Sunday, August 19, 2012

So...where's the pig?

Had another AWESOME week! Aunty Chantelle came up for a visit with little cousin Evie! They arrived on Monday and stayed in our chaos until Wednesday. Nick went up to Port McNeill, but Chantelle and Evie kept us company for at least the first two days of him being gone.

We walked into the village, played at the park, got a coffee, did some window shopping and then headed to Filberg Park for the petting zoo and picnic under the wonderful shade of the trees.

On the way home we got some gelato while Eli slept. It was so wonderful to have company!

They left Wednesday morning before the heat picked up. Funny how I was just thinking that summer was winding down and then we have an enormous heat wave! It reached 30 degrees outside, which meant that it reached 40 degrees in my living room. It was unbearable at times.

Wednesday the kids and I headed south in the afternoon to Buckley Bay. There we went to 'Renegade Ranch' to pick up a side of pork. I had posted on the Facebook Comox Valley 'Farmers Market' page, where just as the name suggests there are local artisans, farmers and the like exchanging and selling goods. Anyway I had commented on a post from a woman waaaay back in late June but only just received a reply as she hadn't seen my message. She stated that she had one small side of pork left, only 82 lbs, and she needed it gone so she gave me a deal.

I made the mistake of telling Ruby that we were going to pick up a pig.... um ya, apparently two year olds are literal?

So we pull up and it is as ranches and farms are, invarious states of interrupted half finished projects. Tractors, fencing, tools, trucks, feed etc, etc. But we were greeted by a friendly dog and a black horse. The woman came out and was quite personable, she'd just had a baby 8 weeks previous and was adjusting to life with two children on a working ranch. ... Had to explain to Ruby that the pig was in the boxes...bit of an awkward conversation!

For $230 we picked up 82 lbs of pork in 3 boxes. Not completely 'certified organic' but well fed and local! The lady also said they had sides of beef and chickens available. Nick will be going hunting next month so we'll be stocked for red meat when he gets home. But I told her we'd be very interested in the chickens.

Nick and his brother will be going up to their Uncle Shane's property near McBride and hunting once the season opens late next month. This season looks rather promising as that area is abundant with life. Elk are 'six points' or better, (counting the tines on the antlers), moose are open with the purchase of a 'tag,' as are mule deers and I think even black bears. My preference is Elk, Moose, Black Bear and then Mule Deer coming in quite last. In any event he'd better come home with something or I'll be skinning HIM for supper!

We've also been reading up on 'U-Slaughter' which is a method in which we the purchaser assist the rancher or farmer in the slaughtering of our own chickens (or other such meat.) The trouble with our resources is that the books are mainly American and thus their laws differ quite widely. Much of what is entailed is that we purchase the animals live and then assist in the slaughter and processing for a slightly lesser cost. Still have some investigating to do. Will keep you posted.

Last year we purchased 18 birds from a local grocer in Port McNeill. Three whole birds were put in a bag and the bags were on special for the weekly deal. Nick spoke to the Meat Department Manager and we put in an order for 6 bags. It being our first go it took Nick and I three hours (6 'man' hours total) to process the chickens and vacuum pack them. Nick cut them up, sorted the cuts on cookie sheets and I packaged them into portions with our vacuum sealer. We even made some homemade (and gluten free) teriyaki sauce and bbq sauce for marinades. In the end we basically were purchasing boneless skinless chicken breasts for less than $2.99 per pound as opposed to the near $8.99 per pound from the store. For such a small amount of time it seems worth it. Especially since now we should be able to shorten the processing time. What we're looking for is a rancher/farmer who would let Nick assist in the slaughter, which includes the killing, evicerating and plucking of the birds. We'd then take the whole fresh birds home and once the kids were asleep start our own processing.
I can imagine many an eyebrow is raised reading this, but we don't mind doing it for the savings, the knowledge and the connection to our food. And yes once the kids are older we definitely plan on involving them. Our belief is that one should know where their food comes from or at the very least understand that the chicken on one's plate was once a leaving breathing creature, but I digress...

After picking up our pig, we hit Walmart on the way home. The usual diapers, wipes, formula, etc. But I also had the fun of helping Ruby pick out her new backpack, pencil case, lunch box and new t shirt for preschool which starts in a few short weeks! She was SO excited we went home and she packed it full or Lord knows what, then proudly came into show me and announce, "I'm ready! Let's go to school now Mum." Too cute!

I unpacked the truck; pig, diapers, wipes etc and put it in the garage. Then I took the kids out of the truck and put them into the play room which is slightly cooler than the rest of the house. Once they were occupied I set about putting the pork into the freezer. We have several different sized hams, chops, ribs, steaks, bacon, breakfast sausages, sausage patties etc all nicely wrapped in brown butchers paper.

Then I removed several plastic bags from the boxes, one was of some fat for rendering, one of trim (more fat), then came the heart and tongue, ham hock, two feet and finally half a snout and one ear. Gives new meaning to the phrase, " the only thing you can't eat is the 'oink.'".... Nick has in his magnificent and ever growing library on 'self sufficiency' a butchers book cheekily entitled, "The Odd Bits."  I have to say that I am a little bit intrigued. 'Excited' is too strong a word, but 'intrigued' seems to convey my openness to at least trying some of the lesser eaten parts. Some of the recipes in the book sound absolutely delicious even if we're talking about pigs feet.... In any event we shall see and I will blog about it~ just don't tell Nick :)

It was so STINKING hot, the kids and I were melting. Elias has had his molars bugging him and at 5 to 5 when we walked in the door, I had NO idea what I was making for dinner. So I made PBJ's with some apples and yogurt. I felt like a terrible mother but the kids didn't seem to complain!

I've been trying to teach the kids to put themselves to sleep, instead of the near hour long ridiculousness that has been going on for months. By and large it has been working and I've been a stickler for 7:30 as bed time. That way a half hour of fussing (ok screaming bloody murder) means they should both be asleep for 8pm and I can still have some semblence of a life once they're asleep.

Thursday morning we were up and at 'em for our first playdate!!!!!! We met Hannah 3, and Dylan 10 months at Ruby's dance class. Their Mum Kim and I have hit it off and so we set up a play date. We arrived at 9:30 am and time FLEW while all the kids were having such fun, they girls got on IMMEDIATELY! It was wonderful to have a friend to talk to! So we are reciprocating this Monday morning... I have tomorrow to get the house respectable after a week without Nick to help me!

Friday was not the greatest day, we stayed home so I could put some laundry away and it was again so hot the house was a sauna. I was quite fatigued by it, so was Eli. Caught myself cat napping several times and had to really push myself to get up off the couch which rarely happens. Ruby wouldn't eat anything so I just tried to keep up with liquids. She ended up being rather bored despite my best efforts and spent more time in trouble for purposely squishing, smacking and generally beating up her brother. I was happy when the day was over and Nick came home at 10 pm! Poor guy he'd worked 15 hours of OT in one week!

Saturday we packed up the kids and headed to Parksville. One of Nick's favourite cousins is Candice. Born just 10 days apart the two were quite fond of each other growing up. Candice met and married her Australian husband at just 19 and has lived in Tasmania ever since. She has two lovely children Evelyn 10 and Malakai 8.  Candice has travelled up to spend 4 months here on the island before returning home, packing up (again) and moving the family to Boston for a one year posting. (Her hubby Paul is interestingly employed by the Australian military as a food scientist) The last time we saw Candice is when she was here for the summer 3 years prior and I was largely pregnant with Ruby. She invited us to spend the day at Beach Acres in Parksville (an hour south) where Candice's family owns a cabin.

We got the kids ready, packed up bathing suits, diapers, towels, bottles, water, snacks, blah blah blah. Nick goes to pack up the truck... can't find his keys... I had them last.... hmmmm....Truck is actually unlocked so I reach in to the diaper bag and pull out my own keys to use. Nick is 'oh so impressed' that I used his keys because I 'misplaced' my own keys and then subsequently 'misplaced' his keys, only to find the original keys while his remain 'misplaced.' Ahem.

 Insert key into ignition and CLICK! Nothing happens. Nick standing by the passenger door is again 'oh so amused' that I'd left the Sirius radio on for three days and now the battery is dead. I smiled and fluttered my eye lashes. It had no effect.

He took off his sunglasses, narrowed his eyes and with clenched teeth said, "New RULE! If you 'misplace' your own keys you are NOT to use mine, you simply forfeit the priviledge of driving. SECONDLY, go to the neighbours and ask for a jump."

I laughed, attempting to make the situation lighter but he really wasn't amused. So I sauntered over to the neighbours and she came to rescue us, kids in tow. Quick jump and we were off and running. I told Nick we'd swing by the gas station and I'd buy him a coffee to make up for it.

Got to the gas station, I told him to look in my purse for change... he told me not to turn off the truck....I stuck my tongue out at him while he rooted round in the bottom of my purse.... I didn't have any change.... he reached into his own pocket and sighed.... I kept the truck running..... he returned and handed me a rather large coffee through the window, keeping the smaller coffee for himself.... I raised an eyebrow.... he climbed in, placed the small cup in the holder, put on his seat belt and shut his eyes as he explained that before he'd realize what he'd done he'd poured the cream into the larger cup, there by thoroughly and completely ruining his morning.

And I ~ being the dutiful, loving and demure wife that I always am ~ BURST. OUT. LAUGHING!

Infact, I laughed so hard I couldn't drive, there were tears in my eyes!!! I'm STILL chuckling! Ppor guy was SO tired he didn't even have the energy to laugh at himself, which is highly unlike him!

Along the highway, Ruby kicked off her flip flops. Desparate to get them back on she asked Nick in the passenger seat to reach them. He turned around but could only reach one, telling her she'd have to wait until we stopped to get the other one.

In her most grown up voice she responded with, "Well then Daddy, put down your coffee and try again."

THEN he laughed! (And managed to reach the other shoe!)

We spent the first part of the afternoon at the beach. Nick took Gypsy, Malakai and Evelyn to swim in the ocean. With the tide out it is nearly a kilometre walk! Eli and I spent a bit of time wading in the tidal pools but he just kept eating sand so eventually I packed up the buggy and started heading out to meet our party. Back at the cabin we had some lunch, Nick and Eli had a nap, Ruby followed Evelyn around like a little puppy dog! We swam in the pool, hung out and BBQ'd some turkey burgers. I bathed up the kids, put them in their jammies and had a lovely drive home chatting about everything and nothing. The day had been overcast and much cooler, so the house was pleasant to sleep in.

It is lovely to see Candice, she and I have always gotten on well. We are planning perhaps to visit them in Boston next year. Nick might just have enough Aero plan points that we could all fly for free. Boston is only 5 hours by train to NYC. I have half a mind to plan a two week trip, the first week with Candice et al in Boston and then the 8 of us travelling to NYC for a week of exploring! We shall see!

Here are some pics!

These are some older ones from earlier in the summer, they were taken on Nick's camera so I didn't realize they even existed!

Washing our bounty in the sprinkler.

I caught him alone on the veranda, quite please with himself at being able to over turn this table all on his own. Cheeky bugger!

Elias and the baby calf at the Filberg Petting Zoo.

Aunty Chantelle and 'Little' Evelyn.

We all enjoyed petting the piggies, and the rabbits!

Elias being a naughty stinker~!

Ugg, sand.

Ruby and 'Big' Evelyn!

Aunty Candy and Eli!

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