Friday, March 13, 2015

Killer Karen

That's the nickname my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Hunter, gave me.  I don't know where it came from but 5 or 6 of us in his class had nicknames and I felt honored to be one of them.  Bear with me and I'll come back to this.

Today I'm having mixed feelings about my "growth" as a farmer.  It's been 6 years since we got our first chickens and goats - the gateway animals to our homesteading/farming experience.  James began with the first garden beds in 2004 but I feel like we began working toward a more self-sustainable lifestyle in 2009 when we introduced animals to Elk Cliff Farm.  Back then my excuse to raise animals was to provide eggs and milk.  In all honesty,  I just wanted to own goats for pets, but felt I needed to justify them somehow.  That first year I had a mean rooster and I took his life because I couldn't have him attacking people.  I felt a little bad about that but because he was so mean it wasn't as hard as I would have thought.  I've gone back over my blog posts and read one where I said I'd never be able to eat one of my goats.  I think it was only a year or 2 later I wrote that we ate our first goat meat.  Yes, I cried my eyes out as I arrived home after James took them to the butcher (I wanted no part of delivering them to their death) and then again when we picked up their meat.  The next year I helped take them to the butcher.  The woman who handled the order waited very patiently as I sobbed and told her what cuts I wanted.  I still cry when we take goats to the butcher but it has definitely gotten easier because I recognize there's no way to keep all the male goats or find them good homes.  Also, we love goat meat and knowing our meat is raised humanely makes it taste even better.

Turkeys came next, then pigs.  I had no other excuse for raising them than for meat.   I can't remember if I cried over the turkeys but I know I've shed tears over pigs.  Our steer, Windsor, is going to be another emotional trip to the butcher.  I couldn't have asked for a better experience raising our first calf. He's a gentle, adorable boy.

This brings me back to my thoughts on my growth as a farmer and my 5th grade nickname.  Yesterday I did something I wouldn't have thought possible 6 years ago - maybe even 3 years.  Adam and I butchered a pig by ourselves.  I've prepared for this in my mind many times and am pleased to say the whole process went just as well, or maybe even better, than I expected.  Adam did the shooting and I did the cutting for the bleed-out.   The taking of life was quick and I felt good about him never knowing fear or stress.  It couldn't have gone more smoothly.  It's how all meat should come to our table.  After the kill we skinned and gutted him.  I'm hesitant and maybe embarrassed to type this for fear it sounds unfeeling, but we were a bit giddy and excited with how well it all went.  It was also an amazing experience and anatomy lesson.  Today I'm smoking pork we'll put in our freezer for many meals.   I'm even looking forward to butchering another hog for a pig roast this summer.

On a very sad note, this morning I found our cat, Willy, dead in the road.  When I went out to feed the chickens this morning Willy didn't greet me in the driveway.  I just knew she was dead.  We had talked yesterday about cats and dogs being hit by cars so it was already on my mind.  It didn't take long to feel guilt about taking a life and losing a life.  The word karma came to mind.  I know one thing probably had nothing to do with the other but still I can't help but feel I enjoyed the butchering yesterday too much and that was the reason Willy was taken away.
So that's how I'm feeling today.  I wonder what nickname one might give me in 6 more years.


  1. You continue to amaze me with your life. SO very sorry about Willie. It happens when you're on the road. I thank goodness we aren't anymore. There are many more who would love a chance at a life with your family, so adopt another one. It will never take Willie's place, naturally, but there are again SO many needing homes.

  2. Thanks Susan. I'm tempted to get another cat or two but that will take some contemplating. Willy was such a great kitty.

  3. Aw crap. It's always the best kitties who die. April 8th will be two years since Tom died and I barely think about it anymore. (I also got 7 kitties to replace him.)
    Congrats on the hog! That is great news!

  4. Yes, Mollie, I can tell you barely think about him. April 8th huh? When I went to put the chickens to bed tonight I looked for Willy to come to the barn. I guess it will take a while to remember she's not here.

  5. You are the best . . . simply the best . . .

  6. So much to take in, you truly are one of my heroes. You are such an awesome farmer with so much to teach. So sorry to hear about Willy.

  7. I am so sorry. She was such a pretty cat. I hope you will get another.