Barnyards. Butcher Shops. & Blog Posts.

Monday, October 11, 2010


It seems like all we did was run this weekend, but I know that isn’t true because I have the aching muscles to prove it.

It all started bright and early Saturday morning. I woke to shattered dreams, delusions really that fall was setting in early. Whatever cool weather convinced me it could be so was now gone. I could feel puffs of hot wind coming through my open bedroom window, the telltale sign that the east winds were on their way; those hot, dry miserable winds that start somewhere out over the desert, carry dust and debris from hundreds of miles away and end up – well – here. I was not happy. But, life and farms go on.

I received a call on Thursday. The lambs we dropped off Monday were ready to be picked up from the butcher shop. Not just any butcher shop mind you, an old fashioned butcher shop with coolers and freezers; smokers and sausage makers; hooks and knives and rails. All the equipment needed to custom slaughter and process both domestic and wild animals. And, all done right in plain sight. No back room processing here.

When we dropped off our 4 lambs left over from the state and county fairs Kent was busy finishing up a truckload of grass fed beef from a rancher the next county over. Rather than stay until he had time to “do the deed” we put the lambs into a holding pen and went on about our day. It’s been a long time since I’ve butchered my own large livestock, but situations change and so must we. I doubt my neighbors would be pleased if they woke up some Sunday morning to the sight of carcasses hanging from the rafters of my garage or blood trickling down my driveway. I’m out of the loop on this one.

When we arrived the shop was already bustling. Pick up trucks loaded down with deer and wild boar lined the small street waiting impatiently for their turn to offload. Matt, one of the cutters, and another worker quickly hooked the carcasses and hoisted them off the beds and onto the rail so they could be moved into the cool room. I know better than to get between a hunter and his prize so Brianne and I walked around the corner and entered the shop through the front door.

Kent was on the phone, Brandi was packaging and labeling an order, and Gill was bringing out a pig to cut up. When Kent came out we talked briefly about the hunt, the fair, life, kids, school and sports. In 10 minutes we had caught up on the goings ons of our lives since we last talked three months ago. There wasn’t time for more. His little shop is busy this time of year. Between hunting and county fairs, custom slaughters and special orders Kent’s all about business. And, I can appreciate that, so to business we got. While Mark fetched the boxes containing our lambs I asked Kent how they looked. He threw me a “you’ve gotta be kidding” kind of look before saying “girl you sure know how to raise a lamb worth eating” and “I wish all the lambs I process looked like yours”. Brianne and I smiled. We were proud.

With boxes loaded in the truck we headed back over the hill. Back to the work that lay ahead.

With the lambs finally out of the barn it’s time to break down the portable sheep panels, move feed containers and equipment so the barn and pen areas can be cleaned and readied for a fall batch of meat chickens. Small suburban homesteads can be very productive, but it takes a bit of creativity and scheduling. On our farm we raise meat chickens after the lambs are gone so we can use the same space. My hopes of raising a hog this year were dashed when Kent told me mid-October before he could process our lambs. There isn’t time now to raise one to a proper size before the cold weather sets in. Maybe next year.

As we worked on I noticed a few low hanging branches batting the barn roof. Not a good thing. If winter winds break those branches they could cause serious (expensive) damage to the barn roof. This tree has been a problem since we moved in. It sits on the property line between me and my neighbor, growing through and into the fence that borders our yards. There’s no easy or cheap solution, the tree needs to come out. But, neither of us is prepared to do that just yet, so there it stays, with us monitoring it growth and cutting it back when ever it gets in the way.

I set aside my barn cleaning and broke out the tree saw, hatchet and loppers.






In a few hours the three problem limbs were lying on the ground ready to be cut into small pieces and hauled away. I was drenched in sweat, huffing and puffing like I’d just run a marathon, my muscles quivered from sawing and I felt lightheaded. I was beat. It was hot, about 95. I needed food and a cold drink and a break. Work on our little homestead may grind slowly, but it does grind.

When the day finally cooled I spent a little more time cutting up the smaller branches for the trash. I won’t save it for firewood or composting. California Pepper trees, in my mind, are not worth anything except making work for the people who have to live near them. Into the trash they will go. Good riddance.

With night falling quickly, I was off to get cleaned up for dinner and movies at a friend’s house. Just what this farm girl needed.

On Sunday I started early cutting up the remaining small branches and twigs and filling the trash cans. The larger stuff will have to wait. With the inside panels pulled out and the barn floor churned up from raking the chickens were busy digging for bugs, fly eggs and other treats. They ran around squawking, wings flapping wildly enjoying the extra space and fresh dirt. I rested on a bale of hay watching them. Chicken viewing is a relaxing past time, one that many people would benefit from, I think.

When the thermometer pushed over 90 I decided to call it quits. Like Scarlet said, “tomorrow is another day”.

I spent the rest of the afternoon writing blog posts to keep you all up to speed on our homestead, reading the “Contrary Farmer” (again) and listening to music. When I got around to thinking about dinner my folks called unexpectedly and invited us out. The weekend started with death, revolved around sweat and dirt and ended with a family dinner, the perfect end to a busy weekend.

Creative Commons License photo credit: m.gifford

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