Homestead Butchering Workshops
When: Weekends, October through November 2019
Where: south-central Washington, some 80 miles east of Portland, OR
Bone Fire to be held the evening of Saturday, October 26, 2019
Windward will be offering a string of weekend workshops demonstrating how we butcher and process our surplus animals. Windward's not a farm that grows animals to sell; the meat the community consumes is a natural by-product of a self-reliant farm's need to use animals to convert things we don't want to eat (think acorns, bugs, weeds) into things we do want to eat (think eggs, milk, cheese) and the resources that support a self-reliant lifestyle (think wool and leather).
Since there are few places where one can go and take part in the process of butchering for the homestead, we're inviting folks to come join us for this ancient rite of harvest. Starting October 5th, we'll be harvesting an animal a week; the butchering will happening on Saturday, and the processing on Sunday. Folks are welcome to sign up to participate according to their comfort level for one or more of the weekends. Cost of the workshops will be on a donation basis.
Those who are interested in exploring the ancillary aspects such as making sausage and bone broth, tanning hides and processing wool, are invited to consider signing up for a fall internship to gain hands on experience. YouTube is great, but there's no substitute for working with the real thing.
Traditionally, October and November are the months when a homestead has to decide which animals will over-winter to start the cycle again in the spring, and which animals will won't. Since herds of goats, sheep and pigs will triple in size each year, hard choices have to be made in order to keep the herd from growing so large that it crashes the farm's carrying capacity.
We hold off butchering until a hard freeze kills off the house flies, and then butcher one animal a week. By taking it slow, and taking a few days between butcherings, we ensure that the process doesn't become a chore. It's fall, and there's lots to do on a homestead in preparation for the coming winter, so we spread things out. Also this gives us the time and space needed to make peace with the essential process of culling the herd. On an intellectual level, we know that it's necessary, but it can take time for the emotional impact to settle.
On Saturday evening, October 26, we'll have a Bone Fire. Bones are made of calcium phosphate; a large, hot fire breaks down the bones and activates the calcium and phosphorus, providing essential micro-nutrients for next year's garden. That's why the end of October is traditionally a time when the barrier separating the living and the dead is felt to be very thin, an ancient, gut-level belief that survives in the modern rituals of Halloween.
So if you're interested in learning about how this is done, and how this feels, you're invited to send us an email and we can take it from there.