Monthly Archives: March 2013
My Mom and I went to the Pier 23 Cafe for lunch on a recent trip to San Francisco. The first thing you see when you walk into the Cafe is this picture. I loved it.
In fact, I loved it so much I bought the hoodie and the t-shirt. You see, I have a deep and abiding love for all things old timey pin-up girls and burlesque, especially Vargas girls. Don’t tell my Parents but I was IN a Burlesque show. Actually, when I run for office, that will be part of my platform “Heck yeah, I was in a Burlesque show! I own it and am proud!” You know, the full transparency thing, these things made me the awesome, fun person I am today!
Anyway I decided since I am a cowgirl and I ain’t getting any younger it was time to do a photo-shoot on the Ranch. More specifically, a re-creation of this photo. So I contacted my friend Amy Brown and Jenny Dewey and a bunch of our girlfriends and scheduled a day for a pin-up shoot. We plan on doing this photo and maybe some new updated versions of it. I’m excited! I do so love photo days at the Ranch, and I love photoshop even more! So stay tuned…..
OK, in real life friends, my musicians, my actors, we should do this! I promise people will love it!
Until then, I’m just going to have to re-create the burlesque butt picture…. (stay tuned!)
Sometimes I don’t understand when people are asking me questions about the Ranch. Because this is all I have known, I assume (I know assuming only makes an ass out of you and me) everyone knows what I know. One of the best things I ever did for myself was disconnect from the Ranch for a few years in my mid-20’s. It gave me perspective, and made me realize that sometimes farmers and ranchers live in our own little bubble and speak our own little language of sorts. I am constantly working at bettering my communication with non-aggie people because I feel like that is the only way our industry will be able to continue. Because I am so passionate, and this way of life is such a huge part of who I am, and how I identify myself, I can become defensive very quickly when people question our Ranch’s practices or my motives. It took me a very long time to realize that often these people are not trying to insult me, they just don’t know! Because of the disconnect between farm to fork and the certain people/movements taking advantage of that fact.
I made it my business to openly share what I do, the good, the bad and the ugly. Surprisingly, this has cause a lot of drama and hurt feelings in my life. But the longer I do it, the better I handle the positives and negatives this blog has created for me. However if not for a certain core group of people I probably would have abandoned this blog long ago. Instead with their kind words, encouragement and support, I continued and will continue. One of those people is Ian from the An Irish Male In America. People like Ian are starting to make a huge impact on farmers and ranchers, they reach out to us when they have a question, they want to know! Ian continues to amaze me, but now he’s made it super easy for me to share about what I do! I mean, he gave me a list of questions! I totally stole these questions from his blog, thanks again Ian for everything you do! Please keep it up.
13 Questions I want farmers/ranchers/AG people to answer (or even blog about!)
1: What is the worst time of year for you?
The worst time of year is the middle of the summer, because it is obnoxiously hot and there are bugs and stickers here and fire danger. Fire scares me. It seems like once a year, we have a fire scare, and it just really sucks because there is nothing you can do. I hate the feeling of being helpless while the ranch burns.
2: What is your favorite farm job?
My favorite farm job is anything outside. I like feeding hay, actually because the cows are really happy to see you and they buck and dance. It’s fun to watch. I also like feeding the pigs, pretty much for the same reason. I like happy animals and just like me, they are happiest when someone puts food in front of them. I love working on the Ranch because everyday is different and challenging.
3: What is your least favorite farm job?
Anything that involves illness or premature loss of an animal. I feel like I failed them. I really hate it when you pull a calf and it is dead or dies, and the cow dies too. That is just the worst feeling ever. Even if you KNOW you did everything you possibly could for them, I still feel tremendous guilt. But honestly, any job can become my least favorite, it depends on who I am working with. There are certainly some people that rush jobs, or are mean to me or the animals. At this point in my life, for my mental health and physical safety I will refuse to work with those people.
4: What type of truck do you drive (on the job) and why did you choose it?
I drive a Toyota Corolla because I drive so much it made more sense than buying a truck. I commute to my town job and in between the two Ranches (we summer in the mountains and winter in the valley). Whenever I need a truck I can use my Dad’s full-sized Dodge or my Mom’s Tacoma. My Dad has a Dodge because I guess Ford changed something and he thought the Dodge was better. I miss his Fords though, I liked them. The Dodge is all fancy and stuff, and I’m afraid I’m going to break something. My Mom has a Tacoma because we need a little truck around the Ranch and we needed it for our kayaks because both of them won’t fit on top of my car!
5: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your line of work?
Life isn’t fair. Not even a little bit. And like Dr. Grandin says, Mother-nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.
6: What do you think is the most valuable tool you have, the one you probably couldn’t live without?
The internet. It has given me access to so much knowledge. If I have a question about anything I can find an answer, if I need a random part for a tractor, I can find it! It also shortens the distance from farm to fork, I am able to directly speak to thousands of my consumers. They can ask me questions and I can ask them questions, it’s a win/win! I’m trying to develop new markets, so I can hopefully work on the Ranch full-time within the next few years.
I remember pre-internet, while it was certainly nice to not be connected 24/7, access to information and knowledge was severely limited, especially in rural areas. I like knowing and learning!
7: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your business?
That we are just a bunch of dumb hicks that get all kinds of government money. Actually that is tied with we all all corporate slaves, or huge corporations. Both of those I get a lot. Some of us are very tech savvy, something like 98% of farms are family owned, and despite what you have heard, it’s still a free market and farmers and ranchers can choose what we raise.
8: If you could invest in a new piece of farm equipment tomorrow, what would it be?
A pig set up! I would love to raise hogs on a larger scale. I would love to have a barn, fencing and a water system. These are the things that are holding me back. Mainly the water situation. I could build fence and a shelter fairly easily compared with drilling a well or fixing our spring. I want to raise heritage hogs because I am in love with the pork I raised this year. It’s sooooo good and I want more people to have access to it. Plus if I had a hog set up I could probably retire from my office job, which the older I get, the better that sounds. I’m meant to be on the Ranch.
9: What was the most serious injury you ever suffered in the line of work?
I fell off my pony when I was 4 and broke my wrist but didn’t know it until a couple weeks later, it was a glorious temper tantrum in the hospital (ask my Mom). Other than that just your average bumps, bruises, cuts, broken toes, and sprained things. Oh, actually I got walking pneumonia when I was on a cattle drive when I was like 10. That sucked big time, mainly because I got sent home, and ended up being allergic to the antibiotics they gave me. And I was certain someone else rode my horse (grumble, grumble).
10: Least favorite animal to deal with?
F**king, damned dirty, goats. And mean roosters.
11: (excluding all of the above) What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked?
Leather comes from cows?
12: Favorite beer? (come on, out with it!)
I’m having a love affair with Sierra Nevada right now. I really like the Snow Cap.
13: Thing you’d most like the public to know about what you do!
That I have nothing to hide, I want to share what I do. I love my way of life. And just like everything in life agriculture is not as simple as black versus white, big versus little, good versus bad. Talk to us! Ask us questions! (Seriously!)
Go check out J.D.L. Photograph’s answers here! I’ll try and add more links as more farmers and ranchers (ahem!) do this!
WARNING! This might be considered by some to be gross, inappropriate, or tragic, but I think it is extremely important share the how’s, what’s and why’s of our food. If you have any questions about anything you see please ask – I love to share about the ranch.
As I shared with you before, our hogs have been slaughtered. That was the whole reason we bought the hogs, to eat them. They were not pets. We never planned on keeping them. They would not have existed at all if they did not perform this function. I chose this particular breed of hog because it is a critically endangered heritage hog. I wanted to use this blog to hopefully encourage other producers and ranchers to investigate the red wattle, tamworth, or hereford hog, to raise! And since I know that happened, I feel really happy about this whole project!
I now see people use the term slaughter and harvest interchangeably. While I attended Chico State, our professor, Dr. Dave Daley, urged us to use the word harvest. And at the time that made sense to me. For me when I think of the word harvest, I think of harvesting a crop, and that usually brings up a very pretty picture in my head, like a beautiful field of golden wheat. But when I asked Dr. Grandin about what word she uses, she said slaughter. I see that point too – slaughtering an animal is not often pretty, there is blood and smells. It’s not an idyllic act. By using the term “harvest” I feel like we are disrespecting both the animal whose life we are taking and our consumer by trying to gloss over something that more people should be able to see and participate in, the raising and slaughtering of our own food.
Now that the slaughter is over I’ve had some time to reflect on my time with the hogs. I deeply enjoyed them, that is true. Did I love them like a pet? No. I enjoyed having a job on the Ranch that was completely mine. I liked cooking food for them and watching as my rations changed how they grew, it was almost like one giant science experiment for me, with bacon as a reward.
We had the hogs slaughtered on the Ranch. It’s called custom exempt slaughter. Animals that are slaughtered this way are not for the public’s consumption. This meat will be strictly for my friends and families enjoyment. I prefer this method of slaughter because the animals never have to leave their home. In the hog’s case, one second they were asleep in the sun, and the next they were gone.
Our Butcher, Dave, uses a small caliber rifle to shoot the hog directly in the head. One shot and the hog is immediately dead. Dave then swiftly slits the hog’s throat to bleed it out. One thing I think a lot of people do not realize (because we are very disconnected from death) is when a healthy living being is shot and killed the muscles still have energy. This makes the body thrash and move, again this is something that the movies, TV and video games never show. For people that have never seen death, this often comes as a shock, but again, this is what really happens.
After the hog is bled out, he is brought over to the truck and lifted on to a stand. These hogs weighed close to 300 pounds when they were slaughtered, so Dave has a hydraulic lift that enables him to lift these hogs quickly and easily. The hogs will be washed off to help removed the mud, dirt and blood from their coats.
After they are cleaned off the feet are removed and the skinning process can begin. They start on the belly of the hog. They work their way down the sides and around the legs, being very careful not to let the outside of the side touch the carcass. By not allowing the outside of the skin to touch the carcass, they are mitigating potential cross-contamination (aka poo on the meat).
Once the skin is about halfway off, he put the hog’s back legs in a gamble.
Then he cuts the sternum with a saw to remove the internal organs. As he raises the hog with the lift, the organs almost remove themselves, Dave then is careful to clean out the cavity.
One of the many, many reasons I adore Dave is he is a wonderful teacher. We had all three adult 4-H members and two of their husbands out to watch this and Dave took the time to explain everything and give us some lesson. He pointed out what organ was what, and how they all connected in the hog.
Dave made an excellent point about the difference between animals and humans when it comes to death. If a human saw his friend get slaughtered and skinned like the hogs, the human would freak out, run, you know, have the flight or flight reaction. Whereas when the hogs watched their companions getting slaughtered they went and took a nap. Many people anthropomorphize animals, and it’s no wonder. Often people’s only interaction with farm animals as children are talking pigs, bunnies, mice and roosters, with human emotions and actions. In real life animals are not like that, they are animals not people.
After the organs are removed, Dave continues skinning the hog. He uses his lift to quickly and easily remove the reminder of the hide.
I was very proud of my Adult 4-H members for taking the tongue, livers and hearts home to eat. We really tried to waste nothing on these hogs.
Raising these hogs and teaching other women about hogs and the Ranch was a very fulfilling project. I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I know many people learned from my blog. I’m touched how many people followed along and supported me when the drama hit. I’m excited to know at least one other person is now going to start raising Red Wattle hogs, so my plan for exposing this breed came to fruition. Most of all, I’m over the moon about finally getting to try this caliber of pork! Also a big THANK YOU Amy Sipes for posting a picture of a red wattle chop all those years ago, without that picture my parents would have never allowed me to start raising hogs again. I owe you lady!
Again a huge, big, old thank you to Chico Locker and Sausage for allowing us to learn! And being so amazing transparent and proud of what you do! We love you so much! You are such a gem in our community!
I thought it was time to share this, since my blog has become popular with the not nice, extreme vegans (let this be a lesson folks, no one likes extremism, it just polarizes people).
I wonder if they make something like this for pigs too?
My friend Tracy Rice shared this with me. I love it.
This morning I had the pleasure of going to the Locker and watching my hog get cut up. Like watching a master musician or artist create a masterpiece, watching Craig the butcher break down these hogs was just breathtaking.
The best thing about raising your own meat, or buying from people like me, is you get to decide how you want your meat cut and wrapped. That means you can decide what meat cuts you want, for example a pork loin or pork chops. You can decide how many chops you want in a package, how thick you want your chops, or bacon. For a foodie, it’s like a dream come true. I like it because it makes my life convenient – since I live alone, I only got two chops per package.
If you want a more in-depth explanation of these pictures please read Jenny’s post here
The hog has been split into two sides. They will process one side at a time.
The first thing Craig does is remove the leaf lard. This is supposed to be the best lard ever for making baked goods. I’ve never had any before so I requested them to save it for me. I will render it down in my oven and then make heck of pie crusts and tortillas! Yum!
Check out this video of Craig cutting my beautiful chops.
This is my Dad’s pork. It’ll get him through a summer of BBQing, it’s nice to change it up with some pork! We love beef, but variety is the spice of life!
All the scraps are saved for sausage, I wanted my sausage “southern style” because it is my personal favorite and makes the best biscuits and gravy. For reals. Come over for brunch, I’ll blow your mind!
Yeah, I’m excited. This was a lot of work right here!
The bacon and ham will take longer to get, because they must cure it. They said I would have my ham in time for Easter! YAY!
So my next blog will be what this whole project was about – pork!!!! I cannot wait to try it. Even though I raise animals for a living, I’ve never had this caliber of pork before. I’ve been dreaming about it! What should I try first?!
This made me laugh so freaking hard.