’ll see the fat shrink and the lard will begin to fill the pan.  When the fat (which will become cracklings) begins to brown, it’s time to strain, strain through cheesecloth in a strainer.  This will be the whitest of white lard.  Perfect for baking.  Pour hot lard into sterile jars and top with sterile lids.  They will self seal and be shelf stable.

Place the fat pieces back in the pan and continue to render.  When the cracklings resemble bacon pieces, you can strain it a

gain and this straining will be a bit darker and have  a little bit of a bacon/pork flavor, perfect for breads and frying.  Anything that you want to have a little more of an in-depth flavor.  Some people save the cracklings and add them to salads or anywhere else you’d want a little crunch.  I can imagine that a chicken breast coated in panko crumbs and cracklings would be AMAZING!

I, however ended up tossing them as it was really late and I was kinda tired of them…if I’m being completely honest. 😉

~lard, glorious lard

Here is the dream shot, although not a great one…

Our goal….

~Our own eggs AND bacon!!

From the very first egg gathered from our backyard chicken house over 3 years ago we said “wouldn’t it be great to have our own bacon to go with it!”…

 Much to the nay-say of others and many thinking that we are nuts….we did it!

We did it!!

And we will do it again, next spring.

 It has been so much more than a learning experience, it has really made me more aware of where my food comes from and where I WANT my food to come from.

I do have to admit that I can’t wait until next year to have little piggies running around outside…they really are such neat creatures. ❤

If anyone local is interested for next year….let me know.  We would love to share our home grown food. 🙂

Off they go….

Off they go…

When we got these little ones over 6 months ago, we knew what their purpose joining us here on the farm was.  We respected, loved and cared for these animals from the moment they arrived to us.  We vowed to give them a healthy and stress free life in turn for them providing us with healthy, stress free meat for our family.

That time came this past Sunday…

I knelt down, looked each one of these creatures that I’ve been caring for in the eye and said a heartfelt thank-you.

It was now time and we had work to do.

The sun was shining for the first day in what felt like forever!  We gave them some of their favorite food to buy us a little time to make the necessary preparations…it is true that a pig will do just about anything for food.

We backed the trailer in, filled it with hay and positioned the ramp, we were ready to go…or so we thought.  When the time came, the gate was opened.  I stood in the trailer, shook the bag of food and after checking out the situation, 3 of the 4 came walking up  the ramp.  The other, well he wasn’t going anywhere.  He was going to make us work hard today. 😉

After a muddy 2 man, 2 woman, 1 hog, country fair style pig scramble, he was on the trailer and they were ready to go.

Once the trailer pulled away, the farm-yard was still sunny, but very quiet.  I have to admit that it was a little sad, they were my little buddies, always ready to greet me because I usually came bearing food. 🙂

Will we do it again?

YES!

 Our first year with pigs was a success!  And by success I mean, we raised healthy, well cared for, drug free, stress free pigs and my FEAR of them getting loose and having to chase them all over God’s green earth didn’t happen…thank goodness!

  We are very fortunate to have land and the time to grow food for our family and friends.

That is our pig adventure for now…

Perhaps next year, we’ll add some pastured chickens for meat….maybe. 😉

Fighting, fences and depression…..

Sibling rivalry is alive and well in the farm-yard!

After a little routine (well less than routine this year) lawn mowing, we heard a terrible squealing coming from the pig pen, not an oops I touched the electric fence squealing, but something quite different.

Three of the pigs had the 4th cornered and were biting his tail and hid quarters. 😦  The gentlest of the bunch was under attack.

We hopped in and separated them but once they see the red color of blood…it’s game on!  So after they went at him again, we decided that we had to separate them and the only way to do that was but splitting the area with the electric fence, him in one side and them on the other.

Yay!  It worked!  We tended to the wounds and he healed within a few days

New problem..pig depression.  Now, I am no pig psychologist, but we had one depressed piggie on our hands…it was pretty easy to tell.  Pigs eat.  They eat ALL of the time, they eat almost anything.  It’s amazing what will go through a pigs digestive tract only to show up on the other side.  Stories for another day though.   I knew he was depressed, because he would just push his food around and take a few bites (not to mention the escape to the side with his pals that ended up with more wounds).  He would sleep beside the fence, just inches from his pals.  It was truly sad and very heartbreaking.  When I went  to scoop the poop, as I lovingly refer to my chores as, he wanted to play with me.  He was lonely, so we bonded.. full well keeping in mind that this animal could eat me or crush me against the fencing. He missed his buddies and I was no substitution. 😦

We decided that they needed more space, so we ordered some electric netting and decided to sacrifice what was left of the garden so they would have a little yummy distraction when we put them all back together.  It was really cute, they sniffed each other and went on their merry way to till our garden.  They made quick work of it and have been pig happy ever since.  Every once in a while, Red will sneak up to one of his buddies and give a little snout rub as if to say “I missed you”.

I believe that this is the picture that got me shocked to the bone…um, yeah…the new fence works. 😉

They are hovering around 200 lbs each and are just a joy to watch.  I learn so much by watching them…they are such smart creatures.  The most peaceful part of my day is doing my chores, feeding them and watching them.  I really think we are ready to make the jump into farming a bigger property….I feel it in my bones. 🙂

Now…if only my bones would find that perfect piece of property!! 😉

Stay tuned!

Pigs, Pasture and Amazing Grace….

After a VERY busy few weeks, things around our little farm have calmed down a tad…well, enough for us to tackle a few of the things on the to do list.  One of the big ones was to move the electric fence outside of the pig enclosure to move the Babes into fresh greens. Well, it was more like getting up the nerve to move the electric fence outside of the pig enclosure to move the Babes into fresh greens.

It’s a pretty nerve-racking feat.  You see, the hubs is not home for most of the waking hours and that leaves me to “chase” pigs, should the need arise.  This is not something that I feel is in my repertoire of things that I am good at, but the pigs needed some fresh greens and this is the easiest way, so my fears remain on the back burner.

So, move them we did and what many have told us it is true, they say that pigs won’t cross the line where an electric fence was…that is unless there is pig feed on the other side!  We opened the gate and they went right up to it, but not past it.  We tried to coerce them, push them, chase them and nothing until I shook the feed bucket and they came a running, right past the gate into the field.  Those Babes truly LOVE their organic pig feed!

Whenever they see me, they snort, grunt and occasionally bark and when I grab the feed bucket they start frothing at the mouth, literally.  NEVER, ever come between a pig and their feed, they go nuts trying to get to it!

( A happy pig, is a muddy pig. 🙂 )

Once they were through the gate, they started chowing away on the greens and digging up the dirt with their snouts looking for bugs and whatever else smells yummy at that moment. 🙂

Once they were settled, the hubs and I grabbed a couple of chairs and just watched them do what they do while we sat in sun chatting about the future, our goals, and dreams for our bigger farm.   The kids were actually playing and getting along, then we heard it…bagpipes!  Seriously?!?  Now, where we are situated, there aren’t a ton of people around us and hardly anyone is around on a late Sunday afternoon, but someone was playing the bagpipes.

 As magical as it seemed at the moment, I soon realized that it was coming from the church not too far away.  There were no services at that time, just someone playing amazing grace on the bagpipes.  There was no traffic and no noise, just peaceful amazing grace.  Even after I realized that the sound wasn’t coming from the heavens (bummer), it was still magical.  After all, it isn’t everyday the we are treated to a private concert of amazing grace while sitting in the sun, talking about what the future holds, watching our kids play peacefully and seeing our animals enjoy new pasture.

It was a magical, well needed afternoon.

Thank you Bagpiper, whoever you are 🙂

They’re here!!!

We have planned, read, built and waited, and now they are here!

Our little piggies!!

We started with  a plan of one, but who wants a lonely depressed pig, so we opted for 2.  Well if we’re going to have 2, why not 3?  What’s one more mouth??  So 3 it was.  We ordered them in the fall from a local farmer.  As we got closer we wanted one more, why not?

 So phone call after phone call, we finally found another little to join our brood only a short hour and a half away.

There was a little squealing from the new boarders at the pig farmers and the kids found some new friends who homeschool too!

All in all a great day!  Everyone is getting along well.  The pigs could care less about the chickens and the chickens are like  bunch of old gossipy ladies, squawking around trying to figure these new things out.  They do like new pig food though. Bonus!

So, without further ado….

Checking out the new digs!

Rooting around already.

The ladies checking out their newest farm mates.

Making a place to nap.

Fresh fruit and vegetable scraps.

Rooting in the dirt AND eating…pig heaven!

Tired from all the activity.

Checking out the camera.

The happy 4!  Can you guess which one was the late addition?!?

So, there they are!  The newest additions to our growing family and we couldn’t be happier. 🙂