As we walked down the lane this afternoon for our hike, I mentioned to Jason that I kind of felt like we traveled to a different world the past few days. I don't have words for it yet (Jason will likely articulate it well when he gets to his pig butchering book report and actual pig butchering reflections). So mine will be mostly a brief account of it, with hopefully more reflections coming along the way. Right now I only have really general descriptors: butchering our pigs was hard, fascinating, fun, communal, celebratory, interesting, delicious, emotional, exhausting, integrated, neighborly, educational...I imagine I'll be adding words to that list for some time to come.
We had set Thursday and Friday as our butchering days. In reality it was those days, plus parts of yesterday and today, and will continue for awhile as Jason salts the bacons and hams for curing. Wednesday evening the girls requested to be woken early so they could go see the pigs one more time. Alida then chose to come inside for the actual killing, Kali watched both, and I got up my courage to watch the second one. It will never be easy for me to see one of the animals we have raised and cared for be killed. I don't want it to be. I well remember bursting into tears the first time Kali was butchering some of her ducks. I didn't cry this time but felt kind of sick to my stomach. I continue to feel good about sitting with the discomfort, recognizing the power that we have when we raise domesticated animals, and really hope that we can have integrity with how we integrate animals into our homestead. I have no doubts that our pigs had about the best life any two pigs could have had, and I'm glad about that! They contributed a lot and my visit to their pen the evening prior to butchering was in part to thank them for that.
I got my exercise Thursday and Friday going up and down the hill from our place to our neighbors many times. I kept things going on the home front with meals and laundry and childcare, and Jason took the lead on the butchering (with three neighbors lending a hand, two of them being part of most of the first two days for which we are so very grateful!). So I mostly got in on the scalding and scraping the hair off, and then was around a lot more on day two for rendering lard, making ponhoss and getting the halves cut into the various kinds of meat. Pigs are fascinating! So different that ducks or chickens. The first night we got out a piece of paper to write down all the different kinds of meat and products to decide how we were going to process it. I'm really eager to do it again sometime when I can be part of the whole event.
As is quite normal at this point, Kali jumped right in. She wanted to be up there as much as possible (amazing for the child that for a year or two hated pigs and staged a protest one day marching around our property with a "no pigs" sign - started I believe since she had a strong dislike of pink and could not be convinced that all pigs were not pink). Alida was a bit nervous about our neighbor's dog being out and about so she took part some but was also often up on the tractor or in the truck bed where she felt safe and had a good view.
I think my overriding feeling during the event was just this positive sense of goodwill and gratefulness for good neighbors who were willing to share their knowledge with us and make it a fun neighborly event. There's just nothing like standing around as broth is boiling down over one fire for ponhoss and another large kettle is being stirred as the lard is rendered. One of my trips down the hill was to grab some garden potatoes to throw in the lard. There is nothing like a potato that has been cooked/fried in a deep vat of lard, salted and eaten outside by the cooking fires. It was beyond delicious! We stood around and all partook; that is the kind of communion I can get into!
The night before Kali and I had gotten our arms sore grinding a bunch of popcorn good friends of ours in PA had given to us on a recent visit. We needed a lot and that was what we had a lot of. Kali, Jason and Alida sprinkled it into the mixture of broth and meat when the time was right, added salt and pepper and stirred until it thickened (like polenta). It was then scooped into loaf pans to harden (for slicing and frying). We shared it around to all those helping, and are passing it along to the various people who helped in our first pig-raising endeavor. It was the focal point of this morning's breakfast and we could have consumed more than what I fried up. We had to cut the last piece in four so we could all have one more bite.
There's ground pork in the freezer, some roasts and ribs, several loaves of ponhoss, bacon and hams curing, cracklins from the lard rendering on the counter and 7 gallons of rendered lard ready for consumption. Jason is talking about making doughnuts! And we are talking about getting piglets again! But for now we are also enjoying the simplification of our routines - no more picking up scraps or milk, one less step in Jason's morning and evening chores, and no need for the longer blocks of time needed for moving them. We are eager to settle into the winter routines, and it feels good to be scratching a few things off the daily and weekly tasks!
Speaking of scratching things off lists and winter routines, today Terah and I headed out to the remaining tomato plants. She had fun picking them and then pulling them out of the bucket, taking one bite and throwing them down. She's right that they are not as succulent as they once were but cooked with shallots and served over polenta or eggs or veggies they are delicious. I chopped up all the tomato plants, as I had done fays before with the hot peppers. I'm happy to not have them out there tempting Terah anymore. I was the hot sauce maker this year and while I've had Jason as my resident taste tester, I will admit that I really enjoyed making it and might even be tempted to start trying it in very small amounts!
|She's something else!|
|She loves hats!|
|Alida's (and Jason's) soccer team|
|Thankful for good friends that joined us for dinner last evening...|
|Giving us a good reason to make a fire and cook over it!|
|We love making pizza pockets but seldom do it just for us.|
|And here we are today - we made it to the lake, drank in the fall air and colors (though Terah didn't know she was at the lake).|
|I love these gals and their daddy!|
|This little yellow flower jumped out at me. I always think of Nora when I see yellow flowers and so it was special to find this one on our hike today on her 9th birthday!|
When we got home it was a flurry of evening activities before dark. Terah has become quite the little laundry helper! And now Kali is wrapping up folding it so we have our futon back for movie watching so off I go. Not exactly an in depth reflection but that's all the time I've got today...