Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Holidays to everyone!
There's been a whole lot going on around Prairie Fire Farm.

A few weeks ago we finally got some bred beef cows, yay! They're not all the same color but they are pretty just the same. Our neighbor Ahren was buying half a herd from a guy, and brought these three home for us. We were told they are bred to a red angus bull, due for Spring calving. But the other day, I noticed one of the cows looks like she's 'bagging up', or her udder is getting bigger. A sign that birth is getting close. Hm. Maybe I was just imagining things. Then Ahren called me and said one of the heifers he bought from the same guy had just calved! And she had a beautiful little White Parks calf! They look like this:
So... I'm wondering if my cow is close to calving, she might have been bred by the same White Park bull...and that wouldn't make me sad!

A while back, Karen and I picked up a big old round outdoor hog feeder at an auction. These feeders are common in the more traditional hog production area, but scarce as hens' teeth here in dairy country. They are great in that they can be filled with feed and hold up to the weather and whatever pigs can do to them. I have been looking forward to being free from having to carry bags every day, and once the pigs get over 100 lbs., it can be a real fun experience being swarmed by them while re-filling our smaller feeders. Karen hates how my pants get coated with whatever thepigs had in their mouth and ontheir lips. They just gotta mess with ya.
These big feeders go for over a thousand dollars new! That's nuts! So we picked upthis old one, but likealla these big old feeders, the bottom had rusted out. I'm notmuch of ametal worker. Better make that not. A metal worker. But, I have a friend who is . She offered to make new panels and help me put them on. In fact,though she had just had shoulder surgery, she came over twice and brought help along, too! Can't beat that with a stick.
I learned how to use a grinder and a pop riveter, handy things. got thebottom pieces all on now, got it caulked up and just need to put a couple skid boards on the bottom to make it easier to move, and I'll be in business!
All those pumpkins are gone, been fed to the pigs. They were fun to feed, and they lasted agood while, but once the night time temps got below about 25, they started to freeze and then get mushy. The ratio of pumpkins to weather worked out pretty well.

Bred Ridgett and Icy two weeks ago, we'll find out if it worked this New Years' weekend.
Sold some of the finisher pigs from litter 3.
The weather is really weird. It's nearly New Years, and I haven't needed to plow the driveway once yet this year. There is NO snow on the ground. I remember years when we'd have a warm spell around Christmas, or of course the January thaw, but I don't remember many years, if any when we haven't had any apppreciable snowfall at all before January. It's great for working outside or driving, but not so great for plants who need the blanket of snow to protect them from the deep cold.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Butcher Shop 101

does that look like white meat to you?

Ever wonder how they do it? How they actually cut up a hog/beef/sheep? What exactly does it look like back there? How do I know it's my meat? How do they track that?

I recently had the opportunity to come to our butcher's on the day they cut up our hogs, and I really learned a lot. I thought I'd share.
First, after the humane slaughter, the pig is bled out and then gutted. The carcass is placed into a large drum containing very hot water to be scalded, and large paddles rotate around the carcass to remove the hair. Any extra hair is singed off when it comes out of the drum. The carcass is then hung and each carcass has the customer's cutting order card pinned to it.
You can see the cards associated with each side as they rest on a cart (right) waiting to be cut up. This card stays with the carcass all the way through. The meat cutter takes the primals off the cart, looks at the card, and makes the cuts according to instructions. Here is a shot of a ham shank on the cutting table. We had a customer ask for the shank, and we worked with our butcher to get their meat cut exactly as desired. Reminds me of the iconic pictures of hams hanging in the windows of old world butcher shops... by the way, there are two 5 lb. ham roasts sitting behind it, just for reference.
Then the meat is packaged (either vacuum sealed or paper wrapped; customers' preference), labeled, and placed
into a box with the customers' name on it. Then it is rolled back into the freezer until pick up day.

I'd like to thank all the nice folks at Lake Geneva Country Meats for giving me that opportunity! I learned a lot more than what I've posted here, mostly about where each cut of meat comes from, and many of the various ways each section can be cut to produce different products. Those folks are true professionals who are skilled at what they do and take pride in their work. We take great care and pride in the way we raise our animals, and it feels good to entrust them to Lake Geneva to turn them into beautiful end products for our family and our customers.