Auker is gone.

On August 25th Auker went to the butcher.  I scheduled Bonniebelle for pregnancy testing with the expectation that I’d have a positive confirmation by the 23rd of August.

I scheduled Auker’s appointment for the 25th.

The pregnancy test was negative.

So why is he gone?

The first week of August he broke through a weak spot in the fence and visited my neighbor.  The weak spot being a spot that none of my cows of the past five years found.  A huge bush had grown itself into the the 48 inch heavy duty mesh fence.  This bush had lots of branches radiating from its center.  Thick sturdy branches.  Auker went through the an ‘off’ electric mesh fence, the branches, and the wire.

He then walked over a three foot mesh fence used to kennel my neighbor’s small breed dog.  And Auker was stuck.  How he managed to get out of my rather sturdy fence and over the dog’s fence and not get out of that is a mystery.

He was easier than my lab to bring home.  Fortunately.

But then he broke a gate in the barn, and began to just randomly push on fences and gates.  Grrr..  Some weird hormonal thing I guess.

Back to August 23 rd.  Negative pregnancy test for Bonniebelle.  Shoot!

Unbeknownst to Auker I cancelled the appointment with the butcher.

Then August 24th, Saturday night I went into the field to find that Auker had broken through a four foot electrified mesh fence, used for grass rotation.  He had to have taken multiple shocks before he killed the fence.

I couldn’t sleep that night.  My cow is not bred.  My bull is becoming a danger to the neighborhood.  A loose bull, even of the good-natured mini version… not good.  So not good.

The next morning Eric came into the barn while I was milking and quietly said, “He has to go.”

“Yes,  a lot easier to get this cow bred than to undo an accident or fix a broken child.”

I put him into the trailer and Eric drove him to the butcher.  No more sleepless nights.

Random side note – the large bush he went through smelled like dill pickles!  I had to cut off branches and branches and branches to fix that stretch of fencing – just thinking about it makes me salivate!

Bonniebelle and Stormy in front of the fences and bush Auker went through to get out.

Bonniebelle and Stormy in front of the fences and bush Auker went through to get out.

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Early Bee catches bit o’ Bird

This morning,

the weather a little low,

my temperature a little high,

Five a period m period crowing,

Cock-A-Doo-Dill-Doo,

me fretting about neighbors,

neighbors losing sleep, losing peace.

me losing peace.

Cool enough to kill a couple

doo-dill-doo-ers before the flies come.

One done.

Two done.

Three dead, de-feathered.

Slicing leg tendons, when the first fly comes in.

Housefly.

Shoo!  Let me finish!

A bee swoops in.

Dives down.

Grabs an armful of bloody flesh.

Staggers up to eye height.

Shoo! Let me finish!

The bee sways drunkenly.

Circling, off-balance.

Clutching his treasure tight to underbelly.

Bloody red against bright yellow and black.

Shoo! Let me finish!

The bee finds his balance

and is gone.

His bit of bird and he  – gone.

Meat Meditations II

Remains of Roast Chicken, getting prepped for pasta, veggie, and chicken dinner.

Two years ago my husband was sick when it was time to put the poultry in the freezer.

Two years ago my order of chickens was increased by accident.

I picked up a dozen turkeys and thirty cornish rocks.

I had ordered ten turkeys and twelve cornish rocks.

Two years ago I had very good luck with my baby birds – none of them died prematurely.

The best time to butcher birds is when the weather is cool enough to keep the flies away yet warm enough to not freeze fingers.

I decided to kill eight birds a day until the job was done.

Fate smiled on me and sent a predator that offed six birds.

By day two I was sick and tired of killing birds.

Until two years ago I had never killed more than four or five birds a day and that was done with my husband’s help.

By day two I had perfected my methodology and could dress off a bird in twenty minutes.

By day four I had to work hard to keep the bile down.

Day five was a light day – I did the last few birds, without looking at them.

For the next three months I didn’t eat meat.

I cooked it for my family if someone begged for it.

I wanted to vomit every time I touched a piece of meat.

OVERKILL OVERKILL OVERKILL OVERKILL

I’d heard the term a million times but two year ago I understood the meaning.

Since that fall I’ve been jotting down my meat-eating thoughts.

Food for thought:

Raising and butchering your own meat has a natural rhythm involving season, life cycle, supply, and demand.

Fasting may be a religious experience but is the root founded in the basics of food gathering?

Eating meat that you have raised and processed becomes a vehicle for thoughtful eating.

I prefer to put no more than fifteen birds in the freezer – I can make one bird last for three meals for a family of five.

Top preference would be to butcher on demand with no freezer involved.  (Need a larger barn for safe and sanitary hosting of birds than current situation allows.)

Hunted animals for meat is a whole different situation than domesticated animals for meat.

A loved animal produces lovely meat that shares an indescribable but tangible energy with the caretaker and partaker.

And this list should be longer but today has been a long day.  I presented Homesteading as a career at the local middle school Student Development Day today.  Fun but tiring.  A different tiring than moving manure!

Meat Meditations I

I was thirteen when I killed an animal for the first time.

I kept rabbits so went to the barn twice a day to tend to them.

My father kept turkeys.  Enormous black-gray beasts with iridescent feathers.

This particular year the turkeys were ruled by a very large, very nasty tom turkey.

The whole barn was ruled by this tom.

His feathery attacks didn’t bother my brothers.

I feared and hated him.

He’d jump up as high as he could, beating his enormous wings on me, looking me in the eye as if hoping he’d get high enough to peck my eyes out.

As the largest tom he was given the dubious honor of living the longest – long enough to grace the Thanksiving Table.

The big tom would be more than enough to feed two families for Thanksgiving.

Having enough meat wasn’t the goal, any of the other toms would have sufficed.

Having the grandest bird possible, graced by dishes of potatoes, peas, and squash, was the point.

No matter how nasty he acted, this tom’s moment of glory would come.

Another family historian could tell who was chosen to shoot and kill this bird and why that particular son was chosen.

I was not involved, that part of farming was not for the girls in our family.

The girls cooked the food, we cleaned the house, we had animal chores of our choice; for me- rabbits, for my sister – a horse; but we were not a part of the normal barn chore crew, and certainly not a part of the killing process for any of the animals we ate.

We packaged meat, we labeled packages, we cooked the meat; but we didn’t feed or tend or kill the animals my father kept in the barn.

On tom’s fateful day I stepped outside just as a shot rang out.

The shot was quickly followed by my father’s astonished.. incredulous….  frustrated voice,

“You missed it, point blank range, and you missed it!  Somebody else around here capable of killing this bird?”

I didn’t plan on saying “I’ll do it!”

But I did.

I wanted to kill that bird.

I knew I’d kill that bird.

My father reviewed the basic mechanics of the gun.

This was not the first time I had touched or fired a gun.

Most homes have hammers and saws; our home had hammers, saws, and guns.

Respected, well-used, tools vital to the operation of our lifestyle.

I lined the sight of the gun to the back of the turkey’s head.

The headless turkey raced into the pasture,

wings beating the air,

bringing Tom to his largest size and height,

high enough – at last – to peck my eyes out.

All the hatred and fear I had ever felt for Tom poured through me, flooding my eyes.

I ran to my room.

Away from that hugely-awfully-flapping bird.

My brother who had missed the shot was teased for days.  He was outdone by a girl, and the bookworm at that!

The Tom’s moment of glory became my moment of glory.

On the outside.

Inside  – I knew I had done a horrible thing.

I killed that turkey because I hated him.

Hate and fear have no place on the dinner plate.

Particularly not at Thanksgiving.

I’ve never forgotten that horrid, hollow feeling of watching that turkey racing away from death.  Away from me.

Various cultures and time periods have traditions for the butchering process, involving rituals and religion.

I am sure that not all persons involved in butchering animals need to have that component added to the process, but I do.

I don’t yet have a prescribed ritual but I am working on it.

At the moment, a mental, meditative process involving thanksgiving is an absolute necessity for me when I participate in the butchering process.

Eating Leif

FACTS: 1 degree at 7 a.m..  Milked out two gallons for Huckleberry and a little shy of two gallons for me.  Collected 7 eggs.  Princess locked in with chicks due to low temps.  New gate that DH made yesterday for stall/hall point is wonderful.  Repairs to hay feeder and wash bucket equally appreciated.  And DH took advantage of frozen ground to empty manure trailer this morning.

THOUGHTS:

This morning I was frying up a pan of breakfast sausage and thinking about Leif, the pig, who was now the pork.  Leif was our first pig.  My husband and daughter went to a pig scramble in Springfield, ME and she caught Leif.  It was love at first sight, not for me; for my daughter.  She taught Leif to sit, come, and dance within days.  The fact that we intended to eat my daughter’s pet disturbed every visitor that came and saw the unquestionable bond between pig and child.  And frankly,  it disturbed me.  At the end of this trail was pain.

“How can you do it?”

“Don’t you get attached?”

“Don’t you feel mean?”

“Don’t the kids cry?”

“How ever can you do it?”

I’ve been asked these questions innumerberable times in the past five years.

I do get attached.  The kids do cry.  I cry.

Every time I’ve cooked sausage, ribs, roasts, and liver, from Leif I’ve thought of him.  Giving him a wonderful life, giving him love, and giving him a humane death do not negate the pain.  The pain of losing something we cared for, something we loved, and something we butchered, all hurt.  The satisfaction of serving my family food that was raised outside of the massive food production system does not negate the pain.  Those things help me, and my family, accept the pain on an intellectual level, but on a deeper level the pain exists.

And I’m okay with that.

Life is full of stuff that requires acceptance.

Take a leap here with me.

We’ve had lots of stuffy noses in the house this week so I’m hearing lots of blowing.  In fact, I’ve spent $2.99 per box for 3 boxes of tissues.  My Dad uses a handkerchief.  He blows long and hard, neatly folds up the handkerchief, and tucks the wet mess into his pocket.  In ten minutes he might find a dry corner in the handkerchief and blow again.  I wonder, if, we, as a society, started to toss our tears, and our loves, and our attachments out of our lives at the same time that we began to blow our boogies into tissues and toss them into the trashcan instead of into handkerchiefs?

My husband said I can not wrap up the complexity of butchering my beloved animals in a handkerchief and just leave it at that.   He said that bringing up mucus when talking about food and death is just gross  – and he is right. It is gross.  But think about that handkerchief for just one minute – wrapping up grossness, and putting it in your pocket, walking around with it, reaching in and pulling it back out  – now that is acceptance.