Saturday, December 6, 2014

many hands, light work

Last night I was on my hands and knees in the aisle of Walmart, reaching to the back of the bottom shelf to fish out the last few containers of the cheapest table salt.

Two women came around the end of the aisle, one in a wheelchair, the other pushing her, and stopped dead abreast of my shopping cart lined with salt.

"Wow," one said. "You must be planning a really big salt bath."

"No, you don't want to know," I grunted in reply, trying to keep count of the number of cans in my cart.

They stayed there, watching me check and double check the number. I felt bad moving along and leaving them stranded in the aisle.

"Do you really want to know what it's for?" I asked. They both nodded. I launched into the most abbreviated version possible, explaining that we needed salt to cure the sheepskin hides until I could get them to the tannery.

"I bet you're sorry you asked..." I said at the end.

"No!" they responded brightly. "That was very interesting! Thank you for telling us."

This morning found us ready to face those skins with the help of all the salt. I really dread this task, though it usually ends up not as bad as I imagine. Today this turned out to be especially true, since my husband was on board yet again, and even better, so was Secondo. This is a task that Primo never faced after his horrific introduction, despite the fact that we got into this business upon his urging. So when Secondo volunteered to help last night, I kept giving him opportunities to back out. "You don't have to do this, you know... This is a little rough, trust me..." He steadfastly maintained that he wanted to help.

And help he did.

Give us some credit, we didn't throw him in at the deep end. The hides were perfectly defrosted after sitting in the barn for two days; Terzo and I had picked them up on Thursday, when he had a half day of school and could keep me company on the trip down. Thanks to moderate-but-not-too-warm temps, they had defrosted just enough that my husband and I were able to get them unrolled without too much difficulty. We took care of the sometimes gruesome task of cutting off undesirable bits, though to be fair to the butcher, this was the best year ever: no legs. We put Secondo in charge of salting them down once we were done, and he did a fine job.

With the newly-repaired electricity lighting the interior of the barn on the rainy dreary day, and my husband's iPhone playing music, and everyone working away together, it even approached pleasant, or at least as pleasant as this job can be. Certainly we were done in record time, eight hides finished in under an hour.

Interestingly enough, Dusty wanted nothing to do with it. The smell, while noticeable, was not overly unpleasant to us. Dusty clearly disagreed and refused to come out of the rain into the barn the entire time we were working. This is a dog that relishes eating poop, so I take his opinion with a grain of salt, but it was surprising that he was bothered.

Now, with the exception of driving them to the tannery, which I have planned for next Friday, we are done for another year. Hurray!

Thursday December 4: Notice
Lord, all I am is known to thee:
in vain my soul would try to shun Thy presence or to flee the notice of Thine eye.

Friday December 5: Watch
While Shepherds watched their flocks by [morn], all seated on the ground...
(I couldn't resist)


  1. Which tannery do you use? How much does it cost? I might have some hides this next year from my flock that I want tanned. --Rebekah in Oklahoma

  2. Rebekah, we use Bucks County Fur Products in Quakertown PA and have always been very happy with their service. If you call them (no website) they will tell you exactly how to prepare the hides. We are lucky enough to live within driving distance so I take them wet but you will have to dry yours.