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~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 125............Autumn 2005  *~~


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THE HOMESTEAD: The Difficult Task of Culling; Making Sausage


The season of change has come and autumn is here. With it have also arrived what I term the "Fall rites." Weather patterns are ancient ones and they have swept in again this September. Cold mornings give rise to hot and sometimes wind filled days. The fire season is at an apex in early September. Gradually, however, if the rains begin (which they usually do by mid September) we see the forest service signs along our Tiller, Oregon roads reading "Fire Danger: Moderate."splash dot!


One rite of the season occurred just last week. I gathered blackberries from prickly Oregon bushes and baked a nice blackberry cobbler. The first one of the season. The berries were huge, pregnant with sweetness. I baked the cobbler in the old wood cook stove, the vintage 1930s green and cream colored one someone a long time ago bought through a Montgomery Ward's catalog. That's another rite of autumn at Singing Falls: blackberry cobbler fresh from the oven.splash dot!


Another rite of the season took place yesterday. We exhumed the old meat grinder from its box (it is a nice new hand cranked model) and washed it up. At early dawn Stan butchered the big angora goat buck. By the end of our long day, we had 30 pounds of ground, seasoned sausage. Allowing the herbs and garlic to saturate the meat over night, I covered the large stainless steel pans. By morning it was all packaged neatly and put away in the freezer.splash dot!


The pungent aroma of sausage still fills the kitchen. Garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, summer savory, basil and even a touch of fennel seed scented the house as we worked the herbs carefully with the ground meat. I couldn't resist trying some of the sausage and asked Stan if we should just dig in and fry a few sausage patties. I eyed the big black cast iron pan and readied the olive oil. He said that we should wait, however, until morning and have our sausage with eggs and toast. I sighed and put the pan away.splash dot!


Culling Goats and Goat Sausage

Culling the goats never comes easy for us. Though I once wrote in a previous column that we "think about the auction" when it comes to culling, in reality we disdain the thought of sending any of our animals to auction. I did that once. I took a wonderful Saanen milk goat who was nothing but a trouble maker to the local Medford auction.splash dot!


She was packed in the back of my red Isuzu and she talked to me the whole way. "Where are we going?" she smiled so sweetly. My heart was breaking the entire way and when I left her there in the auction yard with all those strangers, I did not have the heart to look back. Driving home with an empty back seat I told myself, "never again."splash dot!


So, my husband does the deed of butchering and it all feels more humane. The animals know us and trust us and my husband does a good job. I know none of this is very appealing to the vegetarians who may be reading, but Stan and I are homesteaders from way back, meat eating homesteaders.splash dot!


So, after examining fleeces for density and checking toplines for kemp, seeing who kidded last year and who has not kidded for two or three years straight, our list is complete. It's sausage time.splash dot!


There are no chemical preservatives in this homemade sausage and no nitrites. The taste is indescribably good. It's great on pizza and zesty as a breakfast treat.splash dot!


We always experiment when we make sausage and this year was no exception. We used fennel seed this time around, along with the usual spices and peppers. Here's a simple recipe.splash dot!


grinding meat

Preperations for the spices

RECIPE FOR GOAT SAUSAGE (Italian Sausage Sweet or Hot)splash dot!


5 lb ground goat meat (put the fat aside for Goat Soap) –splash dot!


NOTE: When you debone the meat - debone only the tender red meat. Put the gristle aside for the dogs. Some like the "coarse ground" setting for sausage; we prefer fine ground. Always remember to add some olive oil to the pan before frying your patties because goat sausage can be very lean, and that leanness will make it stick to the pan.)splash dot!


5 ea cloves of pressed garlic
1 1/3 tsp salt
2 tbsp Paprika
1 1/3 tbsp Ground coriander
1 cup cold water
3/16 tbsp Ground black pepper (coarse)
Add 2 tsp crushed red peppers for HOT sausage. Combine all ingredients, mix well and make into patties.splash dot!


There are literally hundreds of sausage recipes (you can find them on the internet if you do a search.) Experiment and have fun and get ready for a gastronomical treat.splash dot!


The Bucks' Autumn Rites

The autumn rites for the big angora bucks have also begun in earnest. One of our bucks, well laden with ringlets of white mohair, points his nose skyward in the crisp morning air. He curls his upper lip and then applies cologne to his beard and face. Nature tells him that the season of procreation has come once again. He's glad the big black buck went into the sausage maker the other day because that big black buck whupped his butt every year.splash dot!


There is a big rip in the fence again this year between the doe run and the buck run. It's been carefully made by Dakota, the oldest guy out there, a grandfather by the goat calendar. I know it must be repaired, and soon, before the does come into estrus. Just another thing on the list of "rites of autumn."splash dot!


Green tomatoes ripening in big boxes next the wood cookstove, corn almost ready to pick from tall green spires, corn shucks thrown in piles to the goats and canning jars "pinging" in the kitchen after being pulled from a hot and steamy pressure canner – all are rites of the Fall season around here. We put extra quilts on the bed at night and no longer need to keep that whirling electric fan going.splash dot!


warped loom

Warp and weft

Working on the Barn Again

Stan is working on the barn again these days and I still stand at the 60 inch loom weaving that giant mohair bedspread that I spoke of in the last issue. There have been times, I'll admit, that I've wondered if I'll be weaving it forever. An absurd thought, of course, but I suppose that's how my husband feels as he builds this barn and wonders if there will ever come an end to all the building.splash dot!


The bedspread will be woven in three pieces. The main piece, the middle section – 5 x 10 feet, will be joined at the sides by two adjacent 2 ½ x 10 feet woven sections. My dear friend Connie, an avid handspinner and knitter, came over the other day. She silently watched me work on the loom, first throwing the shuttle with all the tailspun mohair wrapped on the bobbin and then carefully working in white fleece through another shed.splash dot!


Connie's enthusiasm for life is boundless and her laughter and joy is always infectious. As she watched me work, she suddenly spoke and her tone of voice was hushed, yet expressive.splash dot!


"It looks like an angel has woven it!" she breathed the words.splash dot!


Gosh, that made me feel good about this project. I threw the shuttle again and adjusted my glasses so that I could see what she was seeing.splash dot!


Autumn Rites for the Sheep, Too!

We have a small flock of sheep. This is the first year we have allowed the Suffolks and the big-as-a-boxcar Suffolk ram remain penned with the bucks. In times past the Suffolk ram has not allowed the bucks to be around his ewes when they were in estrus. This year has been different and all the bucks are allowed in the corral, but must keep their distance from his ewes, that's all.splash dot!


He stands there sternly, that ram, monitoring his flock of ladies. The neck on him is thick with striated muscles like a bull elk in rut. I walk through that sheep yard always watching my back because he essentially trusts no one this time of year – not the male goats nor even me, the kindly shepherdess who has hauled hay and grain to him for nigh on seven years.splash dot!


warped loom

Weaving the bedspread

In the past he has been known to run after me, head down, in a fury. He knocked me over like a bowling pin more than once, the hay in my arms thrown by me haphazardly to the ground (which was his sole intent in the first place.) He seems to now have better manners, but yet I don't trust him one iota.splash dot!


He reminds me of the head Ork in Peter Jackson's file rendering of Tolkien's RETURN OF THE KING. In that hoarse and raspy "baaa" I hear the ram saying, "The age of man is over; the time of the Ork has come." My hair bristles and I move away on none too fleet feet up the incline. He watches me in silence until I'm gone from his yard.splash dot!


And finally, full circle, I come to the conclusion of this article. Cull with a vengeance and beautify your herd. Cull out the bad traits and upgrade by using the best animals you have access to.splash dot!


One doe, almost marked for culling this year, escaped by the skin on her overbite teeth. She has a super fleece and that is what has saved her from the butcher. Dense and dark and crimpy, a fleece I like a lot, she will continue living.splash dot!


Another, however, just didn't meet the grade. She is an older doe, Ruth is, and though we kept her many years, we now see her bad attributes in a different light. Ruth has a kempy backline and a too narrow posterior. Sometimes, when it comes to making those difficult decisions "to cull or not to cull" -- one must be ruthless.splash dot!


goats butting heads


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Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


Stanley & Alexandra Petrowski
34620 Tiller Trail Hwy.
Tiller, Oregon 97484