The Benefits of Custom Butchering

When we started our homestead venture years ago one of the goals was providing our own meat. There are a couple of reasons I feel it is important for us to be in control of this part of our diet. The reasons are practical and ethical. I want to reduce the amount of food that comes from unknown sources. My family doesn’t need to eat food from animals that have been over medicated, over vaccinated and fed an inappropriate diet. I want to know that the animals we are consuming are raised humanely and live a life appropriate for that species. They need free access to shelter from the elements and plenty of fresh air, sunshine, fresh water and wholesome food. I want them to end their lives as peacefully as possible.
It is the end of the animals lives that has been the most problematic. My husband butchered several goats, sheep and pigs.It is hard work and the animals are usually ready to be butchered when the weather is the coldest. Large animals are heavy and hard to manage without the proper equipment. Not being butchers, we had many “interesting” cuts of meat. We decided this work was best left to professionals.
The closest USDA inspected processor is 60 miles away. The idea of loading frightened animals into a trailer and transporting them that distance is distasteful. What happens to them once they are unloaded? How much fear and panic do they endure? Thankfully, there is the custom butcher.

Custom butchering is much different. The processing facility is state inspected. Because the USDA is not involved, cuts of meat that have been processed in these facilities cannot be sold to the public. Each cut is usually stamped “Not for Resale”. The butcher comes to our farm and kills the animals here. The animal does not suffer the trauma of a long distance haul and strange surroundings. The farmer might be left to dispose of the waste which can be considerable depending on how many animals are butchered that day.
I always dread the killing day; it is the downside of being an omnivore. This year we had only seven freezer lambs.The butcher and his son arrived on time and were fast and efficient. The pelts will be salted and sent to the tannery. All the lambs are 1/2 Bluefaced Leicester so the finished pelts should be especially nice.
Here are pictures of the two ewe lambs we retained.

Hay Twine Cutter/Can You See Me Now?

An old corn sickle is ideal for cutting hay twine. The curved blade fits under the twine just right and cuts it with ease. The only problem is keeping track of the small sickle. I try to set it on the bale to be used the next day so it is right at hand. The rusty blade and wooden handle blend in with the hay making it hard to see if it falls in the loose hay on the barn floor. Last year I lost it and didn’t find it until we cleaned out the barn to get ready for a new hay delivery. The sickle wasn’t where it was supposed to be again this morning and I vowed not to spend time searching for it again. Strips torn from an old pillowcase and wound around the handle made it easy to spot in the hay. The ends of the strips were tied in a loop so it can be hung from a hook or nail. An easy fix for an everyday annoyance.

Yaktrax – Don’t Do Chores Without Them

It is impossible to know how many falls my Yaktrax have prevented. I’m positive they have saved me from many back-wrenching injuries. You know, the kind you get when one foot slips on the ice and you do everything to stop yourself from falling and throw your back out in the process. The paths from the back door to the various barns and sheds become packed and slippery by Christmas and stay that way until well into March. That equals many trips walking slowly, carefully and prayerfully. With Yaktrax on my boots, I can step out with confidence and safely walk at a normal pace.

Yaktrax Walkers have a tendency to spring off your boots and you might not find them until the spring thaw. My next pair will be the “Pro” model with the strap that fits securely over the top of the boot.
Don’t wear them in the house, especially not on ceramic tile floors. Wearing Yaktrax on ceramic tile is like wearing leather soles on glare ice. You will slip and fall.

A Much Improved Poultry Fountain

The Harris Farm’s Poultry Drinker
Don’t be fooled and assume this is just another plastic fountain with a screw on base. You know the kind. Everything has to be lined up just right or the whole thing comes apart about ½ way to the chicken yard. Your feet get soaked and you have to go back to the faucet and start again. The base on this improved fountain locks securely in place with tabs. The wire handle on the top makes carrying it easy, even when it is full of water. The handle also makes it possible to suspend the fountain which keeps litter from accumulating in the water trough.
I must admit that, at first, I had trouble with the base on this fountain. The base was stiff and I didn’t realize that I really had to force it over for it to be fully locked. Once I mastered the concept there was no more spilled water. I paid under $7 for it at Tractor Supply Company. At that price, I plan on buying a few more.

Using Hens to Muck Out a Barn

I love chickens; they are an ideal homestead animal! Our chickens are quadruple-purpose birds. Not only do they provide us with eggs and meat, they till/improve the soil and help muck out the barn.
It doesn’t take long for the wasted hay on the barn floor to build up. Soon, it is a compressed thatch that requires the pitchfork to pry up. It is smelly, heavy work. When I stay on top of the hay mess by raking it out each day, there are no problems. The task of keeping it raked out certainly gets away from me fast.
The storm last week meant keeping the ram lambs in the barn and feeding them hay. The strong winds upended the chicken tractor and so the three, homeless hens were sent to bunk with the ram lambs. They started right in scratching that spoiled hay up and sending it flying. Seeing the fun they are having and what a good job they are doing, I decided not to deprive them of the pleasure of loosening that packed bedding. Tomorrow, I will rake out all the loose stuff and see what kind of job they did.