Monday, December 19, 2011

Not for the Faint of Heart

In humble gratitude for those whose lives nourish us.

Even though I would say that this past Friday was one of the top ten most transformative experiences in my life, I thought twice about doing this blog post.  What convinced me to post these pictures and to tell this story was my strong desire to share with you how amazing, profound, and empowering, as well as, physically and emotionally exhausting this experience was for us.  Two days ago we harvested animals for food for the first time in our lives.  Let me begin by telling you that the only meat my husband and I eat is fish.  We do prepare chicken and turkey for our two children on occasion (when they ask for it), but for the most part we subsist on mainly a vegetarian diet.  So with that said this process was even more intense for us.  The main reasons we decided to harvest one of our goats was that we did not want to breed her and I wanted to provide some clean wholesome meat for my sons who really want to eat meat and seem to have constitutions that benefit from it.   

We had some very generous friends come and help with the slaughter, they basically did most of the work, the blessing, skinning, cleaning, and removing of the fat.  (We did not record or take pictures of this process because it seemed wrong and out of respect for the animal.)  Our very experienced friends told us it was a really good thing we chose to slaughter her now because she was so fat she may have become diseased in the near future.  You can see above the fat hanging on our walnut tree after it was removed from the carcass.  It's important to us to try and use as much of the animal as we can, so we plan to research making tallow and hope to turn this glob into soap. 

After removing the head and hooves and then burying the innards we left the carcass to hang for several hours and turned our attention to the hide.  

freshly skinned hide on the fence

The hide was washed then moved into the garage and carefully scraped.  It took a long time to remove all the extra fat and bits of meat left attached. 

Our eight year old was a very brave helper, as the hide will eventually be his in the end.  He agreed to help after he realized that wearing latex gloves was an option. 

  When the hide was clean and smooth, we poured salt all over it to draw out the moisture.  We will move it into the sun to dry and try finishing the tanning process when we have extra time. 

As if that wasn't enough of a big day, our friends offered to come back later that afternoon to help cull two of our roosters.  This time I really wanted to participate and was excited to learn the process start to finish.  I have to say it was surprisingly simple and not as gross as I expected.  The smell of the boiling water on the feathers was stomach turning, but once I got over that it was actually easy.  We talked at length about how amazing it is that we as humans have this innate way of seeing and accepting animals as food, something I have not been physically able to do until now that I have been part of the process.  It is a wondrous blessing to be able to have a hand in the food you consume, to be connected to the plants and animals that nourish you, to truly understand and appreciate the full cycle.  

Once we got most of the feathers off we came inside to the kitchen to wash the birds and clean off the feathers that were sticking.   

I was educated on how to remove the feet and head, how to remove the organs, and which organs are good to save and cook--heart, liver, kidneys, neck. 

I was then shown how to cut and prepare the heart, liver, and kidneys of the goat, Moroccan style.  They were washed, cut in inch sized cubes, and cooked in olive oil with cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and tomatoes.  Those that tried it said it was quite flavorful. 

The two roosters were marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, lots of garlic, and lemon juice.  We put them in the fridge to sit for a couple of days.  Today I roasted them with potatoes, butternut squash, leeks, and carrots in a slow oven for several hours.  The result was fantastic, and was served for my Mom's birthday dinner along with some roasted goat which I seasoned heavily (with cumin, ginger, turmeric, onion, salt, red pepper, and lots of olive oil) and cooked for a very long time. 

So after cooking a little and sharing some with friends, the rest of the goat harvest is simmering on the stove, slowly becoming bone broth while some meat is hanging in the garage.  I am planning on seasoning it to make jerky this week.  And that's it folks, the story of our incredible first animal harvest.  Slaughtering our own animals for food is not an experience I would want to have very often but it feels really good to learn how and to know that we are capable.  The best part of it all is that our boys participated and really appreciated the meat.  That makes it all worth while.   


  1. I applaud you for making such a huge step! We have goat hides in the freezer right now that need to be taken care of. Our boys didn't have much fat so we weren't able to make tallow. I wish we could though.

  2. Wow, that is such a big step. You are truly a farmgirl now. I'm in awe.

  3. Thank you, it was intense but seemed really natural too, all in all such a learning experience!

  4. One of the hardest things but necessary too in farming is the utilization of livestock not necessarily as pets but also as a food source. You guys continue to amaze me and fill me with envy too with what you are doing at Soul Flower Farm! John W.

  5. as salaamu alaikum sis, loved that you share the experience. I wanna taste that jerkey though. so fascinating

  6. Very inspirational! I'm all smiles ;-)

  7. Bravo. BUT why do you bury the innards, the organs. this is such important, health giving part of the animal. Also, the fat of the animal can be used well for food as well as soaps etc. very health giving and soothes the nervous system. see a book by Food as Medicine by Todd Caldecott