Category Archives: Farm Excitement

Makin’ Bacon Trial #1

Curintg Pork Bellies
Pork Belly in bag with cure mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I started making bacon last night. I separated out 5 lbs. of pork belly to cure. I have 2 packages that are about 2.5lbs. each in the fridge curing. I am  already excited to taste the final product.

I did some reading and compiled the information that I found into one recipe and process for making my own bacon. I went with a brown sugar and salt cure mix with some additions.

The working part of the cure is the salt. Salt removes moisture and prevents spoiling. Sugar is added for flavor and to smooth out the roughness of the salt.  Other spices and flavorings can be added to suit your individual taste. I added some of my favorite pork spices like garlic, pepper, cloves, and some liquid smoke.

It is important to measure out the correct amount of Curing Salt #1 for the weight of the pork. Curing salt ( Pink Salt) is used to retain the red meat color and to prevent botulism. There are recipes that do not include pink salt, but to obtain the  true flavor for bacon it is needed.

I decided to add the curing salt to my mix last. I mixed all the ingredients in one bowl for the entire batch of pork. And of course, I tasted the mix to get a feel for what the flavors would be. (One of the reasons to add the Pink salt last, don’t taste test after the pink salt is added.)  I then weighed the separate portions of meat that went into each seal-able  bag and figured the amount of Cure #1 for each bag. I separated out the amount of mix I wanted in each bag and then mixed in the curing salt at that time. This way my flavor profile for the mix was consistent, and I knew that the correct amount of Cure #1 was added to each portion of meat.

I rubbed down the pork belies with the cure mix while they were sealed in the bag. the cure mix will draw out the moisture from the meat and infuse some of the flavor from the spices. A brine will form in the bag over the next few days. I will turn the bags over each day and rub the mixture into the meat. As the meat cures and the moisture is removed the meat will shrink slightly and start to firm up a bit.

Before the weekend, I will check the meat and see if it is uniformly firmed up, or if some areas feel like they need more salt. I can always add a little  more salt (not pink salt) to draw out more moisture, or I can allow a bit more time for the process to complete.

Once the curing is complete my next step will be to rinse off the cure.  I will then work on getting our bacon smoked. I can’t wait until next weekend when I fire up the smoker. I will let you know how t goes.

 


 

 

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Last litter of the year!

Last litter of the year
Newest Hampshire cross litter Last litter of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

We had our last litter of the year. 6 healthy babies from one of our Hampshire gilts. I love the little red banded boar.

Now that our last litter of the year is on the ground we need to start thinking towards next year. We are going to try to schedule our litters this year. In doing so we hope to spread out the babies to coincide better with demand.

We have already had one hiccup to that thought. Our Hamp sow that we hoped to have a litter out of this week….. decided to come into heat a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t think she was getting big at all, not big enough to have a good litter anyway, but know I realize why. She skipped more than 3 heat cycles, I don’t know if the weather was in play or if it is our boar. She is due to come back into heat this weekend and I am going to watch and see if she comes in again.

If she does not present signs of being in heat, that will mean she is short bred. And that means she will have a litter right in the middle of our coldest time of year. So much for trying to make a schedule. One thing I have learned working with animals, is that mother nature has her own schedule and will slap you with it just for spite.

Even worse, what if she comes back into heat? That means our boar has a potential problem. Good Thing I like the little red Boar!! I guess we will find out this weekend.

 


 

Baby Chicks Hatched!!

New Baby Chicks
Baby Chicks Hatching
Chicks Climbing out of shell
Two Chicks Almost Out of Shell
Hatched Chicks
Chicks Hatched and Drying Off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had some success hatching some baby chickens. We set 25 eggs and 14 hatched. I was hoping our hatch percentage would have been higher, but I have a few things to change to increase our rate.

We grabbed 25 eggs over 2 days and set them in the incubator as a maiden trial. We hatched some Speckled Sussex, some Rhode Island Reds, and some Black Sex link. basically a barn yard mix.

I isolated 3 Barred rock hens and a Barred Rock rooster with hopes to hatch some purebred babies. Now that our incubator is empty I am starting to save back some eggs to set.

We are going to set the Barred Rock eggs this weekend. Now that I have hatched my first eggs, I will write a post about our process and equipment that we use.

 


 

 

 

Fall Butcher season

Fat Hogs
Ossabaw Island and Duroc cross fat hogs

 

 

 

 

 

Fall has always been the time to start thinking about putting up some pork. The days of hanging pork in the smokehouse for the winter have long been gone, and the art of processing a hog by the family has almost been lost. I have the hogs fattened up and wondering what I can do with them.

During my journey with the hogs, I have not been fully content with getting our hogs processed at a locker.  It seems that no processor I use is without fault, and each one has their own way of processing and presenting a final product. My journey has lead me to experiment with processing our own hogs.

I saved back some pork bellies  from a hog I butchered a month ago for a hog roast. This weekend I am going to practice making my own bacon for the first time.  I have purchased some curing salt and have researched some recipes.  This is also research into another ” Stream of Income” for the farm. I will keep you updated.

 


 

Pig Weaning Time

We had 5 litters of baby pigs that needed to graduate up and away from mommy. Our sows did another amazing job at raising a fine group of babies, but it was time to wean.

Weaning pigs is not hard, it just takes time, patience,and planning. With that I need to recruit help. It was a family affair this time. We had to relocate sows to new pens, move some pigs out of our nursery to make room and then put the newly weaned babies in.

pig nursery
pig nursery

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing our seed stock

I purchased some seeds 2 years ago to store in case we may need them. I purchased buckwheat, red winter wheat, and hull-less oats. I have had them in the refrigerator, I put the package that they were shipped in right in the bottom drawer and forgot about them.

I was thinking that I needed to check the viability of the seed and to try to produce more seed to store.  After I harvested our potatoes, I planted a small test plot of each seed. After the 2 years of storage,  we have  a very good germination rate and each plot is growing nicely.

The buckwheat is about to bloom, and the wheat and oats are leafing out nicely. I have never grown these to produce seed before, so this is a project of trial and error. I will write updates along the way.


 

Thief in the Night- Update

Our suspicions were correct, we had a raccoon problem.  In fact, at least 2 raccoon were plundering our animals. Unfortunately for them my farm protection duty was successful and we are back to being secure.

We have still been securing everything at night just in case. We lock up the chickens and secure their food. We feed the cats and dogs earlier to make sure that there is little to no food left in bowls for overnight. And we are keeping a close eye for any more signs of new activity.

In total I believe our thieves made off with 6 of our roosters while we were on vacation, 4 hens out of the coop, and one of our free range ducks. The only thing we can do now is fire up the incubator, hatch date is Oct. 5.


 

Thief in the night

We have had a thief in the night. I believe a raccoon has the belief that we should supply him with nightly meals. It has killed 2 chickens and has been cleaning out the dog and cat feed in the horse barn. We suspected something last week but it is now confirmed.

We found one of our hens killed in the coop this week. The darn raccoon was climbing up pipe fence to the metal roof in order to climb in a vent. In all of our efforts to secure the coop, the little thief found the one weak point.  We never expected anything to come up from the fence. Due to the dew on the grass and a few dirt patches we were able to track its movements along the fence and onto the roof..

In the barn, we have been putting our bags of feed into an animal carrier to secure them at night. The raccoon has been reaching in and trying to pull the bag through the door grate. In doing so, it has been pulling about 25 lbs.  around the floor. That feat has matched the size of foot prints found on the fence. We are dealing with at least one adult maybe more.

I am reluctant to deal with the situation with a gun. I feel the power of any gun that I have will be too much around the buildings and other animals. I really don’t want to wake up the neighbors, or draw suspicion to our farm. I have too many cats to use any trap including a live trap. And I really don’t think he will leave just by asking . So, I have purchased an air rifle to use to deal with our thief. Now the hunter becomes the hunted. Tonight I will be ready. I am on farm protection duty!


 

 

Growing the farm

We have been spending all of our free time getting our “to do” list knocked out. Our focus on growing the scope of our farm has added a lot of work this summer to our list. With a lot help from my parents, we are slowly getting caught up.

Our main goal  this year is to increase the number of revenue streams on our farm. The hard part about adding different revenue streams, is to not spread yourself to thin. There is only so much time in one day.  You must not cut your free time too short or you will burn yourself out and the farm will become a drain.

Our goal this year is to  increase our number of sows,  and in doing so we are now producing feeder pigs and fat hogs from different breeds. We were already breeding Ossabaw Island Pigs, so adding a few more litters of babies a month will not over tax our infrastructure or allocated labor. We did need to add more pens and build a few more huts, but  we also put in a new alley system to make feeding time run smoother. With the new alley, the time  it takes to feed has actually decreased. The alley will also allow us to break one more large pen into three, which will let us better manage our growing herd.

New Duroc Cross Babies
Duroc Cross Babies

We have farrowed 4 litters of babies this past week. Our new pens and alley made that easier. We did not plan on so many at once, but nature sometimes makes its own plans.  Next year we will be scheduling our litters to better coincide with the market. We had times this spring that we sold out of feeder pigs, and we are constantly running a reservation list for Ossabaw Island pig breeders. Our new pens will allow us to keep a surplus so we will not miss any sales. Plus the surplus will lead into another revenue stream already in the works to be implemented some time next year.

We have also just about completed our chicken coop. We have been been selling a few eggs, but we will be able to focus more on that. Also with the coop done we will be able to breed 3 separate breeds and a popular egg laying hybrid. The completed coop will allow the farm to increase the number of products that we can sell,  which will hopefully draw in a few more customers.

We must constantly reevaluate where we are on our path,  and we must be constantly searching for the roads that will lead us to our destination.  -Brett

 


 

Striped Kitty- Hopefully just visiting

Lil Skunk in the yard
Striped Kitty
Striped Kitty
Striped Kitty- Lil skunk visiting

We were out doing chores the other day and I noticed a fluffy tuft of Black and White hair poking out of the grass. I quickly got the dogs into the barn. It does however explain the odor coming from our blind and deaf farm dog.

I took a few photos as I tried to scurry him along.