Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tiny House Homestead Podcast #19

Today I talk about a washing machine I ordered for my tiny house, a pint size stove scored on the cheap, and give a general update of what is new on the farm.

Tiny House Panda Washing Machine

Tiny House Range

Monday, February 16, 2015

Snow Day Tiny House Style

Last night sleet and ice began falling on the homestead. The sound of the ice hitting the windows and roof lulled me to sleep. I woke up this morning with excitement wondering how much of the predicted snow fell during the wee hours. Looking out the window I could see it wasn't much snow, but it sure looked beautiful. I put on my boots and grabbed my camera so I could take a few snaps before the dog and cats ruined the newness of the snow. Turns out I didn't need to worry about that as the snow had actually hardened into ice! I am grateful for today being President's Day so I didn't need to worry about going anywhere. Barbara of Silver Moon Homestead posted that she encountered very slick roads and had to turn back to her home. Thankfully school was cancelled so as a teacher she gets to take the day as well. Here are some photos from around the homestead so you can enjoy the snow day too. Happy President's Day!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Delivery of the Newest Tiny House Shell

It is here! Phase two has begun on Tiny House Homestead and it started with the delivery of the shell of my newest building. I thought for this post I would show you in detail how one of these buildings are delivered, set in place, and then leveled.

So let's get started. Brian arrived around 9:30 am and scouted out where I wanted this building to be placed. I had carefully considered where I wanted to place it before I even ordered the building. I got to work with my chainsaw since I had decided to set it back further into the forest. I decided on placing it back in the trees for protection from the winds in winter and the shade of the canopy of leaves in the summer. Once the leaves grow back in this spring the building will blend back into the forest. It will be fantastic! 

Dropping the Building Off the Trailer
The first thing you will notice is that these buildings are delivered on a long trailer, pulled not by a semi, but by a pickup truck with a big engine. The delivery driver for this building was Brian and you will see as we go along he is VERY good at what he does.

Brian set about getting the building loaded on to the Mule while I contemplated how much more space I will have when the other building is gone. Before brush hogging the forest it was in a great place, but now that I have all that additional space, it looks awkward. However, that is just one of the benefits of these buildings, you can move them if you don't like where you initially put them.

Old Building

I am returning the 12' x 32' building I originally purchased to serve as by bedroom and bathroom. After living with it for five months, I just wasn't happy with this particular building for this particular role. I considered eventually turning it into a hobby house, but ultimately decided to return it and go for a building I would feel more comfortable in as my bedroom. I will tackle a "bath shouse" later, but that will be a later post. For now, just know that I feel this was the best option for me and my homestead.

Brian loaded it up on his Mule and got it ready to move.

Moving the Building Via the Mule
Brian drove the building up and looked around. He walked a distance into the trees and, looking up, said, "Um, ya, not sure about getting it in their with those limbs."  I hand't even thought to look up! My myopic self had cleared branches and smaller trees out, but not considered the branches high up. The roof reaches 13' and Brian pointed out that the building might not be able to clear them safely without causing damage to the building. However, being the good sport his was, he set about giving it a whirl. He unloaded the building and scouted out the best path to take.

Since the other building is still here, Brian discovered he would have very little wiggle room, however that didn't stop him. Here is a clip showing how close he had to get to the other buildings before he entered into the forest. Again, Brian demonstrated he has some mad skills!

Entering into the forest slowly, Brian wiggled through the obstacle course of trees and asked me where I wanted it. After conferring on where the barn will be placed, Brian suggested the building go further into the forest so that the view would not be obstructed from any of the windows. I like the way this man thinks.

After deciding on its final resting place, Brian set out to level and block the building while I stepped inside to breathe in the fantastic smell of fresh wood and just take in the space. Yes, this was the perfect choice and I was quite pleased with myself and very comfortable with my decision.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Homestead Skills - How to Butcher a Pig

One of the most important parts of homesteading is raising food. It is a romantic notion to picture a homestead with animals, a productive garden, and a table rich in foods without considering how that food actually ended up on the table. Gardens are work. Gardens are work in the hottest months of the year, outside in the humidity, hot sun, and with the bugs. Animals are alive and interact with you. You raise them from that cute baby stage up to a harvest time, building a bond, feeling a connection. Like babies, our farm animals depend on us to be fed and cared for, therefore we build a bond whether we wish to or not. When it comes time to harvest the animals it can be a bag of mixed emotions for the homesteader. Before I invest in livestock, I decided I needed to witness and even participate in butchering process so I would fully understand what I was getting myself into. I decided to start with a hot butchering because I cannot have hogs on my property due to code. It was a good place to start and a good friend of mine allowed me to come to witness the butchering of their next hog.

January 24th was a gorgeous day to spend outside, so I couldn't have asked for a better day for a butchering since it would be a long day spent outside in elements. The first thing I took from this occasion was not butchering an animal on a day that is very hot or one of foul weather. The process took close to 7 hours. Hot weather and bugs would have made the day unbearable and possibly unsanitary. Butchering on a day of high wind or rain again could possibly affect how sanitary the environment would remain and would make the already physically demanding process frustratingly difficult.

Ok, now, before we go any further, this post has LOTS of pictures. They are unpleasant for some to view, so if you don’t want to look, don’t. Go listen to the podcast HERE where there are no photos and the descriptions of the process are not as graphic. If you can’t stomach either, stick to growing crops and purchase your meat from a coop or market.

The pig butchered today was purchased in Texas from a known source used before. The pig was not raised by the folks butchering it. The pig was transported in a horse trailer with solid sides, so it could not see the people or environment around it. This helped to keep the pig calm. An animal that is scared or agitated just prior to it dying has been flooded with hormones that affect the taste of the meat. You will want the animal to be calm and relaxed and not see death coming. Death must be quick and humane. In this case the animal was shot in the head. The man shooting the pig simply stepped up on the back of the trailer, leaned in, and quickly dispatched the pig. The pig died instantly in a painless death.

Animals will twitch for a few moments after being shot in the head. This is not them fighting death, but a natural reaction of the nervous system when the brain stops sending and receiving signals. This is off-putting to some. It will be less disturbing if you keep in mind it is part of the natural death process. After the pig stopped twitching, the doors to the horse trailer were opened and ropes were tied to the front legs. Two grown men pulled the pig from the trailer onto two large, clean wood pallets where the butchering would take place.

Using a long, sharp knife, the pig was stabbed in the heart to stop the hard from pumping. It is a muscle and often will continue to contract. This ensured the circulation of blood ceased. The pig was allowed some time to rest while water was boiled.

Burlap bag and towels were then laid across the pig covering the exposed sides flesh. Boiling water was then poured over the fabric to scald the pig. Allowing the towels to cool, the hair on the pick was checked to see if it would pull of easily. If it didn't more water was poured on, but if it did it was time to scrape the hair off the pig. Scraping was done with knives and it removed hair and the first layer of skin off the pig. Hair was scraped off the body, legs, and face. Once one side was done, the pallet and pig were rinsed off, and the pig was flipped over. The same process was done on the other side of the pig.

After the scraping, it was time to scrub the pig. There are many types of scrubbers you can use for this process such as the green ones designed for Teflon dishes, or metal scrubbies, but the one chosen for today was a chunk of cement sump block. Antibacterial dish soap was squirted across the pig and then the pig was scrubbed with the chunk of cement block. This was labor intensive, but the skin of the pig was pink and clean when finished. The pig was rinsed well of all soap residue and the pallets again checked to make sure all hair, skin, and blood was rinsed off. It was now time to being cutting the pig up.

A table was set up in anticipation of butchering and knives were sharpened to razor sharp. The pig was rolled on its back and the skin was cut from the throat all the way down to penis area, skirted around the penis, and on down to the incision made on the inside of the back legs. These incisions formed a large Y.

The ribs were cracked using a variety of knives including a cleaver. The pig’s abdominal cavity was then cut open very carefully to avoid cutting the intestines. The penis and testicles were removed up to the rump of the animal and then stopped. They would be removed as one unit with the internal organs. If the intestines are cut, the meat would be tainted and it would all go to waste. Once the incision was large enough, the larynx on down to the anus were removed as one unit. The anus was cut around. The intestinal tract from throat through the anus and reproductive organs were removed as one large unit, uncompromised.  The dogs got to enjoy all the internals except the liver and kidneys.

The next step was to rinse out the cavity were the internals had been. Water was allowed to remain in the cavity to help cool down the meat. Meanwhile the pig was quartered, the head removed, and the feet removed. The feet were not preserved and the dogs got to enjoy them as well. The legs were the first to be processed.

Skin was removed first including the white fat that would ultimately be processed as lard. The white fat was then cut off the skin fillet style. You might think it would slice like a hot knife through butter, but this fat was thick and hard. It took effort to separate the skin from it. More than one nicked their knuckles in this process.  Skin was then sliced into sections to be used to make pork rinds and the lard was cubed to be used to make lard. These were bagged and full bags tied shut. The assembly line style processing made short work of the process.

Next meat was cut off the bones and then cubed. This meat was being harvested for Tamales and Posole. Even the head would be used. The meat was a deep pink with fat here and there. There were no foul odors either.

At this time, my friend Veronica and I headed inside. Veronica explained she was going to cook up some of the meat to feed everyone. She showed me how to cook up the meat and how to make genuine Mexican rice. Her mother had brought over homemade flour tortillas. Veronica melted some cheese her husband picked up locally and made Queso.  It was a feast to be sure and absolutely 

I didn't witness the tail-end of the process, but I am told some bones were conserved to use for the marrow and for soup. The other bones went to the dogs. When all was said and done, there was almost zero waste. The ground absorbed the blood, the hair will dry and blow away in the wind to be used by birds to line their nests, the organs were enjoyed by the dogs, and the rest of the pig will be consumed by humans. This pig died with dignity and was treated with the utmost respect. This pig’s life was given up to nourish humans and animal alike.

It would be ideal if we didn't need to end the life of an animal to harvest meat, but it is what it is. I don’t know about how large processing plants treat the animals they are butchering, but I do now that this pig did not suffer and was treated with reverence. That pig was delicious! Oh, and in case you were curious, over 400 lbs. of meat was harvested from that pig. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Zip Line Your Dog For Safety

This last summer my dog was hit by a car and died. I have four acres of property and live on a dirt road. I had no idea he was wandering away while I was at work as he was always sitting on the porch when I arrived home. Then one evening he was nowhere to be found. I was heart broke two days later to find a note on my mailbox from a neighbor down the road who found his body.

In December I adopted a dog from the pound. She is a great dog, but I discovered she liked to wander next door and explore other farms. That was a real problem, no doubt. To prevent another tragedy I had to figure out how to keep her contained safely on my own property. My land is not yet fenced in due to cost, so that was not going to happen any time soon. I thought about staking her out in the yard, but due to the forest could only foresee her wrapping herself around the first tree she came to and being unable to untangle until I got home from work. No Bueno. After some research on the web, I ultimately decided on a zip line.

You can build your own style of zip line using parts you assemble, but I found a kit for around $25 at my local hardware store which made it super simple. The kit included two large hooks, 75 feet of plastic coated cable, a spring loop, a pulley wheel, 6 clamps, and a 10 foot lead. When strung from one tree to the other, my dog has roughly 70 feet to run back and forth and 10 feet on either side.

I picked the best trees with the least obstructions where she was least likely to wrap herself by mistake. She watched with interest as I began screwing in the hooks. Just what was I up to?

Spring End with Hook in Tree

Pulling the cable and tightening the clamps was difficult alone, so I had to tighten it again when I had a set of helping hands, but other than that the process was quite simple. I hooked the spring side on one of the hooks and fed the pulley onto the line. Next I fed the open end into the clamps to form a loop that fit onto the other hook. I pulled tight and tightened the clamps. I adjusted the two remaining clamps that worked as pulley stops. These stopped her short, before she could reach each end and potentially get wrapped around the trees where the hooks are located.

Clamps Hold Cable Tight and Stop Pulley
I hooked the lead onto the pulley and the other end to the dog collar. She could now run safely. At first she seemed a little confused, but quickly learned how far she could go without resistance. I made sure to put a source of water she could reach as well as a doghouse she could go into to get out of the weather. The run is in the forest, so she will have the shade of the trees in the hotter months too.

Ideally I would love to allow her to run free, but for her own safety I cannot. I have noticed, however, when let outside and not immediately hooked to the zip line, she tends to go right to that area to do her business and no longer attempts to run off.  Safety mission accomplished!