etymology- French word means- ménagerie. From Middle French, management of a household or farm, from menage.
adapted from Merriam-webster

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


NorthWind Menagerie blog is moving to WordPress. You can find it here.
I do hope to make some minor changes. The main one being posting a little more regularly. I'm still working some things out with the format, so if you run over there I'd love to hear any suggestions you have. Neo-luddite that I am it takes time for me to figure this stuff out.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A formula for figuring out what buying a whole pig by hanging weight may cost you. Or What happens to my brain at the end of the school week.

The pig has returned in little white packages and they are at their best. We sold one pig, so we only have one to eat. We ate some bacon. We ate some pork chops, and they were good, ‘strornary good. It is much more flavorful than what I’ve been occasionally buying at the warehouse store, (we all know what that’s code for) and much better than the ‘pork’ chop I bought on sale (cheap) at the grocery store last year. (It was bear, unless it was dog. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know.) But the big question is… “Was it cheaper?” Just because you produce food yourself it isn’t free, and in this economic climate, it isn’t cheaper either. It’s a little strange, but because of how we raise animals now and the cheap factory farming practices, you really can’t raise meat for less than you can buy it. Here are the un-entertaining facts for those of you who are considering purchasing or raising a pig.

If this sounds like math… it is, kinda sorta in a nerdy house wife way.

It cost us X to raise out the pig. The cut and wrap (Y) was an additional 68% of that number or X. That little bit of information is pretty much useless if you are planning on purchasing a hog from someone else, because presumably they are hoping to make a profit. The butchering and the cut and wrap was 41% of the total project. Let's add X and Y together and call it P, for project, or for pig, or for psycho nerdy housewife. Then in that case Y= .4P The actual bring home weight of the beast was 70% of the hanging weight. Therefore, you should be able to develop a ball park number when you choose a hog to purchase. Basically, increase the price per pound of hanging weight by 70% to 75%. Let's call ball park price B and hanging weight H. In that case (B= .7H+ H) The fatness or leanness of the beast will mess with the equation but it should give you a general idea. Let's call general idea G and make up some more equations, just for fun, like a ninth grade Algebra book. Sometimes pigs are sold by the whole beast by people like us who have no clue of what they're doing. You could do all sorts of fun equations and have no idea of what it will actually cost you, if you want.

My actual per pound number ended up being a little more expensive (by a little) than buying cheap cuts on sale or at the warehouse store, but cheaper (by a lot) than buying the same quality and cuts of meat at the grocery store.

Things outside the realm of Mathematical equations.

Having meat in the freezer helps me to plan menus more effectively, and means fewer, “I have no idea what’s for dinner let’s have daddy grab a pizza” nights. (You all have these too. It’s not just me, right??? Tell me I’m not alone.)

Knowing that our meat is not full of antibiotics is something that weighs into the equation for me. The pork industry has a history of overusing antibiotics, which stinks, because pork chops are the ultimate home fast food. Anything that gets to the table in under 15 minutes is a rock star in my kitchen.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


It is good to know where your food comes from, although it is not always appetizing, thus it is with pigs. I want my children to be familiar with our food sources and the amount of work it can be to produce it. Hopefully it will make them more aware, more grateful and more confident. Therefore, the chickens, goats, garden and this summer, pigs.

Lessons learned about pigs.

  1. Pigs bite. Really truly, I have been bitten by a pig. She just reached up and bit me on the back of the leg as if she was a dog. The bruise was a black, blue and purple beauty. I went to some function or another with my husband that week and it was SOO tempting to dress up all elegantly in a black skirt and say (like anyone would ask) “Yup, that’s where I got done bit by a hawg.”
  2. Pigs stink. Those books that say they don’t are lying. I wouldn’t enclosure raise pigs again, if we do pigs again it will be on pasture. Otherwise, we will support some real farmer who has the space to pasture raise.
  3. Pigs eat a lot. We really needed to figure out how to store food by the ton and buy it once from a granary. It would be both cheaper and easier. When we get the meat back, I’ll run the numbers. That’ll be fun…not.
  4. Some pigs eat more than others. There was a distinct size difference between the two pigs while they were sharing a feed pan. Marcus added another pan and their final hanging weights were only 4-lbs apart.
  5. We would also start our project earlier in the year. Packing a five gallon bucket of water over ice is its own winter sport.

Pigs were a splendid first meat project. No one got attached to them. After they bit me, they lost their names and became known as the daughters of Beelzebub.

The butcher came Wednesday, shot the pigs and drove away with the carcasses. It took him about 25 minutes from the time he pulled the driveway until the time he left. None of us chose to watch them die. Tales of pig butchering usually involve the pigs squealing, nary a thing did we hear. The most awareness of the animals going to die was the day or two before the butcher was scheduled to come. They were prepared “Your days are numbered and their number is___” I would intone to them each morning I fed them. We weren’t exactly friends after I got hawg bit. Not even the child who once burst into tears at the table due sheer carnivore guilt has shed a single tear, there has only been anticipation for the return of the pig in little white packages. Wherein, I shall have the last bite.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Boston and Bacon

April to August has passed in a blur; will someone please slow down the train? I traded my goats babies for cold hard cash and have been drowning my guilt in glass after glass of rich raw goat milk. The doeling went to her mother's previous owner and the boys found new homes as weed eaters. Here’s hoping for a better boy to girl ratio next year. It might be better to dam raise the boys next year. Goat roast would be a hurdle, goat roast that we bottle fed might be an insurmountable hurdle.

Elora has been fascinated by pigs for a couple years. We admit to encouraging it. If your daughter asks you for a pig will you give her a Barbie? It's hard to say no when your child's desires are in accordance to your own. (I think there is a spiritual lesson there...)

The pigs are named Boston and Bacon, the theory is that if we keep reminding ourselves of the pig's purpose in life eating them won't be too traumatic. Truly it would be best to not endow them with names- they are quite personable- and names only add more projected personality. This is our first project of deliberately planned meat. More on this later, when my brain is working better.