how to render lard

Hello! We’ve haven’t written in a long time because we’ve either been planning a wedding, working in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, getting married, or traveling through South America, but no more excuses! We have a few posts we hope to write in the coming weeks but we’ll be driving up to Alaska again (a 4,000 mile drive from here!) so who knows when we’ll get to it. For now, here is a post about rendering lard. A few people have asked us about this lately and since we spent all of yesterday rendering lard we thought we would share our process with you.

Rendering lard is a fancy term for slowly heating pork fat until it is liquefied, then straining out the “cracklins” or little pieces of meat, muscle, or skin that find their way into the fat. We want to strain out these “impurities” so that the lard is stable for longer. It is a very simple process, but we’ve taken a few photos to make it even simpler for you.

Perhaps the first question is: why lard? We choose to cook with lard almost exclusively, along with coconut oil and butter. Lard that has come from healthy pastured pigs is delicious (once rendered it turns white and has only a very subtle pork flavor), is healthy (high in Omega 3’s and monounsaturated fat, vitamins, minerals, and Vitamin D), perfect for cast iron (keeps our cast iron pans perfectly seasoned and our eggs slippery) and has a high smoke point (does not turn rancid in high heat). You can spend all day reading articles on the web about the benefits of lard. Here is one nice summary written by the owners of Mastadon Valley Farm: “Lard is the New Kale”. The key is to find and use lard from pastured pigs. If you do not raise your own pigs, ask your local pastured pig farmers and you may be able to buy a bag of fat from them. Tony and I rendered a lot of lard after we slaughtered our pig in the Fall of 2015 and used it for about a year before running out. So recently we were fortunate enough to buy a big bag of fat from Mastadon Valley Farm, where we know the pigs are rotated on lush pastures. Just begin asking around!

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source only good pastured pork fat

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The Money

DSC_0874Ok. So, I want to share some of the disappointments and victories from our undertakings this summer. I want to share some of the realities of the financial end of starting some temporary and small farming enterprises. I will try to make it concise and helpful. And if you want more information you can let me know.

Tony and I have “wwoofed” or helped on over two dozen farms all over the world. We did, after all, fall in love while sorting freshly pulped coffee beans at a remote farm in Nepal. After several years of learning and helping on farms we didn’t own, we decided we needed to head down the road of finding something we could take more ownership of. We want our own land, but are still figuring out exactly where that might be and how to afford it. But in the meantime, we sought a situation where we would still be on someone else’s land, but take full ownership and responsibility of our time, enterprises, and income.

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more photos from our Mastodon summer

Now that it is winter, I thought I would post photos from the summer. We certainly didn’t have much time for posting on blogs when there were tomatoes to harvest, but now that the snow is flying we have a little time on our hands. I (Emily) am leaving for Europe in about a week for a couple of months to work on a few small organic farms in the UK with my sister and niece. Before it is too late I’d like to share some of the lessons we learned from this last summer. I spent a number of days making detailed records of each enterprise we had this summer and came up with some numbers that I’d like to share with you all. But first, here are some photos!

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our tomato tunnel

Here is our tomato tunnel in full swing! We could hardly keep up with the harvesting and many of the tomatoes ended up as animal feed. We had always wanted to have too many tomatoes and it was fantastic! We were able to can to our hearts content, sell tomatoes at a reasonable price (well, a little too reasonable), and eat them for weeks!

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Mastodon Valley Farm: the first 5 weeks

Hello! I am writing to you from the comfort of the air-conditioned library in Viola, Wisconsin, just a few miles away from Mastodon Valley Farm, our current home. The days have been getting intensely hot lately so we have opted to hide in the afternoons. Time has sure escaped us and we’ve been here just over 5 weeks now. Before too much time passes, I want to share some of our recent happenings. I will highlight a few things from each week:

WEEK 1

our first batch of Freedom Ranger chicks

our first batch of Freedom Ranger chicks

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farewell Oregon, hello Wisconsin

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oregon fern

We are packing up and leaving lovely Oregon tomorrow. My sister and niece will be flying back to San Diego early in the morning, while Tony and I will be packing up our Subaru to the brim with our belongings and as many of our tomato starts as we can fit and heading out to Wisconsin to partner with Peter and Mo Allen of Mastodon Valley Farm. Tony and I will be running broilers, hens, some veggies, and whatever else we can manage to find the time for. We decided to do this after attending the Permaculture Voices Conference in March. We debated returning to the National Park Service or making the plunge and doing some full-time farming. We have chosen to farm. It will be yet another temporary situation, but this time we will be spearheading our own enterprises and will be directly responsible for our own income. We started an LLC and plan to, at the very least, feed ourselves.

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Revisiting Cast Iron

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The other day Emily and I went to the antique store and, as usual, did  more looking than buying. I go and have eyes only for old tools, cast iron cookware, and generally old rusty metal. When I go to look for a cast iron  I love the shops where half the inventory is outside of the building and 90% of that is covered in rust. This is the way to get good deals. Unfortunately, this was not that kind of store but the more typical sort where most things have a price tag that make you want to put them back on the shelf and walk away slowly. I had looked through a shelf of exciting yet expensive cast irons and was about to move on when there on the bottom was lovely little 6″ pan covered in rust and totally unappealing. It was 4 bucks and  I bought it. Continue reading

Biodynamic Workshop at Swallowtail Waldorf School & Farm

We had the privilege of visiting Swallowtail Waldorf School & Farm today for an introduction to biodynamics, hosted by the Oregon Biodynamic Group. Tony and I had a basic understanding of biodynamics but had been interested in learning more and today offered us the perfect opportunity to dive into the basics. I had been a little leery of biodynamics after an experience I had on a biodynamic farm in New Zealand 7 years ago… It was a small homestead specializing in blueberries. I helped with normal tasks like weeding, hauling things, digging, etc. One day while I was there, I happened upon the owner of the farm who looked startled when I found her in a dark corner kneeling before a few piles of cow poop, with several lit candles surrounding her and the poop. At the time, I thought she was worshipping the cow manure. I was a little shocked, and ran out of the room. She never mentioned it to me and I was left wondering. A few years later I heard a description of biodynamics and made the connection between the revered cow poop and biodynamic preparations. I began to understand that the preparations, although seemingly strange (like smashing cow manure in a cow horn and burying it), has quite a bit of science and practicality to it. I will share a little bit about what we learned today, and some photos of Swallowtail Farm.

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tire swing at Swallowtail Farm

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Potluck and Screening of “INHABIT” on APRIL 23, 2015

We will be hosting a screening of “INHABIT: A Permaculture Perspective” on Thursday April 23, 2015, at 7pm in the AgriVino Event Center at Abbey Road Farm, in the Yamhill/Carlton area.

“INHABIT” is a beautifully done documentary following at least a dozen small farmers and permaculturalists from the Midwestern and Eastern States with a positive message of change through permaculture principles. If you are an organic farmer, student of permaculture, or interested in learning about a positive, hopeful path into the future, come watch the film! If you cannot attend, you can also rent, stream, or buy the DVD. To find out more about the movie itself, click on the picture below:

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We will also be hosting a potluck dinner, and providing a smoked, pastured turkey! Bring a side dish or dessert and drinks & YOUR OWN PLATES AND SILVERWARE.

We are hoping to gather a good group of people, and hope you can make it.

Please RSVP by emailing nomadic.farm@gmail.com