This past weekend was our date for processing the pigs we’ve raised. Growing and raising our own food continues to be a significant part of what we do here at Fernwood. Another form of our ‘home economy’ happens to be the meat we put into the freezer. Now that the nursery is closed for the season, the vegetables all harvested and preserved, the firewood in, and the hay stored, it is time to fill the last freezer with this year’s pork supply. The days we slaughter animals are never really pleasant ones. We know what we’re in for. We’ve raised these critters and because we are committed to following through with the whole process of raising our own meat from start to finish, it is certainly a day of thoughtfulness and consideration, and it should be. In 8 months the pigs have grown to a weight of about 280 pounds. That’s a lot of bacon and chops. Every year we change our decisions on the type of cuts we want. We have found that we eat more pork in the form of roasts than chops. We smoke a few of the hams and leave the others fresh. We consider what will go into ‘grind’ for sausage making and what we will be cubed for quick meals. The roasts we cut get smaller as the number of people in our household dwindles. Always decisions to make. Then there’s the bacon…….we never want to skimp on the amount of bacon we have on hand. Both the bacon and the hams ( and the hocks) will all be brined and then smoked here. The fresh bacon will be smeared with a combination of maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt, then left for about 10 days to cure. The hams and the hocks will be put into a liquid brine solution of hard cider, brown sugar, and some spices. After they cure, we will smoke them in a homemade smoker. The smoker is nothing fancy….a large wooden box with loose seams to let out some of the smoke and a small woodstove that fits neatly inside. The meat will hang inside or be placed on the racks we’ve made and then smoke for about 4-5 hours at a controlled temperature of 150-155 degrees ( a higher temperature will cook the meat instead of just smoking it). We are very grateful for this home grown/home processed food we raise. Our trips to the grocery store are fairly infrequent even in winter….and it’s nice to breeze right by the meat counter knowing all that we need is carefully and safely preserved back in our own freezers. Often, if we’re not starting our winter mornings out with a hot bowl of oatmeal, then a plate of fresh eggs, homemade sourdough toast, and strips of home-raised bacon may be on the menu. You may want to consdider coming for breakfast!
There are two little piggies here at Fernwood. Two young sows who love to root and roll in the greenery out behind the barn. They can plow sod just as fast as any farming implement.
The pigs always have access to both indoors and out. During the hottest part of the day they like to be inside the cool barn stretched out in the hay. Early mornings they fly out the door, sprint a few laps around their paddock, and then get right down to business rooting up the ground looking for tasty morsels. Pigs are the ultimate recycler. They are omnivores ( although we don’t usually feed them any meat scraps), their diet consists of food leftovers ( mostly bread, potatoes, sour milk, and rice), grain, and whatever they forage on their own. Fresh water is always available, pigs do drink a lot. We find that we do need to check on their water several times throughout the day. Not because they run out, but if you put a pail or bucket of water in with pigs, they’ll drink their fill, then step in it or turn the whole bucket over and then proceed to play with the bucket. Their antics keep us very entertained. We raise pigs every year, and we often position their run in an area on the farm that needs clearing. This year they’ll be cleaning up an area where the Jerusalem artichokes have been given too much freedom. We are counting on them being ‘earthmovers in residence’ while digesting some of the sunchokes. Free food plus rototilling, who can beat that?