Monday, October 27, 2014

Raising pigs for meat

Shortly after we moved into our first home with a bit of acreage. I had lots of ideas about what we should do with our land. Pigs was one of my projects, as I love bacon and sausage in particular. I hate buying meat from the store since quality is lacking and it is so expensive. So, after discovering an ad on craigslist for piglets at a very reasonable price, I drove and purchased our first two pigs. The person selling them lives only 15 minutes from us. We named the pigs respectively Ham and Bacon. I was very serious about explaining to the boys that the pigs were not pets and that we were going to raise them for meat.
Meat, Ham and Bacon

The actual raising of them of course involved having to secure the fence as they found new ways to escape. Feeding and watering them. We had them in a decent size pen that had forage. They eventually dug up the entire pen area. Wow, I forgot how much digging pigs will do. About a month ago we ended up having to move the pigs from the pen they had been residing in and placed them in a large double stall. The pigs had done some damage to the pen area by digging up so much right by the barn that we had standing water. Franz ended up after they were moved to the stall, having to buy several loads of gravel to fill in the holes.

Being in the stall the pigs were being fattened and finished for processing. Apparently they decided to have their entertainment at the expense of two of my hens lives, and quite possibly one of our kittens. We didn't actually see them eat any animals, besides a snake once. But the evidence pointed to their guilt. As I am missing two hens and their feathers were all over the pigs stall. The kitty had disappeared two weeks before this, and it gave me the sneaking horrible suspicion that is what end our kitty met. For Una our kitty had disappeared a day after they were placed in the stall.

Their diet while in the stall consisted of an all stock feed, bread, hay, pecans acorns, some apples and table scraps. With lots of water.

Butchering day was set for Saturday October 18th. Our helpers were a dad and his two eldest sons and a student from the high school that Franz teaches at. Though it wore me out the day before I went on a cleaning warpath. House, barn, garage, porches, yard, anywhere I could clean. My pregnant body let me know that night that I have not done so much in awhile.

Saturday morning started early. I had a load of cloths to wash and breakfast to make for the crew. Also, I got set up in anticipation of the processing of pigs. After the guys all ate and had their coffee. They watched a video on butchering and discussed what they were going to do. Then it was time, I quickly cleared the table and got all my little guys ready for outside.

You may think it weird, but I wanted to see the butchering. The boys also were very interested in the process. So, with me and the little guys standing outside the barn looking in from the open windows. The big guys let Ham out of the stall. The barn was closed so that Ham could only go into the hall. There was a pile of straw with some bread in the middle. Ham went over to eat the bread and Franz fired the shot. It knocked him down, but then he got back up. Franz ended up taking two more shots. The big guys took Ham down and Franz took a knife to stab the jugular. I have heard a pig scream before, but the scream that Ham let out was loud and piercing. We thought that was it for Ham, so I went in the barn to take some pictures. I looked at Ham and noticed his eyes were still looking around. I just said, "I don't think he is dead" and then he tried to get back up. I squealed and ran back out of the barn. I was holding Cletus and wanted to be no where near a pig that was not dead after being shot and stabbed. Franz took the shotgun and fired once more. The guys wrestled Ham back down and Franz went for the jugular a second time. Thankfully it worked and the blood gushed out. Whew! Not how we pictured it, but the job of killing was done. Now you probably are thinking that is horrible. And to be sure it was, but this was the first time and you have to start somewhere.

The next thing was to wash the hide of Ham. The body was dragged to a cement slab where they hosed and used brushes. Ham never looked so clean as he did after his death. Next the guys started the skinning on the ground. A brace to hang the pig was made off the end of the barn that was in the shade. With a lot of willpower the guys finally got the pig hung. The skinning was finished and then the pig cut in half. The halves were carried to work tables set up in the garage. Then the cutting down took place with pieces of meat being placed in a large tote of cold water to be rinsed.

I cheated for lunch and had bought pizzas to throw in the oven. The guys took turns eating when they could. Franz also made the bladder into a ball for the boys, just like we read in "Little House in the Big Woods."

Now it was my turn. I was the one to pack the meat. I also started cooking the head to make into headcheese. Once the pig was done being cut down, it was time for Bacon to be killed
. Thankfully it was not so traumatic. Though Franz did have to fire three shots, he was able to quickly this time cut the jugular. So then the same process as above was done. Between kids, cleaning, and packing it was long full day. Our friends, the dad and two boys, took half a pig home at the end. The student took a big haunch.

Once the boys were in bed Franz and I commenced to get the last needed work done. Franz finished getting all the odd bits of meat ready for grinding the next day while I made cure for the belly meat and placed the future bacon into zip lock bags to cure in the fridge for a week.

Some how we managed to get it all done and the house was put to rights before we fell exhaustedly into sleep.

Yep, this is my account as well as I can remember it. It was a satisfyingly hard days worth work and harvest. Franz posted all the gory photos. Sorry not going to display them here...

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