Nov 15, 2009

"All is Safely Gathered In"

Part 2:
From Grazing to Gravy (Calves)
From Bog to Brine (Pigs) 
From Field to Freezer (Sheep)

     Each Spring at calfing time we hope for a lot of heifers!  They are the mainstay of the dairy farmer's bread and butter - the pool from which the herd is developed and maintained.  For that reason, if a bull calf is born, some dairy farmers slaughter at birth.  We are so fortunate to have Papa, who loves all animals and reverences life in every form.  Because of that our bull calves have a glorious life and the tenderest care!  Just like the heifer calves, they are born safe and warm in an individual straw-filled pen with their mothers (we call it  "the Maternity Ward") in a separate barn where they are able to nurse off their mother for three days. 

     Then they are tagged and go into a calf box, sometimes with another calf to keep them company and snuggle up with.  In the calf box they have unlimited milk from their mother and they learn to drink from a bottle and become familiar with the humans who care for them.  We talk to them and pet them as we feed them so they feel safe and secure.  The next step is "Play Group" where several calves are in a pen together.  There, for the next eight weeks, they are bottle fed until it is time to wean them gradually onto grain, hay, and water in preparation for going out into the field for the summer.  We know them by name as well as number and as the first picture shows, they love their life in the sunny pasture in front of the farm. You can see both older calves (lying down) born at the beginning of calving and a much younger one (standing) that was born towards the end of the same calving season together in the field.
     By late Autumn, it is amazing how large they have grown.  They weigh about 120 kilos each (it's all that good grain and grass!).  
     Early November is slaughter time and again, we are so appreciative of Papa and his kind nature and devotion to humane treatment as the animals are put down.  This year we had the missionaries, Elder Holland (from Washington State) and Elder Barlow (from California, but most recently a student at Duke University in North Carolina), come to help us since Manny was away at a church conference .  We wondered how two city boys would do with the slaughtering experience.  As you can see from the pictures below, they did just fine!  That's Elder Holland on the bottom left helping Papa to hoist the carcass onto the hook in the building where it must hang until butchering time, and both Holland and Barlow top center positioning the meat to make room for the next load.  Finally on the bottom right the load is up!  We were grateful for their good help.  By all accounts it certainly was a learning experience for both of them. They acquitted themselves more than honorably in this unique adventure!

Here the men are hoisting the carcasses on the left and hanging them on the hooks on the right.
Everything up on the wooden supports
where they will hang for a week.
The elders had an appointment in Junsele to teach some investigators so they had to change.  That was a good opportunity for a fika break for hard-working men.  After that, the elders left then came back again, changed, and helped us finish up.

          The two butchers, Anders and Patrick, were also with us.  Each works full time at other another job, but during slaughter/butchering season they travel after hours from a village about 85 km away to work with us here in Eden.  That makes for a very long night for all of us...usually until close to midnight two nights in a row for the butchering alone. 

Here Anders cuts, Gustav labels and packs, Patrick saws and we vacuum seal each cut. The meaty end pieces are ground and packaged in one kilo bags, also vacuum sealed.   It works like a charm. It took three sessions (a full day and two six-hour evenings) to slaughter, hang and butcher eleven calves, two large pigs  and nine sheep.  Later in December we have more sheep, another full-size heifer and a bull to slaughter and then we are done for this season.

Pappa mans the vacuum sealer,

while Patrick handles the saw.

Here are Fern and Charlotte in their bog.  When Nainy went down to take the picture of them she said, "OK girls, could you just come over here and stand by your hut for a picture?" And they walked right over from the other side of the pen!   The same with the sheep....she called them in their field and they came right away!
     Some of the pork is frozen and some brined and smoked.  The lamb is the same, a lot frozen and  also parts that are brined and smoked for sandwiches.  This year the pigs gave three large Christmas hams on each half which was unusual, as well as the chops and ground meat for sausages. 

    When Nainy first came to the farm almost three years ago, she was hesitant about slaughter time and butchering.  It was a big change for someone who has always bought her meats at the grocery store.  She still doesn't watch the slaughter, but she says that the phrase, "Ordained for the use of man" has taken on new significance for her in a very positive way.  She feels as we all do,  deeply grateful for the opportunity  to raise these animals for our use.  It is a lot of work, it's true, but we love them and are committed to giving them the best we have, just as they do for us.  It is a partnership with Heavenly Father, to learn and practice these skills of husbandry and responsibility and there is an indescribable blessing in knowing that what we eat is natural and healthful in every way. 

Texas John would be proud!


emilie said...

Great post!
The meat butchering photos made me cringe. Hypocrite that I am, I think I will continue to beleive that hamburger patties grow on trees.

Louise Karlsson said...

Looks like em city folks did just fine! I love how Life and death come together in such a natural way on the farm! I still tell stories about slaughter, and people look at me like I'm a monster.

Lauralee said...

Loved the pictures and the dialogue. All I can say is "better you than me." I especially love the pasture with the stand of trees in the background. So lovely.

Téa said...

Hi !

You have one more big fan - I hope everything is doing well for you in Eden. It's great to read you, it reminds me the nice time we had in Eden. I only regret

Hälsa familjen,

Etienne & Nina & Téa

Téa said...


It's great to read you - I hope you are doing well in Eden, it remembers me the great time we hade, even if November was not my favourite season.

Hälsa familjen,

Etienne & Nina & Téa