Eastern Utah
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Friday, January 18, 2013

Lassen Volcanic National Park

This evening I watched a program on our local public TV station that featured Lassen.  The scenery - "The Peak", the boiling mud pots, the cold mountain streams, snow, lakes and forests - made me anxious to go back.  I've been contacted by the folks at Lassen about coming back to work this summer, and I think I probably will.  

I really don't relish the idea of camp hosting for 3 months by myself, but the alternative is working at the Museum which is just off the main park road.  The crowds and the fact that this particular museum is dedicated almost solely to things of interest to children, make me think twice about it.  I love children and always have, but I'm too old to deal with hordes of them for 5 days a week.  I'm probably too old to deal with the weekend warriors that show up at the campgrounds as well, but at least there are periods of beautiful quiet, especially at Butte Lake.

I went to check out a store that opened where my favorite Raley's used to be, called Warehouse Markets.  Bought a bag of frozen tamales - the picture on the bag had my mouth watering.  I used to make them from scratch back in the 1990's and I got pretty good at it.  The ones I made weren't huge, but a good size for eating several.  I came home one day to find that the big pot I used for steaming the tamales, and which contained about 75 of them, was down to under 10 tamales left.  My son, Joe, and his friend had found them and darn near ate every single one.  So I've told Joe the next time he comes over with the girls he can try these tamales.  They won't be as good as the ones I used to make, but they will be a heck of a lot easier to heat and serve!

I figured with the large sections of Hispanic foods in the store I could easily find manteca, or lard.  I've been wanting to make pie crust with lard, and I have heard from several sources that as long as you don't overdo it, can be quite good for you - better than Crisco at least.  That took me down memory lane to my grandparents' farm in the 1940's, my grandma using lard as well as raw unpasteurized milk, and I don't think I've ever tasted better than her cooking.

A while back one of my brothers and I got conversations going with my mom's remaining siblings about hog butchering in the old days.  It was so interesting, especially because I caught a glimpse one time of a hog hanging from a beam in the front of the tobacco barn.  I wasn't supposed to see that - females were not to be around when the butchering was going on, and from my aunts' descriptions, the women and girls were tucked away in the kitchen preparing the seasonings for sausage, and rendering the fat of the animal into lard.  

This morning I also thought of some of the sayings and practices prevalent on a rural southern farm.  I'd love to get comments from readers who might have stories to tell about their memories.   


  1. I think your decision about the hoards of kids 5 days a week is a good one. Kids are great in ones or twos but when they come in groups it's almost like a pack of dogs. Oh dear......I'm sure I'll take some flack for that.

    My grandmother always used lard for her pies and I too think it's better than Crisco although David's made with Crisco are very good. Wish I could find lard. We don't have pies very often but I'd love for him to try lard.

    On my grandparents' farm I helped my grandmother (and later my mother and even later at my home with my daughter) make home made egg noodles and drape them over the backs of the all the wooden chairs to dry. Boy they were the best noodles ever. I have never had noodles as good as freshly made, dried and cooked.

  2. Oh Martha your description of butchering is so familiar just a different animal. We ate the best lamb, of course later in the season it was more like hogget but never mutton. Old animals were killed for dog tucker. We were shut in the house during the killing and first stage of butchering. After hanging for a day or so in the outside safe the clean carcase was then brought into the kitchen to be broken down into cuts, which were stored in the fridge and roasted or in the case of chops, fried/grilled. We ate a lot of cold roast meat and shepherd's pie but rarely stews. I have no idea how often Dad killed but the way we ate meat it must have been more than once a fortnight. We ate fresh liver lightly fried. No liver has ever tasted as good since. I think the only part we did not use was the head.

    Years later when we had a large freezer Dad would get a prime beef (cattle beast) killed and professionally butchered. We had a big job packing it into meal sized plastic bags for the freezer. How I miss our home grown meats.

    Talking of women and children on the farm. We were not permitted to go to the woolshed at shearing time except to deliver smoko, (morning and afternoon teas) and lunches. The same in the hay paddock. Men worked outside. Women saw to it that they got fed. How times have changed with many men being the cooks for their households.

    It's interesting to see how the pendulum of time changes thinking about various foods. I follow a semi-paleo style based on what my healthy Grandparents ate. There was so little heart disease and obesity back then. Our modern lifestyle has a lot to answer for.


  3. Having grown up in the city of Chicago, I'm afraid I don't have any farm stories. :)

  4. I think if I had to make a choice between the two, Id choose camp hosting over Hordes of kids.....

    I don't have butchering stories, but I do remember grandma, aunts and mom feeding the men during harvest. Under a couple of HUGE trees, They set up sawhorses and laid lumber across them, and plywood ( or once I remember they used some old doors out of the barn) sheets for tableclothes, and food like there was no tomorrow. Home canned veggies and fruit, pies, Im sure made with Lard, meet from our cows, meat and milk, cream and butter from our cows, eggs from our chickens.....My school dresses were made from flour sacks too.

  5. Funny, my wife and I were talking about how good a neighbor's pie crust was cause she used lard. That was many years ago hen we used to live in Pennsylvania.

  6. My dad was in the Air Force so I wasn't raised on a farm but we lived about an hour from my grandparents small farm. We went to the farm every other weekend and my parents helped with any butchering. My grandmother would raise a flock of friers(chickens) and they would kill all of them at one time for the freezer. YUCK I feel like I can still smell wet chicken feathers. When they would kill a hog my dad would make sausage and hogs head cheese. YUCK again. They had a manual meat grinder and they would put us kids to turning the handle. I would crank until I thought my arm was going to fall off.

    The milk cow's calf was kept in a small pen so we would make a pet out of it. Needless to say we would have a fit when they killed out pet and I wouldn't eat meat.

    If we had to do all that today I would be eating a lot of beans.

  7. Have I got a story for you, growing up on a farm I have many many memories. I should do an entire blog about them. Think people would like that? But the one I will share here is when I was about 6-7 yrs old we were butchering hogs and I remember being in the kitchen with my Grandma, Aunt and Mom, cousins etc. This was when they used the intestines to stuff the sausage. As they cleaned the intestines they wrapped them around my arms to hold, like yarn. Then as they stuffed them they would uncoil it from my arms. I am sure glad not to have to do that any longer but oh the memories. And lard, oh ya, lard was used for everything at our house, and the cracklins oh were they good.
    Glad you heard back from Lassen. You will enjoy that I'm sure.

  8. Oh, the farm stories I could tell. The best things I remember is milking the cows and shooting a stream to the kitties. Getting chased by the geese and have them peck at our clothes. The chickens were killed once a week for the weeks supplies in which I helped pluck at the age of 9 or younger. I picked the rows and rows of strawberries. I plowed some of the fields which were never straight, so got fired from that job. Baling hay and putting it in the barn. It was hard times and I don't miss it. On the other hand I'm so glad I had that experience.

  9. For a time my father earned his living as a plumber, but he earned his drinking money as a butcher.

    He and I (in matching overalls) would travel all over the county on Saturdays while he shot, skinned & cut up the animal of the day.

    He was a crackerjack shot sober or drunk so the animals didn't suffer long.

    I saw that not all farm families are rich as is often portrayed here in the midwest.

    I have enjoyed thinking about these memories, thanks for bringing it up.

    The butchering of the big animals never bothered me. However, when grandma chopped off the rooster's head and let him run all around the barnyard, well... that's the stuff of a little country girl's nightmares! LG

  10. I've written several posts about my being raised on a farm until I was 8. This contributed to my not wanting to eat animals.

    Rocky was a calf that its Mother didn't want. I was probably 6 or 7 ... Mother warmed milk in a pan. I would feed Rocky. He would come to the back porch and knock with his little hoof.

    I came in from school one day and ran out to hug Rocky. He wasn't there. He had been butchered that day.

    My Dad was not an affectionate man. He told me to quit crying over that calf. I refused to eat any of him.

    At dinner time ... I would sit with my arms folded ... I WILL NOT EAT ROCKY ... I didn't care if he killed me... I wouldn't and I didn't. and I hated my Father and the chicken and hog killing was something that has stayed with me to this day... I'm 112 years old and I'll never ever ever forget.

    My mean ol brothers even sat there a bit... that is Rocky. haha... oh, me. They both will still not eat chicken. None of the kids were farm people. Neither was Mother. BUT Daddy's ruled back then. I put the house up for sale ... that's another story. ;)

    I eat meat ... but it has to be indistinguishable as ever having been alive ... really quite traumatic for me.

    The good things about the farm was a pond for swimming, blackberries to pick ~ persimmon and pear and apple trees ~ and oh, my lord! the peaches .... Daddy raised everything we ate except flour and sugar.

    The pine grove! ... me and my animals would go there. I made a great little 'hideout' ... fallen down tree and swept out underneath it ... put my doll house and dolls and cats and dogs and chickens and whatever followed me there. turtles... ;) Rocky...

    oh, bawl and sniff!!!