Another Bad Day

Today was a bad day. Today I killed a goat. Well, not exactly. I did not kill the goat, per se. But I did pick him up from the goat enclosure, carry him to the truck, drive him to the “spa” (yes, that’s the local euphemism for the slaughterhouse, or as the French – and so by extension, us colonials – call it, the abattoir), and finally coaxed him out into the waiting arms of his killers. He knew something was up and so he didn’t exit very willingly.

He was a pretty cute goat. But he had to go. I guess.

goat-anatomy-ABGA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greg said that this ‘felt more like killing for killing sake’, what with no bacon to look forward to! Misu said that this would be the cutest animal she will have potentially eaten at some point in the future! Mazy asked if I liked goat? And dad? Mom? Ember? Harp? And Ember just sorta muttered something half-way intelligible but not really…but we all agreed that it definitely sounded like it could have been something deep and meaningful if only she’d had a better grasp and command of the English language…any language really.

He had to go. We keep telling ourselves ‘he had to go’. And we got him to kill him. Just to see if goat was maybe something we wanted to raise. The motto of WooHoo Farm being, of course, “If you don’t want it, fine! We’ll eat it ourselves.” And so we couldn’t in good conscience go around telling everybody to piss off if they didn’t like what we had to offer if we weren’t actually going to eat it ourselves. This boy goat was meat from the get-go. And boy goats stink, apparently. And are aggressive – of this I have experience being chased by a billy goat when I was but a wee lad. I would have had no trouble driving that stupid goat to the ‘spa’. No trouble at all.

But this little guy never chased nobody. Though I did catch him trying to hump one of his sisters once.

I drove him there anyway. Then I had a short chat with the owner of the place about the strange van Greg insists is a viable farm vehicle, though pulling a plow may not happen as he had so earnestly hoped, and then I drove back home. All this before 9 o’clock in the morning.

I got home, had an indeterminate number of tequila shots with Greg, and then went to work.

Moral being that no matter how bad your day, Tequila can always help.

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A Farmer’s Creed

Why is it that this life has called, and still does call out to me?

Why do I feel drawn to living what might be considered a not-so-lucrative or desirable lifestyle?

I’ve given a lot of thought as to why it is that I’ve decided to try my hand at farming over this past few months. I know in my heart what it is that is driving me to choose this life over any other but have never quite been able to put words to those impulses.

I ran into this the other day where I work…

The Farmer’s Creed

I believe a man’s greatest possession is his dignity and that no calling bestows
this more abundantly than farming.

I believe hard work and honest sweat are the building blocks of a person’s character.

I believe that farming, despite its hardships and disappointments, is the most honest
and honorable way a man can spend his days on this earth.

I believe farming nurtures the close family ties that make life rich in ways money can’t buy.

I believe my children are learning values that will last a lifetime and can be learned in
no other way.

I believe farming provides education for life and that no other occupation teaches so much about birth, growth, and maturity in such a variety of ways.

I believe many of the best things in life are indeed free: the splendor of a sunrise, the rapture of wide open spaces, and the exhilarating sight of your land greening each spring.

I believe that true happiness comes from watching your crops ripen in the field, your children grow tall in the sun, your whole family feels the pride that springs from their shared experience.

I believe that by my toil I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it; an honor that does not come to all men.

I believe my life will be measured ultimately by what I have done for my fellow man, and by this standard I fear no judgement.

I believe when a man grows old and sums up his days, he should be able to stand tall and feel pride in the life he’s lived.

I believe in farming because it makes all this possible.

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Fall on WooHoo Farm

Some photos of fall on the farm.

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What a Cock…erel!

It’s a well-established fact that a farm is not really a farm until it has a rooster. Much as rubber boots, a dog, and perpetually dirty hands are the tell-tale signs of any farmer looking to be taken seriously by his neighbours and peers, the cri de coeur of the resident cockerel announces to all who pass that this is a working farm, and not just somebody’s hobby.

WooHoo Farm was sorely lacking in this measure of authenticityuntil this fine fellow  arrived a week or so ago.

We can rest a little easier now that Matthew the Rooster patrols the grounds.

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One Bad Day!

Today, our pigs had their one bad day. Yes, today was the day we sent them off for slaughter.

We coaxed them out of their pen with the promise of some grain…okay, they in fact needed no coaxing. The minute they were free, they ran off in four different directions! The old guy picking up the pigs probably thought we were a couple of rubes as we just watched as our pigs make a run for it. “Just not too bright, these boys,” I imagine him saying to himself.

But they came back. Our pigs are – or rather were – nothing if not trusting and loyal. We led them onto a trailer, the door was slammed shut and that was the last we saw of them.

Pretty sudden.

No time to be sentimental.

They went pretty easily.

They trusted us to the end.

It’s not going to be easy to get past the killing that goes along with farming animals.

I comfort myself with the knowledge that were the shoes on the other feet, the pigs would no doubt send us off for the slaughter. But that’s small consolation.

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A Rant…about bacon. That’s right, bacon.

Okay, if you’ll indulge me, today I’d like to rant for just the briefest of moments.

Tofurkey? Vegetarian bacon?! Raspberry wine??!!

Enough. Tofu is tofu, not turkey! Bacon is from a pig, not an assortment of vegetables. Wine, well, wine is made from grapes and not raspberries.

wine (n.)

O.E. win, from P.Gmc. *winam (cf. O.S., O.Fris., O.H.G. win, O.N. vin, Du. wijn, Ger. Wein), an early borrowing from L. vinum “wine,” from PIE *win-o-, from an Italic noun related to words for “wine” in Gk. (oinos), Armenian, Hittite, and non-I.E. Georgian and West Semitic (cf. Arabic wain, Heb. yayin), probably from a lost Mediterranean language word *win-/*woin- “wine.” Also from L. vinum are O.C.S. vino, Lith. vynas, Welsh gwin, O.Ir. fin. Essentially the same word as vine (q.v.).

 

We seem to have demeaned our eating habits to such an extent that instead of giving up bacon – if one is so inclined – we simply demand a food product that tastes like bacon, just not made from pork. We want our cake (or bacon) and to eat it too. The meanings of words for our food, such as bacon, have ceased to refer to a particular thing but have become rather merely suggestions of form and taste; they have become an abstract, something malleable, meaningless designations. Bacon is no longer a cured meat that comes from a pig but rather a strip of salty blahh that can be assembled and processed in any number of ways from any number of plants or animals – turkey bacon anyone?? – as long as it looks and tastes right.

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Killing a Chicken

I killed a chicken the other day. On purpose.

I carefully grabbed her from the cage, carried her over to the killing cones, placed her in upside down and then drew a knife across her neck. Her eyes closed quickly and silently, her body convulsed just a little bit and then went quiet. Blood drained from her now-severed neck and pooled on the ground below. Some made it onto my shoes and clothes.

Then, I cut off her head entirely and dipped her in scalding hot water and then into the spinner that rubs all the feathers off. After that, she no longer resembled the little chicken I had raised from a day-old chick and that had only the day before been wandering around the barnyard with her sisters looking for bugs and little pieces of grass to chew on. The connection was gone. And that saddens me.

Not sure why. She lived a good life for a chicken: plenty of food and water, a nice warm, safe place to sleep, lots of exercise and fresh air.(Most people would be so lucky!) And she was raised to be slaughtered and eaten. But it was just so easy to take that life. I didn’t feel any hesitation in the moment, no pangs of doubt or remorse. I still don’t feel remorse. That’s not how I feel. I just feel sad that the chicken is no longer around. That I killed her.

But I would, and undoubtedly will, do it again. It’s just that now I am a more honest participant in the circle of life and death. I am more aware. It’s one thing to know that our meat was once alive, a living, breathing entity, and that it had to be killed by someone and then cut up and packaged into something that is unrecognizable as the animal it once was before it comes to me and I can buy it in the grocery store. Most conscious and enlightened omnivores understand this, at least abstractly. But to know this first-hand, to have drawn the knife across the throat and watch the life drain out of a body is somewhat more humbling. It is to develop a somewhat more intimate and awful connection to the reality of death in life and life in death.

 

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The case of the morose duck

One the neatest things about raising animals for the first time (and in small numbers) is that you get to know the character of the animal in general – you know, what makes duck a duck – as well as the character of the individual animals themselves. Also, you get to name them whatever you want!

For example, we are now the proud caretakers of a rather morose animal named The-duck-formerly-known-as-Greg. He seems to have been cast out of the tribe of ducks we’ve been cultivating and spends most of his days pacing back and forth along a fence line that now separates him from his former companions. His countenance is that of a broken-hearted lover staring listlessly across at what had once been his. Its all very sad, but that’s nature for you. There are certainly plenty of people out there right now who feel the same way, so don’t feel too bad about the duck. He’ll get over it.

We seem also to be the caretakers of a withdrawn laying hen named Gertrude. She’s always bucked the chicken trends. Never roosting with the others, she’s always perched alone and across the coop from the other five. She never accompanies them on their daily journeys down to the house and on along to the pig pen. She just seems to like to wander about with her own thoughts, pensive and introspective. Either that, or she’s a real bitch and the other hens just can’t stand her.

And then of course there is Wendy the Cat. And while she has most certainly been warming to us over the past few months and will now, on occasion, come lick my fingers if I hold them very still, Wendy is still a rather shy character. Rarely even seen in those heady early days of life here on the farm, she has always chosen the silent, withdrawn route in her short life. Can’t say I blame her really. Humans are a rather too strange and unpredictable bunch to be joining up with before making a thorough survey of their habits.

So it seems even the lowly animals that scurry around underneath us can be seen as individuals with individual personalities, with individual hopes and dreams, and the need to express themselves as individuals. Or, maybe (just maybe) I’m projecting too much onto them and they are just ducks and chickens and cats. No more, no less. Just like people. Just people.

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A bit of a shave

Generally, I like to keep the content here at Mutton Monologues strictly business, offering only good, prudent advice and keen observations about the nature of farm life. But today I thought I’d share something slightly whimsical: a picture of me!

Well, actually two pictures of me.

Here’s me in my Jim James phase…

And now me in my hardcore Ontario farmer phase…

I have to admit, I kinda like it.

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Always Wash your Vegetables

I’d never really thought much about it, but being a farmer actually involves a lot of standing around in, working with, and just all-around existing alongside of shit. Sorry, manure. Sounds better doesn’t it? And is perhaps less disagreeable to sensitive ears.

Whether you’re a potato farmer, work exclusively in poultry, or have a little bit of everything on the farm, you’re always dealing with some form of animal excrement at some stage of decomposition. Here, we have chicken shit, duck poop, hog do-do, dog crap, cat feces, and now goat droppings. This list does not include the copious amounts of sheep (and indeed some llama) shit that remain from the farm’s previous life. Some is good, some bad. But it’s all everywhere. We’re always walking in it, kicking it, touching it in some manner. I hardly really notice anymore.

So, just in case you’re thinking of inviting a farmer over for dinner…they’re probably covered in shit! Don’t bother cleaning up beforehand. And remember, always wash your vegetables, organic or not, before eating. Just good, prudent advice.

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