Self-Suffiency, Here we come!

WARNING: this post is NOT for the weak-stomached!

Yesterday was an amazing day! I feel like we took tremendous strides toward our eventual goal of being self-sufficient. It all started when I found out on Thursday that our beef was ready for pick-up. Since no one else was available to make the 8 hour-round-trip drive, I invited JR to go along with me. He jumped at the chance. He was so excited to go get our "cows," he was dressed and ready to go when I went into his room at 6:30 Saturday morning. We ate a quick breakfast, loaded up and headed out.

It was a beautiful day, with perfect temperatures, fresh mountain air, and absolutely gorgeous scenery. JR and I had several discussions about the variety, color, and creativity of God's creation in nature.

JR kept asking if he would get to watch them kill our cows (typical boy!), and I assured him the cows were already processed and we would just be picking up the meat. When we arrived at the butcher shop, it was literally an old rancher's house with a cattle pen in the back yard, a few industrial freezers in a shed, and a rig for slaughtering and butchering the cattle. No one was around the shop when we arrived, so we set off walking toward several trucks I saw near the cattle pens. When we got there, we rounded a corner to find the butcher was in the middle of skinning a freshly-killed steer--aka a bloody mess of hide, muscle, and bones. My first thought was "great, I have just subjected my child to emotional trauma that will take years to recover from." JR, on the other hand, was immediately fascinated. He started asking questions about the process and the animal itself. I answered what I could, and then the butcher took us over to the freezers to collect our beef. Our total hanging weight (for you more experienced beef folk), between the two small animals we purchased, came to 620 lbs, so the final cut and wrapped weight of what we actually took home was around 450 lbs of beef! For those of you who are not so experienced, I will give a better idea how much beef that is:

Our new 7.5 cu. ft. freezer

4 large coolers full

4 cu. ft. freezer partially filled

After getting it all arranged for our trip home, the butcher left us to return to his steer-in-progress. JR insisted we had to follow. So, I told him we only had a few minutes. We walked over to watch, and JR stood there just mesmerized. The butcher explained what he was doing, and I pointed out different parts of the steer. After a few minutes, the butcher walked over to us with a mass of intestine in his hands, reached into the center, and pulled out a perfect specimen of a heart to show JR. Talk about an unexpected anatomy lesson! We briefly discussed where the heart is, and on the drive home, JR asked more questions about the heart and its functions. I showed him how and where he could feel his pulse and what it meant. I really have no idea how much of that a 4 yr old can absorb and understand, but he seemed pretty clear when he later told his daddy about it. As if that wasn't enough, as we turned to leave, JR walked over and started pushing something with his foot. He said, "Look mom, its a sheep!" Sure enough, I hadn't even noticed a perfect complete sheepskin laying right behind us, complete with head (eyes removed, of course). This brought on more questions, which I did my best to answer. Finally I succeeded in dragging JR back to the van to leave.
On the way home, we stopped by the dairy where we get our raw milk. Because this multi-state region is very limited in raw milk sources, this dairy is the closest source to us. Now, this particular dairy happens to be run by an LDS Fundamentalist group. I figure they have been producing raw milk for a long time to feed their own families, so it is most likely a good source. I expected a woman in a prairie-style dress and braided hair to be running the register at the dairy store. What I did not expect was an entire town of LDS Fundamentalists, with a large number of them shopping at the dairy store at the same time I was. Let me tell you that a tomboy/ wanna-be-farmgirl in blue jeans (ME!) feels VERY conspicuous in a bustling town full of women in prairie dresses! I felt like I had come from another planet and dropped onto the earth 100 years ago! Man, what an experience that was! JR, of course was oblivious to this whole issue. Nonetheless, I left the dairy with a good supply of fresh raw milk, some raw cream, and raw cheeses. Finally, we headed home.
On the way home, we stopped for lunch. At one point, we witnessed what appeared to be a very irritated grown man half-dragging a young (7 mo?) beagle puppy on a leash down the side of the road. The puppy was panting and limping, obviously in a great deal of pain, and really struggling to keep up with the man. As much as I wanted to say or do something, being a woman alone with my very young son, and seeing the apparent irritation of this man, I decided it was probably much safer to leave this situation alone. I wanted to call someone, but had no idea who to call in this strange city (you can't use 911 for something like that). So I did the best thing I could think of at the time, and that was to try to use the situation as a lesson for my son. We discussed how God has created animals for many reasons. Some provide companionship (like the puppy), others help in nature, and others are intended for food. No matter what their ultimate purpose, however, God expects us to take care of them, love them, and keep them as safe and healthy as possible. Even though we sometimes have to kill and eat them (like our cows in the back of the van), we are to do it in such a way that the animal feels little or no pain and does not suffer. I do not know if my decision not to intervene was the right one, as I can't stand to see an animal suffer, but I hope my son was able to glean some understanding of our roles in life so at least he will grow to have a healthy respect for God's creatures.
Upon arriving home, we immediately set to work sorting meat and filling coolers with meat for some friends who had purchased some of the beef with us. I am still in shock that we managed to fit the remaining 300 or so pounds into our freezers! Then we got this bright idea to try making some butter for the first time. I poured a little cream into a jelly jar, and gave JR the privilege of agitating the jar.
He thought it was great fun, but of course, he got bored with it after a few minutes, and passed it off to S.

S agitated the jar while reading up about making homemade butter. Then, he decided to take over bath time for the kids and let me agitate the jar while I fed N. After bathtime, S came down and took over the jar again. Finally, about 45 minutes after our agitating began, we had something!

This shows our clump of butter still in the buttermilk. Unfortunately, I realized I did not have the required strainer to strain the butter out of the buttermilk, so we used a wet papertowel as a filter of sorts. S, with his goofy tastes, decided he wanted to drink the resulting buttermilk.

Our beautiful, fresh, homemade butter.

We put the butter into a dish, covered it, and set it in the refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours. I was so curious how it tasted (but don't care to eat butter by itself), so I put some bread into the maker and set the timer for morning. We put the butter out to soften overnight. I woke up this morning to the scent of freshly baked Honey Oatmeal bread, and had a delicious breakfast of warm homemade bread topped with fresh homemade butter, and raw milk!

I love life, I love being responsible for creating food for our family from scratch (and knowing where most of that food is coming from), and I love homeschooling! Just thinking about the real-life education my son received yesterday thrills me to no end!
God has truly blessed us, and I am looking forward very much to what He has in store for us yet!


Kristen said...

Great post! I'm loving it. I've been wondering about freezing milk. We have some friends who do it and don't seem to mind any changes the freezing does. I wish I had done better to keep some in the freezer for the weekend when we couldn't make it to pick up our milk. We seem to go through fresh milk faster. The stuff is good, what can I say? Brandon and his dad are working towards getting a cow to raise. It's their project. I read a post the other day about the differences in cooking grass-fed beef...lower cooking temps and times...have you researched this? I never thought about treating it any differently.

Red Gate said...

oohhh, I'm jealous of Brandon! We are still about 4 years away from getting our cow! We have had no problem freezing the milk. I have heard it can be frozen for about 6 months. You will see more little globules seperate out, but they are harmless. It has been recommended to NOT freeze cream, but if you use it to make butter, you can freeze the butter. I have never heard anything about cooking grass-fed beef differently. That's not to say it isn't the case, I just don't know. We generally grill or crockpot our beef, and I just know the grass-fed natural beef is soooo much tastier and flavorful than traditional store-bought beef!

OurCrazyFarm said...

Sounds like you have a real farm boy in the making! I would love that recipe for Honey Oatmeal bread in the machine. It sounds delicious! There is nothing that compares to farm fresh beef. Enjoy it! Terri

KGH said...

When I called my mom to ask her about the butter-making process for you, she said, "Then her husband will want to drink the buttermilk, because that's what husbands do." That's so funny that she was right! We'll see what mine does tonight ...