Monday, February 23, 2009

Busy Weekend

I woke up this morning with such a deep sense of peace and I felt really refreshed and grateful. Why? I had a fantastic weekend.

Friday night, we went to Blessed Nation Ranch to pick up our pig. My hubby had helped their family and Phelan's family to butcher their pigs and now it was our turn. Our pig turned out to be bigger than we expected ~ 260 pounds. We didn't know how to load her in the horse trailer (which sits higher than livestock trailers so she had to step up to get in.) It was really hard to get her corralled and into the trailer. She didn't like it at all. Near the end, the pig was so upset, I told Jerry to hold on, give her a minute to calm down. Once she was loaded, she rode just fine up to Phelan's place.

Saturday the boys had a chess tournament. Usually, these are l-o-n-g affairs and it can be very tiring on the parents to hang out all day. I got there midday and was very happy to have several awesome moms to chat with. I don't often get chit chat time with these folks and it was just nice to be able to sit and enjoy each other's company.

Then, we dashed home to put on our layered clothes for the night of butchering. **Note to self: Get warmer clothes and BOOTS before next winter**

Jerry had already gotten there with a load of wood. We got there just as her hubby arrived home from work with a barrel. I don't know if I would've volunteered to help with butchering after I'd worked a full day, but I so appreciate that he did!!

As the barrel hadn't been used before, it needed to be scrubbed and prepped and it took some time. Time well spent. My kids got to help milk a cow. Jerry got to see a farm in action (he grew up on a corn and soybean farm ~ no livestock.) We enjoyed meeting the horse neighbors and borrowing their Ford tractor (yep, I have tractor envy. lol). Oh, and we got to hang out with the new triplets. Have you ever noticed how goats always seem to be smiling? Even the babies smile early on.

Now here's where I'm going to insert my opinion on the subject of butchering.

I was raised by a Vietnam veteran who believed all killing was wrong. He didn't hunt and he didn't fish. He rarely talked about his time in the service, but I can remember the terrible nightmares he suffered from ~ screaming and fighting in his sleep. I remember my parents talking about PTSD and he didn't get help for that but worked thru it on his own. I did ask him why he didn't go hunting - he said that once you look into another man's eyes and then have to shoot or be shot, it changes you. I felt so bad that he had to serve his country and to be put in the position to kill or be killed when he strongly believed that it is wrong. In his mind, he had no other choice and so he did it.

Fast forward to meeting my hubby. Jerry does hunt and fish and he believes that it's okay as long as it feeds your family. He does not belive in hunting for sport. He rarely hunts but when he did, he never got anything, which was a relief to me.

I've been pro-farm for as long as I can remember. I prefer shopping at Farmer's markets and roadside veggie stands. I want to know where my food comes from and how it's been raised. I want to ensure that my family isn't getting hormone laden meat or veggies with salmonella. Then I read Micheal Pollan's books and I tried to became a vegetarian, until 4 days later when the intense beef craving caused me to nearly inhale raw hamburger. lol I'm not quite cut out for a 100% plant based diet.

I put in an order for a pig to be processed at the meat locker in May. I've been saving up because it'll be several hundred dollars. But, when my path crossed with these two ladies, the talk of home butchering seemed a better solution. We could do it ourself and save quite a bit of money. A few weeks ago, I found myself saying, "yes, we'll buy your pig and butcher it ourselves." Jerry helped them in exchange for them helping us. Part of the deal was that I had to help with our pig.

So, standing in Phelan's backyard about midnight, 22 degrees, I find myself completely shaking. Not just from the cold, but from what I'm about to do. The guys had worked quickly to get the pig ready for evisceration - which is when I was to help. Phelan hops to it and I kind of freak out just a little. Once she got past removing the anus (please, visit her blog to read all about it - she is MUCH more technical and has awesome photos) it was my turn to help. I stepped up to the pig and helped to remove some connective tissue and then, following her instructions, stuck my hand inside the pig, feeling for the lungs, trying to pull the organs forward. The first few seconds were okay - I was freezing and it was warm inside that pig - but then, my brain freaked out and I just about lost my lunch. So, I remove my arm, shake my head and say, " I can't do it" and step back. Even now, as I'm typing this, tears are welling up.

I know where this pig came from. I know it was raised well and had a good life. The meat from the pig is going to feed my family for a very long time. It's just that I want meat without having to have an animal die. I know how strange that must sound, but it's how I feel. And, yes, I know that it's not possible.

Okay, so they keep working and I rinse my arm off and put my jacket back on. They make quick work of the rest of the butchering and we go home with 6 huge sections of pork needing to be processed.

Sunday, Jerry decides that we'll do a side first. Ah, yes, bacon! He brings in a large slab of meat and looks at me and asks if I'm okay. Yes, I am. I really am.

I don't know how to explain it but this is the best I can come up with:

I don't like the killing or evisceration, but I'm totally fine with cutting the large slabs into usuable cuts of meat and obviously, I'm fine to eat meat. I don't know if I'll ever figure out how to be at peace with the killing part. How does one overcome a lifetime of deep seated beliefs?

I'm glad I didn't send the pig to the meat locker for processing. I wanted to be there, to be a part of it. It was a time to face my fear and move beyond. And, besides, I've got to get over this because soon, I'll be helping Jerry to process our chickens.

This morning I woke up at peace ~ because I did something that I didn't think I could do and I lived to tell about it. I got to spend 36+ hours with my husband ~ which is huge because we rarely get an hour or two together, and I really like him. He was kind and gentle with me when I was shaking. He even whispered that he was proud of me... I so needed to hear that.


fullfreezer said...

I am so impressed. I don't know if I could ever kill and butcher an animal. I, too, am okay with the cutting up the pieces but I don't know how I'd do with the evisceration. I remember my family processing chickens when I was a child- I hated it but still got through. I had to pluck- manually- oosh!

Melissa ~ Wife to 1, Mom to 5 said...

Thanks. I did read up on chicken processing and it seems the plucking is the worst step. I found a great blog that sells plans for an automatic chicken plucker that we might have to build.

Phelan said...

Don't buy a plan, Children in the corn has a post on how to build them, check her out.

I was damn proud of you too! But you should have told me how hard of a time you were having, I would have approached it differntly for you.

Phelan said...

sorry, the plan would be a chicken plucker.

Melissa ~ Wife to 1, Mom to 5 said...

Phelan ~ The plan Angie has is the same one I was reading about. Since we're going to be doing 50 meat birds at once, seems like it'll save a lot of time.

Thanks again for all your help this weekend. You did just fine teaching us - I really wanted to be there and help. Sometimes the best way to do something is just do it. Hmmm, wonder if I can sell that slogan to Nike?! LOL

Christy said...

It does get easier with time. You learn to focus on what you are doing and not think about the rest.