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.

Chore List

I am going away for a couple of days – the first days off since early August.  Annabelle calved on the 18th, I’ve milked her since then, minus four times when my husband practiced milking her.    He is involved in the farming, but generally sticks to manure moving, grain organization, and construction projects.  He also helps with butchering chickens and turkeys.  He also took the lead in castrating the Leif, the pig – egads!  That is a story for a different day!

My older children know all about the feeding of the animals so he has backup help if needed but school, homework, instruments, swim, and basketball conspire to keep them out of the barn for most of Monday thru Friday.

He asked for a thorough list of what needs to be done.  He has also been down at the barn throughout chore time this week so he has a full sense of what will happen.  I simplified a few things, for example I normally give Annabelle shredded beet pulp and chopped alfalfa – she doesn’t have to have them and they are a bit of a hassle  -otherwise here is what my daily chores look like.

Carrie and Sweetie Hen, eating under the horsetrailer.

Barn Chores

Morning Chores

In House:  Fill clean milk bucket ½ way with warm water.  Fill gray wash bucket – ½ soapy water, ½ clean water.

At Barn:

1)Rabbits:  Use warm water to fill their dishes.  Get one scoop of pellets to fill their dishes.

2)Chickens:  Use remaining warm water to fill black dish near barn door.  Stomp out ice as needed.  Spread two scoops laying pellets under horse trailer.

3)Cows:          Get both cows clipped in.  (If Huckleberry isn’t cooperative lock him outside. Use his grain as bribery.   Watch your chin – he is good at tossing his head at just the right moment to catch chins.)Clean up their area, making sure their beds are clean.  Use old hay to make nice beds for them, please. Put out fresh hay in their feeders – some in metal feeder, some in the stanchion feeder, some outside if not rainy.  One bale total.This is a good time to do turkeys.  Fill small white bucket ½ fill, scatter on ground outside if not rainy, in if rainy.  Use that bucket to take water from cows and fill the turkeys water – black dish outside.  Stomping out ice as needed.Give Annabelle one red bucket full of Coarse 16.  Give Huckleberry one white bucket full of Coarse 16.  (Dizzy can have a small handful of Coarse 16 at this point too.)Brush Annabelle – good bonding time – milking her is an emotional thing, bonding thing – can’t really rush through it.  Wash Annabelle’s bag thoroughly – even if not dirty, as it stimulates milk flow.  Milk Annabelle.  Because she isn’t used to you, her let-down may stop after a bit,  try washing her down again then resume milking.( I have found counting squirts to be helpful when beginning to milk – kind of like the breathing techniques for birthing.)

4)Dizzy:  When you are done milking, but cows are still hitched let Dizzy into their pen.  If it is rainy leave her in her pen with water and two flakes of hay.  Clean up as needed.

5)  Unclip cows.

6)  Take milk to house, strain, and put in fridge.

7)  Water cows.

8)  Every time I leave barn I double-check four things>

Cows unclipped, Hay for Cows, Water for Cows, Gates Shut.

Tom Turkey roosting and preening at the same time. He never stops showing off!

Evening Chores

In House:  Fill clean milk bucket 1/4 way with warm water.  Fill gray wash bucket – ½ soapy water, ½ clean water.

At Barn:

1)Rabbits:  Use warm water to fill their dishes.

2) Cows:         Get both cows clipped in.  Dizzy will come in – put her in her pen. Clean up their area, making sure their beds are clean.  Use old hay to make nice beds for them, please.  Put out fresh hay in their feeders – some in metal feeder, some in the stanchion feeder, some outside if not rainy.  Half of a bale total.  A flake for Dizzy.Water cows and Dizzy.Give Annabelle one red bucket full of Coarse 16.  Give Huckleberry one white bucket full of Coarse 16.  (Dizzy can have a small handful of Coarse 16 at this point too.)Brush Annabelle – good bonding time – milking her is an emotional thing, bonding thing – can’t really rush through it.  Wash Annabelle’s bag thoroughly – even if not dirty, as it stimulates milk flow.  Milk Annabelle.

3) Unclip cows.

4) Do final check>

Cows Unclipped, Hay for Cows, Water for Cows, Gates Shut.

5)  Collect eggs.

6) Take milk to house, strain, and put in fridge.

Notes:

If it is really cold, below 20 deg. watering will have to be done mid-day for all animals.  And/or heating lamps put on.

If you don’t get much milk add in a milking around 3 or 4, give her 1/2 bucket of grain and make sure she has hay.

If Dizzy is difficult you can leave her in her pen, just give her more hay.

If the milk gets a little dirty give it to Huckleberry, if it gets really dirty give it to chickens or turkeys.

If you notice any problems call me asap. Problems like:  cows or Dizzy not eating, not getting up, not pooping,  or udder feeling warm or looking red.