Monday, September 24, 2018

The Business of Butchering

What a year this has been!!  Our butcher shop has been open for almost a year -  November 20th will mark our 1 year anniversary.  It has been a year of ups and down, of learning and struggling, but mostly of getting our feet under us.

Although we started off slowly, with crazy busy times thrown in for good measure, we have continued to have just enough work to keep us going.  We have had return customers and customers that have been referred by our other customers.  And as fall has drawn closer our calendar has begun to fill.  In fact, just today, I scheduled 8 beef to be slaughtered, along with 2 pigs!

Last week, our county fair came to a close and we were called upon to slaughter a number of the animals.  We filled our cooler with 14 additional swine and 4 additional steers - and this week, the animals just keep on coming.

As we work our way through the domestic animals in our cooler, we are also butchering wild game.  Our area is the gateway to incredible wilderness, known for an abundance of game, so we've established a "Hunter Hotline" allowing hunters to get ahold of us after hours so that we can get their game into the cooler.  We've already processed 6 elk, and hunting season has barely begun.

In anticipation of our busy season, we made a huge order to the butcher supply that we use.  Butcher paper and hand-wrap plastic arrived by the pallet load, along with roast netting, knives, and aprons.  "Not for Resale" tape and polyester freezer labels are stacked deep and we have 72 milk crates due to be delivered this week.  We are ramping up for what promises to be a busy year.

We have learned so much in the past 10 months.  We've refined our systems and tuned our methods.  We've learned what works and what doesn't.  We've learned our plant's strengths and its weaknesses.  An unexpected weakness that we found was our rail system that comes through the door onto our cutting room floor.  We purchased a rail system that had been removed from a university's Meat Sciences department.  It was designed and built by the same university's engineering department and had served the university well for years.  We have used it for 10 months with no problems, until.....a huge beef, weighing 800 pounds a HALF came through our doors.  Apparently 1600 pounds of beef flesh was just too much for our 3/8" flat bar - it crumpled under the pressure!  We had to do some fancy footwork to get the beef in the door and then we had to remove the bent flat bar and replace it with 1/2 flat bar!

The bent rail

Butchering the huge steer!
The phone is ringing off the hook and we are putting animals in little white packages just as quickly as we can.  We truly have been blessed beyond measure in this business of butchering!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Beyond the Green Signs

It hit me at Mile Marker 38.  Brown.  The Mile Markers where brown.  I was home.  Really and truly home.

For years I had been a wanderer in a strange land.  I drove city streets and suburban by-ways, reading blue street signs as they flashed by my window.  I deftly merged with multiple lanes of traffic and maneuvered round-abouts with ease.  For thirty years the blue and green highway markers defined my world, a world both semi-rural and urban.  A world far from the road-signs of my youth.

From time to time I would venture into the mountains where the trees grew tall and the streams ran cold and I would be come overcome with an indefinable longing.  A longing for what, I did not know.  I would drive past roads marked with numbers rather than names and grow quietly contemplative, filled with a deep yearning in my soul.  I would drive, and think, and dream, not quite knowing what caused such disquiet in my very being.

And then, last week, as I was driving home from town, I noticed Mile Marker 38.  Mile Marker 38 - almost camouflaged in the trees, in a gorgeous shade of brown.  At that moment, I knew I was home. I realized that the yearning that had plagued me for so many years was gone - it had been replaced by a deep sense of contentment - of belonging.  As I drove past Mile Marker 38, I saw another brown sign, then another, announcing Road 100 and Bear Creek Cutoff - and in that moment I knew that a longing in my soul had been realized - a longing to live where the signs are brown and the grass is green.  It was a desire to live past the green signs of the interstate and blue signs of bustling towns and sleepy hamlets.  I had had a deep longing to live where the pavement ends, where you wave at every car you pass and where the roads are announced in brown - a longing to live beyond the green signs.

Now, here I am.  And I am home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Shall we Reacquainted Ourselves??

I'm so very sorry for my silence over the last few months.  I have been hoping and waiting for a "new normal", but I've learned that, for now, there is to be no "new normal".  Our lives have taken such a drastic turn of direction that I seem to be constantly running to catch up.  This is not a bad thing.....just not what I was expecting!!  My "new normal" is that there is no "normal".  Please bear with me as I adjust and re-adjust and adjust again.  This is a great adventure!!

A few pictures to catch us up!!  As some of you know, we now live in "open range" country.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because it means we live way out!!!!  A curse because we are constantly running over cow pies - my least favorite sound ever - and we have to fence to keep these destructive critters out!  We spend our summers opening and closing cattle gates every time we leave our house!  I'm telling you, that gets OLD!!!

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this summer!!!  50 years!!!  Our family is not one to have huge parties - we're rather quiet folk - so we just had a simple gathering in the back yard with our closest of close.

A backyard celebration

The ever-present gramophone

All set up for tea and cake

Almost ready
The one unique thing we did to celebrate their anniversary was have a cake made to look like a stack of stones.  Why stone you ask?  Because we wanted to remember and be reminded.  So many, many times in the Old Testament, God directed His children to stack piles of stones so they would remember what He had done for them.  He instructed them to tell their children and their children's children what He had done.  He instructed them to stack stones as a memorial to His providence and care for His children.  And we stacked stones with my parents.  The stack of stones in their cake represents the mighty work that God has done in my parents lives - the trials that He has brought them through and blessings He has poured out upon them.  As we visited and laughed and drank tea, my parents told us of His mighty works.  They remembered His goodness.  They told their children and their grandchildren and we remembered.

Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade

Our joyous, intimate celebration

Sir Knight cutting the Stacked Stones cake

Master Calvin churning ice cream
We haven't been the only busy ones this summer - Miss Serenity has been spending her days fighting wildfires!  She spent many, many hours on the fire line, along with unending hours digging hand lines around potential fire sites.  She worked hard and had the honor of being assigned to a specialized task force that was stationed for initial attacks on fire within a 3 hour radius of her location.  She was on the dozer crew and worked 15 hour days for 21 days in a row!  Such an experience!!

The girls and I recently took a 10 hour road trip and saw some incredibly beautiful country!  On the way home, we stopped at a wooden suspension bridge over a particularly amazing river.  What views!!!  And the bridge itself is a work of art!  It was a much needed pit-stop!!!!

Princess Dragon Snack walking across the bridge.  It swings as you walk!!

Incredible engineering

The water is so clear!!

And this is what we picked up on our road trip!  Now the butcher shop office will be nice and warm!!!  After freezing our toes off last winter, this will be a life-saver!!!

The butcher shop is doing well.  It has been steady, but not busy, through the summer and now we've begun our busy season.  Over the weekend we picked up 14 pigs and 4 steers at the county fair, along with 2 steers, a lamb, 3 pigs, 3 elk and a few other things already hanging in the cooler!  We have a full house!!!

I hope this summer has been a blessing for all of you.  Until next time......

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Do We Still Choose Independence??

".....Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transit Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shown, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security......"

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Week in Pictures

A few of our highlights.....

An old pair of rubber boots that I used as planters outside the butcher shop door
(and rendered on a canvas by Maid Elizabeth in the top photo)

Our newly minted Wildland Fire Fighter enjoying a cuppa

After an exhausting week at school....

No longer able to hold herself together!

Freshly un-molded lotion bars...

And Soap

As Dragon Snack gets ready to launch her "Highland Naturals"

And that is our week so far.....but I'm sure there will be more to come!!!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Of Gardens and Life....

Last summer I did very little gardening - just picking from my mother's bountiful harvest when she had extra.  We were so busy remodeling our shop and trying to build a business that we barely had time to sleep, let alone garden.  For the first part of the summer I felt guilty that I wasn't helping in the garden, however, I finally realized that there is a season for everything under the sun and that was a season for building, not for gardening.

This year is different.  We are no longer building a business, but running one and although my days are still full to overflowing, I have the ability to carve out a few hours to dedicate to the garden.  And oh, the joy I feel running my fingers through the soil and breathing in the heady scent of freshly turned earth.

Long before the snow gave way to grass, I began pouring through catalogs and planning my summer garden.  I bought heirloom seeds and started them inside so they would have a good start before hardening them off for the garden beds.  With more rain than sun, my poor little plants have grown a bit yellow and a few have curled their leaves in protest, but most of them have soldiered on and hold the promise of life.

Over the last couple of weeks we have been working the soil, pulling the weeds and building beds, trusting our work will bring sweet rewards.  Today, Sir Knight tilled the big garden (or what he could reach of it with the tractor) and we planted a few more rows.  Potatoes, carrots and lettuce were sown, leaving room for more bush beans and peppers and cabbage.

Freshly tilled

As I was preparing the garden to be tilled, I dug up even more strawberry plants.  We have been giving them away as fast as we can dig them and I'm sure the freshly dug plants will be no different!! It is so much fun to share in our bounty of plants!

More strawberry plants to give away!
Our morning spent in the garden was remarkably timely.  Almost as soon as the tractor was stabled in the equipment shed rain drops began to fall.  We hustled inside and I began an afternoon of cooking and baking.  Miss Serenity leaves tomorrow after church for a 5 month stint as a wildland firefighter and I wanted to send her off with some of her favorite goodies from home.   Oat rolls and Filled Oatmeal cookies are two of Serenity's favorites and they are both full of energy to keep her going through fire school.  While the rolls raised and the cookies baked, I made a big pot of Leek and Potato soup - perfect for a rainy spring day - and even more perfect with fresh-from-the-oven oat dinner rolls!  It was so satisfying to watch the rain water the freshly planted garden while the scent of leeks, potatoes and bread permeated the air.

Potatoes and Leeks ready to go into a soup

Sautéing leeks

Fresh Oat dinner rolls

Filled Oatmeal cookies (AKA Survival Cookies)

Rolls and Cookies packaged and ready for Serenity to take to fire training

Miss Serenity
And today was a red-letter day in another respect.  Maid Elizabeth closed on the sale of her old home - finally!!  Elizabeth was originally supposed to close on her house on May 3rd - one day before her birthday.  Our entire family traveled to her home to move her (including my parents and our pastor).  When we arrived, we learned that the house sale had not closed.  Maid Elizabeth had already quit her job and packed her home, and now, everything was up in the air.  We went ahead and moved her in spite of the complications, and she has spent the last month praying and hoping and praying some more.  After a number of upgrades to her old home, the loan finally went through and her home was sold.  We are rejoicing!!!!  Now, while still in her 20's, Maid Elizabeth owns her home free and clear.  Only God can do that!!!

After a year of upheaval, our entire family are settled here, in the Highlands.  We are together.  We are home.  We are ready to see what God has for us next.  And we are grateful.