So there are plenty of folks out there who hunt deer or raise cattle, hogs, meat birds or other livestock for slaughter and never feel compelled to write about it or explain themselves to the world at large. I’m not one of those people. I write. I enjoy writing. I also need to write in order to process difficult things or happenings in my life and in the world around me. I write because I need to remind myself of where I’ve been and where I’m going. Perspective is everything in my humble opinion. Writing keeps me on my chosen path in this life and allows me to hark back to the original plan and purpose behind the lifestyle or circumstances I create for myself.
This is the problem. And it’s not really a problem. It’s actually more of a circumstance. We’ll call it a “challenging” circumstance. When you raise animals for meat consumption, you eventually have to slaughter them to consume the meat. The slaughter comes after they have followed you to the garden all summer and nipped at your sparkly toe rings while you lie blissed out, barefoot on a blanket in the sleepy Saturday morning sunshine. The slaughter comes after you have hand-fed your turkey’s fresh blueberries straight from the bush on the 4th of July and served them frozen watermelon rinds on the hottest days of the year. Harvest day is never the easy part. Suffice to say, it’s essential if one really wants to fully experience the fruits of one’s labor and embrace a healthier, more humane approach to meat consumption.
Over the summer my dear friend and poultry loving partner Chanda and I went in on a locally raised hog for our families. We ordered it and a few days later we met up at the butcher shop and sat in the parking lot celebrating and dividing up the neatly packaged and perfectly wrapped cuts of meat like two kids on Christmas morning. We were absolutely giddy with excitement… Because bacon. Also, it feels good to know we helped support a local farmer. Physically and mentally, it’s much easier to let someone else invest the time and money and energy into raising an animal and then ultimately doing the “dirty deed” so that we can then reap the deliciousness with a blind eye.
But I’m here to tell ya… Nothing compares to the mystical and primal satisfaction that comes with knowing a creature was born, lovingly raised and respectfully harvested on your own little slice of land with your own two hands.
I recognize the fact that my statement above possibly sounds sadistic to some people. But trust me when I say, humility is deeply engrained into the harvest. EVERY HARVEST. To us, and to our dear friend Chanda who also chooses to embark on this journey of sustainability, it is an instinct that feels as primal and as satisfying as the growing greens and potatoes harvested in our gardens each year.
Granted, I no longer stay up until the wee morning hours gnawing my fingers to the bone obsessively praying for a peaceful life to death transition for my birds the night before a harvest day, but I definitely have not become callused to the monumental sacrifice this chosen lifestyle entails. I’d be lying if I said I don’t stand and talk to my animals on the morning of harvest and tell them how grateful I am for their contribution to my family’s well-being. I might have smudged their coop with a burning sage bundle and it’s possible I used patchouli, nag champa and eucalyptus oils to create my own christening concoction for each of my feathered friends yesterday prior to the first slaughter. This makes me sound slightly unstable, but this is who I am. And I’m okay with that. I never want to feel completely calm or fully passive in regard to taking the life of another breathing, living being. Don’t get me wrong. I’m comfortable with my decisions and my lifestyle. Otherwise this blog would be devoted to something truly brilliant and purposeful like a step-by-step tutorial on how to get your eyebrows on fleek. But that’s not my jam.
I am a farmer, homesteader wannabe, with a potentially warped perception of how important it is to experience the feelings associated with FEEDING YOUR FOOD before you eat it. One thing I can say with certainty, the moment harvesting living creatures becomes “no big deal” is the moment that I have lost my soul. That will never happen.
This lifestyle sheds a genuinely different light on sustainability and offers up an exceptionally sacred meaning to our tradition of Thanksgiving that I will never take for granted.
Cheers to real food and to the real joy of life, friends and family this holiday season.