We’re looking forward to speaking at PASA, long one of the best eastern sustainable ag conferences.  This year looks really good, with so many talks we’d like to attend that we’ll have to split up to fit them in.  We’ll be speaking on Friday afternoon (‘Pastured Permaculture:  Building Sustainable Farms with Grass and Ruminants’) and Saturday Morning (‘Feeding the Farm from the Farm’ — otherwise known as ‘get rid of your feed bills’).  This is a great chance for people in and around Pennsylvania to pack a whole lot of learning into two days, with good company, good conversation, and good food thrown in.  To top it all, it’s one of the most reasonably priced conferences around.  If you haven’t already registered, you’ll find more details and online registration here .  Grab us between talks and let’s do coffee!


hog butchering

img_4156This is the last of the summer hogs going into the freezer.  Now our winter-available spare nutrients will all go to the three young porkers (100-125# animals, born lat summer).  That means table scraps, whey and buttermilk, cull squashes and potatoes from the cave and root cellar, some bakery waste from the monastery, and lots and LOTS of mangel-wurzels — a rich and varied diet, and it seems to speak to the young porkers’ very souls.

Natural casings are the best.  Scraping the lining out of hog intestines might not sound impressive, but it takes a knack, and it’s completely worth it, don’t you think?

rendering lard

The two-hole butchering stove.  Good for drying towels, too, and keeping the coffee pot warm.  The tool is for stirring; rendering lard is easier when you have a lot of folks taking turns keeping the fat from scorching

Barry has been slaughtering hogs for going on sixty years!  We helped him to build the brick stove (behind Luke) in 2001); it has stove holes for two of those big 30 gal. kettles.  The door behind Barry opens to the cool room we built in 2014, so we could butcher steers even when the weather was uncooperative. 

hog butchering

This is an annual event — three or four families gather to slaughter and preserve five hogs we’ve raised together.  It used to take three days.  Now, after 17 years of doing it, it takes us about ten hours.  The salting, of course, will be quite a bit longer, but the cuts are all done, and the lard is rendered.  The same bad jokes have been told, and new ones introduced into the script; pots of coffee and pans of cinnamon rolls consumed regardless of gory hands; two harvest meals prepared and eaten.  Now Barry can drain the waterline to the barn before the ground freezes too deep.

Milk is our protein of preference for supplementing chickens (pigs, too).  That’s because it’s free — just like our grass, because it is grass.  When there’s enough spare milk, we sometimes make dry curd cottage cheese with a high acidity and pack it into mason jars.  We can store this in the ‘cool room’ (enclosed, unheated porch — in the summer it would be our ‘hot room’, as if faces southwest).  No refrigeration is needed.  When we open a jar to add to the chickens’ fermented grains, it smells so good we often have a bit ourselves.  Food is everywhere; food is important; food is delicious.