Art of Proprietation

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pig and a bit

We got our pig over the weekend. And a bit more.

We have been waiting for our slot in the schedule to get a pig from the farm we buy from. The farmer called to say that the pigs are not the usual 150 lbs dressed that they have been in the past and did we want to wait for the next batch to go to slaughter. We had already delayed once on the weight issue and I didn't want to be the fly in the ointment (oinkment??). I also wanted a pig, we are out of bacon, chops, ground meat and down to our last roast from the last pig. The farmer offered to help us get a little more meat by selling us some pig bits from his accumulated oddments that are waiting for retail sale. That was fine with me. It meant extra ground meat, ribs and back fat.

We met in a dark parking lot and transferred boxes of cryovacced meat like a clandestine raw milk sale. Just kidding, we met for dinner and we took home a pig in the back of our jetta. I noticed from the volume of the boxes we were loading that it was more than past pigs. The farmer's wife laughed knowingly and said it pays to be on good terms with the farmer.

When we got home we had to load the meat into the freezers. We have two chest freezers, a small 5 CU foot and a larger 10 cubic foot. We chose to go with the two unequal sized freezers because our freezer space needs change dramatically throughout the year. As we eat the contents going into spring, we'll empty the little one and shut it down. As summer keeps going we'll eat through enough of the big one and empty that into the little one again. When late summer harvests come in we'll start filling up again. And we need enough room that we can swallow a pig in one gulp as needed. It works out nice that we defrost the freezers at least once a year and go through the contents completely. It's amazing the things that can get lost in there if attention is not paid.

Now that we are flush with pig parts we have to find a use for all that. We got extra back fat with this one. We wanted to start rendering lard, and the extra back fat has given us a jump start on that. We spent a couple of hours this evening cutting up back fat and cooking it down. I am glad we had the glenwood to do it on. It was a long slow cook. Now we have bags of "cracklings" and quarts of lard. The cracklings we'll trade with a friend who wants them or give them to the dog. He likes them more than me and my waist line doesn't need them. The lard we will have for cooking. We'll freeze most of it to make sure it keeps.

They dog gets some of the other bits as well. He gets the organs. He'll get the feet and the ears. There will be bones after the soup. And when we were going through the freezer, rearranging things, we found some things we had forgotten. The dog also has some Guinea feet coming from last falls slaughter. A tasty treat. He says so anyway. With all the best intentions, things go into the freezer. The trick is to make sure they all come out again in a timely fashion. Not too long ago, we came across some crab legs that were left in the freezer way too long. I think a tenant forgot them when she left, we thought maybe we would use them, but we never did. They were un-appatizing when I got rid of them last fall.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Generator Transfer Switch

I got to use my generator transfer switch today for the first time!!

Years ago, I bought a generator transfer switch so I could more safely use my generator in case of a power emergency. The generator transfer switch allows me to switch from line power to generator power with no chance of being connected both at the same time. It also allows me to select several circuits in the house that are priority as I don't have enough generator to power the entire house during an outage.

As I said, I bought the transfer switch years ago, but I only just last summer got around to installing it. And, in general, our power outages are rarely long enough to warrant hooking up the generator. Today was a special case though, as we have eggs hatching in a couple days and we could lose the whole batch if we didn't get power to the incubator pretty quick. I even got to use my inverter to power the incubator while I went out and messed with the generator. And, true to form, not long after I got everything running smoothly on the generator, the power came back on.

It does make me think about the limitations of our backup power. We have just enough generator to power refrigeration and heating. Not enough for a 220 motor or the electric range. We do run a cook stove all winter anyway, so cooking is covered, but we can't run the well pump, so no showers and pretty soon no flush toilets. More importantly, it makes watering the animals more difficult. We also are not set up to power anything on the second floor, niceties like lights or the wireless network.

If I really got desperate, I could power the wireless and our router off the inverter. And we have a number of little LED lanterns. I really like the lanterns, they last forever on rechargeable batteries (about three days continuous use on 4 AAs) and now I have some that are crankable. I have looked around at more capable generators, but the cost to benefit just isn't there for me. I don't think we have been out of power for 24 hours in more than 10 years. And I only have the little generator as a leftover from a past use.

But I am quite sure we could live though an extended power outage in our house without a larger generator. We wouldn't live like we were on grid power. We would elect not to use (heat) areas that were unnecessary. We wouldn't spend much time on the Internet. But neither us or our house would come to harm.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Moderately Snowy Winter

That's a three foot stake I used for laying out a line last summer. That's the top 6 inches or so.

Remnants from buckets left in the goat house overnight. When it is negative twenty over night it is really important to take out fresh liquid water a couple times a day.

On a really snowy winter the snow is continuous from the roof to the ground. We aren't as deep as we were last year, and not as deep as some of the blogs I read. But we do have a good snow cover. I think it is good for the land.

We burned a lot of wood in January. We are a little further through it than I would like. But the weather has started to warm. We haven't bothered to light a fire the last two days. Strong sunlight has kept us warm. If we go down to burning a fire only 4 or 5 days a week, the wood will stretch a lot further.

I think we have enough dry oak and cherry in the back to make it through till warmer weather. Last weekend I did cut a dead birch I've had my eye on, though. It was falling into the path to the upper field, not far from the house and all downhill. I could toboggan it down to the house with a minimum of pulling.

It's a pain burning the birch because it isn't dry. It has to come in and thaw before it goes on the fire. And it needs to be a hot fire already. But if there is a good bed of coals, it seems like the birch gets the oven hotter than usual, not sure why. Maybe the higher moisture content helps transfer the energy to the oven walls? The oven thermometer pegs at 500+ when we are burning the birch.

It will be time to cut next years firewood soon. If it is cut and stacked in the spring and under cover for the summer it will be well dried for next winter. I'll do a lot less damage to the ground cutting while it is frozen. It's a lot easier to see what I am doing while the foliage is off the trees. Wearing my protective gear in the cool spring temps is a lot less irritating than summer heat. It can be annoying to have to go everywhere on snow shoes. But the snow cover also helps lift logs above the dirt and protect the saw. And now is when I have the time. There are other things that can only be done when the earth is thawed and the growing season has begun.

Labels: ,