Tag Archives: homesteading

the meat we eat

This is a post I have been mulling over for months now.  As we try to define our homesteading and lifestyle goals the topic of raising our own meat has been at the forefront of our minds.  Do we want to raise our own meat?  Do I want to slaughter the animals we have fed, tended to, and pet ?  If we do decide to raise our own meat do we want to butcher them ourselves or take them to a slaughterhouse?  If I am so uncomfortable with what meat is then should I perhaps give it up altogether?

 I love having and tending to animals.   There is something so sweetly quiet about the walk to the chicken coop; everything silenced by the freshly fallen snow; the dog racing to the coop and back again in an effort to hasten my pace; the cooing and clucking they welcome me with.  I would love to reconnect with the natural rhythm of animals and seasons.  I dream of  having a couple sheep for wool to spin, bees for honey and good conversation, a Flemish Giant rabbit and a goat for a few good laughs, more chickens for eggs and meat, and and cow for milk.  It all sounds romantic and homey when I say it like that doesn’t it?  But the reality is much more involved, complicated, and, for me, tortured.  The biggest thing being that a milk cow needs to have a calf each year in order to produce milk.  Do we sell or eat the sweet calf?  Romance gone.

I was raised in a family of lifelong responsible and respectable farmers and hunters and, yet, I have always struggled with eating meat.  Always.  I feel guilty when I question whether or not we should be entitled to eat meat or not as it puts my father’s livelihood into question and that makes me uncomfortable.  Even still, I can never quite disconnect from the fact that this beautiful creature died so I could eat it.  I imagine their fear and wonder what went through their minds in that last moment.  I wonder if their family misses them.  We dabbled in vegetarianism for about 9 months, but we did it in an unhealthy and unsustainable way.  We were unprepared as we had been raised eating meat at nearly every meal.

That being said, I don’t want to give up meat again.  I just don’t.  I do, however want to eat meat that was given room to roam, the ability to form natural bonds with other animals and the humans who cared for them.  In the words of Michael Pollan “…meat that had a really good life and one bad day…”.

We have gradually and permanently cut out conventionally raised meat and buy our organic, grass fed beef and pork from my father and step-mom’s farm.  When we run out, we simply eat meatless meals until we can get a visit in to their farm again.  We don’t have an affordable source for chicken so we don’t eat it.

So begins the conversation of starting into chickens for meat.  This would mean buying  a larger number of mixed sex day old chicks, raise them, and then either take the roosters to the butcher, or do the butchering ourselves.  I would be more comfortable with sending them away for processing, but is it about me or about the chickens?  Can I justify the stressful trip to a scary new place so that I feel better?  I eat meat and, therefore, am responsible for the death of an animal whether it is by my hands or someone else’s hands.

We recently were present when our friend Andrew slaughtered one of their own pigs.  For some reason it sounds more brutal when you say you slaughter your own animals, but their pig had a sweet little life and had no idea what her day would hold.  There was no stressful loading into a trailer, long trip to the butcher, unloading in unfamiliar surroundings nor an anxious wait.  She followed Andrew and the bucket of food up the hill where she began gobbling her feed and with a single shot  she left this world peacefully and quickly.

I have not yet made up my mind with regards to who will be doing the processing, but we have decided to take the plunge and raise some chickens for meat.  Running an old age home for old laying hens isn’t sustainable.  Rather than dying  and having the tough meat going to waste they will feed our family and revive the respect, connection, and reality of eating meat.  It is not a decision I have taken lightly nor is it one I am entirely comfortable with, but I am willing to push my own boundaries for the sake of learning and reconnecting.  This isn’t a topic most people are not comfortable with, but if you’re eating meat and have no intention of stopping, it is time to get comfortable with where it comes from.

Have you struggled with these same feelings?  What was your solution?  Is this a path you’re heading down yourself?  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so please feel free to share in the comments.

A friend shared a really great video with a very graphic, very respectful how to video.  It is two parts so make sure you find both if you want more after the first.  She is very sweet and makes the process seem like a doable process of life as a homesteader.

go gently + be wonderful


Posted in ellenberger organic farm, frugal living, homesteading, life | Also tagged , , , , 28 Comments

our daily bread

Recently we decided to try a wheat free diet in hopes that it would solve a multitude of low-grade health issues within our lives.  It was fine; a wee bit expensive, but fine.  Gluten free all purpose flour with added xanthan gum worked like magic in most of my tried and true recipes like cookies, tea biscuits, and pizza dough.  I liked how if pushed me further into making more of our food from scratch and kept us out of the processed foods we can tend to fall back on.

All that being said, neither of us noticed any great changes and I mourned that I would never eat homemade bread again.  There is just something so womanly and anciently delightful about making your own bread.  The smell must be embedded in our genes as I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t swoon at the scent of yeast and sweetness.  It makes me think of my Gramma’s hands, shiny with butter, kneading dough and tearing little bits off for me to eat.  Like hanging clothes to dry on the line or the heat of a woodstove, there is something so deliciously comforting about bread and all that it requires from you and generously gives back.

Now, I love and respect a good loaf of bread, but until recently I had been incapable of making one.  I can make a mean sweet dough for dinner rolls, but all of my attempts have resulted in dense, under-cooked bricks of blech.  A couple of weeks ago, I was able to get some pointers from a dear friend as I watched her make her own bread.  The next day I did as she had done and what do you know, I had made a decent, fully cooked loaf of bread!  Last night I tried another recipe and it turned out even nicer; still not perfect, but good.

Two of the most valuable things I learned was 1.) to use my beloved KitchenAid mixer {named Gretel} and leave it mixing for way longer than I would have thought and 2.) use a meat thermometer poked through the bottom when I am tempted to take it out to ensure the core temperature is at least 200 degrees.  If not put it back in.

I will persevere + perfect.

Bread changes with the seasons and temperatures; it reacts to humidity and even the slightest jar; it absorbs moods and tensions; and like the rings of a tree, tells a story.  Every loaf must contain the love of a good woman {or man} to be worth eating.

Basic Bread Recipe from Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin

2 cups milk

3 tbsp butter (divided)

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp salt

2 packages of dry yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm water

6-6 1/4 cups flour (I used white, but will be playing with spelt and others in the future)

1.) Heat milk.  Stir in 1 tbsp of butter plus sugar and salt.  Stir until dissolved.

2.) Stir yeast into warm water in main mixer bowl.  Let proof for 5 minutes.

3.) Add milk mixture to yeast mixture.  Beat in flour 1 cup at a time.

(here it says to turn out and knead by hand, but I just left the mixer going until it looked smooth and elastic)

4.) Place in a greased bowl and turn so its greased on on all sides.  Cover.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

5.) Punch down and knead once more breifly.

6.) Divide and shape into two loaves.  Place in two well-greased loaf pans.  Cover.  Let rise once more.

7.) Preheat oven to 400*F.

8.) When loaves have doubled in size, slash tops two or three places.  Melt remaining butter and brush half of it onto the loaves.

(I skipped the above step)

9.) Bake for 40 minutes (use the meat thermometer if you’re unsure/inexperienced).  When done brush with remaining butter

10.) remove from pans and let cool on a rack.

{Makes two large loaves}

go gently + be wonderful


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Posted in frugal living, homesteading, recipes, tutorials + DIY | Also tagged , , 14 Comments

Guest Blogger – Andrew von Zuben

It is true that each of us considers the meaning of life. For some, it is simple introspection. For others, a lifelong quest.

Underlying our desire for meaning is something ancient. Something instinctual. The foundation upon which we create meaning and purpose in our daily lives. In this technological age meaning begs for purpose. But it is survival that drives us to continue being. It is survival that must be our meaning and purpose.

Living comfortable lives in the developed world, we have lost the passion that witnesses survival. Ours is virtually assured. Drive and focus are turned towards gathering wealth, and survival is marginalized into varying degrees of separation. Yet, the fragility of our eminent survival remains.

There are many dynamics eroding the future of our survival. Most insidious of all is the complacency that has deprived us of the ingenuity of our ancestors. We may lose what we need to continue surviving.

So you believe that the system is stable and that government will ensure the perpetuation of our society as we know it. You believe continuing economic growth will reward us and bring the developing world out of poverty. And so faith supports us.

Thus far, we have ignored the signs of warning. How great of a calamity do we need to awake us from a stupor of prosperity?

What if there is no defining moment of change? A gradual descent into oblivion.

Not with a bang but a whimper

Survival as an individual is a relatively simple matter of superiority. Survival as a species is a momentous obligation that we owe to the depths of our very Being. Transcending the need of the individual is the selfless action required to achieve generations. To fulfill the need to survive.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs helps us understand how to most efficiently order our priorities. Water, food, and shelter. Our most primal requirements must be met first, without which we will perish. These are needs most readily met in this society. Highly organized, bureaucratically and politically controlled. Such a large scale that the individual recedes from relevance. Each of us may ask what role we assume in contributing to civilized life. So many will discover that their hard work drives the lesser needs that have taken prominence in a well heeled lifestyle.

There are many risks associated with becoming disenfranchised from our own survival. Among them is the risk that the great organization will fail in the face of a change too rapid to which to adapt.

The greater is the risk that we will lose that which fulfills us most profoundly. The risk that we will fail to complete our selves in this life.

The risk that we will forget what it means to survive.

With my family, I am challenging a lifestyle that will engage us in the basic skills that humans need in order to survive in a civil and sustainable way. In some cases it is a matter of looking to our ancestry for forgotten arts and holding on to knowledge that has borne us through millennia. In other ways we will strive for new ingenuity looking forward, nurturing an innate adaptability.

I will share some of our experiences in the hope that we may inspire you to choose a life that provides greater self-actualization. And there is nothing more inspiring than the stewardship of your own survival.



 Andrew lives on 25 acres just outside of Gooderham, Ontario with his wife Kira and their 3 children; Auren 4, Fern 2, and Meer 1 month.  They started with an un-winterized cottage and have begun  construction  of their family farm and educational center amidst the trees.  They keep company with 50-odd chickens and recently raised 6 pigs who graciously cleared some land and will feed many families this winter.  If you would like to contact him directly you may do so at avonzuben{at}gmail{dot}com.  This article was first published in the Gooderham Newsletter.

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