Growth is a double edged sword. Unchecked, growth can be cancerous and destructive. It is this type of ceaseless expansion that has put our society into the precarious environmental and financial positions in which we currently find ourselves. On the other hand, growth can be regenerative and life-giving. Following a forest fire or a bitter winter, the first green shoots to emerge from the earth bear witness to the earth's ability to restore life in the wake of disaster.

My goal for this blog is pretty simple and open-ended: I want to document and share with family and friends my efforts to incorporate an ever increasing degree of self sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, and environmentally-conscious design into my life as a would be urban homesteader.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Butchering Day 2010

Last year on the day after Thanksgiving, my family revived a tradition that I remembered from my childhood: A family hog butchering. We hadn't done one in 20+ years, and it was a ton of fun. I was happy earlier this year when my dad talked about making plans to butcher again this year. We butchered 4 hogs this year instead of 3. It made for a full 1 1/2 days of work, even though we had a local processor kill and gut them for us. In spite of all that had to be done, it didn't feel like hard work, and it certainly wasn't drudgery. Instead, it was a day of telling jokes and old stories, giving each other a hard time, and doing meaningful work together. Und viel Deutsch gesprochen wurde. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy. Friday lasted from 6:30am to 9:30pm. By 10pm, we were tired. But it was gratifying to know what we had accomplished.

This year's work netted us the following: 8 hams, 8 huge slabs of bacon, 60 lbs of pork steaks, a tub of pork chops, 4 big packs of tenderloin, 175 lbs of pork sausage, a few ham shank roasts, 9 sticks of liverwurst, about 100 lbs of gritswurst, and 4 1/2 gallons of snow white lard. Not too shabby, if you ask me.

Herrick Kimball's awesome blog, The Deliberate Agrarian, had a bit about a webpage for the Virtz family who held an annual hog butchering. Mr.Kimball noted that all of the photos appeared to be circa the 70's or early 80's, and also that there were virtually no boys in the pictures, only grown men. When he contacted the family to see if they still butchered, they said that they hadn't done so since 1998. If the younger generation isn't taught how to do things and made a part of family traditions, then those traditions will die with the last people who learned them as children. I mentioned last year that I hoped this would become a regular event with my family. If we keep this up, instead of saying "I remember back when I was a kid..." my children will be able to say, "Butchering? We've done this ever since I was a kid..."

My mother wasn't her usual shutterbug self this year, so unfortunately there aren't the plethora of pictures like last time. I'll leave you with a picture of this morning's breakfast: 'Burbstead eggs, homemade bread with my brother's apple butter, and fresh gritswurst. Delicious!


  1. What always amazes me is how much more food we get out of the stuff that would normally be thrown away. That was a hell of a lot of gritswurst!
    And that breakfast looks pretty darn tasty too. The wife and I just finished up a supper of one of those shank roasts with potatoes dug from the farm and carrots all cooked up in the crock pot. Top it off with a thick slice of homemade bread and butter...not too shabby.

  2. "Everything but the squeal..." What's funny is that by old time standards, we were being incredibly wasteful. I mean, we didn't even render the skins to get every last ounce of lard off, and then grind them up to add to the gritswurst. And those extra livers that got fed to the cats...Ach du liebe!
    As for supper, you must have read my mind because we ate virtually the exact same thing this evening also. Weird.