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Friday, Saturday... [Nov. 27th, 2010|06:35 pm]
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Friday and Saturday--both gorgeous days with clear deep blue skies, brilliant sunshine, crisp air.   And a hard freeze in between.   Yes, we covered the roses.   Friday was spent largely in residual post-Thanksgiving cleaning up  and eating and taking our son back to his apartment (fighting the Black Friday shopping traffic both ways.)    Then came The Lamb.   (Stop here if discussion of home butchery squicks you.)

This is a lamb that had both behavioral and shape problems as a show lamb (belonging to a friend) and was destined for the freezer.   For both the lamb's sake and that of its owner (who had a lamb show to attend and no companion animal to stay with the unshowable lamb)  the owner wanted it to be "done" this weekend.   So this morning we killed and processed the lamb, much more efficiently than the previous times.  Practice, if it doesn't make perfect, makes better.   The shot to the head, the quick slice of the throat to drain the blood, the hanging up, etc., all went smoothly.  This is the first time we've done it in the particular place we used (more often we slaughter at Rancherfriend's ranch, since his barn has many useful toys, like the meat saw and big meat grinder) but it worked OK.   We have a portable stall out in the north horse lot and used that.

The weather could not have been better for the project: the cold (still a solid freeze when we started) kept the flies away and also chilled the carcass quickly.   But it was warming all the time, and--with no wind initially--quite comfortable working.  We put hay down on the blood, and went to work skinning, cleaning, and then (moving the carcass with a garden cart to the back yard, near a hose bib) washed it well and cut into the pieces we wanted.  I used a new knife I got for the kitchen and was amazed/delighted at how much better it worked than the knife I'd used on other lambs and cattle.   Husband started with an older knife (now approaching 40 years of regular use) and then used the other new one.   He broke a hacksaw blade sawing through the sternum. but had a second hacksaw out and ready.

The discarded portions had to be carted out to the place where we've left other discarded portions, and in the afternoon the black vultures and turkey vultures came to see what was on the menu. But it was chilling fast and they prefer to have thermals to get home on.  So tonight I expect the resident gray fox to be quite happy, but perhaps driven away by the non-resident-but-regularly-visiting coyote.  

As of now, all the equipment (pistol, knives, etc. ) has been cleaned, the clothes we were in have been washed as well,  and though we are stiff and sore (which we were when we started, for that matter)  we have the satisfaction of having done a difficult (for us, anyway) job well.   We're not wimpy old layabouts yet.  We have ideas to make it easier in that location next time (pulleys, for instance.   A new knife sharpener.  Etc.)  but by golly we can still butcher a lamb. 


[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2010-11-28 04:56 pm (UTC)
For me it's not a smug superiority thing as utter confusion as to why everyone doesn't do it this way. The meat you get alive from the farm is much cheaper (and in the case of cull roosters, often free) than the tasteless stuff you can buy in the supermarket, and infinitely superior in flavor and quality.

I'm something of a hardcore foodie, and I know quality when I see it. An slow grown acorn fed heritage Berkshire hog is *quality*, so I bought one. I see tourists at expensive gourmet stores paying $100/lb for acorn fed Iberico ham, or $8-$20/lb for organic free range grass fed beef. And I can have it for $1/lb on the hoof by putting in a day of work.

I live in the city, in an apartment. I don't live on a farm. I just get to eat like I do, because I buy all of my meat from small local farms, mostly of the backyard variety. Over the years I've found it worthwhile to invest in decent butchering equipment for when I do large animals, but I don't generally bother with any more than a table, my hammer and cleaver and hacksaw and a bucket of Old Hickory knives if I'm going out to take apart something that weighs less than 150 lbs. When the weather is cold I throw a 2mm disposable tarp on my living room floor, put up a portable heavy duty plastic table and butcher inside. Works just fine for an urban lifestyle.

Top level chefs who regularly put out $50 dinner plates have envied the quality of what I get to work with. For not much more than the price of one of their entrees I can buy the entire lamb and do endless gourmet dishes with every part of it. I suppose it's hard not to feel just a little bit smug at that, but the point is that *anyone can do it* if you care enough about the quality of your food to invest the time.
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