Today is a beautiful, sunny day. One of a precious few we’ve had this winter. I’m riding with Mark on our way to drop off the last two of this year’s cows at the butcher’s. We had six to do this year—our first grass-fed beef harvest in many years. They’ve turned out wonderfully. They are a bit older than usual, so we let them hang an extra week between the kill and the cutting. Normally, a beef will hang in the butcher’s cooler for 10 days. This helps to stabilize and tenderize the meat. A beef can hang nicely for 21 days, and, in fact, for higher end beef I’m told this is considered desirable. We had the butcher hang our last two for about 15 days. The flavor profile was fantastic. The marbling was great. I’m not sure what grade it would get, but for a grass-fed beef it was substantial. It was very palatable and the superb flavor and fat combined to make for a very satisfying experience. We were impressed. Plus, we know exactly what our cows have eaten, how they were raised, and that they were butchered with care.
This is about the end of the butchering season for large animals. We are almost done with the pigs and are delivering the last of the beef cows. We really like to have them off the farm before this so they don’t have to use our stored feed, but this is how this year is rolling. They still have the summer’s wealth in their bodies. In another month they will have used up a good share of it to sustain them in the cold weather. This is all a part of the normal cycle of things. March is typically a lean month, when their resources have been used and they seem to go through a cleansing cycle in preparation for the spring flush. I saw an old chart of seasons once that confirmed my observation that this is all within the natural cycle of life. It’s the ebb and flow of things.
Winter on the farm is a quiet time. Little trips like today are a luxury. The older kids are skiing. The little ones are singing in the back seat with us. It’s good to get out of the house. The sun makes one feel open and alive. The pigs are busy looking for any leftover roots today. The dairy cows are lounging on the old hay pile as Mark moved the hay ring and gave them a new bale of hay yesterday. Our school doesn’t get snow days—who cares if the roads are impassable? We celebrate “sun days.” No weeds to pull, chicken tractors to move, grazing cows to rotate, baby pigs to keep an eye on. It’s a rest time. This also is part of the cycle of things.