Life and death

Don’t panic, this blog isn’t as serious as the title makes it sound. At least not for me. To one of the hogs, however…

So yea, we killed a pig. And yes, that was the plan all along. Yes, it was sad- a bit sadder than I thought it would be, but for a shorter period of time than I expected. As in, I was sad for about 8 minutes.

I know we’ve been joking about it on social media for weeks- those dang hogs keep getting out after all- but they are a part of the life we’re creating here on the farm now. We got them as babies, and we’ve raised them, chased them, and been entertained by them, and now their finally coming to serve their initial purpose.

I’ll be honest, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen an animal become my food. That was a bit surreal. And although I’m sure we’re teaching out kids loads of lessons that kids these days never get to learn anymore, I have to agree with Merit when he says, “That is disgusting.”

So the other morning, one of the colder mornings we’ve had here (I guess that makes for good ‘hog hanging’ weather), Thomas marched Gage, Merit and I out to the pasture to witness our first animal become our food. Cadence, lucky gal, was at school.

I leaned down, as Thomas entered the pasture with feed and the pigs circled around him, and explained to Merit what we had already explained a million times. These animals are for us to raise so that we know how they’re treated, and what they’re eating, so we can make healthier food choices for our family.

“Okay,” he said, feeling the weight of the experience more than I thought he would. I can’t tell if he was picking up my trepidation, or if he really was sad to say goodbye. Perhaps my four year old was having an existential experience, I can’t be sure. Either way, he seemed weary of the whole thing.

I snapped a picture of the targeted hog as he hurried around the bend towards his fate- his last photo.

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I almost wanted to yell a warning to him, but that seemed entirely ridiculous, given his entire life’s purpose on our farm.

Either way, Thomas took a small handgun from his hip and landed it directly on the pigs forehead as he ate. Without hesitation, it was over.

Man, that pig woke up that morning thinking it was a regular day and then all of the sudden during breakfast… (don’t even get me started on the entire blog I could write on this idea, given the world we live in these days! It’s too much for tonight).

The poor pig fell to the ground, stunned, and likely dead. I mean, it’s hard to imagine that he was still alive after a point blank shot to the head, but it wasn’t the ‘drop dead’ moment I had been anticipating. Without getting too graphic, let’s just say that it was several minutes (even after the throat cutting) before the pig was lying peaceful and still.

Despite this jarring start to the freezing morning, I have to say that the strangest part of it all was the way the other animals responded (or didn’t respond). The other pigs were standing, quite literally, right beside the one we chose and they didn’t even flinch at the sound of the gun. As a matter of fact, they were pretty annoyed that there was a dead pig laying on top of their feed.

So much for sending a message to the other pigs that they better stay in their pen or else!

And then there were the dogs… Ruger- my 6 year old Golden Retriever- was very concerned that Thomas had resorted to shooting animals. Of course we’ve been pretty angry with him over the years for different things, but we’ve never taken it to this level. So he was absolutely keeping his distance. As a matter of fact, he made it pretty clear that he’d just really prefer to be in the house while all of this was going on.

Harper- my 7 year old Golden Retriever- was just the opposite. He was very disappointed that he had been left on the OUTSIDE of the pig pasture. He barked at the gate and whined to be let in, not to save or defend his fellow farm animal, but to finally have the chance to smell and examine the fallen creature. It was all just so interesting to watch.

We quickly discovered that the rudimentary single pulley system that Thomas had rigged to the back of his truck, was not going to so much as budge this pig from his final resting place. And since the pigs were not in the mood to be patient and wait for their dead friend to be removed from on top of their feed, that meant that Thomas and I would be pulling the far-heavier-than-we-could-have-guessed-animal out of the pasture with our own strength.

Don’t worry, it was far more awkward than I’m describing. It’s hard to get a firm grip on a thin rope when you’re trying to keep the hood of your sweatshirt from blowing off your head. But fear not, we did it. We got the pig out of the pasture and up the hill onto (basically) my driveway. Yes, that is where we do our pig scalding, where do you do yours?

So pig scalding…

That’s step two of this beautiful process. It’s purpose is to prepare the skin to have the hair scrapped off of it without damage. The water is heated in a barrel (that Thomas jimmy rigged over a flame), to 145 degrees exactly, and the pig is then lowered in for 2 minutes stretches at a time, before it’s pulled out and the hair is scrapped off. This takes hours to complete. Then what you have is a plane white pig, ready to be hung.

Our pig hung for just over 24 hours (in the very cold weather) and Thomas spent the entirely of today butchering it. Yes, he butchered it himself, because if you know my husband, you know that there isn’t a lot he doesn’t want to learn how to do.

And so goes the story of friend to food…

In other food news on the farm, a deer found it’s way into our freezer as well. Thomas went out the first day of deer season and did something he’s been waiting his whole life to do- shot his first deer in his own backyard. And it all went down in less than an hour! He headed out before first light, and once he found his position, a deer walked right into his sights. With one bullet, the deer dropped straight to the ground (much how I anticipated the pig would do- but I was wrong. Very wrong).

I think I would have been more upset about the dead deer had I have seen it die- given that deer are just so much cuter than pigs- but as the story goes, I didn’t even lay eyes on the thing until it had no skin and was hanging from the shed. I had never eaten venison before, and so I was nervous to try it, but I have to say that it was not half bad. The way Thomas prepared it, almost like bbq pulled venison in the crockpot, I would have been hard pressed to even identify it as deer had I not known ahead of time.

So anyway, as the song goes… “There’s one more angel in heaven, there’s one more star in the sky” (extra points if you can name that song or the musical it’s from!)

Two down. More to come. Thomas is dead set (no pun intended) on processing (that’s a better word) another hog and we have it on the calendar to process one of my beloved turkeys this weekend. I don’t know if Thomas knows something about the coming apocalypse that he’s not telling me about, but we’re certainly getting our freezer prepared for winter.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be being the opposite of vegan.

But don’t be disheartened, Readers… there is new life here too. It’s not all dirty and bloody here. God is so funny, as he demonstrates so beautifully for our kids (and for us) that the circle of life is always around us. Things come in, and things go out. Death is a part of life. But NEW LIFE is also a part of life…

We’ve hatched 5 baby chickens since my last blog post! The first was discovered accidentally, as Thomas had miscalculated the incubation period. He wasn’t checking inside our eggonator (incubator) frequently, so as to not let out the warm air, and so he nearly missed the birth of our first new friend. It was actually muffled chirping coming from the machine that made him take a peek. And there, nestled among his unborn half siblings, was a tiny black chick.

I’m a grandma!

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This is the first birth of our second generation here at Shalom farm. Although we raised our chickens here from day old chicks like this guy, we weren’t there to see them hatch. We didn’t know the chickens that the babies came from. In this case, we most certainly do.

Over the last week, we’ve welcomed five- one we got to watch actually come out of the shell! It’s been very exciting. And although they are currently taking up residence in my guest room to keep warm while making it smell a little like a barn yard, it brings me such joy to see my kids love on their new animals. The miracle of creation just never gets old, I tell you what.

And although I still sometimes find myself unsure of God’s plan for us here, I know that He’s got us right where He wants us. We’re where we’re meant to be.

 

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