A Homestead Walk In Cooler

How do you get a small room/closet cold enough to preserve meat, fruits, and vegetables? Just use an Inkbird ITC-1000 Temperature Control, of course!

Sounds very technical, doesn’t it?  It is, but it isn’t. 

In layman’s terms, the Inkbird overrides an appliance’s normal temperature controller.  It can be used to make a freezer into a large refrigerator, for instance.  Or keep a refrigerator working at normal temperatures if its thermostat goes bad.  At just over $16 on Amazon, it is much less expensive than having a technician come out and replace the original.  Even if you know how to do it, most thermostats cost over $100.

This may sound like a rabbit hole, but stick with me, I’ll get there.

One of the issues caused by Covid-19 is that many large slaughterhouses were closed down because the workers became ill and it spread rapidly down the line.  Pig farmers, the ones that raise 300 per season, were forced to either euthanize their pigs and bury them, allow them to starve, or sell them to private individuals at very low cost.  Some even gave their pigs away.  That was the situation in the early summer of this very confusing year and I haven’t heard anything, as to whether slaughterhouses have opened up again or how those pig farmers are doing.  Beef can be held on the hoof for a longer period of time if it is a grazing animal.  I’m not sure what happened with the big feedlots.  I do know that the meat department at the grocery store still looks sparse.

The way it affected our homestead is that we had a steer to be butchered this fall.  He was already big in June and we didn’t want to carry him through another winter.  He was eating almost as much hay as the adult milk cow and her yearling heifer were eating.  My butcher advised me in June that the earliest date they had open was January 28. 

It didn’t fit with my plans and I knew that the meat would be tougher if he were slaughtered in the middle of winter.  The best, most tender beef comes from animals that are slaughtered while they are in a phase of growth.  A member of the Keeping a Family Cow forum https://familycow.proboards.com/ had started a thread about building a walk-in cooler, so I asked my butcher if they could come out and get the animal down to quarters and help us hang him if I had an appropriate place to keep him.

Yes! And my work was cut out for me.

A cooler was necessary to hang the meat and keep it at an appropriate temperature while I do the cutting and wrapping.  Hogs and chickens can be processed in a day, but beef that is handled that way will become tough.  For the best beef, it needs to hang at cooler temperatures until the muscles have relaxed again, then allow the meat to mellow.  Ten days is minimum, 14 or more optimum.

To make a really long story just a tad shorter, I needed to do this build on a very tight budget.  For home use, an air conditioner in a very small, well-insulated room will do the trick, if you use a temperature controller.  The caveat of an air conditioner, though, is that the cooling fins will freeze up if it runs too long.  So, one controller is needed to monitor the air temperature, one to monitor the cooling fins, add in a small light bulb next to the A/C’s thermostat and wa-la!

More or less.  In my next entry, I will give full instructions on how I wired my 2 Inkbird units together.  I will also do my best to create a diagram that will show the wiring necessary to make one unit.

By the way, you don’t have to be a member of the Keeping a Family Cow forum to read the posts. But if you have or are interested in raising a dairy animal, the forum is definitely a very good place to hang out. If not for the members there, I likely would have ruined Buttercup or given up on her.

As it turned out, I enjoyed 13 years with her.

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