Friday, September 17, 2010

An Abundance Of Fresh Meat

Today we went to pick up the meat from the pair of pigs that we had butchered this month. These were grass fed Tamworth pigs, born right here on our farm; they had an ideal piggy existence with one very bad day. :-) Because Tamworths are an old heritage breed they don't reach market weight in 6 months, they were also slower growing than pigs that are exclusively fed grain. We could have butchered them last Fall, but we held them over for another year and consequently they were huge. We ended up with well over 400 pounds of meat! We have 8 large hams, 70ish pounds of bacon, spare ribs, 100 pounds of sausage and about that much of pork chunks to can. I am going to be very busy getting as much as I can into jars because we have chickens to do next. For the curious, our butcher's bill was $336, I have no idea what we would pay for that much meat if we had to buy it retail. I'm pretty sure it would have been more than that though. :-)


I stopped at my friend Anna's house on our way home. They have 10 children and haven't butchered yet this Fall so it has been a while since they've had fresh meat. I left some bacon with them and got a box of zucchini to turn into pickles. Anna is the one that I have make shirts for Mr. G and the boys, she charges $10. When we gather apples in the Autumn and have cider pressed we always take some over to their place because they don't have apples to turn into cider. I enjoy the rural give and take friendship that we have, it is the "community" that is largely lost in our modern world. Both Anna and I live in a world that has more similarities to the 19th century existence than it does to the 21st century. So, anyway, for Supper tonight there are fresh porkchops and homemade baked beans. And tomorrow we will have ham! Which, as a matter of fact, is another vestige of a by-gone era. What I mean by that is what was once common place, plain rural food such as: maple sugar/syrup or organic fresh meat is now a high priced specialty food that is beyond the means of most people. Only by creating an underground, homemade economy can I enjoy the life that I do. Of course the downside is that there is an awful lot of hard, unromantic work involved. :-) I don't know if you envy me or pity me, I hope that I paint a realistic picture of my life showing both the good and bad.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September Means The County Fair!

I know a lot of people are celebrating the end of Summer and delighting in the cooler temperatures that September brings. There is a charm in the change of seasons and a calm associated with the slower pace of Autumn and especially Winter. I will eventually join you, but for us the pace has yet to slacken. The cooler temperatures are a starting gun in the race between a killing frost and us. Many, many things are still in the garden and are yet to be harvested. On the farmwive's porches are makeshift tables sagging under the weight of bumper tomato crops. They will finish ripening and then be put to rest in the larder dressed as spaghetti sauce or salsa, barbecue sauce or perhaps plain tomato juice. My own porch has the requisite tomatoes as well as white peaches and pears. Most of the dry beans are out of the garden and strung upside down from the barn rafters awaiting shelling. The men shell about a bushel a day and have many more days work ahead of them.



Amidst the press of work comes the quintessential rural experience of the County Fair. Our county has held a fair every year since 1849, a chance to showcase the hard work that is a farmer's lot, a change to renew acquaintances and perhaps sell some breeding stock.



I was especially interested in the displays of canned goods, I'd like to enter next year and it was instructive to see which jars the judges favored. There are categories for cookies and decorated cakes, knitting and sewing, quilts and wood working, all signalling the effort to be the best in their class.
There were tables and tables of produce, giant pumpkins, wafers of hay, ear corn, dry soybeans and wheat.

We toured the dairy barns (mostly Holsteins with a few Jerseys and a very few Ayrshires), the pig barns (all of the same boring variety that can survive the stress of a confinement hog facility) and the poultry barn where there were some interesting varieties in addition to the far over represented Cornish Rock Cross (these are the brainless white chickens that you eat and spent their pathetic lives in chicken concentration camps). The only turkeys were Broad Breasted Whites. :-(


The fair used to be the place to witness innovation and see new breeds, but it has unfortunately become a showcase of what works in confinement. Still, I am glad to be a part of the rural heritage that is part and parcel with living here. It was nice to take a day off in the middle of the week and enjoy being with other farm folks. We came home, ate lunch and tried to fit some work in this afternoon. Most of the children want to enter produce in next year's fair, I want to enter some canned goods and perhaps some sewing. It refreshes and revitalizes us to remember some of the entries and think "I could beat that!"








Supper is waiting and there are tomatoes to can yet tonight. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Antebellum Baby Shoes

Asa is ready for his first pair of shoes due to the cooler weather we've been enjoying. We are attending an auction tomorrow and I wanted to be assured that his little toes were adequately warm, so I made these shoes this afternoon. They are a proper shape for the Civil War era but the pattern is a modern one that several reenacting Moms have adapted, it can be found here.
They were cut from the bottom of a brown wool blanket that the boys use, they are unlined and the edges are stitched with embroidery floss. I *think* the embroidery is period appropriate but I'm not positive (Sarah Jane, do you know?). The main difference between the inspiration pattern and these are the squared off toe, modern shoes have rounded toes but shoes in the 1860s have square toes. I squared the toe portion of the sole and then cut the toe portion of the "upper" to match. The hardest part was getting the pattern tweaked to where I liked how it looked, the actual sewing can be completed in a jiffy. I'd like to make him a silk quilted pair so these served as my test run and will be his "everyday" shoes.