Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
The following is a reflection I wrote about the final step in my journey with the pigs.
Saturday November 14th was a day I had been dreading for months. A vegetarian for the four years leading up to this event, I wasn’t sure I was cut out for this kind of involvement in my food but I was jumping in headfirst anyway. If I was going to eat meat, I had to hold myself responsible for the process that meat goes through before it gets to my plate. And I had raised those pigs for meat, so making their transition from life into my freezer as easy and smooth as possible was what I was determined to do, no matter how heartbreaking.
The previous day, we set up the pig trailer in their moveable pen and scattered bits of their favorite treats all over; corn chips, moldy bread, stale muffins, stinky cheese. They clumsily climbed in with little effort on our part, and shortly thereafter we embarked on the journey to Steve’s; the location of the next day’s events. They spent the night there, jammed in next to one another in that trailer, protected from the constant rain by a tarp.
The next morning we found them calm, sleepy and relaxed, completely unaware of what was coming. I climbed up on the wheels of the trailer, ducking under the tarp to lean down and comfort them one last time. Patting each of them on their backs I thanked them again for their delightful piggy lives and said goodbye, silent tears streaming down my face. After jumping down from the trailer, I excused myself from the crowd that had assembled to witness the process, and retreated to my car where I collapsed in sobbing gasps. Devastated. After a few moments, I gathered myself together, took a deep breath, and rejoined the group. Everyone was drinking coffee, sharing stories, and laughing, I tried my best to put on a smile and make the best of this.
When the butchers arrived, I explained in a collected, logical manner that I had grown quite fond of those pigs and didn’t want to be there when they died. “Well when are you takin’ a walk then?” Mark asked in his strong Vermont accent, smiling. I went into the house immediately where I found Josie, a shaman and one of Steve’s stepdaughters. “Are they starting?” she asked with a sympathetic smile… and the dam I had built to hold back my tears started to crumble … then I heard the first shot go off, followed closely by the other two. My heart sank.
Sitting there at their kitchen table Josie and I spoke about the importance of those animals and what they represent. Josie told me about her constant awareness that her life is made possible by other organisms giving up theirs. A humbling realization. She told me that there’s a great sense of responsibility that goes along with that knowledge, a responsibility to live each moment intentionally. It made me realize that my feelings of sadness were a necessary part of really knowing and owning this process of raising my own food. Those pigs were loves of mine, and now they were sacrificing their lives (unknowingly) so that mine, and the lives of others could continue… I had found a deeper gratitude.
I thanked Josie for her words and headed outside to take part in the process I had begun with those pigs. There before me was Flo Jo on her back on a sawhorse-like contraption, being cut in half. Mark and Dave, the butchers, were working carefully and quickly in the rain… I felt myself getting choked up. Walking around to the open side of the trailer I saw Herkimer and Crysta, both motionless as if they were in a deep sleep. And yet again I was overcome. What were we doing?! Just then Ben came up to me. “They were all quiet. It happened quickly,” he said. The butchers said that pigs rarely went that quietly. We discussed the fact that those pigs had been touched by countless humans and heard a range of loud noises (power tools, hammers, etc) in their time, so when that gun went off they were startled, but panic was minimal and brief. I looked over and watched as Mark handled Flo and felt all my fear melt away. The terror and uncertainty I had been drowning in were gone. There was a gentle respect in Mark’s movements. Sure Mark and Dave made jokes (not about the pigs) and laughed as they worked, but I welcomed their light hearts. They had treated those pigs in a humane way with no lack of accuracy. Yes, of course I still felt heavy with grief, but that grief was evenly matched with my appreciation for their skill and respect of my feelings as they cared for the bodies of the animals I loved. As I watched them work through the day my sadness lessened and I become more fascinated by the process. What beautiful animals those pigs were, inside and out! Those men had managed to turn a potentially scary, brutal, messy experience into a rather meaningful, almost enjoyable morning for me. After seeing every step (minus the first one) of the process first hand I knew it was one I had to, and wanted to go through again. I had made sure those pigs led fantastic lives up to the very last moment, and that was something to feel good about.
Mark and Dave told me several times what remarkable animals I had raised. They were healthy, lean, beautiful pigs, the product of a happy life. It comforted me to know that the fresh pasture, room to run around and wrestle, and ample amounts of affection had resulted in the best meat we could have hoped for.
It feels good to stand here at the end and know that the process was a success. And now that I have tasted the end product I feel even better about it! During their lives the pigs nourished me emotionally, and now they’re nourishing me physically. I do still have moments of sadness, missing the way they leaned on me waiting to get their tummies rubbed. But mostly I feel thankful to have had the opportunity to know and love those delightful animals. I am a better person for having embarked on such a challenging, rewarding adventure. And it’s one I plan to repeat over and over throughout the rest of my days.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Whole wheat with flax $5.50
Whole Wheat with Sunflower Seeds $6.00
Whole Wheat with Sunflower Seeds and Flax $6.25
White/Wheat Hybrid Sandwich $5.25
Cinnamon Swirl (which has a white/wheat hyrbid based dough) $6.50
My take on a French Bread $4.00
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Fall is upon us, with our flowers starting to close up shop and the threat of frost in the wee hours of the morning. But even with the season’s end on the horizon, there are still many things going on on the farm. Let me catch you up on what you’ve missed… there’s a lot so I’ve broken it up into sections. Today I will do the pigs, and over the next few days I'll post about the cold frames, the end of the season, and the baking I've been doing! Okay, onto the good stuff...
Well, let me start by saying that they continue to be hilarious and lovable. We are having great fun with them. Last week we built them a new house on skids. I have included step-by-step pictures so you can see all the little pieces that fit together…
This is the base frame the rest of the house sits on...
The bare-bones frame and walls going up...
Ben putting the trough on after the tin roof had been attached...
We built them a new house because they are far too big for the other house they’d been in all season, and they were beginning to show us how bored they were in that same pen... ripping down their tarp, nosing branches onto their fence, etc. So, we called up our mentor Steve to see if he’d be willing to lend us some portable sheep netting and a couple batteries, he was.
So, we hooked up our pig house behind the truck and I took off driving over small boulders and through waist high weeds toward the site of the pig's new home. With Ben guiding me I was able to pull the pig house back behind the barn and back the truck out of there safely without falling off the cliff right next to me... all it all, it was quite a successful off roading experience.
Once we had the house in place, we set up the sheep netting, hooked up the chargers, filled the trough with food, filled up the water bucket, and got ready for the pigs to make the big transition the next morning.
The next day, with mom and dad along for the adventure, we all gathered around the pig pen, each at our stations, ready to help the pigs get acquainted with their new house. Ben distracted them with some corn while I snipped off the ties that held the end of their old fence in place, opened it up, and connected the (non-electrified) sheep netting to each side of the opening. Then Ben called the pigs over, showing them the new opening.
Now, I had thought the pigs would go charging through the opening into their new pasture land, so excited at the site of new soil to plow up with their little snouts. Not so. Those pigs stood at the opening of that fence, where the electric fence had been, sniffing the air, rooting in the soil, and not moving an inch. I had read that it's thought pigs associate some level of magic to these electric fences, and while I don't know if I quite believe that pigs even understand the concept of magic, it certainly seemed that that hypothesis wasn't far off. Those pigs knew that they had gotten shocked at that exact spot before and weren't about to risk that happening again.
After a while Flo Jo got over her fears and went alone, into the unknown wild of the new pen, grunting happily the whole way. Meanwhile, scaredypants #1 and scaredypants #2 were still in their old pen, grunting at Flo Jo, probably getting a report of the new digs. After Flo Jo had collected a sufficient amount of data, she headed back to the old pen to have a chat with the other two. But even after their pow-wow, they weren't sold. So they settled in to take a nap under their shade tarp. Ben and I had already been out there for an hour or so, and mom and dad had gone inside. We were running out of patience. So, we took down their shade tarp which stirred them up, but they still weren't crossing over. After trying watermelon, cracked corn, and pig pellets, we finally gave in and hand fed them corn chips. This did the trick!
After just a couple corn chips, backing up after each one, I was able to lure all of them over the "magic" line, and into their new home. They were rooting around and grunting happily almost immediately. So what we thought would be a quick 2 minute transition, turned into a 2 hour coaxing game of lure the pigs with tasty treats.
And now the pigs are happier than ever...
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Every year Bethany Church holds the Talent and Treasure auction as a fundraiser. This year we decided to donate a tea luncheon for 6 to take place here at the farm. So last weekend 6 ladies came over to our house all decked out in mudboots and tea hats, ready for an agricultural spin on a tea party.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Well, we finally got our huge tomato transplants out into the field.