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Monday, October 30, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Whew! The bug and I are just back from our adventure in the interior Northwest, the Inland Empire, the heart of which (to us) is the Scotia Valley in far northeastern Washington, where my folks live. (My dad's entry in the county motto contest was "Got meth?") As fun as it was, it's sure good to be back home with Mr. Chalmers et al.

I have lots to say about our trip, especially the hog butchering, the sausage making, and the wild elderberry pies my mom made, but I'm still trying to get some pictures onto my computer. Until I do, here's what my parents did with and got out of the hog (dressed weight about 175 pounds, I think, without the head; unfortunately I didn't get the weights on all of the parts):
  • Bunch of thick pork chops
  • Thinner pork chops
  • Two slabs of ribs
  • Two nice loins
  • Two hams, which are in a Pennsylvania-style brine for curing (as opposed to a Southern-style dry cure)
  • Lots of stew meat from one shoulder, and I think two larger roasts from the other
  • Liver's in the freezer waiting to be made into liverwurst or braunschweiger
  • Lots of andouille, which Dad smoked over hickory
  • Lots of very spicy fresh chorizo
  • Lots of plain breakfast sausage made with just brown sugar, salt, and pepper
  • A ton of pann haas (that's scrapple to eastern Pennsylvanians) made with the heart plus scraps and the meat from the head—we had some every morning with maple syrup
  • A quart or so of leaf lard for pie crust
  • Several tubs of regular lard for god knows what—there's a lot of it
  • No bacon: my parents figured why bother curing what is essentially a slab of fat when you can get bacon for a buck a pound at Costco
  • No blood: the slaughterer didn't save it for them, so there'll be no blood sausage (this time)
The guy who raised the hogs charged my parents the cost of the piglets, plus the cost of their food (all-natural grains and fermented something-or-other, no scraps), plus twenty-five bucks. The slaughterer charged one or two hundred bucks, but I'm sure they made out really well for all the meat they got. And it's good pork, too.

The bug saw fourteen wild turkeys up close; my dad called them down from the mountain behind the house so she could see them. She also saw a Great Blue Heron on the Little Spokane River, which runs through my parents' property, and some sheep, some llamas, and one dog. She was too strapped into her high chair to see the deer that came by the house around suppertime, but we told her about them. She got to play with my cousin's three kids—aged six, four, and two—and my college friend's two-year-old daughter, Ava, who at one point in their visit from the O.C. asked her mom, "Mom, are you my conscience?" Mostly, though, the bug liked crawling around on the five thousand–plus square feet of pristine wall-to-wall carpet in her grandparents' house and climbing on their big floor pillows and soft footstools, and wriggling underneath dining chairs and tables to get to the heating registers my mom cleaned just for her. In a week she went from tummy-crawling with some real crawling to completely real crawling, and she will now pull herself up to stand, holding on to something, and then take a few shaky steps.

She did amazingly well on the four-hour flight to and from SLC and the two-hour flight to and from Spokane: she slept well on the plane, the changes in pressure didn't seem to bother her at all, and she had big smiles and laughs for everyone around us, which was a good thing because all of our flights were totally booked. It wasn't easy traveling with her on my own, but it wasn't as horrible as I thought it could've been. The hardest part (though it was fun in its own way) was changing her diaper in the airport family restroom, because she kept crawling around and activating the automatic soap dispenser, filling the sink with unused liquid soap.

I spent our first full day home trying to baby-proof this old house and get the floors semi-clean for her. Long way to go yet.