Tag Archives: Alaska homesteading

Turkey Butchering ****Warning graphic pics******

As promised I am sharing our turkey butchering.  Butchering any poultry you must prepare the animals the day before.  No food for 12 hours prior but allow water.  This will make cleaning the birds much easier.  Assemble the following: A very large pot for scalding and a heat source-propane turkey fryers work well. (you can dry pluck but I prefer scalding as it cleans the birds and removes a thin layer of skin where dirt gets trapped).  A second large pot or tub of clean cold water for rinsing after gutting, a propane torch or any source of flame for singeing the pin feathers (optional) sharp knives, a cooler for the dressed bird, a separate tub of cold water for the giblets, neck and feet if you choose to keep those.  A long wire with a weight (3-5 lbs.. sturdy string or twine for tying feet and hanging.  While one person holds the bird with wings pressed against its sides another ties feet together-these pics show my 60 lb. 10 year old daughter holding the 30 lb. bird while hubby ties its feet.  The bird is then hung up and the wire with weight is inserted in the soft tissue under the beak and through the mouth and twisted in place then quickly given a sharp tug.  This will break its neck and put it into shock so it doesn’t feel pain.  We then make a slit below the head (front side) to severe the artery and bleed the bird out.  Allow it to hang at least 10 minutes to bleed out.  You may seem some wing flapping so stay clear as the wings are powerful but it is only muscle contractions at this time. Grab head and pull while making a cut all the way around the base of the head to remove it.  You may encounter a tough cord, this is the spinal cord and just cut through it.

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Once the turkey is bled out untie legs and scald-make sure the water is right at boiling as it will make your job easier. Scald the bird for a couple of minutes pushing it down with feet to completely submerge any feathered areas.  This is the most difficult part as the bird gets much heavier with wet feathers!  Remove and test by pulling some of the leg feathers, if they come out easy then put it on the table breast side up and begin plucking.  I prefer to do wings first while still hot.  These feathers can be difficult.  You will find that when plucking if you leave a few feathers in your fingertips and rub the smaller feathers will roll out.  Some people swear by rubber gloves during this process but I have never been able to work with them on.  Get off as many feathers as you can.  Some new growth or broken feathers can be removed by squeezing (like a pimple) I know-yuck but that is the way it is and unless you want to find out what cooked feathers taste like you will get them out.  Some feathers are very small almost hairlike and that’s when using the torch comes in handy as it burns them off leaving a tiny back spot that will wash away.

Once you have plucked and singed put bird breast side up on table with neck facing you, grab the skin on the neck and slide down.  Cut this skin off 3 -4 inches from the body then push it back against body.  Holding bird with one hand stretch out the neck as far as you can.  This will separate the neck bones and make removal easier.  as close to the body as you can slice through the flesh all the way around the base of the neck and set down your knife.  If you have some help holding bird this will be much easier. Grab the neck and twist then with tip of knife sever any tissue that is still connected.  An alternative way to do this is to use large garden clippers to cut through the neck.

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Once this is completed take your fingers and slide along the skin on the right side and separate the craw from the attaching tissues and pull this out (this is why no food for 12 hours, an empty craw is much cleaner to deal with).cut it off and discard.

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Turn the bird around still breast side up and at the knee joint slice through at the bend and snap backwards to reveal the inside of joint and cut the tendon inside continuing on through to slice through skin and remove feet.  After a bit of practice this part gets easier to do.  once feet are removed then make a horizontal slit a half inch above the cloaca (yep its discharge end) this is made easier by sliding the skin up on the breast and making it taut.  Slip your fingers in to help guide knife and cut around the cloaca now enlarge the horizontal cut large enough to get your hand in.  Sliding fingers in an upward movement against the breast bone grab the gizzard, it feels like a hard rock in there. Pull that out and the innards will follow.  Cut the gizzard free and set aside  then find the liver it looks like a big red blob.  Notice the green sac hanging from it-do not puncture or cut that as it is full of bile (if you do quickly wash off all traces) cut around the bile sac to remove liver and set aside.  Now remove the rest of the innards and discard.  Reaching back in feel all the way up to neck and grab out the heart.  Trim away the veins and arteries and set that aside in your cold water tub.  Once all the guts have been removed rake your fingers along the rib cage to remove air sacs and windpipe.  Put the bird in the cold water tub and scrub the remaining blood and airsacs out then wipe over outside to wash off any bits that have stuck.

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Place in cooler and fill with cold water.  Add ice if needed to keep temp between 36-40 degrees.  maintain this for 24 hours then empty water, rinse bird and repeat.  Do this for 48 hours before freezing or cooking 72 hours is even better and your bird will be moist and tender.  Note***** DO not skip on the rinsing of the bird every 24 hours or changing water-this is important to maintain an enviroment were bacteria doesn’t grow.  Do not permit temp to rise over 40 degrees!!!!

Keep gizzard, livers and hearts in separate water baths under refrigeration until time to either cook or freeze.

If keeping the gizzard you need to clean it.  Lay it in your hand and cut it open  ( if you look at it you will see a white area that gets narrow in the middle-cut it there and turn inside out.  It should be full of rocks or grit.  this is how birds process food.  Empty the grit out and notice there is a rubbery lining.  peel that lining out and discard. in th pics here you will see bits of melted aluminum the turkey ate digging through ash pies.  I look at every gizzard-who knows someday we may find a gold nugget!

If freezing your bird place neck, gizzard, heart and liver inside a  plastic bag.  Insert that into body cavity for easy removal during thawing. Finding bags large enough for a 20+ pound turkey is almost impossible ( cooking bags will work) I use trash can liners and double bag, expel as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.

With a little practice you will find that you can process birds in a matter of minutes. The prep and cleanup takes longer than the processing.  We do literally a hundred plus chickens and turkeys a year and hope that by the grace of God we are blessed enough to do even more next year.  Knowing where and how your meats are raised and processed is important in todays world.  Our animals lead a fulfilling happy life from the day they are born until the day they become meat on our table or someone elses.  Free to roam and not be caged up 24/7.

Hog Butchering ****Graphic Pics***

******I have hesitated for quite awhile about writing this post but we are homesteaders and others may want this information.  If you do not want to see pics of a hog being butchered please close this now.

What started out as a cold snowy day quickly changed to rain…..Again!  We had put off butchering this hog for so long because of the warm temps and rain it was down to now or never as he would soon be too large to handle without a big fuss.IMG_6256 IMG_6251 IMG_6236

We dispatch our pigs with a shot to the head then cut the throat to bleed them out.  Once they are bled out we scald them (we use an old bath tub) but this big boy was even too big for that!

Once scalded we then scrape the hair off.  This is a long difficult process in the pouring rain!

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After the hog has been thoroughly scraped we then wash him down and gut him, remove the head and using knives and saws we then cut it in half and in the case of this boy he was quartered to hang for 3 days of curing at temps of 38-40 degrees.I then cut up the pig into various cuts saving scraps for sausage.  We hand grind the sausage and I mix in my special seasonings,Of course I have to cook up some to see if it tastes right!

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Nothing is wasted I remove the meat from the head and all fat is either rendered down for lard or used to make sausage.

We love the cracklins!   I ended up with 4 gallons of lard from this pig and enough fat to make sausage plus have some in the freezer to add to ground goat meat.

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I hope this shows you the basics and I am hoping the next pig we butcher will not be in the rain so I can video it and show step by step how easy it really is.

What is a normal day?

On several occasions I have been asked what a normal day is like on the farm.  My reply is “what is considered normal”.  All joking aside I decided to really give it some thought and map out what a “normal” day is like.  Of course with each passing season things change but this is what it looks like when nothing comes up, no emergencies and no blunders.

4 a.m. is wake up time-build a fire in the cookstove and get coffee going.  By 4:30 I am out the door doing a critter check (remember we live in bear and wolf territory).I go pen to pen checking the animals running back to check the fire in between and also find the goats and account for all of them.  This is sometimes daunting as they now have split into 2 herds each with their own leader.  Its now around 5:30 a.m.if I am lucky and didn’t have to walk out too far to locate the goats.

5:30-7:00 I check emails (this blog generates a lot and I enjoy answering each and every one of them!  I also answer any messages on facebook.

7-8 a.m. I am making breakfast and planning the school day for my 3 children.

8-10 a.m. We all go out to feed animals, water them and let them out after they have eaten to roam around free ranging.

10-10:30 I line out the kids with their school work.

10:30-11:30 I do up dishes and get our afternoon meal going assisting kids with school at the same time.

11:30-1:00 I check pens to see which ones will need cleaning, water diverted and or fresh bedding added of course I have been called back at least a half dozen times to assist with schoolwork or other MOM questions.

1:-1:30 we eat dinner and I answer any further questions about school.

1;30-2:30 kids and I rewater all the critters and feed the babies again.

2:30-4:00 Kids return to schoolwork I go out and doctor on any sick or injured animals, trim hooves or nails and any other thing that needs done for the critters well being.

4:00-4:30 p.m. Its time to get supper started.

4;30-5:30 pen and cage cleaning adding fresh bedding etc.

5:30-6:00 get supper on the table.

6:00-7:00 We eat and spend time together

7:00-8:30 chore time again-this many critters and they like to eat!

8:30-9:00 do supper dishes

9:00-10:30 check emails, update blog and facebook

10:30-11:00 check critters and go to bed.


4:00a.m. wake up call-rouse the bear sleeping next to me.

4-4:30 split wood for the cabin stove (we don’t use our winter supply in the woodshed unless its snowing or raining heavily)

4:30-5:30 split wood for pig food and get fire going under bathtub/cooker. Fill tub with water and barley

5:30-9;30 split more wood for pig food fire and keep it burning for 4 hours cut ditches to drain water from animal pens while pig food is cooking

9:30-1:00 hike into the forest and cut up trees to haul in for firewood.  The solid wood is used for heating and cooking inside Punky wood used for cooking pig feed.

1:30-3:00 Haul water from spring for critters

2:30-5:30 assist in hoof trimming, fix walkways to critter pens,  Haul logs to sawmill from forest Cut lumber for pen repairs.

5:30-6:00 4 wheeler maintenance

6-7:00 family time and supper

7-8:30 help with feeding time, hauling water to pens and bedding down animals

8:30-10:00 phone calls, email and facebook messages answered.

As you can see our days are quite busy.  If we need to go to town it is an hour to 90 minutes to get to the truck and another hour to get to town.  If one of us is gone to town its an all day event and 2 days to get the supplies into the cabin.

I hope this gives you an idea of what its like to live our life out here.  Now lets talk about my day!  We had cranberries that we had accumulated while out checking goats so I cooked them up early this morning and while getting kids going on schoolwork ran them through the food mill and made cranberry sauce and not one to waste used all the skins and made cranberry jam.  Oh it tasted so good and I got the bright idea to run out and pick more while doing my critter checks.  Now if you have ever picked berries with an entourage of goats, pigs and turkeys then you just have not lived!  It goes something like this-Spot a clump of berries and bend over to pick just about grab them when a turkey sees the bright color dives in to grab them and the pig (Miss Charlotte) thinking I am being attacked by a turkey jumps at the turkey and her bulk hits me.I am now on the ground checking to see if my bucket is upright and trying to find footing to get up.   Oh did I mention it is extremely wet out and there are holes 2 foot deep with water in them covered by grass so you don’t know the are there until you step in one?  Of course the goats who are casually taking this in see the bucket is not my main concern and take the opportunity to sample the sour berries-not liking them they can’t take their fellow goats word for it one by one they all have to have a go!  Meanwhile I am still on the ground being guarded by a 400 pound pig who decides since I am down there I might as well give her a belly scratch-seriously Charlotte?  Well I finally get upright and realize the time has gotten away from me so I hurry back to the cabin but Frankie being Frankie fell asleep in the woods and didn’t come in with the rest of us so to shut up his constant mmmaaaaaaaing which is like calling to a bear and saying “hey dude, lunch is over here” I go back out to where we were and retrieve him.  Of course not knowing if where I am going and what I am doing may or may not involve treats, my entourage follows.  I eventually made it home and called the kids out to assist me with catching up with the things we needed to get done and went in to my sweet Cati making us a late dinner of grilled cheese and soup.

The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to remember what I had competed and what I hadn’t and then in to get supper going.

It is now 10:30 p.m. The rains have returned and I just got back in and am trying to finish this post as my teeth chatter. I am soaking wet and am contemplating whether we have time to build an ark.  If this continues we will have to go out and drain the pens as the water will be getting deep again.  I love our life but have to say I am so ready for cold and snow.  Its getting tiresome dealing with all this water all the time.  The weather forecast is not looking promising at all-rain forecasted for the next 2 weeks.

I’m excited that we are building a wind generator soon and it will be our kids’ science project for the year, my sissy Cathy’s husband had 2 new CAT batteries in his shop he said we can have and even arranged for transportation to get them to us next week-Thank you Paul you are so awesome! Just in time too as I fear one of our RV batteries may be dying.  We don’t get much tie on the battery now before it loses its charge.

I will leave you again with my usual random pics of life on the farm.  Until next time may God Bless and provide for your every need.

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Oh happy day!  Last night the hubby brought me chicks a friend has hatched out for me and I’m so excited!  Now before ya all go worrying, no I didn’t lose my others (well not all of them) I just wanted/needed more chickens and turkeys. Yes, I am that crazy chicken lady. Thank you Robin for adding 7 more baby chicks (these are Aracaunas I believe) and 4 more turkey poults (Royal Palms I think) to my menagerie. Once again the homemade non electric brooder will be my night light-as if I need one when it gets dark at midnight and light again around 4 a.m. Robin and her hubby Dan had fun hatching them and gave me updates regularly on their progress both during incubation and hatching. They referred to the eggs as their “kids” and doted over them. I called Robin Friday and got her on her cell in town shopping and jokingly said to her “Aren’t you close to being due? What’s a woman so close to labor doing out running around” Robin had a comeback for me though as she said no labor pains yet and had to prepare. She got me giggling Sunday though when she informed me she had to do a c-section on one egg as the chick was wearing down but yay!!!! She saved it. Yes folks I have awesome friends! 

 I just had to share this with you as I had a couple friends post to my Facebook page. Kristine and Wendy thanks for the giggles! 

 The weekend was busy as usual and my dear hubby literally ran his legs off. Saturday he had to hike in to take the kids to shooting sports. Our trail is still too wet to support the weight of adults, the wheelers and supplies (never do we make a trip in without bringing something) so the kids drive and we walk. Sunday he made 2 trips in and out! For those of you who don’t know that’s 15 miles of hiking!  He was pretty excited though when he went to retrieve one of my “deals” and loaded not 1 but 2 wheelers that need a bit of work onto the trailer. There was much excitement in his voice when he called and anticipation for the time they are running and we have extra transportation and work horses for logging. I will post pics when he gets them running and out here. His next errand he ran for me was picking up the hay I got for a song! He got there and was surprised that the cheap hay I committed to over the phone for 5.00 a bale was great Timothy hay. Mind you hay around here sells for around 25.00 a bale for good hay. He also met a new friend with many of the same interests AND who also has twin girls our Twins’ age! I’m telling you folks God is so good! He provided for yet another need.

My weekend was spent working on projects around the farm but did take time to make some butter after I separated the cream and some mozzerella cheese. It didn’t turn out perfect but it’s edible. One thing I am discovering is everything I know about cheese making is based on cows milk. I have to tweek my recipes as Goats milk is very different. It requires less rennet and now if I could just remember that BEFORE I add it perhaps I will get back to making awesome cheese instead of just so so cheese.  

   Two of our wethers went to new homes on Saturday and I will admit I do miss them. Every baby has its idiosyncrasies and little Blake definitely had his. The kids called it the invisible leash. You could get that little stinker to follow you anywhere by scratching his chin. They have found a new home now where they will be spoiled pets with a couples grandkids to play with.  

   The plant starts are doing well and I really must get them in the ground soon but am a bit anxious about the potential for frost. It’s been so warm I wonder if it will last. I guess I will just have to do it and pray that it stays warm. 

       Cami is starting to take interest in the goats more and is learning to milk. For those of you who have never milked it’s easier said than done. Milking requires the use of muscles that don’t normally get used and builds up forearm strength. It’s tiring until you get those muscles used to it and even though I enjoy it I will admit having 2 more sets of hands is a blessing. Cati has become a skilled miller already and can even milk my one doe who is a hard milker.  

 Much was accomplished last week with getting the farrowing pen done and having a happy pig and I hope this week we can be as industrious as last. 

I know I’ve said for months I would have a website soon with farm products for sale so by weeks end I will announce it. Our first offerings will be Birch syrup, Barley pancake mix, goat milk hot cocoa mix, lip balm and goat milk soap. I will also be running a contest so stayed tuned!

Well folks once again it’s been my pleasure to share our lives with you but duty calls. The roosters are crowing, everyone wants fed and there are many other projects to be completed. May your hands stay busy, your heart be happy and may God grace and bless you.