FYI, for you city folk, “chevon” is a fancy way of saying “goat meat.”
Reader beware: This post contains graphic pictures.
Saturday was a bittersweet day for us. It was time to harvest our little buckling, Dayjay (sorry, Uncle D!). He was exactly 4 weeks old. It was a day we had anticipated for 4 weeks. When he was born a buckling, we knew his days were numbered. We decided to forego the torture of disbudding and castrating since he would be harvested. Then, we thought we would just raise him until we felt the time was right. Well, as it turned out, there were a few things we didn’t know…..
First, our family milker, Lilac (not Dayjay’s mom) adopted him and let him nurse. So, in addition to nursing a substantial portion from mom, Sara, he took the majority of our family milk from Lilac. Then, at around 3 weeks old, he began mounting his little sis. At first I thought it was just play, but upon researching, I learned that little bucklings become fertile as early as 7-8 weeks of age, and can potentially impregnate a doeling when the doe is just 8-10 weeks of age. That was NOT something we wanted to deal with! Then, in that last week, he accidentally smacked those 2-inch-long horns into my face and jaw on 3 different occasions. I knew the time had come.
To prevent stress (which can supposedly taint the flavor of the meat), we kept everything as normal as possible in the 24 hours leading up to the harvest. On Friday evening, we separated the kids from mom as usual, and put them in the brooder pen. We ensured they had water, but this time, I gave them no food (their primary diet is milk anyway, they just like to nibble on hay on occasion). An empty gut allows for a cleaner harvest. On Saturday morning, S prepped for the harvest while I milked the does. Then, we returned Lilly (the doeling) to mom, but kept Dayjay in the brooder pen. He didn’t like it, but we assigned the kids the task of playing with him until S was ready. It seemed to work, as he didn’t seem too stressed as long as someone was with him. Finally, it was time to say goodbyes.
After goodbyes and last pets, I ushered all children around to the front yard while S did the dirty work. For anyone who might actually be interested, for young goats, that involves a strike to the back of the head. Once S got him bled (not pretty on a white goat), and hung for harvest, he allowed the children to return to watch.
I was surprised how much harder this one was for me. I had gotten pretty attached to the little guy. He was so sweet, and always the first one to meet me at the gate.
Next, S had to skin the goat. Just so you know, all the books claim that, for kids, it is done almost identically to a rabbit–which S has done several of. And just so you know, S says it was nothing like doing a rabbit! The connective tissues were quite a bit tougher, and it took a great deal of effort to skin this boy!
Then it was time for the biology lesson. S gutted the goat, and gave the children a quick explanation of the organs–which happened to be MUCH larger than the rabbits. Now we know what made that boy so heavy (he was over 20 pounds).
Finally, all unedible (for us) parts were removed, and the carcass was dropped into ice water to chill for a bit.
Chilling ahead of time keeps the flies down for outdoor harvests, and makes the meat much easier to cut up into nice, smooth pieces. While it chilled, S got the brain out, and ensured it and the pelt were stored safely in the freezer–alongside the pelts and brains from our recent rabbit harvest. Later this summer, he plans to experiment with brain-tanning–an old-fashioned way of softening and tanning furs, using the brains of the animals rather than toxic chemicals. We’ll see how it goes.
Then S returned to the chopping block. Literally.
This is one of the areas I have to laugh. You see, people always seem amazed at what S “knows how to do.” What they don’t realized is that he is as clueless as anyone, but, unlike most people, he has the resolve to research, then try and see what happens. For example, doesn’t he look so professional and knowledgeable here in the above photo? In this case, what you can’t see, is that he had no clue how to cut this carcass up. So, I actually stood beside him holding the book with the diagram of meat cuts. He would look at the book, and cut what looked correct. Our favorite author in this case is the guy who stated something to the effect of, “When you are just learning, you pick out a chunk of meat, whack it off, cook it, and eat it. You will learn as you go!” That is the approach S decided to take here. Despite that casuality, though, we wound up with some pretty impressive cuts, and a very impressive amount of meat from this little goat!
Note to self: be sure to have large freezer bags and/or butcher paper for wrapping next time. I suddenly found myself out of everything except cling-wrap and aluminum foil!
After getting it all wrapped, I started on dinner. The children had begged for goat meat for dinner all day. So, I took the mini-steaks (everything is mini-sized on a 4-week old goat) and miscellaneous chunks of meat, and sautee’d it up in olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and italian herbs. It turned out quite delicious, actually! It was surprisingly tender, and now we know why milk-fed goat kid is a considered a delicacy in many areas. And we can raise it right in our own back yard!
Oh, we certainly couldn’t leave out our faithful companion, so S ensured Will got his fair share too. I think Will is learning to enjoy harvest-days!
Once again, we praise God for the blessings he has given us. I can’t express how rewarding this life is…among many other things, to toil and care for animals, while watching God provide the growth and food-to-meat conversion that eventually becomes the food that will sustain us. Our before-meal prayers-of-thanksgiving have taken on a whole new meaning!