Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Earthskills, Cow->Meat, and more

SO! It's been a little while since I've found to update, which means that I have a lot to share.  Back in the first weekend of March, Mike and I went up to Finca Mycol, a permaculture homestead outside of Gainesville, for the Florida Earthskills Gathering. It was a really informational, fun, and inspirational weekend, learning about wild food foraging, skills like carving spoons, making baskets from pine needles, working with clay and firing pots over an open fire, hide tanning, and sewing with buckskin. There was, needless to say, much more knowledge there than we had the time or capacity to absorb in so short a period of time, but it gave as a lot to go on for further learning and research we can do on our own.
   The most notable effect the Gathering had on me was a new-found sense of JUST HOW MUCH there is all around us all around that we can use, eat, and appreciate. Mike and I got home to the cabin after that weekend with new eyes, seeing how much food, potential for power, building materials, clothing, medicine was right there. Now I think a lot more about whether I can find what I need where I live or nearby, rather than buying it in a store. What alternatives would work for the same purpose. While there is a lot more energy output by me before a lot of this stuff can be put to the use I have in mind than there would be if I bought some packaged product in a store, I feel much, much better about finding what I need than buying it. Of course, I still visit the grocery store (but for less and less!), I still buy batteries, and gas, and propane, and second hand clothes, and canning jars. I don't think I'll ever be free of those things entirely. But I feel that I'm moving in the right direction, and it feels GOOD.
  The photo below is a meal that I foraged almost in its entirety, just a few days after getting back home after the Gathering. I found a few huge patches of wild mustards, and sorrell, and a little bit of penny wort, 4 edible mushrooms (blanking on the name right now, but I'll remember and add it in), fresh green briar shoots, and a freshwater snail. I sauteed the mushrooms and shoots with garlic and chives (the chives I grew, the garlic I did not) and butter (from a raw dairy farm 3 miles away), added the snail after I'd boiled it to kill it, and any bacteria that might be in the water in its shell, and put it all over the fresh greens. It was a delicious meal, and it came at the end of long afternoon walk around the property, scoping out the property with new eyes.

Here is a spoon I carved while at the gathering - the first thing I ever carved! I'm working on another one with a larger bowl, but I keep this one in my purse and use it all the time while I'm out.

Also, we just recently pressure washed and stained the cabin. Devin, Casey, Evan and David came out to help. They made the job go by so much more quickly!

And we added a lot more to our closet of canned food. One Sunday we canned 37 pints of collards, 26 or so quarts of tomatoes, 6 quarts of tomato juice, and 6 pints of honey roasted garlic habanero hot sauce I'd made a little while before:

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnd, here's another big project we undertook. One of our land ladies wanted to kill one of her three cows, and she let us take the meat. Evan helped us, and it took us from 7am till noon to clean and separate all the meat, fat, and organs. Evan took home a set of ribs, a shoulder, and a 5 gallon bucket of meat, and Mike and I took home the rest. I'll be adding more photos later, from Mike's camera, of the cow just after we killed it, as we were cleaning it. (Don't worry, they're not actually all that graphic.) Below, I had just sliced the heart in two and was about to clean the hard and fatty tissues off of the meat. We boiled it and canned it in the cooking liquid. And boy did that liquid smell delicious. The heart was a good tasting meat too. I sampled just a little before it went into the jars. We ended up also keeping the liver (huuuuuuge organ in a cow... and also really tasty), lungs, kidneys and spleen.

We separated as much fat (suet) as we could from the meat and then we cut it up into chunks and fried it over low heat to render it:

Rendered fat, starting to cool and solidify:

The fat amounted to about 17 pints. We'll use it to cook and bake with. Originally we thought we'd make soap, but we eat a lot more fat than we'd ever use as soap.... so cooking is probably a better use, and then we don't have to do anything else with it.

We ended up with about 100 lbs of meat canned, between stew meat and ground beef, not including the organs. We also made stock with the bones, and have about 20 quarts of quart of stock.

We have about enough meat to last us a year if we eat 2 pounds a week. Phew. 2/3 of a small cow goes a long way!

And to leave you with a less gruesome image, here's a slice of beet that looked to me like stained glass, and I couldn't help but take a photo. 


  1. Good to know you won't go hungry out there...

  2. more pictures of the building caitlin! it looks gorgeous. So happy to talk to you today. Love, Annie

  3. Wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing this. You have empowered me to feel more confident canning meat.