Home Again, Home Again

Seasons Greetings Farmgirl Friends,

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Joyous Festivus!

Winter has finally come and stuck around. The exciting tease of flurries and chill that begins to poke around in October has given way to snow that accumulates, temperatures that remain below freezing, and the shortening of days. As I write this, we are two days shy of the winter solstice and our number of daylight hours hovers around five and a half. The sun rises after ten a.m. and sets well before four p.m. It is winter. It is time to eat, love, create and enjoy.

We have been treated with beautiful hoar frost several times this December.

We have been treated with beautiful hoar frost several times this December.

As a Farmgirl, I can’t help but have some focus on food procurement. With the passing of the harvest season and its subsequent canning/storing season, what is left? Oh yes–the protein, the meat! As a current urbanite, raising our own meat animals was not an option. This year we purchased a pig that our friend had raised and split it with two other families. This is one of the spring pigs from the three day old litter I posted about back in April or May. As far as processing the meat, we didn’t have to do any of the work aside from picking the final, frozen product up from the butcher. The pork is some of the best I’ve had! I absolutely LOVE good pork fat on a thick bone-in pork chop or steak. When cooked correctly, it has the texture of a scallop and a wonderful flavor. And the sausage! Oh the sausage. I have a sneaking suspicion the sausage will only last us through the winter.

 

We rode the Santa Train on the Alaska Railroad and met the old man in red.

We rode the Santa Train on the Alaska Railroad and met the old man in red.

While this pork is amazing, and it seems very Farmgirl-responsible to purchase lovingly raised local meat, I still linger a bit on the disconnect between this food and our consumption. While actually killing a pig is pretty much out of the question for me (I could barely slaughter a chicken if you remember!), raising and butchering (after someone else kills it) our own protein is on my list of “future life endeavors.” One night, in a kind of weird juxtaposition, I had a revelation while nursing Opal before bed–I could become a butcher! As I watched this sweet baby nurse, I imagined being a local butcher who works in the busy fall or for a few close customers throughout the year with their large animals. This is totally unrealistic, but a Farmgirl can dream, can’t she?

What can I say? I like bladed instruments.  This is our impressive tree.  It is the top of a spruce tree that had recently fallen over the hiking trail.  It is covered in spruce cones!  Our best tree yet.

What can I say? I like bladed instruments. This is our impressive tree. It is the top of a spruce tree that had recently fallen over the hiking trail. It is covered in spruce cones! Our best tree yet.

Not five years ago I gagged while breaking down whole chickens from the grocery store. Since then, I’ve grown to enjoy the process of properly maneuvering a knife around the carcass of animals. It lends to a great appreciation for the life and energy that went into the food that so many take for granted. It encourages me to use as much of the animal as I can so that its life was not given in vain. Before a few weeks ago, I had never processed any animal bigger than a turkey…so these dreams of becoming a veritable butcher were pretty unfounded! I just imagined that if I got satisfaction out of cleaning and breaking down fish and poultry, then it must be even better with larger livestock.

Luckily, it is hunting season. While neither I nor Evan are hunters, we know a few. After my butcher revelation, I offered my newbie services to my friends who had gotten a bison tag. They got one and ended up grateful for help after the cooler it was aging in went out, and they had to process it earlier in the week than expected.

The meat from this animal is beautiful.

The meat from this animal is beautiful.

This animal was HUGE! We didn’t weigh the meat at the end, but we guessed it was more than 300 pounds of food after it was all packed up. I helped cut up two quarters–one hind leg and one front. The muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue that we worked with and around were beautiful and powerful. There were still some spruce needles and pieces of moss from the woods it once roamed stuck to some parts. None of us are that familiar with official cuts, so I’m sure anyone with more knowledge would have thought we were positively “butchering” the animal, however we barely wasted anything (almost all the “waste” was pressure canned for dog food), and ended up with some excellent bison burger with the large amount of trim we created. I have eaten a steak from that bison and a “buffaloaf” made with the burger–both were outstanding. There is so much flavor in wild animals. One can almost taste the grasses and shrubs of Delta, AK that nourished the beast.

We've been reading stories every evening under the light of the Christmas tree.

We’ve been reading stories every evening under the light of the Christmas tree.

With this yummy meat, we are going to finish off this year with a meal largely provided by ourselves (or at least people that we are very close with). The menu isn’t set, but I’m anticipating a slow roasted pork shoulder or ham for our Christmas roast and some bison meatballs with spaghetti for the New Year (long noodles are traditionally eaten in Asian cuisine for luck and longevity in the New Year). I find it very fitting to celebrate the returning of sunlight and our entrance into a new cycle with a small sample of what the previous cycle helped provide.

Opal helping with my favorite string of lights--the purple LEDs!

Opal helping with my favorite string of lights–the purple LEDs!

Aside from yummy steaks and hams, December has brought a lot of fun and germs into our lives. We cut down and decorated a Christmas Tree. We have had coughs and runny noses. We rode the Santa Train and met Santa and lots of elves. We’ve played in the snow and created Christmas decorations. It is such a joy to see Christmas through the eyes of an almost three year old. Ava is amazed by the lights and garlands and candy canes. She adores Santa and snow. She says she wants “a real horse and a real donkey” for Christmas…We’ve told her that her wish might come true in a few years, but probably not this year. Both she and Opal are much needed lights during this period of long nights!

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Ava and I made ornaments for friends and family. She really likes glitter…Who can blame her?

Among all of the love and celebration a stomach bug came through and took us all out…one day at a time. We are finally recovered after a full week, but after we were all feeling better (and hungrier!), we didn’t have much convenience food in the house (and I didn’t feel like cooking!). While I contemplated taking my greasy, tired, pajama’d self to the grocery store for some emergency dinner, a knock came at the door. It was a package from the one and only MaryJane! It contained some samples of her newest line of Organic On the Go microwavable meals. Hallelujah! At the time it felt like a gift from the heavens. I don’t often purchase quick meals like this because I’m leery of the ingredients and the waste–but these contain whole ingredients (and love!) and come in recyblable containers. After one minute in the microwave and ten minutes of sitting time (in which I had enough time to fry up some sausage and steam some veg), we had a meal fit for a family recovering from GI stuff. We tried the “Thai Fusion” and “Curry in a Hurry.” Both were excellent! MaryJane–Thank you for saving my sanity :). (following photos by Evan Pederson)

organiconthego3 organiconthego2 organiconthego1

They are yummy, reasonably priced and a mindful choice. I’m going to be getting more of these for those times in life when I need a little break.

Are you finishing this year with a special meal or food? I love hearing about others’ “special” meals. Any secret recipes out there? Here is my favorite holiday punch from my Grandma’s recipe box:

Blend Well:

1 can jellied cranberry sauce
1 cup Orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp of almond extract

ADD:

1 – two liter bottle of ginger ale.

Works best to mix in punch bowl because it foams up so much.
It also tastes good with spiced dark rum, if that’s how you roll.

I hope this December finds you all safe and warm wherever it finds you. I also hope you get a special surprise from a guardian angel in disguise!

Sending you peace, love and merriness from Alaska!

Alex, the Rural Farmgirl

Leave a comment 12 Comments

  1. Patsy Baker says:

    I always look forward to your post. So entertaining.
    From a Texas ranch Farmgirl ,
    Patsy
    Dirtduchess

  2. Denise Ross says:

    Merry Christmas Alex and family. Glad to read you’re all well again and what a gift from Mary Jane. Have a wonderful Christmas

  3. Joan says:

    Ohhhh’s Ahhhh’s OhNo’s but all in all it was a great post! I hope y’all stay well and have a very Merry Christmas!!! God bless.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Haha, because of all of the meat? yeah, I know a lot of your are vegetarians, and I VERY much appreciate that, as I used to be one myself. If I do eat meat I want it to be the of the most responsible kind :). Merry Christmas to you, too!

  4. marge hofknecht says:

    My husband and I lean toward a more vegetarian lifestyle but I found your post interesting in that you are working on making a dream (of being a butcher) come true. I’m sure your friends were extremely grateful for your help and others probably will be so as you grow and learn. Your post encourages me to pursue a dream I have: I becoming more familiar with herbs and their properties and uses. To me, herbs are fascinating. Ancient people relied on their herbal knowledge to get on in life whether for health or for spicing up their foods. God gave the herb for mankind to use and that’s another reason to pursue a study on herbs. Thank you for sharing how timely the emergency food came to you when you and your family needed it most. Your family’s guardian angels appeared to have been whispering in Mary Jane’s ear! Have a blessed Merry Christmas and a memorable winter. Each season has its secrets and I enjoy discovering them as the year cycles around.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks for the comment, Marge! Herbs and incredibly fascinating–I’m so glad I got to help pique that interest in you. Have you ever heard of Aviva Romm? She is my favorite herbalist. She is also a Yale trained MD–an interesting combo. I highly recommend her books, blogs and podcasts if you haven’t heard of her. Merry Christmas to you and yours, too!

  5. Amanda says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!! It does take some careful thinking when it comes to butchering. We raise and butcher our own beef and pork and venison- this year our oldest daughter is raising the beef (named Chuck). Our youngest daughter would rather eat broccoli soup! We butcher in February and I make sure I label the holiday meats- ham for Easter, pork roasts for pork and sauerkraut for New Years. We’ve been dealing with some colds, too, and always at the worst possible time! It is amazing how our daughter can manage to not cough or sneeze during her gymnastics routines at a meet- not sure if a sneeze would be a deduction or not! Isn’t it also amazing how something from MaryJane shows up at your door when it’s most needed? It happens to me a lot and I’m still not sure how she knows!!! Many blessings in the new year!

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      There must be an informant out there somewhere! haha. I love hearing these stories of others raising their own meat animals. I like the name Chuck, it reminds me of a pig I knew named Frank. With all of the indoor time with lots of people (many who have been traveling) and cool temps, I expect colds…I wonder if the adrenaline of competing puts your daughter’s symptoms at bay? It sounds like your feeding your little gymnast well! Can’t wait until my kids are old enough to compete! Happy New Year to you and yours, too!

  6. Karen Pennebaker says:

    I couldn’t kill a chicken but I have helped butcher deer, rabbits, etc. My sons and my late husband hunted and did the “deed” – I help after that! So far this year, my sons haven’t gone deer hunting and I wish they would! Canned venison is the best “fast food” I can think of!! 3 days of deer season after Christmas, so there is still hope!! Merry Christmas!!

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