We've been lost in a whirlwind of activity as summer accelerated from the muggy days of August into September and October when everything is coming into harvest. Jars upon jars of tomatoes are tucked away in our cellar with apple butter, pickles, and alcohol infusions. Right now we have an entire cooler of the last of the vegetables from our garden that hung on until our first hard frost. We took our first animals to slaughter a few weeks ago— 10 beautiful heavy ducks.
The schedule of a farmer is different than that of the modern person who considers "summer" to be over after Labor Day. If tomatoes are still on the vine, I'd say it's still summer. And only in autumn are meat animals typically ready for harvest. The ducks were our first, but within the month we will also take 10 Thanksgiving turkeys and 20 chickens for processing as well.
But the really big one is coming up in just a few days. We are taking two of our pigs to a local slaughterhouse, dropping them off Wednesday night and returning Thursday morning to get a tour of the place and see the kill. I've been saying goodbye in some ways for weeks... extra treats, extra straw in their shelter, even just lingering near them, watching them play and root around and be themselves. It is most definitely a mourning process along with the celebration of their life, the sacrifice they make to put food on your
Just before our boar Melvin was slated to go to the slaughterhouse, he succumbed to a week of brutal heat, with temperatures over 100 degrees during the day hardly cooling down at night. In some ways, it was terrible to have to make the decision to put him down at home. In others, it was a relief not to have to load him up onto a trailer and take him to a strange place for the last day of his life. He laid down and it was over. I took a shot of bourbon first. I cried. A somber mood settled over the farmstead. It was over.
Hopefully, on Wednesday we will load up two of our pigs. Jack Sparrow and Rigatoni. They are accustomed to the trailer and we've been feeding them and giving treats on it so they're not afraid of it. The best you can do as a caretaker of any animals is set them up for success, and do as much as possible to ensure they're calm. We've done our best and can only hope that everything goes the way it should over the course of the next few days. I struggle with the emotions of it all, and quite frankly, sometimes I don't do well with it. I always cry. It's exhausting but I wouldn't have it any other way.