The last major farm task for the year is over now. This weekend we filled our freezer pork orders, and everything is cut, wrapped and frozen, We're just waiting on the hams & bacons now, as the smoking process takes about a week longer. Between the whole and half hogs ordered this time, we had 4 total hogs to do over the weekend. Each time in the past, Dan's father has come up to lend a hand and offer his expertise when we have more than one to do. However, he lives about 4 hours away and the forecast was for a couple inches of ice topped with a foot or so of snow. In the interest of safety, we told him to come visit another time and tackled the big project ourselves. In the past this would have completely overwhelmed me, but since Dan and I have done so many over the course of the season for the stand (although one at a time!) we pretty much have it down to a two person routine; he cuts and I wrap and label. I can even tell by looking now the different roasts we offer (shoulder, loin end & Boston butt) whereas a few years ago, I couldn't have told you the different names, much less what they looked like or how to cook them!
It is good to be done with the butchering until next May. I don't cry over each pig or chicken, as I know why we raise them and know we give them the best life possible. I do get a little more choked up over my turkeys and cows, as I interact with them for a longer period of time, and to some extent you do get attached. The cows are here for at least a year usually and are the only meat animals I name. But again, I know why they are here. Even though we send the pigs to a USDA-inspected facility for slaughter, we still cut them up and make our secret recipe sausages here at the farm. Pork and poultry are lots of work! It's a big job to coordinate bulk meat orders and have a variety of cuts available each week at the stand, so it's nice to get a break form that for a bit. I also think that taking a break is good mentally...it keeps you from taking an animal's life too lightly. I think the world would be a more humane place, and that consumers would be much less tolerant of factory farming, if everyone who eats meat out there had to raise an animal once in their life and then eat it. Five years ago, I wouldn't even have considered myself capable of such a thing either, but I see now how pretending that meat just magically appears on a Styrofoam tray in the grocery store meat cooler is not good. It's not good for the animals, who suffer in horribly crowded conditions, some never seeing the light of day, being force fed antibiotics and chemicals to get them big and tender quickly without regard to the animals' comfort or health. It's not good for us, because we have no idea where our food comes from or who is producing it, and the end result of that is bad food. We've seen it time and again with the recalls of meat, eggs, and so many other products. Recalls prompted by people getting sick and even dying just because of what they ate. I'm proud to be a part of the movement to change that; I won't sell anything I don't feed my own family, and raising healthy animals is good for them and good for us too.
On a completely different (and lighter!) note: I believe I invented a completely new sentence in the English language yesterday. Finally, I've had time to put up my tree and do some holiday decorating. Despite the fact that it was about 15 (without considering the wind chill) I was out on the porch hanging up my lights and putting some tinsel around the porch columns. Some of the animals were still happily free ranging despite the weather, and about half of my Bourbon Red turkeys came over to see what in the world I was doing. My tinsel is iridescent white with little foil snowmen on it, and as I was finishing winding it around the column, I laughed when I heard myself say:
"Shoo, turkeys! It's tinsel, not turkey food!"