Friday, March 15, 2013

grieving and butchering pigs

Is that the strangest combination of subjects in one blog post you've ever seen? I wanted to post an update on how I am doing here, and, well, those two things are mainly what I am doing.

I am truly grateful for all the incredibly thoughtful comments on my last post. I was not expecting that! Such an outpouring of kindness and love and sharing in my grief. I am ever so thankful to each one you. So many friends, family, neighbors and blog readers have sent messages, gifts and cards. It is all so generous- and so cherished by me. Each little sentiment brings me out of my fog that envelops me at times. I get a sudden little taste of goodness and sunshine from each condolence, even when I am most consumed in my own little world of sadness. It's good to remember that I'm not alone.

I've found that one of the most healing things for me (besides pouring out my heart to my husband), is talking with others who have lost their parent(s) to cancer. And sadly, so many have.

When I left my mom's house in California, I brought home a few treasures besides the stack of wonderful photo albums. I discovered this framed picture in a guest room. This old painting of a sleeping baby hung in my room my entire childhood, since my birth I'd guess. I hadn't seen it for many years now, and was surprised to find it in that guest room. My mom & her beloved's home is very modern and super pretty. Full of new, modern, pretty stuff. Yet she still had this ancient painting that doesn't seem especially amazing to me. And I wonder so much why she hung on to it? I wish I could ask her.

I also brought home this nice rooster guy that guarded her clothes washing machine. That ceramic bunny there on the right is a treasure from my grandma who passed away, also from cancer, in the year 2000.

And, my aunt suggested bringing home a quilt. That would be a special way to remember my mom- by wrapping myself in one of her cozy quilts. I just snapped this photo of the quilt I chose tonight, so pardon the flash. My husband had been lying there reading from Carla Emery's Country Encyclopedia, yet again. I've said it before- this book is the most useful and helpful book we've ever found for crazy homesteaders like us. My husband was looking up a tanning sort of a question I'm sure.

When I first came home from being with my mom, mostly I just cried. I really needed to come home and sob out my grief and shock to my dear husband. I had missed him sooo much. I had never been away from him! And never been away from my kids either. They were so sad when I was gone, and cried on the phone just about every time we talked. I think my 3 year old had the hardest time. I've been home over 2 weeks and he still daily brings up how much he missed me "when I was at the airport" and how sad he was that I "couldn't read him books at bed time".

Grief is such weird thing. Honest to Goodness I go straight from feeling deep overwhelming sadness that my mama is gone, gone, gone and I will never hear her voice when I pick up the phone again, to total unbelief in the very next moment. Unbelief that she is gone- she can't be, right? I can still hear her laugh and her voice and picture her smiling at me perfectly. She's not gone, that just doesn't compute in my brain! I have moments I think to call her, or think of some silly thing the children are doing that I will put in my blog for her to see...  and then I remember.

I also think of her all the time. My brain replays her last days all.night.long every single night. It's quite strange. Whether I am asleep and dreaming, or up for one of my many nighttime bathroom visits, I am reliving her passing, my airplane trip, my last conversations with her... And during the day as well I am constantly thinking of her whole life, my whole life with her, my whole future without her...

I think that is one of the reasons I need to hear from others that have lost their mother/parents- I need to hear how they grieved, that I am not alone in my grieving process, that I am not completely bizarre.

And then began our very first adventure in pig butchering and meat processing. A lot of meat processing! We have chopped, sliced, ground, stewed, marinated, canned and frozen piles of pork these past days. I am very grateful for all that good, clean, home raised meat of course- that is why we do what we do, to have our own animal products we know are healthy and safe, but I do get bored of the monotonous meat cutting tasks all the live long day. It feels SO good to get to the very end of a mountain of meat, to stand back and enjoy looking at the fruits of our labor- all that awesome food.

Here are some quarts of ground pork sausage, cubes, and lard. I am so looking forward to making a pie crust from our very own lard! I've been reading for years about how delicious pie crust made from lard is. ;)

I used a recipe for sausage from, big shocker- Carla Emery's book. ;) I mixed the spices and put them over the meat, as you can see in the cute picture of this little girl. I mean, as you can see in the bowl there on the upper right of the photo.

Then ran it through our meat grinder.

After that I shaped the ground meat into sausage shapes and froze them in piles with waxed paper between them.  (They are soo yummy)


A busy kitchen photo. Pork broth is stewing there in the big pot, the broth in the open jars is awaiting canning, there is bread rising next to that cozy warm stew pot, and a batch of freshly canned broth in the background behind the graham crackers I'd just taken out of the oven. The roasting pan in the far back had the "cracklins" left in it after lard rendering (Cracklins are the bits of meat left after melting down chunks of fat into lard). Just FYI- I'd always thought one should never ever render lard in your house because the smell is super terrible, but I found that pork lard doesn't fall under that rule. :) It smells really good, like bacon. But sheep tallow on the other hand- never ever render that in your house, it smells super terrible! ;)

And that is what I've been up to my eyeballs in. Grief, and pig. ;)


  1. May Jesus bless you as you grieve the loss of your mother. May you find much comfort in your memories,and in the hope of one day seeing her again.
    Those wonderful things you chose to bring home with you will be a blessing in days to come. The picture is very sweet and I would guess,your mother kept it because it made her feel near to you,if it hung in your bedroom as a child. I only say that because I have all grown children now and I too have kept such things of my children to keep a bit of them near to me....
    Enjoy all that wonderful looking meat....I can only imagine all the hard work that was put into your store.
    Blessings to you and yours

  2. Happy first. I think that is awesome that you and your husband butchered your own pig! :)

    Grief next: I lost my dad when I was just 13 to a massive heart attack. I seen it happen, and it really made a heck of an impact on my life. I am almost 47 now, and can still see my dad lying on the floor just like it happened yesterday. Some things just do not fade. I loved and still love that man, and I miss him so much.

    Hang in there and I will continue to pray for the pain in your heart and mind. Those things eventually get better, but the memories never fade.

    Hugs and God Bless,


  3. Aubrey, I am amazed by you. You, who have so many children and a husband at home, and all the animals and miliing and on and on and on you go. I feel like I do a lot, but when I read about what you've been doing, I am a lazy woman!Just lazy! You're amazing, to say the least. And I am inspired every time I come here.

    I just got 2 pigs Saturday. So I am just starting again. The people I got them from feed their pigs grains from the brewery where the husband works. They gave me a bucket. Then I just read a blog, to sing with goats, or maybe it's goatsong, anyway, she has a post on fermenting grains for all her animals, from cows to chickens. And her pigs love it the most. So I just started a 5 gallon bucket of cracked corn, wheat, oats and some rolled barley. I can't wait to see how it works. She uses raw unflitered ACV. I have kombucha and am going to do an experimental slamm batch to see how well that works. That will be free. So was wondering if you have done this yet. I know the pigs just love the grains from the brewery. Now can hardly wait for some good bacon!!

  4. Aubrey,
    You sure have brought a lot of memories back. I told you I lost my real father to cancer. Such a nasty disease. 13yrs later I still relive those last days with him. The shock at seeing him a once proud and active man dying from this disease.When I got home after my father passed, I seemed to cry all the time, I was near the black hole of depression. I had to pull myself together as much as I could for my children. It was very difficult to climb out of the dark hole of grief,but I made it.

    I talk to my dad. I know he hears me. He is in that same compartment of my heart that God lives in. It helps me not miss him so much. IF you need me, please call. I am always here for you

  5. Aubrey,

    I really feel your mom had the picture in her house because it was from your childhood and it was a special to her. Now it can be special for you.
    Your pig butchering looks great ( or should I say neat ;) )

  6. My father died when I was seventeen from a heart attack. It will be four years this October and even though I still miss him, it's not like it was right after I lost him. The first year was the hardest, and October is always a really emotional month, but it gets easier, you just have to get through the grieving process. I remember being numb, refusing to cry, crying my eyes out, feeling angry because he left me right when I needed him most, angry because we were finally getting along and now we would never be as close as we could have.

    Here's what helped me: hugging my cat, listening to Daughtry's album "Leave This Town," especially the track "Open Up Your Eyes" when I needed to cry. . Finding a memento to remember him by. Taking a friend to the memorial service. Texting someone when the memorial service got horrible. Drinking Dr Pepper. Spending a lot of time with friends and people you care about. Letting myself be angry. Letting yourself forget sometimes that he's gone. Leaving his phone number in your cell phone contacts list. Forgiving him for everything he screwed up. Crying. Hug your best friend[s], hug the cat, hug your siblings, hug your remaining parents (if there is one), hug your grandparents. DON'T Bother correcting yourself when you say "Dad does," "Dad is," and "Dad likes" instead of "Dad did," "Dad was," and "Dad liked." But, above all, do what you need to do to deal with grief in your own personal way.

  7. It's been a little over 10 years since I lost my daughter. June 3rd will be two years since I lost my son. Not a day goes by that I do not miss them. Not a day goes by that I don't think about them. Most days, I do okay but now and then I get with a wave of grief that hits so hard and so deep it nearly takes me to my knees. I don't think we ever get over losing those we love. We just get used to living with the loss.

    I'm so sorry for the loss of your mother. Grieve her in your own way, in your own time. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, there's just your way. Be gentle with yourself on the hard days. Allow yourself to laugh and feel joy without guilt on the good days. Know that she is still with you, walking beside you. She lives on in you and in your children, in all that she touched. Watch for signs from her. That gentle breeze that washes over you on a windless day as you think of her. The bird in the tree singing just for you.

    Congratulations on the birth of your new babe. He is beautiful!