Smoking skins; not getting everything right

My hair still smells of woodsmoke, even after showering. The sheepskins in my home smell darkly smoky, cleaner somehow than they were.

Hide smoking tent

Today I smoked both shearlings, the big strange-shaped sheep, and re-smoked the creamy sheep. I ended up adding an older hair sheep hide (for sale in my shop) and my older deerskin on there as well to plug the gaps.

I made this little smoke house / smoke tent with two fence panels – halves of cattle panels – and another piece of galvanized wire fence for added stability. I laid the skins, skin down, on the fence, and then draped the whole thing in two small tarps. I used chunks of tree stumps and already-smoked skins to hold down tarp edges and plug holes. (There will always be some places the smoke gets out. )

My smoking fire starts with a decent hardwood. White oak today. This creates a bed of coals that the punky wood or green boughs can sit and smolder on to create the right type of smoke without flames. Obviously, no flames is an important part of this!

This morning I was up before my baby and out to my workshop to scrape the egg-dressedsheep. I hoped to break it and have it dry for smoking today, though i didn’t really expect it would be ready. And it wasn’t. But, I’m really pleased with the egg dressing. It’s breaking really nicely.

By this evening she was nice enough to bring inside to work on.

So all that’s the good stuff. There’s also a bit of an oops. Just one of those humbling things to remind me I’ve still got a lot to learn and remember.

The deer hide that I brought in to dry in my bathroom last night seemed to have lost its soap & oil dressing when I washed it, which i thought wasn’t great but not huge cause for concern. After a few hours I thought more about it… and decided to test the hide for hair slippage.

When I tugged on the hairs one or two pulled free. Not okay! I rushed that hide out of my warm bathroom and back to the garage. I salted it and laid it on a board at an angle, so that the water could hopefully run off.

I say “hopefully” because this is Minnesota and it is cold. The hide was mostly frozen in the morning. But frozen is preserved, so I’m okay with that. Except I can’t tan a frozen hide, so… this’ll be fun to figure out.

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