Thursday, March 26, 2009


So, Paprika (affectionately known as Pappy) met his end on Tuesday morning. He is off to the butcher now and will be going home to my dad's freezer next Monday. Although I am comfortable with my omnivorous eating habits, I don't take lightly these animals giving up their lives for us to eat. Paprika and Renauld were fighting more and more and the last thing I wanted was for one of them to get injured or for them to injure our soon-to-come lambs. I never intended to keep Pappy. A flock with only 3 ewes just doesn't need 2 rams. He was just too small to butcher in the fall when the rest went. So now he is gone. And for a few weeks until Brida has her babies, we are down to 4 sheep.

Out of respect for him, I am using as much of him as possible. We fed his heart, testicles, liver and kidneys to the dogs, the rest will go to my parents. Only his head, lungs and guts were disposed of. So that leaves his skin.

One of the slaughtering guys from the fall had said that it is easy to cure your own skin. He gave me brief instructions. I got part way with Oregano and Tarragon and then put the skins in the freezer where they remain. I don't really have room for another skin in my freezer so I have been learning how to do this on Paprika. Let me tell you, 'easy' is not a word I would use to decribe this process....

First I laid it out on the picnic table outside and cut and picked out burs. He had a lot of burs in his wool! And he had never been shorn so his wool is rather long, too. Here is what it looked like after I finished 'de-burring' it.

Then I put the skin in the washing machine and ran it through a cycle.

Then I stretched it out on a piece of teak plywood my old neighbours gave me for this purpose. I used my staple gun to attach it. See all that stuff? I am supposed to scrape all that off... The kids were in bed and I turned on CBC and started working. After 2 hours and little improvement, I started to wonder what I was thinking... This is what it looked like after 2 hours. And lambskin/sheepskin is very thin - one of the thinnest hides, actually. I kept making holes in it. My dreams of having a beautiful lambskin to give my dad when he got here, started to slip away.... I started to think about putting the whole skin in the compost... I went and looked up stuff on the internet - it seems there are many ways to cure a hide. In the end, I worked on it for another hour and then put a layer of salt over it and went to bed.

The next afternoon after people complaining about the smell (not to mention the sight) in my kitchen, (it smells like you are in a store full of leather shoes), I took it outside and leaned it against a tree. Next I poured 3 buckets of salt water over it and used a plastic scrub brush to clean it. Its looking a lot better, don't you think?

Last night I brought it in and worked on the scraping part - so many little bits of fat stuck to it but they are getting easier to take off as it gets drier and I haven't made any new holes... Again I covered it in a lyer of salt. I'm about to take it outside and give it another salt water rinse and scrub. In some places it is looking like the most gorgeous, fine leather.... Although I am only going for rawhide, I think. And once I have this side done, then I have to finish cleaning the wool on the other side. I am debating on whether I should cut it all down to 2 inches long. I'll have to wait and see how it looks...


Monique said...

Well, it does look a little better. See, I figured a scrub brush might help! (coming from someone who will likely NEVER attempt what you are doing). I kinda love that you are doing this is soooo homesteady-ish.

sheila said...

I had a friend who did this with a bear skin. She left it outside the entire time, but I don't remember the particulars.

Very cool experience, I think, Andrea. I'd try it too.

Caroline said...

Wow! What a project!! Good for you!

Monique said...

Hey - I have you linked to my blog now, so you have to keep up the homesteading posts regularly!!