Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guinea Hog Forge

If you're looking for info on Scott's bladesmithing, please check out our new Guinea Hog Forge blog. I have transferred any posts about Scott's knife making to this site.

Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Home Grown Grits

Mr. Tipton from My Cousin Vinny said it best, "No self respectin' southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits." We take pride in our grits too. So much pride that we've taken to producing our own. This year we grew Wapsi Valley corn for making pig feed, grits and corn meal. It is an open pollinated variety of corn that naturally comes in two colors - gold and blood red. You can buy Wapsi Valley corn meal online, but the only way to get WV grits is to grow the corn and grind it yourself.

The corn grew beautifully all summer without any complications, and in September we harvested the ears once they had dried on the stalk. Then it was off to the shop to air dry for a month before shelling. We used two shelling methods - by hand (which takes a while, can lead to blisters, and elicits a fair amount of whining from children) and with a old time hand crank sheller (much more fun!). After the corn was shelled, we let it sit a while before grinding (the drier the corn, the better it grinds). We also ground it by two methods - old school hand crank and new school Kitchen Aid. For corn meal (which is ground very fine) the Kitchen Aid grinder ruled. For grits (course grind), the hand crank was actually faster.

Both the Wapsi Valley grits and WV corn meal are fantastic. We had shrimp and grits the Saturday after Thanksgiving along with homemade corn bread (made with pork cracklins'). The flavor of both was outstanding and very different from anything you can buy at the grocery store. Check out the red flecking in the corn meal.


Prep. Time: 7 months (1.5 hours if you simply buy some real grits; instant grits NOT allowed)

Serves: 12


3 cups Wapsi Valley grits (corn grown, shelled and coarse ground at home); Moss' Grits will substitute

1/2 stick butter

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

20 multiplier onions (like a green salad onion)

1 pound bacon

4 lbs head-off fresh North Carolina shrimp (shelled)

1/4 cup lemon juice

Kosher salt (to taste - the grits take a lot)

Black pepper (to taste)

Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Grits: add 12 cups cold water to grits, bring to a boil and put on simmer for at least 45 minutes; stir constantly; add salt, butter, black pepper and cheese to grits 5 minutes before serving; the grits take a lot of salt, but add slowly and taste often to avoid over salting

Shrimp: fry bacon until crispy; remove bacon from pan; chop onions, discarding the top third; add the white part of the chopped onions to pan; sautee onions in hot grease at medium high until tender; crumble bacon and add back to pan; add the green part of the onions, the shelled shrimp, lemon juice, cayenne pepper & salt; cook until shrimp turns pink (only a minute or two) stirring constantly.

Serve shrimp over grits and enjoy! Happy eating from Bluefield Acres!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving at Bluefield

BFA Menu
Pork Ribs
Pork Tenderloin
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Baked Beans
Cranberry Relish
Apple Sweet Potato Casserole
Homemade Oatmeal Bread
Broccoli Salad
Potato Salad
Pumpkin Pie
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Pound Cake

So awesome!!!!! Thanks to all who came, brought food and enjoyed!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Putting American Guinea Hog Back on the Table

Rare breed heritage farm animals are a valuable genetic resource, and, to maintain this resource, the animals must remain a part of the food chain. I know it sounds weird, but if these animals aren't valued as a food source, they will go extinct. We raise American Guinea Hogs (a small heritage breed hog) to help preserve the breed, put excellent meat on our own table, and eventually to sell to the general public. This Thanksgiving we ate our first Guinea Hog - a 1-year old female feeder that we obtained from a fellow breeder.

Processing a hog takes a good part of a day. We started at 7am and were done with the majority of the work and clean up around 2pm. We ground breakfast sausage and stuffed bratwurst the next day, and we'll be smoking our bacon next week.

The following is a breakdown of how we process a hog at Bluefield Acres, and, if you click below, you'll also find a slideshow of the slaughtering and butchering we did on Wednesday. The pictures aren't for everyone, so proceed with caution. The slideshow starts with the scalding.

Processing a Hog - CLICK FOR SLIDESHOW
Isolate hog and do not feed for 24 hours
Shoot hog in head with .22 LR
Cut and bleed the jugular
Scald hog in water at 150 degrees until hair pulls out easily
Scrape hair until skin is clean
Wash carcass
Gut hog
Remove head and feet
Butcher into desired pieces of meat

We got approximately 50 pounds of boneless meat off our Guinea Hog - tenderloins, loins, 3 small roasts, fatback, bacon, sausage and bratwurst. Plenty of meat to fill a small family freezer. Below are the ribs. We ate them on Thanksgiving, and they were the best ribs I've ever had by far.

Things that we learned
1. Guinea Hogs get enough salt by foraging that the meat doesn't need to be salted as much as other pork.
2. Due to their free range diet, Guinea Hog meat is much redder than standard pork and more flavorful.
3. Lard from free range Guinea Hogs won't solidify easily. This is because it is low in saturated fat - grain fed meat is high in saturated fat, forage fed meat has very little. We had to freeze the lard Scott rendered to firm it up.
4. Biscuits made from pork lard are yummy. The biscuit on the left was made with lard and the one on the right was made with butter. The biscuits may not look different (and both are delicious), but the lard biscuit had a lovely bacon flavor all by itself. The sausage in the picture is ours, and it was absolutely wonderful! Guinea hog sausage has a strong meaty flavor that we found fantastic.

For a full description of our Thanksgiving meal, check out our next post.

Monday, November 9, 2009

And Then There Were Three

Five piglets were born in early August. All were healthy at birth, although one was a runt. Now there are three.

American Guinea Hogs are incredibly easy to raise. Feed them a little bit every day so they'll come when called. Give them a bit of pasture or woodlands to forage in, and they'll take care of the rest. No antibiotics, no worming treatments, no worries.

At 8 weeks, we weaned our piglets from their mother. They turned 12 weeks old this weekend, and we were planning to castrate the males on Sunday morning - something that is best done when they are young. We woke to find 5 sickly piglets in the pen Sunday morning, and decided to put the castration business on hold.

We usually give the pigs (adult and juveniles) slops from our table, but we'd been gone the previous weekend, and I'd gotten out of the habit. It had been a week since I'd doled out slops, and the food at the bottom of the bucket was pretty ripe. I didn't give it much thought though as I've watched our adult Guinea Hogs eat a week old rotten snake and thoroughly enjoy it.

I dished out the leftovers on Saturday around 11am, and the baby pigs ended up with the oldest slops because I fed them last. By Sunday morning two babies were extremely sick (vomiting and staggering) and the rest were lethargic and showed little interest in food. It hit me that the slops may have been somewhat fermented, and we wondered if the piglets were just drunk. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. By 1pm the largest male was dead and our big female looked horrible - really bloated, very uncomfortable and exhausted. We crated "Easter" and took her to the house to keep an eye on her. Scott autopsied the pig male and found a healthy, but very gaseous pig - no worms or parasites at all, but the piglets innerds had a strange odor and his bladder was very full.

A little internet research gave us our answer - foodbourne botulism. It attacks the nervous system (thus the staggering) and eventually shuts down the respritory system leading to death. It also shuts down the bladder's ability to void, leads to constipation and gas. "Easter" lasted a good 12 hours longer than her brother which allowed us to watch the botulism progress. If she stood up, she staggered, and she stood very little. She threw up once (and it smelled horrible), but in 12 hours she never voided her bladder (although she did drink) and only had one minor bowel movement. She never had a fever and just seemed to fade out slowly. She died around 1am in the morning.

At first light we checked to make sure the remaining three little pigs were okay. All ran out of the pen and proceeded to pee like mad - a very good sign. All were very hungry too. The adult pigs that are penned next door (and got some of the same slops) never showed any signs of illness, so my guess is that they were never exposed to the botulism. Although the three smallest piglets were obviously exposed, they must have injested much less of the toxin. I guess being at the bottom of the pecking order isn't always a bad thing.

We are bummed today, but are taking the lesson learned to heart - fresh slops only from now on.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Okay, so we decide to go on vacation and Christmas (our feeder pig) decides to have piglets. Now if that ain't life on the farm, I don't know what is. Luckily our vacation spot (Holden Beach) was only an hour away so we were able to enjoy the beach and keep an eye on the new crew all at the same time. Well, Scott kept an eye on the new additions. I kept an eye on the beach and his children - with a little help from my mom:)

We acquired "Christmas" in June. She was slated to be butchered along with her brother, but the previous owner was suspicious that she might be pregnant and gave her a stay of execution. Instead, we got Christmas in exchange for our butchering services. We all thought that she was due in about 2 weeks, but those 2 weeks went by and then a month, and we all gave up hope. Oh well, she would still make a fantastic Christmas meal. "Se la vi".

Then a couple of days before vacation, we noticed some changes - things in the back end started to swell that hadn't been swollen. Then swelled some more. Mammaries started to hang, then swing as Christmas walked. We turned to each other and confirmed that she hadn't looked this way last week. Times were definitely a chang'in.

We prepared a special birthing area away from the other pigs and put Christmas inside the day we were supposed to leave for the beach. It didn't take long. Within hours Christmas was panting and obviously uncomfortable - sitting, standing, sitting, standing. Classical pregnant female stuff. Scott offered to stay and babysit, but I was adamant that we were going to take some time away. We called the breeder who raised Christmas to get some advice. She told us not to worry. American Guinea Hogs had been birthing piglets without human help for years and, most likely, everything would be fine. We went to the beach and tried not to think about it.

That was Sunday afternoon. Monday morning, with my full support, Scott returned to the farm to check on Christmas. Sure enough, 5 perfect little baby pigs were hanging out with Mom. Due to the condition of their umbilical cords, Scott surmised that they'd been born just that morning - 3 boys & 2 girls. One female was a runt and, according to Scott, was about the size of a stick of butter. All were healthy.

Christmas is an amazing mom. She feeds her babies what they need, when they need it. Nothing more, nothing less. She roots a hole in the ground (or in the hay), lays down and lets them feed about every 4 hours. She feeds until they've had enough. When she's not feeding them, the piglets either sleep or beg for more food. Unlike human moms, Christmas is not swayed by their begging. She lays down with her belly protected, and she goes to sleep.

The first week I was worried sick that the runt wouldn't make it. She was so small and didn't even beg much. Often she would bury herself in the hay while they other piglets made sneak attacks to get milk. All the same, the runt seems to be doing fine. She gets her milk every 4 hours, and she's already doubled in size. Christmas has paid her no more mind that the others, and our little runt has responded by being exactly what she is - a happy little piglet in a happy little world.

I think we humans could learn a lot from Christmas. Give your kids what they need. Teach them what they need to know. Ignore them when they want that which is excessive. Hmmmm. More on baby pigs later.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Hanker'in for Biscuits!

I got a desperate call from a good friend last night. Catherine, who happens to be pregnant, got a hanker'in for Scott's homemade buttermilk biscuits and asked for the recipe. Unfortunately, Scott doesn't use a recipe so we attempted to come up with one this morning. This one's for you Catherine!


  • 1 stick of butter
  • 6 cups Daily Bread self rising flour
  • 2 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • Tools

  • baking sheet (we use an cushionaire insulated)
  • biscuit cutter (we use special glass for cutting biscuits)
  • sifter
  • bowl
  • NOTE: All ovens and flours are different. Mix your ingredients slowly and focus on the consistencies we mention. If amounts need to be altered, please do so.

    • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

    • Sift the flour

    • Cut 1 stick of butter into cubes

    • Hand mix flour and butter in bowl until the flour will stick together when squeezed, but will also break apart easily if crumbled

    • Make a well in the flour (which should now have a cornmeal consistency) and pour in approximately 1/2 of the buttermilk

    • Mix buttermilk in by hand by slowly swirling the hand around the center of the bowl and working out the the edge. Mix in more buttermilk as needed to form a wet, sticky mass.

    • Mix until you have a nice sticky mass that clings to the fingers

    • Sprinkle flour on your kneading surface, roll sticky mass out of bowl onto work surface and knead the dough lightly (no more than necessary to make a ball)

    • Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and mash the ball flat (about 1 inch thick). Dough should still have a soft, malleable consistency.

    • Cut out the biscuits and place them touching on an ungreased baking sheet

    • Bake the biscuits at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then check and turn them 180 degrees. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until the tops are golden brown

    • Wrap biscuits in a towel on a plate and allow to cool for a few minutes
    • Eat and enjoy!

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter

    Radiator Charlie lived in West Virginia during the 1930's. He was a radiator repairman by trade, but a tomato breeder extraordinaire by right. He only developed one tomato in his life, but the plants sold so well he used the proceeds to pay off his home mortgage during the tough economic times of The Great Depression. With a story like that, Scott and I had to try these heirloom tomatoes in our garden, and we must say...they lived up to the hype.
    I don't think I've ever had a better sandwich tomato in my life! And I say that having eaten about 10 excellent tomato sandwiches in the past week. Mortgage Lifters are huge, spicy, beefy tomatoes that are low in acidity and high on flavor. We grew several other varieties, including Cherokee Purples (which were beautiful), but nothing of ours could compare to the Mortgage Lifter on taste. In the picture below, The Cherokee Purples are on the left with the bright red Mortgage Lifters stacked underneath. The purples were good, but a bit mild by comparison.

    The tomato crop is almost done for this year, but we're still looking forward to winter squash, okra, peas, feed corn and planting the fall garden. Our last tomato harvest is shown below. Most of it ended up in a wonderful spaghetti sauce that we ate tonight. The peas in the picture are complements of our neighbor as ours aren't quite ready yet - thanks to the rabbits. He lives only a hundred yards away, yet hasn't suffered the rabbit issues we've experienced...and he doesn't have a fence like we do!!!! Silly rabbits, you may be next on our list of delicacies!

    Pumpkin Pie in July?

    It appears we planted our pumpkins a bit early as they are coming ready in July. We planted the pumpkins and the squash in April. Several squash and zucchini varieties came due around the same time (about two weeks ago) and Scott was forced to can much of it in a mad rush to avoid losing the crop. The pumpkins will last a while, but certainly won't last until the appropriate season. Next Spring we'll plant a few squash varieties every couple of weeks to spread out our harvest. And we'll plant the pumpkins in June. For now, we'll suffer the consequences.....
    Pumpkin Pie

    Pumpkin Pancakes

    Pumpkin Ice Cream

    Life is hard.

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Farm Update

    Life has been busy of late, so this will be a quick farm update. Our squash continues to grow like mad, but the zucchini is finished for this year. Here's a look at some canned squash - a future yummy meal - and our last zucchini. We went with heirloom round zucchinis this year and were very pleased. They were excellent just about any way Scott cooked them!

    The tomatoes are trying to get ripe. We've eaten a couple of mortgage lifters and yellow pears, but the intense heat and a multitude hungry rabbits have taken their toll. We've eaten several ears of silver queen and should be canning corn like mad before the weekend. It's hard to beat a fresh ear of corn!

    We've also had a few weird farm moments. The following is by far the largest egg we've seen yet, and we fear the chicken that laid it may never be the same. We were hoping for triplets, but alas the egg only produced a deformed set of twins.

    No comment on the carrot. I think the picture says it all!

    Our herons babies are growing up. This juvenile green backed heron was spotted drinking out of the pigs' water bowl. I saw a frog in the bowl later so it may well have been fishing. We weren't quick enough with the camera to catch him in the bowl, but were still impressed that this guy let us get so close.

    I'll try and blog more soon!

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Garden Time

    Why would a southerner lock his car with the windows up in July while parked in a known safe location such as the church parking lot?

    To keep friends and neighbors from filling the car with squash!

    Our garden is exploding with squash and zucchini and the tomatoes aren't far behind. We expanded the garden this year and decided to try some new varieties including round zucchini, open pollinating corn and heirloom tomatoes. Our favorite tomato so far is Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter. Our preference is based solely on the name as we haven't eaten any of them yet (just one more week to go!). Scott grew all our tomatoes from seed this year, and they're all heirloom varieties - Mortgage Lifter, Red Pear, Yellow Pear, Cherokee Purple, Katinka Cherry, Indian Stripe, Principe Borghese and Romas. Good thing Scott likes canning!

    Our Silver Queen corn is doing fabulous as is our Wapsi Valley, a open pollinating variety given to us by a friend. The Silver Queen is hard to beat for good eats, but the Wapsi is absolutely georgous. The kernels can be either red or yellow, are quite large and should grind into excellent grits and corn meal.

    Due to heavy rain our potatoes didn't make it, and due to a bumper crop of rabbits our beans, peas and peanuts are struggling. We have an electric fence around the garden to keep the deer and pigs out, but the long-eared rodents have bypassed it with no problem. They've had a field day in our garden, and even tried to establish a nest in the carrot patch! Check out that Cosmic Purple carrot on the left - it's orange on the inside and tastes wonderful.

    We harvested an exceptional crop of Vidalia onions and Russian Garlic this summer, and our asparagus and hot peppers are looking great too. Earlier this spring, however, we had a bit of a garden tragedy and I figured now was as good a time as any to describe what happened.

    It was around 10am in the morning and Scott was calling for help in the garden. Not just help weeding (which I pretend not the hear), but "help!". I could see that he was squatting over something and working on it at a feverish pace.

    We have netting over our strawberry plants to keep rodents from enjoying the fruits of our labor. The prior evening the wind had blown the netting into a pile, and I remember telling Scott that we needed to straighten it and stake it down.

    Needless to say, we forgot, and now the netting was in a tangled mess at Scott's feet along with two large snakes that were trapped inside. One was alive, the other...not so much. With my assistance Scott freed the larger snake (a male?). He didn't look very good, but he did slither away after being freed. Then we detangled the smaller (female?) snake and threw her over the fence to see what the pigs whould make of it.

    Okay, okay, I know it sounds a little gross, but American Guinea Hogs are supposed to be ruthless varmit killers and we wanted to see their reaction. It was amazing. Their little snouts started working overtime as they slowly approched the dead reptile. Then, once within about 6 inches, they'd squeal and run away. So much for being killers!

    Ahhh, but time heals all to speak. Or maybe it's simply that hunger will make us do things we might not otherwise do. Everybody knows the "Alive" story about the soccer players in the plane crash over the Andes. Well, our pigs aren't cannibals, but by 5pm they were very hungry and that snake must have started looking and smelling good because Magnolia was walking along with a large mustache dragging the ground on either side of her. Crunching sounds and sister Scarlet were only seconds away. Bo avoided the fray initially....I do need to keep a check on how much feed he's getting... but he eventually gave into the feeding frenzy.

    We were really bummed to lose the snake....well, potentially many snakes. The male will hopefully make it, but our theory is that the snakes were in a mating ball when they unfortunately discovered the netting and got tangled. A bummer of a way to go (I guess) and a shameful loss of some really good rodent hunters. We later identified the reptiles as Rat Snakes, and they were probably protecting our strawberry crop from field mice. Oh well, it was an excellent opportuity to watch the pigs get a little primal, so we'll take the good with the bad and try to be more careful with the netting in the future.