Ramble On

Monday, January 23, 2012

On a quiet and cold morning...

There'd been a hard frost overnight and the world was as barely awake as I was when I hit the road from Hawksbill Cabin to meet up with David and friends in Egypt Bend, just west of Luray near the Shenandoah River.  I was the last to arrive, and after some brief shooting the breeze, we were underway back to the farm, bringing destiny with us in the loaded rifle on the floorboard of David's truck - destiny, not for us, but for the four hogs that David had raised since August, and that I had been watching grow from little squealers into the nearly 400 pound young adults they'd now become.

I've been thinking for a few weeks how I might post about the experience of being familiar with these pigs, and then seeing them killed and butchered, with me doing some of the work. Would the shooting upset me? How much blood would there be? What would be more difficult - the deaths or the evisceration?

For all of my years, I've chosen my pork under the gleaming fluorescent lights of a grocery store, where it is very abstracted from the animal. True, some roasts retain the appearance of some body part, but generally, even in high-end stores, it's hard to connect the meat on display in those cases with the animal that was raised somewhere else and made it to your table after being handled by so many people. Raising a pig with David and friends was a clarifying experience.

When we got to the farm, I looked across at the cows grazing in the early light across the nearby pasture.  They were far enough away that our activities wouldn't bother them, even if they could be distracted from the forage.    And there lay the pigs, sleeping in a huddle against the cold.

We woke them, and they went out into the field to relieve themselves.  Then it was their time. 

It was quick work.  First, the killing shot - smooth, except for the first one, and a quick correction was made.  The rest went down instantly. 

After the death, there is the bleeding.  I wondered to myself why there didn't seem to be much blood, and then remembered there's only a gallon or so in a human, and logically, probably not much more in a pig.  It was bloody, but not the gore fest you see in a bull fight or horror flick.  It was quickly over also; I think everyone there shared my respect of these animals, wanting the quickest and most painless death for them.

So the answer to my questions had come by the time we were leaving the farm - via the new chicken coop where David has the new flock of layers getting started.  I wasn't troubled by the deaths, nor the blood.  I was coming around to how natural this all seemed, how innate it was.

I've included here the early video, shot back in August, of the arrival of the pigs on the farm.  They were only 35 pounds or so back then, but would grow to at least ten times that by last Friday.  I'll follow this post with a few more about the butchering experience.

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