Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This Little Piggy...

Last night we had our first on-farm kill... we had planned to take our young boar, Melvin, up to the processor today.  In this extreme heat wave we've been under, he was very stressed— we worried what effect the trailer ride and overnight in a strange facility would have.  We didn't want to lose the meat, nor did we want him to suffer... so C and I waited for him to lay down last night as the evening cooled, and lured the other pigs away with grain, then took the shot.

In many ways, but particularly when it comes to things of this matter, I feel so lucky to have C as my partner.  Even the most merciful of shots is so difficult for me.  C took the perfect shot and Melvin was gone instantly.  The other pigs calmly eating on the other side of their shelter didn't notice a thing, not even the involuntary muscle spasms that accompany death [just not in the movies].  I cried and put my hand on his still-warm cheek, said thank you, what a good boy you were.

We carried him out of the pen and hoisted him on the tractor to bleed him out.  In these moments I always remember the words of Temple Grandin.  "It was here; now it's meat.  Where did it go?"  The Melvin we knew and took care of was gone, and now we had our upcoming pig roast to look forward to.  The chickens and dogs got some of the odd bits, and everything else went into the compost.  We hosed him inside and out, both cleaning and cooling the carcass.  For now, Melvin rests in our refrigerator.  This weekend, we will celebrate with friends his life and the land that sustains us.

His boisterous spirit and silly straw-burrowing will be missed on the farm, but we will eat him so that one less pig is raised in a confinement operation for a miserable dark 6 months of "life."  If you think I did it without the help of a shot of bourbon you'd be sorely mistaken.

Many people find it strange that we name the animals we intend to eat.  But knowing the animal is about more than the name— even without one we would find some moniker by which to talk about that once-living piece of pork versus the other four that we woke up this morning to feed.  In the end, we should all be so lucky as to spend our last day wallowing in silky black mud, playing in straw and eating cold melon, the dappled sun shining through trees.

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