I've gotten to a place with farming, where I am cautious about everything. I try not to get too attached...to the garden, to the animals, to any forcasted outcome. Things go wrong. Life throws you a curve. You get knocked down. You pick yourself up again. There is an ebb and flow to it. If you are lucky, you find the rhythm and it works for you.
With every new project, a part of me stands back and documents the process. I do the research. I keep track of costs and procedures. I have an eye on our timeline to make sure we are on schedule. If something isn't working, I look for the correction. I keep chipping away until it is done and a new project takes it's place. The other part of me is in the trenches, living the highs and lows that come with raising your own food.
I knew the pig project would be difficult. I've always loved pigs. My parents used to raise meat pigs and as a child, they were my playmates. Funny, quirky personalities wrapped up in a gruff demeanor. Nevertheless, they were all eventually hauled away and came back as little packages that fed our family. Some 30 years later, I can still remember their names: Porkchop, Applesauce, Ribsy, Hamlet, Tidbit. Gone, but not forgotten.
So it went with our pigs, Grunt and Snort. As they were unloaded into the holding pen, I felt my heart sink. I switched into my third eye mode, the Documentor. I noticed they had been marked with orange chalk, a big "X" on each back. There were other pigs in the pen and they had colorful markings also: blue, orange, white, X's and O's. As they cheerfully greeted each other, it was like a pig playdate. Snort walked over to see what we were doing. I watched the processor write our name down on a list next to "orange X". I glanced back to the pen and saw our pair socializing with the others and silently said my goodbyes. It was time to go.
The ride home seemed much longer. I played the pig-reel in my head, the whole process start to finish. This "project" had gone well. No tragedies or disasters. The pigs were healthy and lived a low stress life on our farm. We interacted with them daily and enjoyed their antics. They were a big part of our summer and our year. We will miss them and honor their contribution.
Raising meat is a bittersweet practice. Last night I received a call from one of our pork customers, thanking us for the quality meat that their family was now enjoying and asking to be put on the list for the next time we have pork available. This is the whole reason we are raising pigs in the first place. Quality meat. Our pigs ate only the best organic food we could buy, our own organic eggs and our own garden fresh produce. We can't find that quality at the store, we can only raise it ourselves. So it is bittersweet, but we agree that the process is necessary. It's just hard.
Goodbye Grunt and Snort. XOXO
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