4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses

4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses
“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.” ~Langston Hughes *pictured: '4Shoes Bookends'

Monday, 30 January 2017

Cowboy Butterflies

"People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude." ~John C. Maxwell

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." ~Maya Angelou 

"For success, attitude is equally as important as ability." ~Walter Scott

"The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm. " ~Aldous Huxley 

Friday, 27 January 2017

WITWIK on W5

Saturday night, 7pm central standard time, WITWIK will be featured on the well-respected, multi-award winning, hard news show, W5. Pray God, let it be helpful, & let Kaydance come home. Please, watch W5 on Saturday night.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Oh Shit Moment

My rant fallout post (01/23/17) had a couple of comments about Jeremie from Purolator - Readers wanting to know what went down. I had written the actual rant 01/19/17 & comments are open to everyone*, so just read it, I first thought. 
Checking on it, I immediately saw the problem; the comments are gone, along with the entire rant... 
I had inadvertently deleted the post myself. 
Oh Shit.
I blame sleep deprivation (which is a whole separate post). 
If you missed my Purolator rant, don't worry; just imagine a couple of paragraphs, meaty with curses & frustration, & you'll have the gist... my usual ranting style. 
I posted the rant before supper about 5:30pm on Thursday... Jeremie commented on Friday @ 8:20am.
WHAT!?
Wow, you guys. Just. Wow. If all customer service were so good, no one would have grounds to complain!

Mr Shoes & I sure got a giggle out of it though; we wondered how on earth(!) my little rant had come to Jeremie's attention in the first place? Of all the words thrown out into the web on any given day, it seemed incredulous to us that my insignificant little farm blog jumped off the www into Jeremie's face with only a single mention of the company name! 
Jeremie is On. his. Game. 
Purolator, are you listening?
Jeremie deserves a pay raise, straight up.
Shout out to Jeremie (cuz I know you're listening) - Thanks man.


"Hi Mrs Shoes,
I'm sorry to hear about your experience. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience and frustration this may have caused. Purolator is a Canadian company with 2 contact centers located in Canada. If possible, please email us the phone number you contacted us from, as well as the dates and times, to customer.care@purolator.com and we will review the calls with the agents you spoke to. Please don't hesitate to contact us there if you have any other questions or concerns. 
Thank you, 
Jeremie 
Social Media Coordinator/Customer Care Team, Purolator Inc."

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Rant FallOut

So Holy Ballz, I can hardly believe it, but you can see for yourself that SocialMediaGuy Jeremie from Purolator left a comment on my Thursday rant! How a tiny little rant on a virtually unheard of blog managed to come to his attention, I do not know. Suffice to say, if everyone else at Purolator was at the same level of game as Jeremie, the customer would be satisfied every time. I acknowledge that I was wrong in assuming that I had reached an outsourced call center (because their 3 call centers actually are here in Canada), & Slipper did receive her gift Monday.
I will say again though that, when I have need to speak to a representative of any company, I expect that the company should staff their phones with people who can be clearly understood by the caller. It doesn't make me a bigot to believe that customer service representatives ought to have clear speaking voices & that accents (charming as they may be) should be light enough that any customer can easily understand. 
Now, that particular rant is in the rear view for me, moving on...

Thank you to anyone who shared the WITWIK story, every share is important & any share could be the one that leads to Kaydance coming home. A big Thank You! & congratulations to Barb G. who was able to deliver 8 separate shares through her social media connections (even though she doesn't blog). Barb is the big winner of the oven mitts, the pile o' piggies, the pigs fly duck tape, & the pig colouring book. 

Just a note to Commenters: 
I always feel that, if you took the time to leave a comment on 4Shoes Life, you deserve the courtesy of my reply. However, Blogger has not been allowing me to make replies or even comments here the last couple of weeks. Similarly, I have not been able to comment on other blogspot blogs. Why, I'm not techie enough to know, nor do I understand what I can do to fix it. If anyone can give me a clue, please do so in the Comments section (irony not lost on me).
Just know that I do read every comment, & as soon as I can figure out how to get back on the comment train, I will be back on board. Apologies to anyone who might be feeling ignored (like maybe Jeremie); I value all who stop by to visit &, especially, my faithful few readers who inspire me to keep on blogging. Thank you so much for reading & supporting 4Shoes Life. 

Feb 6/17: P.S. The rant post is still up on my Google feed for anyone who really wants to wade through the cursing & gnashing of teeth. Thanks to Vickie from Vickie's Garden for the heads up!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Pork# Tally

I thought that some of you may be interested in the final
"Ham" ~ Link to Artist, Luke Chuen
tasks & pound count in our hog butchering adventure
This afternoon I am going to the house of our frutcher (friend-butcher, & now, suddenly, 'frutcher' is a word), where we will retrieve our bacon from his smokehouse, cut it into slices & wrap it into 200 gram packages. 
I have turned the hams in the brine a final time & tonight I will water them off. You don't know what this means, to water them off? Neither did I before this experience. The brining process takes a lot of time & patience - to cure properly, the salt must penetrate each piece of meat all the way to its' core. If the salt does not get all the way through the meat, then when you slice into the pinkness of your lovely baked ham, there will be a grey-brown circle in the middle where the brine never reached. 
The brining process is what makes the difference between a ham & an ordinary cut of pork roast (also between bacon & ordinary fried pork. Trust me, this I know firsthand, courtesy of last year's 'professionals').
Back to watering off... Once the brine has penetrated completely, the meat will be too salty. 
"WTH?", you may be thinking, "you just put that salt IN there!" 
Balance is the objective, & that balance is achieved by now leaching the excess salt back out of the brined meat
Tonight I will transfer the hams out of the brine solution into a clean plastic tray & set the whole works into the bathtub, where it will be filled with cold water so that the hams stay submerged. I'll then set the tap to run a constant little stream into the tray, which will cause an exchange of cold water, essentially 'rinsing' some of the salt back out of the brined meat & (fingers crossed) striking that proper balance before the hams go into the smokehouse tomorrow morning.
Once the hams have been smoked, we will retrieve & wrap them up & the job of butchering the hogs of 2016 will finally be done.
Now for the final tallys:
88lbs hams & bacon
47lbs ground pork
26lbs hocks 
21lbs ribs
40lbs chops
9lbs stew meat
36lbs butt roasts
9lbs shoulder roasts
21lbs sirloin roasts
Totalling: 297lbs of MEAT!!!! (*happy, HAPPY dance*)
Costs 2016:
$70 purchase price of weaner pigs
$220 feed 
$200 frutcher fee
$490 total outlay 
price per pound... 
$1.65
But wait! I haven't even talked about the extras that we were able to keep that saved us even more money (the 'professionals' claimed that regulations prevented any of these bits from being returned to us at all). So how much was all of that worth? 
Let's see:

  • 25lbs raw fat rendered down to 16lbs  of lard: grocery price $2.50/lb = $40,  
  • + Idontknowhowmanylbs of bones which I cooked off & reduced down to 12 litres of rich, concentrated stock: grocery price $3./lt = $36, 
  • + dog treats of feet, ears, tails: petstore price for tails & ears $3/per = $18, grocery store price $4.25/foot = $34. 
  • We'll just forget about the 6ish lbs of heart that the Saint ate fresh, & probably still beating.... Sorry, but this shit is real life, & not always pretty.
  • Total: $128.
$490 outlay, subtract
$128 saved on extras  
$362 divided by 297lbs  
pork of 2016, final price per pound...
$1.22 BaBAMM!!

For contrast purposes, & perhaps someone else may save themselves trouble by my admission of the following abuse of our bank account... 
Costs 2015:
$340 purchase price of young pigs (older than weaners) 
$80 gas 
$220 feed
$80 gas 
$850 'professional' fees 
$1570 total outlay (for 200 total lbs meat picked up)
pork of 2015, final price per pound...
$7.85  (OMFG!
No. I'm bloody gobsmacked here. Really. O.M.F.G.
Holy shite y'alls, I legit near about had a heart attack, just now, from the 2015 numbers, which I purposely did not tally up before because I already knew damn well that I might  seriously consider green-lighting those f*ing so-called 'professionals'... 

But, asshole-fees aside, we made other expensive mistakes our first time around:
  • We relied on advice from the wrong people.
  • We paid way too much for pigs initially (because we didn't have a proper source connection).
  • We incurred $160 gas fees (pigs were 1+ hours SE, 'professionals' were 1+ hours SW. Total travel time = 6+ hours).
Even adjusting the initial price of pigs to the same as what we paid this year ($1.69/lb live weight), & leaving gas out of the equation altogether, 2015 costs still work out to a staggering $5.70 per pound. 
Extrapolating any further would be straight-up risking a stroke or what's left of my sanity....
Suffice to say, while we did make costly mistakes, in the end we gained priceless experience. Most important, we made valuable connections & learned new skills that accomplish the original goal of raising our own stock & enjoying a better quality product for an economical price. 
And that price is $1.22 a pound. (*drop mic)


Friday, 13 January 2017

Crackles

In low-German, we call this 'grievel' or 'grieven'; in English we say 'crackles'.
Mr Shoes was brought up a Mennonite; in the family home they grew up speaking low-German (high-German language was reserved for formalities, solemn occasions, & for keeping secrets from nosey children). Over the years, the family moved from one place to the other, & often they were the only Mennonite family in an area. English started creeping into the family vernacular &, by the time I came onto the scene, even Mr Shoes' Mama spoke English in the home (liberally peppered with low-German, of course, or high when it was something she wanted to say only to Papa). 

The first time I asked for a translation, Papa's ears turned red & he chuckled... As I had walked away I had heard him say to Mr Shoes, "Schmuachabein", which translates to, "Nice legs". Then my ears turned red...

As someone who grew up with absolutely no teaching about group culture or family heritage, I really didn't have an identity other than simply 'white Canadian'. I was curious & willing to learn their ways, to say nothing of being a young woman eager to be accepted & loved by her in-law family. Without any particular discussion or decision to do so, we incorporated many of the Mennonite ways & traditions into our family. I'm very glad that we did, because I think it's been a gift to our children to know their family background & the richness of the history that is their birthright. 

Grievel, or crackles, is a Mennonite tradition & a fond breakfast treat, though one that a person either likes or dislikes (that's me, standing here by myself in the dislike category). Grievel is, essentially, the little bits of meat & meat jelly that are the by-products of rendering raw fat. 

The other day, after rendering for many hours, I strained the liquid fat through a fine wire sieve (but you could use cheesecloth), & then pressed the crackles firmly to give up as much liquid as possible (which solidifies into precious, snowy white lard). Whatever solids are left after pressing the oil is the crackles. 

The crackles themselves still have a fair amount of fat per serving, "but not enough to make a guy's heart explode, so get on with it, Woman!", (as said by Mr Shoes). 

For this next part, a small wire sieve is a handy serving tool... 
Scoop out approximately 1/2 a cup of grievel into a small saucepan & heat gently until the lard turns back to fat & the crackles are hot through. Using your little wire sieve, scoop up the crackles, then press the back of a spoon firmly into the scoop to press off as much liquid fat as desired. 
A usual serving would be 2 pressed scoops of crackles served alongside 1-2 slices of hardy grain bread (such as rye or pumpernickle). Spoon the crackles onto bites of bread, then use the crust to mop up any leavings. This is important in Mennonite culture... masters of 'the clean plate club*'.

Personally, I never developed a taste for grievel - just too greasy for me to enjoy. Mr Shoes & Boot though? They were back & forth from my kitchen, ensuring that I would indeed be saving the crackles for them. And they're welcome to them, family tradition & all.  
*Obviously, incorporating Mennonite family traditions is important to Mr Shoes & I, & we (again, obvious) do care about the old ways & values such as using the resources we have (gardens & livestock), & not being wasteful of them. But, I checked out of the 'clean plate club' mentality a long time ago... because I believe that such  ridiculous pressure leads to people growing up to have all kinds of 'food issues'. 
We chose to raise our children to adhere only to 'food rules'  dictated by their own bodies; that is not to say that they ate a ton of candy & ice cream, but rather, that I offered an equal alternative if there was something they did not like (don't like beans? How about some mashed potatoes?) I'm happy to say that both of our grown children are good-looking, healthy, & fit, & (thankfully) free from any food or bullshit body image issues. 
And still never a bite need go to waste, though occasionally diverted to feed for pigs or for compost... & so the circle goes. 
This is what we chose. That said, I am not offering my opinion as parenting advice (today. Check back another day, you never know when I might be feeling more 'preachy'). 

Monday, 9 January 2017

Lard Ass

12.5 pounds of raw fat rendered out to roughly 16 cups of snowy white lard (or WhiteGold, as our butcher friend calls it) 
Believe it or not, rendering just half of the raw fat (that we harvested from the pigs) was an all day job... hand to God. You really have to babysit the fat as it heats slowly; lots of stirring involved. 
Done correctly, the end product is a very light golden oil that solidifies into pure white lard as it cools. 
Lard does not need refrigeration; I simply store it in my coldroom where the temperatures are fairly static all year round. 
Lard can be used in place of shortening anytime, whether you melt it before pan frying meat, work it into pie dough (lard makes the lightest, tastiest pie crust EVER!), or you can melt enough to shallow fry if you have a real abundance. 
I do not have an abundance of lard. 
Peanut gallery - hush yourselves.
But, thanks to raising our own pigs & to having inspirational mentors, I do have enough lard to gift away 2 or 3 small containers to 2 or 3 extra-special, chosen people who always have my back. 
I packaged & froze the other 12.5 pounds of raw fat to render at a later date. 
So, y'know, you may still have time to make it onto my list of extra-special, chosen people for next time around. 
But you'll have to work for it.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Freezer Camp

Not this kind of blanket...
 I'm afraid we have come late to the party (as the saying goes) when it comes to the pigs of 2016, in so far as we generally aim to have any stock raised as food harvested & into the freezer in October or surely by November. By October, it's generally cold enough to slaughter & hang without worrying about flies, but warm enough that the carcasses won't actually freeze. We're only 2 or 3 months behind schedule, NP.
 This years' porkers just needed a little longer in the pen to be ready to graduate to Freezer Camp. They were comfortable enough even though there have been some extreme temperatures; Mr Shoes sided the pig palace this year, so their little house was draft free. Boot even went out one cold day & sat in the palace with them; when he came in from chores, he proclaimed the palace to be a shelter that even he could spend a night inside. We did not take him up on his offer (could've been funny, but no), but we were happy to know for certain that Chops & Schnitzel spent even the coldest of nights snuggled up together inside the palace as warm as pigs in blankets.
Not these blankets either...

"The righteous man regards the life of his animal." ~Proverbs 12:10
 See, that's us, totes righteous. (eyebrows?) But for realz, when you know that you've done your very best by the animal, it is much easier to shepherd it along to serve as nourishment for your family.
 Tuesday morning was The Day... I won't go into details (to spare the squeamish), but suffice it to say that all went as planned & neither hog suffered at all. The worst part of the job was over in less than a second; then the real work began. Er, countdown to the real work, I mean.
Close enough...
The carcasses were dressed & hung from the tractor bucket (inside the shop where we can control the temperature) for the next 24 hours to allow the rigor mortis to pass from the flesh, leaving the final product much more tender.
 By 9:30 Wednesday morning we were knee deep into the amazing world of pork butchery... I say amazing because it was such a rewarding learning day for both Mr Shoes & I. This year we bought our pigs from a neighbour & friend who is an experienced butcher; when we bought the weaners, he & his good wife had agreed to teach us how to finish our own meat. 
 It was a long day indeed, but by 5:30 we were on our way home with so much wonderful cut & packaged meat! Roasts, tenderlions, pork chops, ribs, & some ground meat too. We also brought home 40 kilos (88 lbs) of hams & bacon that is brining as we speak. Every second day we will transfer the meat into a fresh container, pour the brine overtop & weight it down. This rearrangement allows every surface of each chunk of meat to be exposed to the brine so that it will soak evenly into the flesh. In 9 days, we will take the bacon back to our friend the butcher for smoking; the hams will go back to be smoked after 12 days.  

 Last year we hauled our pigs an hour away to a professional abatoire; unfortunately, we were very unhappy with the meat that we picked up from them 2 weeks later... which made us displeased to wonder if our pigs had even been treated well, because we believe that the meat from stressed or frightened animals will not be as good as meat from an animal who had an easy death & respectful handling.  
The shoulder steaks that we received from the "professionals" were larger than a dinner plate & the chops looked as though they came from a dinosaur! How, we wondered, was it possible that our 6 month old, gently raised pigs were bigger after being butchered than they were when we unloaded them? 
 Though tasty, unless braised for hours, every. single. cut. of meat was as tough as chewing on a piece of old leather. I blamed myself.... but how, all of a sudden, could I be doing something so wrong in my cooking methods that this meat we raised could possibly be so tough? I called the "professionals", who were absolutely no help at all. Furthermore, they did not even take my complaints seriously, which was an insult, as well as exceptionally poor customer service.
 Obviously (we realize now) the answer is that the meat we received back was from a much older, much larger animal than were the pigs that we delivered to them. Doing the figures, last year we received back only 2/3 of expected meat yield*, & we were also charged a ridiculous* amount! But, to give credit where it's due, they did make the best farmer sausage patties that we've ever tried; good job "pros", at least you got that bit right.
  
"Ham" ~ Link to Artist: Luke Chuen  


Why proceed again this year, some might ask. Because before we told about our all-around terrible experience with the "professionals", & certainly before we settled blame for such poor meat quality upon ourselves, we needed to try once more, doing things differently (different hog supplier, different breed of animal, kill-day at home, & different butcher). We swore that, if this years' meat was not substantially better, we would give up on raising pigs for the table altogether. So.... how was it?

 We arrived home so tired & with sore backs from bending over the cutting & packaging tables all day. We wanted nothing more than to sink into our chairs with cups of tea; but there was work yet to be done. W
e unpacked & set the meat to pre-freeze (to avoid overworking the freezer's motor by filling it with fresh meat), we started the brine & packaged the fat (to be rendered). 


Mr Shoes came in from chores with a brand new package of pork chops to judge. Cooking was the last thing that I felt like doing, but we just had to know! I seasoned the meat with only salt & pepper & set it under the broiler in the oven. Alongside of fluffy mashed spuds & green beans, I served the chops to my men & awaited the verdict. I saw smiles. I sat to join them &, with my first bite, I smiled too.      Tender! (imagine the sound of cherubs singing)   Delicious!    Glorious!!!

 And all the pigs in their heaven rejoiced also, to know that there will be happy hogs on the 4Shoes every year forevermore.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 *How ridiculous you may ask?  Well, our friend the butcher charged us what he deemed fair* for a days work + the smoking of the hams & bacon...  The bill we paid at the "professional butcher" was 8 1/2 times as much! & here's the laughable part - had the meat been good, we would have been repeat customers.

*We decided to wear our tuques just barely hanging onto the very back of our skulls & get all hipster about using as much of the animal as we could do, so... Aside from the meat, we also kept all the fat for rendering, all the bones (which I spent ALL day Friday boiling & straining & reducing to a rich stock for gravies or soups anytime), & the few bits of scrap went fresh to the dogs. Over the coming weeks, the dogs will also enjoy (look away quickly NOW if you're squeamish & cannot believe you have made it this far) the feet, the ears, hearts & livers, tail, & snout. Leaving only the hide, heads, & guts... which went out into the bush to feed the scavengers.

 *We decided to pay our friend double what he asked for, & we still feel that we got a bargain. We also feel very blessed for all that we learned from our friend & his dear wife, & thankful to have them pass on their knowledge.



Sunday, 1 January 2017

Feed Your Soul

"Alcohol is a diuretic (meaning it removes fluids from the body) so drinking too much can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is what causes many of the symptoms of a hangover." *source... Yeah, I'm just too lazy to look it up today
Much like drunkenness, there's no real cure for a hangover but time. If you can just sleep it off then you can skip most of the discomfort. Drink as much fluids as you can, pop a couple of tylenol & just fall back into bed. Eat when you get up, take a B12 & chill.
My own rowdy days are (mostly) in the past so no hangovers here, but I remember the days well enough to have some sympathy for those who did over-indulge last night (Slipper, Combat Boot - I'm looking at you & waggling my eyebrows).

Mr Shoes was working (essential services personnel don't get a holiday off unless it falls on their regular leave), so I was by my lonesome for new years eve, but I was too busy with my own rituals to be lonely.

Each December 31st, before the clock strikes midnight, I full-meal-deal clean my house... I'm talking spic & span, every little thing squared away. A relaxing shower follows the frenzy of cleaning, then fresh jammies. Every piece of garbage has to be outside the house before midnight as well; once it's all gathered I set it by the door, leaving one bag open a little in case I have a last minute toothpick or tissue. Just before 12 out it goes, & I feel a deep satisfaction.

It's not really about the cleaning & the garbage though, that is more just a tangible expression of my true intent. My ritual is more about cleaning my soul... if that makes sense to anyone but me. 

I wish to end each year by purging from my heart any anger or hard feelings that may have lingered, to rid myself of pain & sorrow, & to prepare myself to again welcome love from wherever & whomever it comes knocking. 
With fresh eyes every January 1st I do not see barriers, but only wondrous possibilities. My ritual re-energizes me so that I may greet the new year dismissing false limitations & believing in my ability to thrive. 

Some people are determined to carry their baggage forever; I may feel a little pity for them, but I cannot carry it with them. Maybe they fancy themselves martyrs, but to what cause I can't imagine.
I want to see all the ways that I can go - the peaceful country roads that I love, the winding paths that end up leading to nowhere, & the deer trails through the bush alike. 
I want to be unencumbered & free to choose whichever one pleases me... until it pleases me no longer, & then I just go in another direction. It may sound a little aimless & messy but, for me, all I wish to see is the wide open spaces, endless bounty, & beautiful horizons that feed my soul. 
 In 2017, Feed Your Soul, my Friends.
Feed your Soul.