The Last Homestead: Sept. 16

Friday, Sept 16, 2016, 11:15 AM.

I have had a busy morning thus far but am thinking of wending my way around the corner to nap. I would do it in an instant if it were warm in the bedroom. I could make it warm by turning on the heat, of course, but that might engender too much guilt.

I’m still working on getting the perfect photo of something that should be fairly simple. I took photos of the rising moon last night. It was so bright it made an extra green light on the sensor – I saw it when I took the photo and there it was, on the downloaded copy. Interesting. I deleted it because it was so strange, but it was still an interesting effect. However, I did get a couple other photos that I thought were fun.


Full moon from the bunk house porch — the green artifact is just barely noticeable at the edge of the moon

This morning at 8, I went off to watch and photograph Rose butchering. Oh my, she’s good. I took photos of a large carcass of elk and one of a deer, hanging or laying on a table with a small woman attacking them, expertly, with a knife. The knife looks harmless until it slices through the meat. Rose sharpens it every cut or so. She cuts the meat using her bare hands, which get quite, um, bloody, but she says she seldom cuts herself. The shop is cool but not cold. Darrell tells me that the meat hanging vault (with all its big hooks) is kept at 32.5 to 34 degrees, precisely. Rose has winches to move the meat around so she can handle it – she can only pick up 125 pounds or so now, although she used to do more!


 Rose at locker with hanging carcass

Rose can tell by the feel of meat whether it will make good steak or should be put into hamburger. She knows how to deal with the “blood spotting” – the places where the wound bleeds into the surrounding tissue. These spots need to be cut out because they make the meat taste “gamey”, a word I remember from my youth. I thought that what the animal fed caused the gamey taste but apparently not. She has a bucket for bad pieces, a white bin for hamburger, a long table on which she puts the roasts and steak meat, and a couple more containers for cube steak and stew meat. I watched her do a haunch and leg and then the central carcass; then I came back for tea and breakfast.


I thought I might be grossed out by the work, but actually I found it interesting. Rose is quite matter-of-fact, of course, but I wasn’t sure about my own head. But it was just meat like you get from the grocery store, in greater lots and quantities. Rose has strong opinions about some cuts and the cooking of them; for example, the neck, she says, makes a great crock pot stew. The neck is also a pain in the neck to debone (you can imagine), but most of the gentlemen and their wives, “the ladies”, don’t really know a lot about cooking well butchered meat. So she has to take the meat off the neck a tiny slice at a time and put it into the hamburger or stew meat container.

She’s punctilious about getting as much meat as possible from the carcass and doing it correctly. She takes orders from the hunter for the kinds of cuts that are wanted and then packages them appropriately into steaks and roasts and hamburger and sausage. She is least fond of the packaging work, which is tedious, and when she’s really busy, she has a friend who helps her.

She uses the offal (which actually refers to organs, not bad bits of meat as I had supposed) in her freezer and uses it in her EMT classes; the students get to see an actual heart, etc.  Sometimes she takes hearts to school biology classes in Spray and allows the students to dissect them. No waste.

And for all of this work she gets a couple hundred dollars per animal. The guide service costs a couple thousand and even shipping the meat can run $500 or more. So she’s the cheapest as well as perhaps the most craft-educated of the workers in the process.


Rose is understandably proud of the work she does, and she and Darrell have strong feelings about hunting animals. They both hunt deer for freezing, but they will only shoot them if they have a clean head or neck shot because anything else wastes meat. And as she put it, if you are going to shoot animals, you don’t want to waste their lives.

She likes most wild animals, but dislikes coyotes, because a pack once ate one of her newborn calves as well as the mother. The mother was incapacitated by the birth and couldn’t protect herself or her calf. So if Rose sees a coyote and has a gun, it’s a goner. She says she expects they have their place in the eco system, but she can’t stand them. She’s the same way about wasps and yellow jackets, and I think I agree with her there.

I didn’t take the nap that I was thinking of but rather went out for a walk with my small lens. And when I saw Darrell pushing around a hunk of cabinet around outside the shop, I asked if he minded if I photographed him.  He, smiling, said “Me?” So I did a batch of photos of him working.




 Darrell’s Shed and Workshop from the back– a treasure trove for the rural mechanic and farm maintenance person

And here I am again, at 3:15 PM, having eaten another fine dinner. I say dinner, even if it was cooked at noon, because as I have often shown elsewhere, I’m not very good at cooking supper after an exhausting day of watching others work and talking to pigs and whatnot. So today I decided to do a grand dinner after I finished up with the first stint of painting (which came after my session with Darrell.) I made myself a big tuna fish salad, using every veggie in the frig. In a moment of absent mindedness, I skimped on the onion. But aside from the paucity of onions it was splendid. Two boiled eggs, lots of celery, half a pepper, a fistful of onion, and the mayo that I opened up for the first time.  Crackers and the last corn on the cob from the Howe’s garden. I even shucked and cooked the corn which counts in my book as serious cooking.  It was heavenly. I topped it off with the next-to-last peach, which was cold and yummy and ripely perfect.  So I’m feeling topped up. Tonight I’ll microwave the rest of the beans and maybe leaven them with a few onions, just to make up for the loss at lunch. That’s what I did last night or the night before (I’ve lost track) and it’s a perfectly adequate evening comestible. This morning I had the traditional muesli/blueberry breakfast – had to give the piglets some furry blueberries but the remainder seemed fine.

I didn’t go back for more butchering or the wrapping of the cuts to be Fed Exed because I decided to set up my painting.

Which I did (paint the ponderosa, that is). This first draft looks good. (Note it’s now become “my” ponderosa). The sky takes up a big hunk of the painting (on the left side of both boards) which balances the tree. Alas, the sky is just not right. I could disguise some of its problems by putting in clouds, but that seems to me to be a cop-out – just a way to get around the sky problem without adding anything. But I’m working on it as a problem to be “sorted”, as Rose would say.

Then I worked a second draft of the tree, with some color. It’s coming along nicely, if I do say so myself. A couple of problems to iron out, of course. I will probably let the sky alone until I get back home. Right now I’m painting flat on the picnic table. Tomorrow I will probably set the boards up on the picnic table seat and lean them against the table top. My travel easel is too light for these boards — it wobbles and fusses and wants to fall over. But the picnic table is a pretty good substitute. It limits my working time, though, because I’m bending over to reach the surface to paint it. My back scolds me roundly if I don’t stop soon enough.

Ah, and one last note. It was warm enough today that I took off my turtle neck at 11. Practically steaming hot.


The Ponderosa on two panels, limned out in red, with its background mostly finished.

6:00 PM

After eating the rest of Rose’s corn this afternoon, she gave me more this evening. The cabbage definitely won’t get eaten.  Mona would like it, I think. And Mona gets the zucchini or at least she’ll tolerate it, much more so than the green pepper and the lemon. I didn’t see any remains of the pepper after the first day, but the lemon was still being pushed around the pig yard last time I looked.

So here I am, being circled by Bella, who really really needs a belly rub. I’m also being looked at by Brandy with her mournful eyes. When I walked up, Bella came to see me before Brandy even knew I was around. Brandy is slower than Bella, of course, and stouter, perhaps because she’s saving energy.

Well, nothing more to report. I’m going to walk up the lane this evening, with my camera as I have already done 10 times, just in case a photo op (more deer?) appears. I’m going to photograph Rose milking tomorrow at 6:30 AM, and tonight I must take a shower because I’m beginning to smell, even when the wind is blowing away from me. So off I go.

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5 Responses to The Last Homestead: Sept. 16

  1. Again three days behind. Even though I saw some of this with my own eyes on the final day of your stay and read all of the text in September, this and the photos, which I had not seen before, bring it all back.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Butchering is an art form, as are so many skills once basic but now perhaps more assembly line done. I worked with a man who’d apprenticed with a butcher for awhile in North Carolina. He’d learned great respect for that butcher and his craft. I’m sure most are like I used to be about the packaging of the meats we buy in the store – never giving it much thought. But at one point in our lives, we became good friends with a farm family who raised a few cows for butchering. You could buy the whole cow or go in with someone else for a half. We joined experienced friends to split a cow and then came the part we never considered – how do you want it divided up (number of roasts vs steaks vs stew meat vs burger) and how many pounds to the package? Custom butchering and then discovering we would not have to buy a freezer but could rent a locker at the place that did the butchering. What an education! and the meat – well, so much better than what we could buy at the store as care was taken by our farmer friends in the raising and feeding and final graining out of the cattle and equal care by the processors entrusted with our order. What can I say? Like Rose, pride and care and skill in every step.


  3. Kit Szanto says:

    The moon was spectacular, as you showed it – and I wish I could see the green which seemed to surround it in the camera. That sounds almost like the artist doing something amazing with the “real” thing.
    Loved, too, the photos of the Howes at work. Rose is quite something – impressive as anyone could be, and I am impressed! Darrell is too, but his work seemed more like the work some people I have known have done. I have not seen the work Rose does before.

    Liked by 2 people

    • june says:

      I too had never watched the butcher process done by a professional, Kit, although my parents did some in the kitchen when I was quite young. I remember a lot of mess, and nothing professional looking at all. There is even a Pine Station story connected to at least one event, although I can’t be sure it isn’t apocryphal. And the moon was more spectacular to look at that to photograph, although I did sigh at my foolishness in deleting the odd moon shots with the green.


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