What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Monday, February 28, 2011

Notes from an Aspiring Farmwife: D Day (Death Day)

Journal Entry: 11-20-2010, Butchering Day

Today was the day. Since the time we have gotten that cute little calf we have known his purpose. We have cared for him each morning and evening. We have rubbed his ears. Combed burdock from his back. Fetched him when he got out. Watered and fed him and gave him apple treats. But we have done so knowing right from the beginning that his was a higher calling than just pet.

He was for our table.

We would joke about how we should have called him Hamburger. We would talk about Butchering day like any other day. We talked about it a lot so the children would be used to the idea and not completely flip out. But inwardly....secretly....
I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do it. The butchering. The cooking. The eating. All of it.

Frankly, I was quite content to unwrap meat from plastic wrap and Styrofoam and was perfectly happy thinking meat came from the grocer aisle. It is comfortable to see only meat, without thinking of the big cow eyes that looked back at you so many times. It is awful handy and clean and orderly and tidy to buy it from the grocery store. And a lot less work.

Maybe I am not ready for this...

But am I so naive as to think that the beef that come from stores didn't once have sweet eyes too? Didn't they breathe and live and feel? Because I didn't experience it, THEN the death has no sting?

Silly, foolish girl. Life is about more than just being comfortable. Or staying blissfully ignorant. Someone has to work to put food on the table. Perhaps we have lost something in that someone always being someone ELSE ~the someone who everyone knows ABOUT, but no one actually has seen.

If nothing else~ I want my children to be thankful for their food and all that went into it. To know what went INTO that food. To know that the food they are eating took work. To see the beginning and the end of the process. Maybe being a part of the process would make us all a little less likely to be ungrateful and wasteful of our daily bread.

This part, the unpleasant part, is just as valuable to us as the sustenance.

Matt decided that he wanted to butcher the cow himself, despite the discouragement of some. He had never had any experience doing it but rather than be scared, he took it as an opportunity to learn. Bravo. In doing so, he learned a new skill, became more self-sufficient and saved us more than $600.00 butchering costs alone. This man of mine makes me so proud.


I saw the shot. I didn't mean to, I didn't WANT to, it was an accident. Andrew, on the other hand, saw it all. And MEANT to. Every. last. moment. He didn't flinch when the cow went down. When he bled out. When he got hung. Got skinned. Got cut up.

He didn't care at all. Neither did the girls.

To them, this is just how you get meat. A part of life.

Maybe my own blind naivety came from the mere fact that meat had always just come from the grocery store? Maybe I had been too Bambi-fied? Maybe both. But I envy them their comfortable acceptance of death.

~~~ January 1st 2011 , A freezer full ~~~

The meat has hung in the winter barn, curing for 21 days and today the weather warmed up just enough so that Matt and my brother Jonathan started cutting it up. SO thankful Jonathan was here as the frozen cow halves are HEAVY to carry and even HEAVIER to lug onto a cutting table.

Matt made a cutting station of clean lumber and sawhorses where the big cow-half could be. We brought our patio table into the barn for the wrapping and grinding station. The children ran around pleasantly as if this is just what people do on the first day of the new year.

I still marvel at how small the actual meat portion of a cow is compared to how big Jedidiah was in the pasture grazing and loafing about. Even still, cutting up one side started in the morning and didn't finish until long after the sun had gone down. The other half hangs frozen to be done later.
Matt had a book to go by, but I do hope to research more how to get the different marvelous bone-in cuts. For now, he cut all the meat off the bone. After lunch, my brother had to leave so I took over. We cut steaks, hand-cranked ground beef, I cut the beef into strips for stir-fry and chunks for stews and had plenty of roasts.

The air was milder than it has been, but handling the frozen meat made your fingertips burn with cold. When they got too cold, I would take a turn at cranking the meat grinder. I, once again, was thankful for every huge bowl I own and lamented a few times not owning more.

When the sun went down it got so cold we brought the rest of the meat indoors to crank there. Everything went into the freezer this time around. Corynn and Andrew labeled most of the packages. When the last of the meat had been taken care of, we were ready to be done with it.

The hardest thing about butchering your own animals is not the work, necessarily, but the time. Work was as it ALWAYS is....work, but not particularly DIFFICULT. Devoting days to something that could be done in a 15 minute trip to the grocery store is the hard part. Butchering day was from morning until night. Today, cutting up and wrapping one half took another entire day. We still have another half to do which will take another day.


The question still remains though....will I be able to COOK this meat? Will I be able to stomach the thought of eating Jed?

(Ruby doesn't seem to mind...)

~~~ January 13th 2011, Edible ~~~

Tonight, for the first time, I cooked our own beef. I admit, I was scared I wouldn't like it so I chose a dish that would "ease" me into eating Jed by hiding most of the meat flavor.

We had sloppy joe on kaiser rolls with provolone and oven roasted potato wedges. And guess what?


What was I ever scared of?!?!


Bonnie said...

Is it bad to say my mouth was watering while I read this post? I grew up butchering deer, and I didn't mind the weighing, grinding and wrapping, but I hated the cutting up. Mostly because we had dull knives. Ya ever tried cutting raw meat with a dull knife? It ain't fun...
I probably would have fretted too, over the little people and their reaction, but glad to know they took it in stride. I think I was a teenager before I found out that not everyone hunted their own meat!

Sheila said...

Aww, so glad the littles took no notice of it! They really are an adaptable folk! Butchering your own is a great lesson for anyone to learn, for many different reasons! Good for you! May I be able to follow in your footsteps one day...
Warm Hugs to you!

Mr. G's Mrs. G said...

Great job! I admire your determination. This is something I've been longing to do myself, but we've never had the property that it takes to keep large farm animals. We've looked in to keeping pigs, but don't have the area to do the butchering.

ulli said...


...they call me mommy... said...

I totally understand your feelings. I had a hard time selling our steer, Nicodemus! ;)(He was headed to the table!) And we didn't even do the butchering!! My dh's family has done/does do this ALL the time and so I've been exposed to it a bit! And TONS of DEER butchering! I have never really helped myself though because of all the hands in the family that are far more experienced then I. My day is coming though. Hubby was just talking about grinding up a lot of vension that we have in big chunks in the freezer.

Great job!

Lindsey's Photographs said...

Thats awesome. Our girls when they pretend play in their kitchen, will go out pretend to catch and butcher a chicken for dinner. Makes a mama proud, lol.

Heather said...

hey- does this count for your edible Foto Friday? Ha! I could not resist:)

Rebecca said...

Glad I am eating chicken right now for dinner, even though I have 5 chickens that will some day be on my plate.

Leah said...

My sister-in-law's family and our family together bought half of a neighbor's slaughtered steer (?) all packaged up in the different cuts.
It was the best beef I've ever had. Every roast, every steak, every burger was packed with SO much flavor. Mmmmm. we need to do that again.

I love to see you all out there as a family doing that though. You are quite the farm girl. ;)

A Happy Wife said...


Good for you and Matt! You gotta love a man that just jumps right in and does what needs to be done, learning curve or not! We helped some new, but already very good friends butcher chickens and hogs last year. I, too, was amazed that the kids thought not very much of it..."interesting," they all thought. Only Camryn said, "I feel bad for the chickens/pigs." Not sure if it's her age or just being female?

However, I don't think we should take the killing of livestock lightly. I think it's OK (even good) if it bothers us a little...it is death, after all. It should give us pause, and cause us to reflect on the mystery that is life, that God gave us dominion to lovingly care for those creatures that would eventually become our food.

To be honest, we weren't much involved in the raising of the animals we helped butcher. I'm sure that contributes to the emotional process. We're looking forward to getting chickens this year...so it'll be interesting to see how that affects us on "D-Day!"

Did you keep track of your feed costs? We figured that the chickens cost approx the same or a bit less than the regular-priced whole roasters in the grocery store...but SO much healthier!

Kris Zerby

P31 Mom said...

Just found your blog and Wow! I used to dream of being self-sustaining. Now self-sustaining means getting all the laundry done by myself:)

Wendy said...

Well done Matt and Family! Just in time for grilling..hehehe.

hey...on a different note...I just found out that David and Ruth had twins I think yesterday! I didn't know if you still kept contact, but thought I would pass it on...I found out from Ruths brother James.

Penny Ann said...

Just yesterday I was looking out of my living room window at the old graveyard where a huge old chinaberry tree used to stand. I remembered that tree especially because I was remembering what it was like on butchering day when my grandparents farmed here. I guess I was about Corynn's age at that time.
And I remember the howl of laughter that went up as my grandaddy told me to write STEAK on packages and I did, spelling it STAKE..

abigail said...

This was fun to read.

(And we're inviting you over for slow-roasted Silky. Corynn's revenge!)