The reality of farming is that everything has a purpose. Everything has a place. When something ceases to have a purpose, well…decisions need to be made.
Warning: I talk about slaughter and butchery and all the emotions and conflict that goes along with it in this post. I don’t recommend reading further if this is something you’re not comfortable with…unless you’re interested in becoming more comfortable with where humanely raised, loved, fed meat comes from. I promise, I’m not gratuitous with actual photos.
I’ve been fortunate enough in my evolution from city to farm that I have a gentleman standing next to me who up until recently could handle “the tough bits”. I’ll be there to help clean up, de-feather, butcher, collect the fat for rendering into lard.
Lately I’ve been feeling much more reflective about my role in recent months. When we had to slaughter the Muscovy drakes that would take over our porch every night like raging frat boys, leaving behind a scene of destruction and far too much poop for us to wash down every morning…I helped. I didn’t put up my usual wall of “Oooh, I don’t think I could.” and I just did.
A couple months before that I accepted an invite to help out with a harvest of chickens at Linnaea Farm. 40+ birds, five member team, an all morning to early afternoon affair. It was the best learning I could ever ask for in the proper evisceration process. Helps to learn from good friends.
Just a few short weeks ago, I branched out from poultry at Horse Drawn Farms, helping with my first rabbit kill. This was the hardest one for me to wrap my mind around at the time. I still hesitate to write this because I have friends with rabbits who I’m genuinely afraid will read this and be too appalled to continue knowing me. But it was a quick, efficient moment and then there was meat. And a beautiful hide. The former made an incredible meal (for all of us – Isla is the connoisseur of fresh animal liver and kidneys), the latter will be something, someday once I’m ready for the next project of learning how to tan a hide.
There’s a common thread in each of these situations.
- I was surrounded by friends I trust who I know are kind, respectful and above all else humane human beings.
- I did not perform the kill.
I’m not ready for the kill.
I’m learning. I’m new. I’m nervous. I’m not ready -and I’ve had the luxury that not everyone gets to allow myself to become ready – to be responsible for this part of the necessity that is keeping livestock.
Yesterday was the biggest step. Well, two weeks ago when I proactively approached one of our friends, Max and asked for his help to do the deed…I suppose that might have been a big step too. Make the kill. Help walk me through the process of processing.
Yesterday we said goodbye to the boys, Loki and Rollo. For those who have followed my Instagram, you know that these boys were plucky little fellows (Loki our buck, Rollo his brother/companion) who only joined the farm in the Spring. So you may be wondering why they had to go.
The first reason is one of practicality. Our four Nigerian Dwarf goat girls (well, I think only 3 girls) should be kidding in the next few months. If there are girls…we will likely keep them. Which means we would need to diversify the bloodlines.
The second reason is one of plain old tough choices. We made the decision to let the boys roam with the girls all summer, knowing that this would (a) make it difficult to know when they became pregnant and (b) possibly bond them to the herd…too much. Bucks already have a strong, instinctive will to be around does…so it should come as no surprise that they joyfully ran right through all fencing options we attempted to keep them separate.
Separate because…well, babies are coming. Plus, our barn was smelling goat-y. The bad goat-y, the buck-ish, rutt-y stink that can destroy the quality of your milk in a minute just by sharing the same air space.
No way to keep them at a healthy distance, no point in fooling myself into thinking someone else wants my adorably stinky buck and his bonded brother.
Absolutely no desire to sell them “to a good home” for $10, knowing full well that such a home is really only going to eat them anyway.
“I believe the place where an animal dies is a sacred one. The ritual could be something very simple, such as a moment of silence. No words, just a moment of silence.” – Temple Grandin
If I’m going to enjoy fresh milk, bliss out on cajeta and cuddle baby goats, I owe these fine young boys an honourable death that I bare more than just witness to. I owe them proper participation in the goodbye. To do my part to make sure we (or someone more resourceful than us) use as much of them as possible, making sure their lives are not wasted by death.
Everything with a purpose.
It was difficult. It’s always difficult. I hope it’s never not difficult. This was the most difficult (not the most emotional/sad – that was Blue, our first rooster who I spent two months trying to “train” not to beat our shins and knees with his high kicks), but was also the fourth time in five months I’ve felt like I’m in an environment and undertaking new skills around people who I respect and trust and want to emulate in my own approach to making the right call and following through. With respect. Humbleness. And a greater appreciation for the meat that will nourish us, the hides that will keep us warm (well, let’s be honest…they are dwarf goats…they might keep Isla warm) and the pride that comes with sourcing extra extra local meat.