Sunday Homestead Update

We are in laid-up medical mode around here lately so not much is going on.  While the majority of America is freezing, we are somehow sitting in a balmy zone and are spending our days in the 50sF and nights in the 20-30sF, which is 15+ degrees warmer than we average this time of year.  It has been strange…but very nice!

Smokehouse

Back in December we smoked elk rib-eye in our smokehouse.  We used a different rub recipe than previously, let it cure for 21 days, and then smoked it for 6 hours using oak and hickory wood.  Once inside we baked it for 90 min.  The results were very good.  It was more moist than our previous attempts and we all enjoyed it very much.

Knitting

Small amounts of knitting getting done here and there.  I started a hat using 100% Alpaca yarn.  It is my first time ever knitting with alpaca and I am loving the squishy soft-ness of it all.  The fiber came from Talking Feather Alpacas farm and Mtn Man spun the yarn in our mill.

Chickens

The first batch of fall hatchlings are closing in on butcher weight, so we will be dealing with those soon.  There are three boys out of the 5 chicks.  The girls will stay for layers for now.

The second batch of fall hatchlings are just now around 9 weeks old and we are starting to be able to tell that there is at least one cockerel in the batch of 4.

Sunday Homestead Update

Its been a chilly week here as we close in on the end of the year and head into the hardest part of winter.

Knitting

I continue to work on my cabled cardigan.  I am to the sleeves now!  I love how it is turning out and cannot wait to see it finished and blocked (blocking will stretch out the cables and help it not be so scrunched up).

Heritage Arts

There are so many awesome projects going on around here as everyone makes homemade Christmas gifts for eachother.  But I can’t show you any yet.  Sorry.  I will post tons of pics of everything after all the gift giving is done so as not to ruin the surprises.

The Smokehouse

We have had a successful year of hunting and we are now preparing the latest Elk for the smokehouse.  Mtn Man took the ribeye and is curing them.  They stay in that for 21 days and then will head into the smokehouse for a day.  We are excited to use it again, this will only be our second try at it.  We are making changes based on our learning curve from the first try and are hopeful it will be even better this time.  We will let you know how it turns out!

Using Our Smokehouse for the First Time

This fall we finished building our smokehouse.  We have been anxiously waiting to use it for the first time.  Mtn Man and Young Man each got their mule deer a couple of weeks ago and Mtn Man wanted to start by trying smoked deer hams, so it was time to get the smoker going.  Mtn Man decided to start with hot smoking (as opposed to cold smoking) because it has more wiggle room for beginners to make mistakes without the whole thing being ruined.

First though, the meat needed to be cured.  Mtn Man chose to do deer hams as our first smoking experiment because he read that a lot of people really like how they taste.  The hams are the top of the back legs.  He did two hams for our first trial run, but the smokehouse could have easily held 10 of them at once… of course we would not likely have 10 hams at once, but I am trying to give you an idea of what the smokehouse can hold.

Mtn Man did a combination of injecting and dry curing the hams.  He injected a room temperature solution of Morton’s Tender Quick (1C cure to 4C water) parallel to, but not against, the bone.  He did 1.5 ounces per pound.  Then he measured into a bowl Morton’s Tender Quick at 1 tsp per pound of ham.  He rubbed half of it onto them, put them in the refrigerator for 7 days.  Then he drained any fluid, patted dry with a paper towel, and rubbed the rest of the cure onto them.  They spent another 7 days in the refrigerator.  Then he rinsed the hams with warm water and scrubbed all the cure off of them.  He patted them dry and then hung them in the smokehouse.  He inserted a corded remote meat thermometer deep into the biggest ham without touching the bone.  The display for the meat thermometer is magnetic and stuck nicely on the metal roof of the smokehouse once the cord went through the door.  We could easily check the internal temperature of the meat without opening the door of the smokehouse.

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The first thing to do is to dry the hams completely before cooking.  Mtn Man decided to dry them in the smokehouse.  He started a small fire in the smokehouse stove and within 30 minutes they were dry without raising their temperature (this isn’t how one would do it if one lived in a more humid climate).  Then he started a good, hot fire with a lot of small chunks of hickory and oak to increase the smoke created.

He smoked the hams for 12 hours, checking on them every 20-30 minutes to be sure the fire was going right and that the meat temperature was increasing properly.  He started them first thing in the morning, but by 12 hours they were still about 5 degrees below finished and the sun had set and it was quickly getting cold.  He decided to just finish them off in the oven instead of fight the dark and cold night.  After about 20 minutes in the over they reached 160 degrees F.  They were done!  They were very black on the outside from the smoke.  And we noticed they were a lot fatter than they started – they shrunk in length but got wider…interesting.

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We were excited to cut into one of the them, but we resisted and let them rest 30 minutes.  Then we cut into one.  We learned quite a bit from slicing them open.  First, we learned that Mtn Man had not injected the cure evenly all over the entire ham.  So part of the ham were cured (bright pink/red sections) and other sections were not, so they were just roasted (grey/brown sections).  Both sections were still safe to eat.  Next time, he will work harder at being sure the cure gets injected throughout.

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Cured throughout

 

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Curing only on the edges

We all tasted them and they were a hit with everyone!  The brown portions that had not been cured tasted a lot like roast beef.  The pink, cured portions tasted somewhat similar to a smoked pork ham, but with less fat and no pork flavor.  The most surprising thing to me was the lack of gamey-ness to the flavor.  If I was blindfolded and wasn’t told what type of meat it was I would have been hard pressed to guess venison.  We even buzzed some of it up into ham salad.  Delicious!

Overall it was a good first experience.  We learned how to better inject the cure, and we all really enjoyed the finished product.  What will we smoke next in the smokehouse!?

Sunday Homestead Update

Sorry for the silence!  We have been so busy with fall projects and life around here that I haven’t even been on the computer in a couple of weeks now.  It has been a wonderful season of accomplishing things around the property and farm, and enjoying the beautifully warm autumn weather we have been having.

So here is a peek at some of the things going on around the homestead…

The Flerd – Sheep and Goats

The three ewes have been taken to the breeder, where they will stay until mid December enjoying time with the ram and hopefully come back pregnant.  It is very strange with them gone.  The barn seems empty and chores are a little too easy.  🙂

The goats were a bit upset when the sheep left, but have settled in without the sheep around.  They are both doing well and we are looking forward to their upcoming ultrasounds.  Neither has come back into heat since they arrived, so they are most likely both pregnant.

Now that the sheep stall is vacant we can begin some of the barn remodeling we plan to do.  I will keep you posted on all of that.  The changes include some new feeders, two permanent lambing/kidding stalls, and a new milking stanchion.

Rabbits

Our last litter of rabbits from the buck that died is now at the adorable stage.  Unfortunately, mama bunny is super protective and aggressive about her kits, so we can only admire from afar.  She even attacked and bit Mtn Man while he was trying to put some hay in her cage.

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Hunting

Mtn Man and Young man each successfully hunted a buck mule deer – adding two more animals worth of meat to our freezers.  The only tag we have left is Mtn Man’s for a cow elk.  He has until January to fill it, so he will hopefully be successful and we will be set for our red meat needs for the next year.

Mtn Man has some of the deer meat brining right now in preparation to go into the smokehouse.  It will be our first smokehouse experiment!  We are a bit nervous because with the warm weather the bears are still out and about.  We had one in the front yard one morning last week.  We will have to guard the smokehouse carefully during smoking next week when the meat is ready to go in.

He made some corned venison (like corned beef) by brining and then cooking some of the deer ribeye.  It turned out delicious!  We will definitely be doing that again with our game meat.

Poor Kitty!

Our indoor kitty, Mo, somehow forgot about the concept of the wood stove while it wasn’t going all summer.  As we have started having fires in it this fall, we figured he knew from last year that it was hot.  Unfortunately, he jumped up on top of it while it was hot and burned his paws.  Poor kitty.  He was not feeling well for a few days but they are healed now and looking good.

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Baby Gate

Mr. Smiles is getting around the house now – it was time for a baby gate at the top of the stairs.  Mtn Man made a beautiful gate that matched the banister he made last year, and it will keep our little man safe from falling down the stairs.

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Operation Christmas Child

The 4 older kids wanted to help out with Operation Christmas Child.  Our church packs boxes each year to donate.  The kids decided to sew and assemble 100 drawstring backpacks to put in the boxes.  They worked so hard on the project, from raising money for the supplies to the actual making of all the backpacks.  They finished them this week and are very excited about giving them to needy kids in other countries.

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We have a lot of farm-project finishing coming up in the next few weeks, it will be fun to share them with you as we complete each item.

Finished Smokehouse Built from Pallet Wood

Finished Smokehouse Built from Pallet Wood

We were very excited to be able to build our smokehouse for only $27 by using hardwood pallets and other re-purposed materials.  Thankfully, we get a lot of leftover and used materials and items from Mtn Man’s work in construction.  It is amazing what people throw out that is still useful.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Much of our homestead has been build for very little money because of this exact concept.

Living on a mountainside came in handy for this project because our driveway had to be cut out of the mountain, leaving us a perfect place to be able to set up the wood stove lower than the smokehouse.

We started by digging out an area for the stove to sit, as well as a ditch for the stovepipe to run from the stove into the smokehouse.  The distance from where the stovepipe hooked into the stove to where it came up into the smokehouse was 10 feet because that should allow us to do either hot smoking or cold smoking.

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The stove we used was laying out behind my in-laws house rusting, not having been used for years.  Besides the missing front window in one of the doors and some broken legs it was in working order.  We removed all the legs and eventually covered the window hole with some scrap metal.

We got the wood stove into position and then hooked up the stovepipe.  We made sure it had support underneath it all along the ditch.  Parts of the stovepipe were purchased, and other parts were left-over or re-used.

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Once everything was secure and where we wanted it we back-filled in over the pipe and stove.

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Now that we had the source of smoke ready, it was time to build the smokehouse itself.  We used  16 hard-wood pallets for the framing, to make board and batten siding, and for the door.  There were some miscellaneous pieces left-over from the pallets as well.

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View inside of the smokehouse

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We used the thicker pieces of pallet wood for the rafters and a left-over piece of metal roofing as the roof.

 

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Mtn Man also bent some leftover gutter coil for the metal drip edge.

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The main cost for the project was the box of screws we purchased for assembling the smokehouse.  The hinges for the door were ones we already had.  We also put screws in the roof rafters to use as hooks for hanging the meat.

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Screws in rafters for hanging meat

And we love using antlers from Mtn Man and Young Man’s hunting for handles.

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Then Mtn Man made some stairs with a leftover pressure treated 8×8 so we can easily get up and down from the smokehouse.

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We are so happy with how it turned out and can’t wait to try it out!  We will let you know how it goes.

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