Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lard Rendering Day

Quite often as I walk do the aisle in the grocery store, my mind will go back many years ago, Momma did not buy vegetable or corn oil, nor did she purchase shortening.  I remember where our baking grease came from and it was a timely process.  First the hogs were slaughtered, all of the meat processed and the final task was making the lard.  Of course, when the lard is made you get a reward, the cracklings.  It did not matter how many hogs we processed all of fat was made into lard.  This was a woman's chore and even as a very small child I remember cutting the fat into cubes to be cooked for a very long time.  You would find me snacking on the cracklings as soon as some were strained from the liquid.  Momma would store the lard in tins and placing them in a room which was cool, but you must remember most of our home was cool or just cold during the winter because there was not any central heat.  The lard would keep  for a long time and Momma made everything with her homemade lard, fried chicken, biscuits, pies and cakes.  Those of you who were lucky enough to have a meal at Momma's table will remember her rolls, yes, they were made with her lard.   I can see her putting a spoonful of lard into the pot of green beans aka snaps as she felt she did not have enough meat in them to flavor the beans the way she wanted them to taste.  

I have often thought how I would like to make/render lard.  Having accepted the fact that this would be almost impossible I just do not talk about making lard.  Well, when you get out of bed in the mornings, here on Triple Creek Farm, you may think you know how your day is going to end.  Quite often, things change so quickly, I really can't seem to grasp what is happening so I just go with flow.  Mr. Bootsie and I were down in the pasture lot and we heard voices,  the Farmer and her girls.  We headed back to the kitchen and made some tea and coffee  while everyone is catching up, I saw on Facebook, animals were processed the previous day.  We talked about the processing, knowing the farmer is quite a good butcher, it makes me so happy to see her teaching her daughter the proper way to process meat.  As they were leaving I asked if they processed a hog with a bit of fat, I would really like to make lard.  Well, come on out to the truck, too much fat on this hog and I was not sure what I was going to do with it.  In just a few minutes, I was back in the kitchen with of bowl of pork fat.  I was pass excited to have this treasure and could not wait to start the process.

I cut the fat into cubes, and as I was setting on my stool, my mind drifted to days gone by.  I was a child setting in Momma's kitchen. " You be careful with the knife, cut into even sized cubes, stay away from the stove and do not grab any of the pots on the stove".  How many times I had heard these things said as the lard was processed.  But there was a flash in my mind, standing in front of the wood cook stove was Momma, wearing her apron and opening the stove to add more wood.  "We need to keep the fire going all day to cook down this fat."  "I need someone to go the wood shed and bring in more wood."  This was the one day when I knew there was work to be done and we must work together to get this chore complete.  My sister was off for more wood and I happily continued to cube the fat.  

Time for me to realize, this is today, the kitchen is my kitchen and I am rendering lard.  Things are just so much better today, I have a crock pot filled with pork fat and it is rendering, I can see the clear lard coming up in the pot.  I will strain the lard and store in jars, to keep it cool I shall store in the fridge.  I will be making pies, bread and using my lard in many ways, just hope somewhere in this journey I get a hint of the wonderful memories  which were cooked in Momma's kitchen.

 Bootsie, can you bring me the lard can?  There are some cracklings over by the bread box, bring them because if you do eat all of the cracklings there is going to be crackling corn bread for supper tonight.  

Sorry, I went down memory lane again, the bowl of pork fat which was shared with me, was memories, it was a gift which I will cherish.  So many wonderful things happened in Momma's kitchen and I have forgotten so much, but a bowl of pork fat bought back something so special and wonderful to me.  It is not how much a gift costs or how shiny the gift is...It is a gift that warms the heart, my friends, The Farmer and her daughter just had no idea how special and how many wonderful childhood memories were inside the bowl of pork fat, now lard and soon to be home made biscuits.

How can I ever say "Thank You" for giving me a look back into Momma's kitchen on lard rendering day?  

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Welcome Fall

I have been farming all of my life, I helped my parents from the time I was able to move about in the garden learning to pick the red tomatoes and the filled beans but I have never seen a season like this summer.

It started for me in the early spring, there were lots of bedding plants growing and just about ready to plant in the garden.  We had moved a number into the unheated greenhouse and boom, it was cold, so cold the plants were stunted.  Now the largest part of bedding plants were not going to be productive and it was much too late to start over.  My pepper plants were installed and again we took another drop in the temperature.  Peppers, being a tropical, were not going to do well and maybe there would not be a harvest.  I had started the plants and I thought I may as well give them a try.  Some plants dropped off as soon as they were installed in the garden only to be replanted.  Cool nights are not good for the peppers, as the few that did begin to grow also began  to show signs of struggling.  I always say each year brings it's own challenges but this past summer was the most challenging I have ever experienced.

We did mange to can green beans, harvest lots of garlic and finally, the peppers are producing.  I have some nice castor bean plants but I am not sure they are helping with the mole problem as they seem to continue to burrow in the garden.  I did not loose as many onions to the moles this past season but they have taken their toll on my crops.  Green beans plants had their roots eaten, I tried a new way to plant my sweet potatoes at this time I have not dug them because I put the crop in late.  The plants do look good and I am hoping I will at least have a few to start next years crop.  The strawberries have been consumed by the moles and I may not replant them, with some things I am starting to accept defeat.

We have had lots to eat from the garden so this year was not a total waste of my time.  I have cucumber pickles and relishes for the winter,  Lots of winter squash, the  spinach, as always, produced and I have harvested an egg plant which was enjoyed.  I planted dent corn and we harvested enough to save our seeds and I plan to mill enough to make one pan of red dent cornbread.  The winter squash harvest was good and there will be some for the chickens, goats and the humans.
This is a new variety for our farm.  

All in all, even with this being a difficult growing season we were rewarded for the work we put it and will have some veggies to enjoy this winter.   I will be working in the garden next month, time to plant the garlic and plant the tunnel for the winter.

We now have 17 chickens,  sad to have to say this but one of the older girls decided it was time to leave us and she was buried in the garden.  Three of our pullets have moved to a new home and that gets me where I am happy with the number of chickens we shall be wintering.  There are 8 pullets who will be laying all winter along with 2 of the ducks.  The 11 older hens have already gone on vacation and I hope they return from camp beginning in February.

This winter, Belle with her 2 babies will be in the goat barn, the little ones are growing, time had come for the little buck to be banded and that process has just about disappeared.  Today, September 30th, the chimney sweep came and now, if we need to have a fire in the wood stove we know it is clean and ready to keep us warm.  Why it seems only yesterday we were putting in spring crops and now we will be digging our tomato hills, squash hills and opening corn rows from next summer.  They will be filled with manure and covered over with our good earth, mulched and waiting their crops to be planted next spring.

I have seen some of the largest acorns in the woods and the mushrooms are coming up everywhere.  Time for me to head to the woods and learn more about this wonderful place I call home.