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A very appropriate autumn turned into an unusually warm November. As was the case last year, it had me wondering if we could have squeezed a little more out of the garden or started another project that will now be pushed until next year. However, we’ve had our hands full, so I think we made the right decision. The cycles of death and rebirth seem unchanged by the odd weather, so we likely shouldn’t change our schedule either. And as I update this on the 21st, the frigid cold has returned (we’ve gone from 74 to 18 degrees in one week) so who am I to second guess nature?

As far as meat birds go, we were down to two broilers and the turkey this past weekend. The turkey has grown in size, and unfortunately, also on me. With over 20 meat birds, they didn’t have much individual character, but the turkey that thinks it’s a chicken is certainly a character. Having put stalls up in the barn I spent many hours with him nearby over the past few weeks as he tends to hang in there most of the time. So, naturally (and unfortunately) I started talking to him.

“Dammit, Turkey, I can’t find my tape measure again.”

“GOBBLE!”

“I know, have you seen it?”

“GOBBBBBLE.”

“Alright, I’ll keep looking.”

Nothing too deep, but I think I humanized him a little more than I should have. It’s still a strange concept to get used to. Ag is so different from hunting /fishing for food (which I do support). Unlike the latter we are more than JUST the executioner. We put this labor in to the birds – building the coop to protect them from coons and coyotes, changing feed mixes, walking through the cold dew every morning when we’re already late to work to give them free range – and then we snuff them out.

Unlike every other part of farming, the slaughter never feels too natural. Perhaps it’s more proof than I like of how fragile life is. If you do it right, it’s over quickly. Very quick. It makes me think of the words of Homer Bannon: “It don’t take long to kill things. Not like it does to grow.”

True, old man. Still, like Homer’s beloved cattle, the bird was bred to be dead. His genes predicted this fate long before I did and even if I’d pardoned him, his biology wouldn’t be as forgiving. Actually, upon dressing the turkey it turned out to be female, but I’ll continue to say “he.” I’ll try and feel happy about his life, and not focus on his demise. In many ways I feel positive. I’ve been washed in the blood of the Turkey – my sins against food forgiven. Around the table this year I will be the personification of both the compassionate carnivore and the conflicted omnivore, but I won’t shed a tear. We’ve eaten Turkey every year of our lives… the only difference is we did all the work, even the hardest part. I don’t see how it was more noble to simply let others do it.

I think this year was a great test of what we’re made of. We’ve given and taken away. We’ve razed and built anew. Torn down walls and then put them back up. We’ve even joined the circle of life ourselves in a very special way. 

When we want to be thankful this year – or proud, or impressed or relaxed or motivated – all we have to do is look out our kitchen window. It’s an incredible feeling and one I wish on everyone in their lives. Most of all I’m thankful at how right we were that this was the life we wanted. I can’t imagine going back now. In my life I was never person you could call content and in some ways I’m still not. But with Kate, I know we want to live on this land and grow things on it and bleed on it until we’re in the dirt ourselves. Given, and taken away… In the end, we’re not that different than our dinner.

“Happens to everybody. Horses, dogs, [Turkeys], men. Nobody gets out of life alive.”

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