We’ve had a hobby farm for about 17 years, but in the last couple years we have worked hard to become full-time homesteaders. In all those years, we have learned an important lesson. Nothing should go to waste. Everything on the farm can be put to use, if you think creatively. We just butchered a sheep, so I’d like to share with you how we make use of the various parts of the animal.
- Shofars! The horns of a sheep or goat can be made into shofars. The horn is made of two pieces, the outer “shofar” and the inner horn which connects to the skull. Once everything dries out, they can be separated. The shofar then needs to be cleaned up, and the tip cut off. Then, we drill a hole to blow through. It’s that simple! We like to sand our shofars and treat them with lanolin to give them a natural, beautiful finish.
- Leather! We are still learning this skill, but we are excited about the possibilities. We stretch the hide out, remove any flesh still hanging on, then spread ashes on it to dry. To turn it into a pliable leather, we rub egg on it, then work it to soften it. Here’s our daughter Holly working on the hide.
- What about the guts? Natural casings come from intestines, in case you didn’t know that. Sheep casings are the perfect size for hot dogs. We have cleaned out the casings a few times. Cut them into about six foot lengths and run water through them with a hose. Lots and lots of water. Then, soak them in a salt water brine before using. The rest of the guts get thrown over the fence into the chicken yard, because the animals get to enjoy slaughter day, too.
- The hooves are enjoyed by the dogs. If you don’t want to find them in your bed, you will need to monitor closely. Don’t ask how I know that, lol.
- Don’t forget the meat! We de-bone our sheep and grind it up. With a large family, ground meat goes a lot farther. We don’t waste any meat, which means we cut out the meat between the ribs, along the neck, etc. We each have a part of the body that we have actually specialized in, so we know how to find all the meat. Then, we have our “cubers.” They cut all the meat into small chunks. We season lamb, because it tastes better. So, we divide the meat chunks into 5-10 pound portions and season it. Then it goes through the grinder. Depending on the time of year, we either freeze flat in quart bags, or can about 2 lbs per quart jar. Some meat on a sheep is very lean, like the backstraps along the spine. We often slice this for jerky. Processing all this meat can take time, and taking a few days actually ages the meat a bit, which improves flavor and texture. We use an old non-working freezer as a icebox to store the meat as we work through it.
- Bones! I used to pitch the bones out for the dogs. What was I thinking?! Now, I know the value of bone broth. I roast the bones for about an hour, then make broth in a stockpot with onion, carrot, garlic, etc. I can my broth in quart jars, the same amount in those cardboard cartons at the store.
See! Nothing goes to waste. You just need to think it through, and if you can’t use it, maybe one of your animals or your garden can.
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