Monday, January 22, 2007

Old Smokey

Seamus and I butchered a hog last weekend. It has been a few years since I butchered one on the farm. We used to do 2 or 3 here every year, but lately I have just sent the ones that we have eaten with all the others to the slaughterhouse we use for our customers' pigs. But we were out of pork, and Seamus, who lives pretty close to self sufficiency, was starting to get hungry.

We like to smoke the bacons, hams, and shoulders. After we got the pig all cut up we soaked those cuts in brine for a week. Unfortunately I neglected to write down how long we used to soak and smoke everything, so there is a little bit of guess work going on here. Since we aren't going for a full cure, which means the meat would keep outside of refrigeration, I have opted to err on the side of not long enough. This meat will go into the freezer when it is done. I plan to smoke for a week as well.

The smokehouse is nothing fancy. Kind of like an outhouse without a seat. There are a number of poles across the top of the house for hanging the meat from, and the fire is built right on the ground inside the smokehouse. We generally use cherry or apple wood to smoke with. The smokehouse needs to be cool for this type of application. We are not trying to cook the meat, although we have cooked chickens in there by building a hotter fire. I keep this fire smoldering along by using ashes to restrict the amount of air the fire gets, and by using damp wood. It hasn't gotten hot enough inside there to melt the snow on the roof yet.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Pig Night-Lite

The Pig Night-Lite in use
The inner workings

Keeping pigs through the winter is a drag. Primarily because they need water, and cheap automatic watering that works so swell in warm weather freezes and breaks in the winter time. Watering pigs in troughs is a nightmare because unlike cows, they like to flip them over, or fill them up with bedding. Plus they still freeze and need to have the ice knocked out of them, and the ice has to be hauled outside. I have always dreamed of having a well placed spring that we could use to keep thawed water available for the livestock, but that is one thing we don't have. I have done some research on freeze proof livestock waterers, and they do have them available for pigs, but they are pretty expensive, and require a lot of labor and some concrete to install.

This is my poor-boy alternative. I got myself a complimentary plastic 55 gallon barrel from one of our customers who owns a carwash. Then I cut a whole in the bottom and top. It has two hog nipples plumbed through the side at appropriate heights, and a light bulb porcelain for heat. I set the barrel over the top of a water hydrant and connected the hoses from the nipples to the hydrant. I ended up using blue maple sap tubing because its smaller diameter makes it easier to work with inside a small space like a barrel, and it doesn't require any tools to connect it. I put a 150 watt outdoor floodlight in the socket for heat. By and large it does a nice job keeping the water from freezing and it costs about 15 cents a day to run. Less then that most days because I usually shut it off during the day if its not going to be too cold because the constant pig use keeps it from freezing. After really cold nights sometimes the part of the nipple that sticks out of the barrel freezes up, but that is easy to thaw with a little warm water.