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Friday, December 2, 2022

Best Food for Doomsday Prepping

By Tiffany Davis - December 02, 2022 at 06:00AM

Looking for the best food for doomsday prepping? If doomsday is coming, then you’re going to want to be prepared. That means stocking up on food that will last and food that won’t go bad and that will give you the nutrients you need to survive. You don’t need to have it all figured out...

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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Christmas on a Budget

By Tiffany Davis - November 26, 2022 at 05:00AM

Christmas is meant to be a magical time of year, but for families that are struggling financially, it can create a lot of stress. Not only do you have to think about buying gifts for everyone, but all of the holiday decorating, Christmas cards, along with parties you plan on hosting can quickly add to...

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Saturday, November 19, 2022

Last Minute Holiday Bargains for Stocking Up

By Tiffany Davis - November 19, 2022 at 07:00AM

Last minute holiday bargains seem to be everywhere this year! Stocking up and saving money tends to be easier around this time of year. Stores are competing for your hard-earned money, so that they can make top dollar. A good example of this is Aldi rolling back their Thanksgiving meal prices to 2019. Stores are...

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Friday, November 18, 2022

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Instant Pot Gumbo

By Tiffany Davis - November 17, 2022 at 12:00PM

Instant Pot Gumbo is a classic Cajun dish that has been around for centuries. It’s a hearty and filling stew that can be made with shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage, or any other protein you like. The best part is that it’s incredibly easy to make in the Instant Pot! What is gumbo? Gumbo is a...

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

10 Tips for Butchering at Home

By Jill Winger - November 15, 2022 at 11:13AM

Tips for Butchering at Home

Raising your own meat to provide food for your family is a truly rewarding experience…

More and more people are questioning where their food is coming from (which is awesome) and trying to be more self-sufficient by providing what they can themselves. This has included growing gardens, cooking from scratch, raising animals, and butchering at home.

We made the choice years ago to butcher our own meat animals whenever possible (we still get our grassfed beef butchered somewhere else since we don’t currently have space for that much beef at our homestead). We jumped in feet first (as I like to do) and learned what works best for us. I understand that not everyone can or wants to butcher their own meat, but for those interested, I have compiled a few tips to help you start butchering at home.

10 Tips For Butchering at Home

1. What Animals Can You Raise and Butcher at Home?

It may seem obvious, but the first thing you need to do is determine what animals you can raise and butcher at home. Not everyone has the space to keep large animals but there are a lot of different options for the smaller homestead as well. In this post about Raising Meat on a Small Homestead, we share lots of tips on some livestock options you can raise on a smaller homestead.

Note: Space isn’t the only thing that might be a problem when you are trying to add livestock to your homestead. You will want to make sure that you are allowed to raise your meat animals in your area. Learn more about which livestock to add to your homestead in this article.

2. Do Your Homework and Understand the Butchering Process

There are different ways to butcher at home depending on what animals you are planning to butcher. Poultry butchering has different steps than other small or large animal butchering. You will want to watch videos, and also read articles and books to help you understand the process.

Helpful Posts & Videos:

Home butchering can seem like an overwhelming task, but don’t let all the information stop you from taking action. The best way to learn how to butcher at home is to try it yourself. Many people start by understanding the basics and then figuring out a process that works best for their situation.

Tips for Butchering at Home

3. Use the Right Equipment for Home Butchering

The equipment you will need really depends on what you will be butchering at home. Butchering poultry is different than butchering large livestock such as lambs, pigs, or cows.

Poultry Butchering Equipment:

  • A Killing Cone
  • Buckets
  • A Water Source (to rinse workspace and birds)
  • Poultry Shears (to remove head)
  • A turkey fryer (to scald the birds and make plucking easier)
  • Easy-to-sanitize Tables/Surface
  • Freezer Packaging (we use heat shrink bags to reduce freezer burn and they give you a professional end result)
  • A Large Cooler Filled with Ice (to cool the birds before you bag them)
  • Plucking Machine (optional)

Butchering at Home

Large Animal Butchering Equipment:

  • An Easy to Sanitize Large Surface
  • Cool/Cold Place to Hang Animal
  • Gambrel (this is what you use to hang large animals)
  • Meat Saw
  • Cutting Boards
  • Freezer Packaging
  • Butcher Steel (check out Lehman’s for a great option)
  • Meat Hook (Optional)

One thing you will need no matter what you are butchering at home is a good set of sharp knives. You can buy butchering sets (Lehman’s has a great 10-Piece Game Processing Knife Set Butchering Supplies Kit) or individual knives based on the type of butchering you are doing. (For example, you won’t need a saw for poultry butchering)

4. Understand the Basic Anatomy for Butchering at Home

Understanding the basic anatomy of the animals you will be butchering will help you determine where certain cuts come from and help figure out where to cut to form smaller pieces. This is especially helpful with larger animals and also if you plan on cutting your poultry into pieces.

Different cuts of chicken
Different cuts from a whole chicken. I give step-by-step instructions on how to do this in my Prairie Homestead Cookbook.

Learn how to cut up a whole chicken in my Prairie Homestead Cookbook.

5. Know the Different Cuts of Meat Before Butchering at Home

When you are butchering larger animals at home, you will want to know the different cuts of meat and how the animal is broken down. A large animal is usually divided into primal cuts first, for example, primal cuts of beef include the chuck, loin, rib, and round. After your primal cuts are divided you can divide them again into sub-primal cuts.

I’ve been slowly teaching how to cook different cuts of beef in my Cooking Through the Cow Series, so if you’re curious about the different cuts of beef, check out these posts:

6. Start with a Clean, Organized Work Area

The day before your butchering day, clean the work area and organize all your equipment. Starting with a clean work area will help keep things moving smoothly. Organizing equipment ahead of time will help you see what you have and ensure you don’t start butchering day with missing equipment. You want your home butchering to go as smoothly as possible especially if you are working with others.

Butchering chickens together

7. Make Home Butchering a Community Project

Ask friends or family members to give you a hand when you are butchering at home. You don’t need the entire community on board, but a few extra people can help save some time. We set up a sort of assembly line, where everyone has a job. You will want to make sure that everyone participating knows how to do their jobs.

If you are new to your community or are having a hard time finding like-minded homesteaders to help, learn how you can Cultivate Community While Homesteading. Being a part of a community while homesteading can help with a lot of aspects of homesteading not just with home butchering.

8. Make Sure You Have Freezer Space Before Butchering at Home

The day you have been waiting for is finally here, the animals you have raised are big enough to butcher and feed your family. But, before you begin you will want to make sure you have enough freezer space to hold your freshly butchered meat. This can be a shop refrigerator, a home freezer, or a family member’s freezer. You don’t want to butcher your animals and then later realize you don’t have the space you need.

Check out my video (link above) to see what happened when we did NOT have enough space (we were in the process of making a new walk-in freezer and had some delays).

butchering meat chickens

9. Look into Different Packaging Before Butchering at Home

There are many different ways to package your meat once the butchering is done. You will want to compare them and decide what you believe will work for your operation. You can use freezer paper, heat shrink bags (we use these for our poultry), vacuum-sealed bags (you will need a vacuum sealer for this), or a combination of methods. 

10. Consider the Emotional Side of Butchering at Home

Getting emotional about butchering the animals you have cared for is nothing to be ashamed of. It means that you are aware that the meat is coming from something living. This feeling is something that almost everyone goes through, read about my first emotional experience when butchering our first steer

When you are feeling sad keep in mind that homegrown meat animals usually have a better life than those on commercial feed lots and that you know where your food is coming from.

Butchering at Home

Extra Benefits of Butchering at Home

Home butchering provides you with fresh meat but there are also some other benefits to butchering at home. Butchering at home also allows you to use different parts of the animal that may be thrown away otherwise. It is a great way for you and your family to live a little more sustainable no-waste lifestyle. 

A few parts include:

Are You Ready to Start Butchering at Home?

Butchering your own meat animals can be emotional, but also a very rewarding experience. It can seem like a very overwhelming task but with the right equipment and information, it doesn’t have to be. Use these 10 tips to help you start the process of butchering at home. Do you already butcher at home?

More About Homesteading Animals:

Tips for Butchering at Home

 

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Thursday, November 10, 2022

How to Store Animal Feed

By Jill Winger - November 09, 2022 at 02:26PM

Animal Feed Storage

It is no secret that the one part of homesteading that I get really excited about is having all the animals roaming around.

Adding livestock big or small is usually a huge stepping stone on a homesteading journey and to self-sufficiency. When you are deciding what livestock is right for your homestead, you obviously have to consider how much space you have for your chosen animals, but another important thing that often gets overlooked is the space that you have to store the animal’s feed.

For every species of animal added to your homestead, a new feed gets added to your supply. Instead of leaving your feed bags haphazardly out in the open, you should consider the amount of space you can provide for feed storage containers. Feed storage containers are super important because they will keep your feed out of the elements, keep unwanted pests out, and keep your feed supply organized. 

Believe me, it is no fun finding rancid-smelling feed or finding rats having a snack when you open your feed bag. There are many different animal feed storage options, but before you buy or build one, consider the following:

  1. How Many Animals You Will Be Feeding?
    Determining how many animals you will be feeding (especially those that use the same kind of feed) will help you figure out how much feed you will need to store at a time.
  2. Will You Buy in Bulk or Small-Scale?
    A large area or container may not be needed if you are only storing feed for 3 laying hens. On the other hand, if you are buying bulk feed for 50 meat chickens, then a larger storage solution may be required.
  3. How Many Different Feeds Will You Be Buying?
    You will want to determine how many different types of feed will be stored for each species of animal on your homestead. You will probably need a different container for each one.

Once you have determined the amount of feed and the number of different feeds that need to be stored, you can start looking for the right animal feed storage containers. 

How to Store Animal Feed | Feed Storage Containers

How to Store Animal Feed (Rodent-Free)

Remember ideally your animal feed storage containers will be used to keep your feed both dry and also pest-free.   When you are choosing feed storage containers, the size and material will depend on the amount of feed you are storing and the area they will be located. 

Common Animal Feed Storage Ideas 

Option #1: An Old Chest Freezer

If you have the space to keep an old chest freezer, this really is a great feed storage idea. It is an airtight container that will keep rodents out of your feed, but depending on the size it can be heavy if you ever need to move it.

This is a great way to repurpose an old chest freezer that was perhaps broken beyond repair for use as an actual freezer. Instead of going to the dump with such a large appliance, you can simply reuse it to hold animal feed. It’s a perfect win-win for both the environment (humans already throw away too much stuff) and for your vehicle/body/time since you won’t have to figure out a way to lug a clunky freezer to the dump.

Option #2: Metal Trash Can

Metal trash cans have been used for years as animal feed storage containers because it is completely metal and rodents have a harder time getting in. These are very sturdy storage containers but if left in the elements over time, they will rust and let in moisture.

So keep these types of feed storage containers in a weather-proof area to prevent the rust. You’ll also want to figure out a way to keep the rodents and pests from moving the lid to get in from the top. 

Option #3: Large Flip-Top Trash Bin

These trash bins are made of heavy plastic and can be found at almost any store. They come with wheels so if you ever need to move them it can be done easily. The flip to usually isn’t extremely tight so moisture and rodent might be able to access your feed over time.

Bulk Food Storage | Food Grade Bucket

Option #4: Food-Grade Plastic Buckets with Lids

If you are not storing a ton of food at one time, then a food-grade bucket with a smart seal lid might be a great option for you. The bucket with the lid creates an airtight seal that is moisture and rodent-free. Over time, you will want to check to make sure your plastic is still in good condition so no rodents can chew through. These buckets are easy to move around but will need to be stored out of reach of larger animals as they can be knocked over.

Option #5: 55-Gallon Metal Drum

These are the big metal drums that are normally used to transport large amounts of liquid (like oil). The lids are airtight and because they are metal rodents can’t chew through any part of them. The downside to these is that they are large, so the bottom can be hard to get to and when full they can be heavy.

If you buy used ones either online or from someone in your community, make sure they are food-grade and didn’t hold something chemical/toxic that would be absorbed into the livestock feed.

Option #6: Large Food-Grade Plastic Drum

These drums are usually used to hold liquids (like juice) but there are many different versions out there. These plastic food-grade drums can come with different types of lids and are found in a variety of sizes. These are water-proof and the plastic is thick enough that most rodents can’t chew their way through it.  Depending on the size that you find, they can become heavy when they are filled with feed. 

If you buy used ones either online or from someone in your community, make sure they are food-grade and didn’t hold something chemical/toxic that would be absorbed into the livestock feed.

Even though your feed is being stored in a container it is still a good idea to have your containers in a covered shed or feed room. This will ensure that your feed will always be out of the elements and sneaky animals won’t continue to try to find ways to get into your containers.

How to Store Animal Feed | Animal Feed Storage

Where to Find Your Animal Feed Storage Containers

Once you have an idea of what type of container you will store your feed in, you will need to find the containers that you are going to use. Finding everyday storage options like trash cans can be easily found at local stores. Chest freezers and larger drums might take a little bit more searching.

Places to look for Animal Feed Storage Containers:

Local Stores:

Local stores are a good place to start when you are looking for everyday items like large trash cans. Some feed supply stores may even have larger drums to sell as feed storage containers specifically. Often, if you ask around at your local mill, you can find someone to help you with location information.

  • Local Feed Mills
  • Hardware Stores

Internet:

The internet is a good place to look for large drums, old chest freezers, or food-grade plastic buckets if you can not find them in your local area. Facebook, Marketplace, and Craigslist are where I would start for a lower price on the larger containers. If you don’t have much luck, you can always order a drum from an equipment website, but this can be a bit pricey.

  • Facebook Marketplace 
  • Craigslist
  • Equipment Websites
  • True Leaf Market  (This is where I like to source my food-grade 5-gallon buckets and their smart seal lids make it a breeze getting in and out of buckets.) 

Note: When you are sourcing the larger containers, you will want to ask if they have been used before and what was stored in them previously. Make sure they were previously used for food-safe products and not chemicals/toxins that could harm your livestock and/or you.

feed storage in chicken coop

Do You Store Your Animal Feed in Good Quality Containers?

Using good quality containers to store your animal feed can help prevent feed spoilage due to elemental exposure, and also help control pests and keep your feed organized.  You can buy your feed in bulk or on a smaller scale and still have many different feed container options to choose from.

Before you buy your containers, remember to take into consideration the amount of space you have for your containers and how many different feeds will need storage. Do you already have an animal feed storage system?

More About Livestock Feed:

How to Store Animal Feed

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