Saturday, February 6, 2016

How Much Meat Will I Get If I Buy Half a Hog?

Buying pastured pork from a local farmer is the next best thing to raising your own pigs.
However, it may be a bit confusing.
When I first considered buying a half a hog from a local farmer I wanted to know what it would cost, and how much meat I would be getting for my money. When I asked the farmer I was told, "it depends on the size of the animal and what cuts of meat you choose." This didn't help me as a first time buyer, so while what he said was true, I'm going to try to give you a better idea of what you might actually get when you buy half a hog.

In the end, we decided to raise our own pigs, rather than buy one. Here are our girls, Bacon and Sausage on the day we brought them home. Aren't they cute?
A farmer can only sell you the butchered and packaged meat if it has been butchered in a USDA inspected facility and packaged for resale. That type of butchering costs significantly more, and raises the cost to the farmer, which then gets passed along to you, the consumer.
However, if you buy the live animal from the farmer, (whole or half), he can then deliver it to the butcher for you, and you will pay the butcher directly for your processing when you pick up the meat. This is more cost effective, because the butcher is in effect butchering your own meat for you, and the regulations are different.

Here are the girls in September. We raised them on plenty of pasture and supplemented with non-GMO feed.
So let's get down to brass tacks. 
Here is the math:
We raised these pigs to a goal weight of 250 pounds. One came in at 268 pounds, and the other at 238. The hanging weights were 184 and 170 respectively. 
Our price was $3.50 per pound hanging weight. 
Let's say you wanted to buy half of the smaller of our two pigs. You would have paid us $297.50 for your half of the pig. 
When you take the pig to the butcher, there is a kill fee and processing fees. You have a choice of having the pork all as ground meat, (which is the least expensive way to go) or getting the various cuts of meat, or some of both. In addition to cutting it up and packaging it, the butcher (for an additional fee) will cure and smoke the meat, and season the sausage. We wanted all the various cuts, to see what we liked best, and we had everything we could smoked, cured, and seasoned. So the butchering price reflects the most you would have paid, which was $71.67 for your half of the smaller pig. 
Here is a link to pig butchering costs at Cabool Kountry Meats, where our pigs were processed.
This brings your total to $369.17 for 59 pounds in cuts of meat, which equals $6.26 per pound for non-gmo, organically raised, pastured pork. We did a simple search online and found the following per-pound prices for similarly raised meat:  ribs $30 a pound, whole ham $8.50 a pound, and bacon $12 a pound.
At only $6.26, you are getting quite a bargain. 
But you are probably wondering how much meat are you getting. What does 59 pounds of pork look like? 
Remember, it will vary from animal to animal. Some will have more ham, some will have more bacon. Your pig might be bigger than our 238 pound girl when it goes to butcher. Keeping that in mind, the following video shows you exactly what we got from half of our girl, and a general idea of what half a hog looks like when it's ready to go in your freezer.
Here you will see our girls being raised on pasture and how we cared for them. We strive to raise happy healthy animals, and want you to feel confident that you are getting the best quality meat and produce for your dollar.  Happy bacon tastes better! 
Pulled pork sandwich from our pigs.

I can honestly say, this is the best pork I have ever tasted. It doesn't even compare to store bought meat. I will be raising pigs as long as I am able. 

Have you bought locally raised meat? If not, why not? What would make it more likely that you would do so in the future? If you have, what was your experience? Would you do so again?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tiny House Living in a 3,000 sq ft Home

Thing Two has a pretty bad sore throat. This morning, I was making her some tea with honey and brought her a paper towel to put her tea bag on when she's finished with it.
"Hey! I have small dishes I bought just for that purpose! I wonder which box they are in?"

For the past two years we have been living between two states. The bulk of my time has been spent in Missouri living with my parents on their farm where we are building our barn house. Chris has been mostly living and working in California, where he stayed with his folks in their two bedroom apartment. The girls (Thing One and Thing Two) are homeschooled and have been able to split their time between the two states.

Chris and I are fascinated by the tiny house movement. The minimalist lifestyle, low cost of living, and low environmental impact are fantastic. We considered tiny house living. Then Chris, who is 6'6" and pretty much the definition of big AND tall, spent two years living in a tiny apartment. He discovered he's not a tiny guy. Plus, we have stuff. So, no tiny house for us.

We designed our house, The Big Red Barn, based on some floor plans we saw online, only bigger. If we were going to build this home, we wanted it to be comfortable for many years to come. So ceilings were raised to 10' downstairs and 9' upstairs. Doorways were all widened to 36 inches. The garage was added, along with a shop, and an above ground tornado shelter big enough to house cots and emergency supplies.

We are building debt free which means we don't have a mortgage and are paying cash as we go. In addition, we are doing as much of the work ourselves as possible. So although we have been working on the house for over a year, it's nowhere near completion. Click here to watch our house being built week by week.

In our Big Red Barn house, we have a 530' sq area over the garage that was designated for storage, with hopes of turning it into an efficiency apartment at some later date. We are tired of sharing space. We are ready to be living in our own home. And so we turned that storage space into a little apartment and worked on the upstairs bathroom enough to make it functional.

While it's not true tiny house living, it does feel like it. It's a cozy little space where our family can be together. I do admit though, sometimes the walk to the bathroom at night through the uninsulated part of the house is a bit cold.

"I wonder which box _____ is in" is a frequently heard phrase around here. It's usually followed by, "Are you sure we kept that when we moved?" We are looking forward to making a lot of progress on the house this year, and getting into the rest of our boxes. I think when we finally start unpacking for real, two things will happen. One is that it will feel like Christmas. I've got things I love that I've forgotten I even have, such as the tiny plates on which to put one's teabag. The second is that I am going to scrutinize every item coming out of a box. Do we actually love or need that item? If we've lived without it for two years is it actually necessary to keep it?

In the meantime I am content because my family is finally all together in one state.

What would your dream house look like? Are you a tiny house person or would you rather live large?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tough Decisions on the Farmstead

This week we had a bit of a scare with Scar the Goat.
A photo posted by Lorella & Chris (@planbeeorchardandfarm) on

Like cows, goats are bred for either milk or meat. I want to have milk goats. Correction. I want to have goat's milk. And goat cheese. Especially goat cheese. In June of 2014 I purchased a doe kid with the intention of having her bred so I can milk her.  Scar the Goat is is a sweet little mix of kiko and nubian, so she's a meat/milk cross.
This fall I took her to a friend's farm to hang out with her boyfriend for a couple weeks. I didn't have her vet tested, and wasn't sure whether she was pregnant. We found out that she was when she miscarried earlier this week. A goat's pregnancy is 5 months, so she was mid term. It was quite sad.
We took care of Scar as best we could. I donned medical gloves and pulled the afterbirth and felt inside of her to see whether there was a twin that needed to be pulled. I couldn't tell.
We provided her with water, fresh bedding, and a heat lamp. We gave her vitamin shots and a special feed called Calf Manna. We put Apple Cider Vinegar in her water. Then we watched and waited. And we discussed our options.
Our farm animals are livestock, not pets. The cost of having a vet treat her would easily have cost more than twice what it cost to purchase her. Since Chris has left his city job and moved here full time our budget is extremely tight. We had to decide how much we would be willing to pay to save her life if infection set in or if indeed there was another baby inside her.
Farmers make really hard decisions like this on a daily basis.
I recently was part of a conversation with a farmer who had spent hundreds on a weak calf trying to restore it's health. He said, "I finally decided I couldn't spend anymore and the calf would have to either make it or not."
In both his case, and ours, there were happy endings; his calf lived, and Scar seems to be doing well. I'm still keeping a close eye on her.
Her buddy Timon is also sticking close.

But now I have some more decisions to make. Will I have her bred again? What are the risks of a second miscarriage? Do I need to make any changes to her environment or care? She won't be ready to breed again until fall, so I have some time to research and make a plan, but I certainly don't want to do anything to risk the health of one of our animals.
The loss of an animal is just one example of the types of hardships homesteaders and farmers face every day. Another friend of ours came home to a dead sow with eighteen dead piglets inside her. Not only does this take an emotional toll, especially after one has done his best to care for an animal, it affects the finances of the family as well. Those piglets would have grown up to provide food for his family, and the rest would have been sold and provided income. I don't think I fully understood how hard that would be when I decided to leave city life and be a farmer. We read and watch videos and attend workshops and ask mentors, but there are still times unexpected realities happen.
At Plan Bee Orchard and Farm we aspire to lead a more organic life with close ties to our food and land while providing quality produce and products for our consumers.
Being a small farm and keeping such "close ties" means we feel the pain of loss when we lose an animal, but it also means we celebrate all the more when an animal is saved.
Last year my mom had a calf that "was down". This means the animal is so sick that it can no longer stand. Often times it's impossible to bring an animal back to health after it's down. I had been busy working on our house build and mom was busy caring for my dad, and neither of us realized the calf was malnourished. I worked with the calf every day. I rubbed his muscles. I fed him a special diet. I got car straps under him so we could lift him and make him walk and exercise.
And to end on a happy note, here is his story:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mom's Jedi Power: Teaching Contentment and Debt Free Principles, while Fighting the Entitlement Attitude on My Homestead

"From now on, the only words you may say when someone provides food for you are 'thank you'!! You will not complain! Do. You. Understand?" I spat out between gritted teeth at my young daughters.
It had happened again. Despite my best intentions at teaching and modeling gratitude, complaining had once again become the norm in our home.
This time, the time that pushed me over the edge of sanity towards a free-fall into the head spinning, flaming eyed beast of a mom, aka: the Dark Side, it was a complaint about which flavor oatmeal I was making for breakfast.
I snapped. 
"I am not required to feed you something different for breakfast every day. In fact, I could feed you the same breakfast, the same lunch, and the same dinner every day, and there is nothing anyone could do about it. I am only required to provide food. I only make something different because I get bored."
We had just read the Little House on the Prairie series, and so I continued, "Do you remember that winter Pa, Ma, Laura and her sisters were so hungry they ate hay? I bet they would have been glad to have  this oatmeal, or any oatmeal for that matter."
Then I went a step further; I took it global. 
"You've seen the pictures from my trip to India, haven't you? Have you seen the one of naked children washing their clothes in the gutter? Why do you suppose they are naked? Probably because they only have one set of clothes. And you feel the need to complain about breakfast?"

We have so much for which we are thankful, and yet, far too often we fall into the trap of being discontent. Whether you are eight, eighty-eight, or somewhere in between, it is all together too easy to have the same attitude as displayed by my child that morning: "I don't like that kind."
Discontentment will cause us to spend more than we should, to complain, and to be unhappy. 

So how do I combat that in myself and in my children?
Here are four things I do in my home that seem to help. 

*Practice Thankfulness and Contentment
I choose to be happy. I choose to be satisfied with what I have. It is a decision I make and strive to model and instill in my girls. We discuss thankfulness.
Each fall whenever we feel thankful we write it down and put it in the thankfulness jar and read them together periodically.

*Earn It
I am an adult. I work for my money. Then I buy what I want. That is how the world works. I don't get handed everything I want just because I want it. The same goes for our children. They work for us and are paid for jobs and have to save up for things they desire. Not only do they get a sense of accomplishment, but they have a better understanding of the value of a dollar.
Thing Two earned this trampoline at age nine. 
At only thirteen she bought her own horse.

*Discuss and Live Debt Free Principles
We don't use credit cards. We pay cash whenever possible. We talk about what it means to buy on credit or take out a loan or use a credit card. We do the math. We make suggestions like, "Why not pay yourself a car payment for a few years and then buy a car with cash instead of being tied to a car payment?" 

 It is amazing how discontent can be battled with one's own generosity. The Things and I have volunteered collecting food for the less fortunate. They spend time at the local nursing home talking with the elderly and work with the children in our church. We give of our time, money, and possessions. 
Thing One paid for half the trip to Nicaragua herself. Thanks to those of you who donated the rest to make the trip possible! While there she saw true poverty first hand and gained a greater understanding of just how wealthy we in America truly are.

What do you do to fight the entitlement attitude in your home? How are you teaching contentment?