Ramble On

Monday, February 11, 2013

Butchering Day Arrives

The pigs were still asleep when their time came.

For the second year running, I’ve had the privilege of joining some Page County friends to do a hog butchering, a two-day event that takes place in late January or early February.  After some logistical gyrations we managed to get together last weekend to take care of business with the hogs.  My friend Chris, who shares a hog with me, was able to make it out this year, so we both have a stash of pork that will last until next winter now – and in my case, it occupies my three freezers in the two houses!

(Note:  I wrote about last year as well, and if you read those posts in 2012, some of what I write over the next three days may seem redundant.  If you haven’t read them, just click the “butchering” label at the end of this post for access to everything I’ve posted on the topic.) 

By the time I arrived at the butchering shed on Friday morning, somewhere around 6:30, I’d already been “up and at ‘em” for a while.  I’d had a late work night Thursday and decided postpone the drive out afterwards – so I set the alarm for 3:30 and slogged through a wintry mix that eventually would turn into a blizzard when it made it to New England.  As it was, I just did some minor slip and slide as I carefully drove out to Luray, making it in about two hours and twenty minutes – slightly longer than the usual two hours door-to-door.

Literally - riding shotgun.
When I arrived, David and Chris were already inside the shed, which was quickly warming up as the water in the scalding tub was heated to 140 degrees.  Chris had taken a look around and David had given him the once-over on some of the equipment, but we had some time to plan how we would divvy up the hog while we waited for the other butchers to arrive. 

They did, and at first light we went over to the farm to kill the hogs.  I photograph pretty much everything that goes on while we doing this, and while this activity is a perfectly natural thing, it is alarming for the first timer to watch, so I don’t share the photos on the blog here.  Although this week I plan to include a little more detail…there may even be some videos over on the HawksbillCabin YouTube channel!

Preparing for the deed.
The winter storm I drove through had left a dusting of snow out on the pasture, adding an authentic country atmosphere to our activities of the day.  I literally was riding shotgun in David’s truck, with the .22 there resting against my thigh (“Just like Texas!” a friend wrote on Facebook).  When we finally got to the farm, we joined the others and they quickly got out into the field to kill the pigs.

David was an efficient shot, just four bullets for the four hogs.  Jesse and Bill quickly followed, doing the knife work.  As each animal went down, they quickly moved on to the next one so that the whole thing was over in a minute or two – I’ve read that the animals have little regard for their dead comrades, even if they were litter mates, but I believe there’s a benefit to having this done with quickly and efficiently.

Once the deed is done, David picks up the carcasses with a skid steer and moves them into his pickup, and we haul them back to the butchering shed.  That’s where the real work of the day begins – and I’ll pick up there with tomorrow’s post.

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