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I love having our neighbor Johnny come down to visit.  Every time I talk with him, I learn something new.  A few weeks ago he and I were talking about growing beets, and he shared that watering them with Borax helps them grow.  Borax?  Sure enough.  One-half teaspoon well dissolved in a gallon of water encourages a better growth rate.  On top of that, he shared some of his beet seeds, so now I get to try the again myself. 

This week, he called to tell the Country Boy that his sealer wasn’t working, and he had salt meat to put up.  Randy quickly offered him ours, but rather than taking it home to use at his leisure, he came down her and we helped him to put it up.  While working, he explained the process, and told me that only fine salt would work – never use coarse salt.  He brought a tub filled with salt – primarily white but with a few splotches stained pink.  Underneath all those grains were several pieces of beautiful pork.  Had they been a little longer, they could have been sliced for bacon.  Instead, Johnny wanted this batch to go in the freezer to use for peas and beans.  The Country Boy got busy slicing them up into chunks, then sealing each chunk in bags.  While watching, I could almost smell the peas cooking.  Yum!

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Sometimes, meat processed like this can get over salty.  To remedy that, I was told that you could put it in water, boil it for 3 to 5 minutes, then take it out to drain.  If you do not do this, then your peas or beans will be too salty to eat.  When freezing it though, leave the salt on.  You can brush off the large chunks, but do not wash it all off.  Wait until you are ready to cook with it to do the rinsing.

One of the best parts about this is that the meat he processed was basically free.  We have an abundance of wild pigs that the guys trap.  This provides us with chops, sausage and backstrap that we usually cube and put up in jars for Pork over Rice.  Considering most of the pigs aren’t large enough to use the bellies for bacon, that part goes towards salt pork.  In most cases, very little is wasted, and we all eat well over the year.

Learning is one of the very foundations of living more self-sufficiently.  I love reading books on all aspects of farming, and have quite a collection in my in-home library.  But to me, the best way to learn is by listening to those who have grown up in this life and have hands on experience.  They have tried and true methods on most aspects of self-sufficiency, and lived that way long before it became a popular lifestyle.  Some of my neighbors are ‘of an age’, and will quickly tell you that if they hadn’t done these things, they wouldn’t have survived.  Johnny commented that what we were doing was considered ‘hard tack’ back in the day, and he had eaten more than he wanted to, just to make it through.  I was encouraged to fry some up and try it.  I did.  I almost gagged at all the salt.  And I learned a very valuable lesson – I will be rinsing – and probably boiling – the salt meat Johnny left us before I use it to cook with.  I am not about to ruin a batch of peas that I worked so hard to grow!

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Want to take another step toward living self-sufficiently?  The best place to start is with someone who has had to live the life in order to survive.  Listen.  Pay attention.  Take notes.  Then ask them if they will hang around while you do it yourself.  You’ll learn more in one day than in a year spent buried in books. 

First beets.  Next salt meat.  I am looking forward to Johnny’s next visit – I can’t wait to see what my next lesson is going to be!