Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thanksgiving Meal

Last week I took our young male goats to a butcher – an end of a short and eventful era on our farm. The butcher, Mark Padilla of Arroyo Seco, is exactly the kind of a person one would want to help with the task. Mark moves slowly, he just exudes kindness and comfort, and he handled our two upset wethers with calm respect. I did not stay at Mark’s to watch. He called five days later and told me to come and pick up the meat. Two boxes full of home raised meat, with cuts wrapped in nice white paper was what remained of Jesús and Moses.

All summer long, as the kids were frolicking in the pasture, I have been receiving various suggestions regarding how to raise meat goats best. Most of the advice had nothing to do with their nutrition, but rather focused on how to protect myself emotionally from the fact they were born to finish their lives under a butcher’s knife; that their destination was to nurture us with food.

Don’t name them, don’t pet them, don’t touch them, don’t get attached to them – was a litany of clever tricks. For a fleeting moment, I considered these ideas. One day, the kids got wet in a torrential summer downpour. As I was sitting in the barn, trying to comfort frightened and whimpering kids, both on my lap, I realized that I would be robbing myself and them from a relationship in which they are recognized by names, hugged, petted, loved and treated as if they really exist! This was a turning point. I did not make house pets out of them, nor have I subjected them to an unnamed, somewhat mechanical upkeep without acknowledgement. In fact it felt important that I may experience emotional discomfort when the time comes to let go. That sadness became part of the payment for their sweet, goofy lives that they gifted to us.

As I looked at the boxes filled with their meat, I wondered – which one is Jesús, which one is Moses? Why would it matter I don’t know, except to acknowledge one more time – thank you, Moses – you were a simple-minded sweet creature, you only cared about food and a good belly rub, and you were very handsome with your pink nose and salt-and-pepper ears. Thank you, Jesús – you were very smart, and inventive of new tricks, you loved freedom, and you too were very handsome!

I live in a small co-housing community in Jacona, NM. Next week, my husband Scott and I and our neighbors will all sit down for a goat stew meal to celebrate this summer, with its stories of the wonderful things animal and plant worlds offered to us. Remember, how our Mama Turkey sat on someone else’s clutch and hatched eleven baby guineas? Or how we got oyster mushrooms growing on an old cottonwood stump? Or how the goat kids used to make a terrible ruckus every evening at milking time, protesting the loss of what was theirs? Or how a horned owl moved in and tried to take away a chicken? Or how our tomato plants just kept producing until we did not know what to do with the fruit? To all of them, plants and animals, our thanks go with every meal, because every meal means more to all of us now, after we told our summer stories and said good bye to two goofy, beautiful and joyful goat kids.


Lindy said...

What a beautiful post. It provided me with an entirely different perspective on raising animals to provide sustenance for myself and my family.

saveus said...

what a lot of flowery B.S. for animal killers. Another black eye for "permaculture" and why I quit it.

Arina said...

this has been interesting to observe the reactions to this post. They are all over the place, from people who felt it made them think, to figure out what it means to be omnivorous, vegetarian, farming etc - to people who felt that it made them sad, mad, etc.
To the sad and mad ones - it is hard to feel the tragedy of death for some living being if you don't know it. Yet we all cause it every day - with our organic foods grown on the land that ones was home to entire ecosystems, and now only produces carrots, or lettuce - with our cars fueled with grief of half of the world - with our roads destroying watersheds and migration patterns - with so many things that we all despise yet cannot disconnect from, not yet.
I wonder how you do it, Saveus? Without permaculture, where does your food, water, fuel and shelter come from? Where does your waste go? What living thing does it impact, who's photograph will be never published on your blog?

Claudia said...

I give you a great deal of credit Arina, I don't think I could do it. As it is, I am looking at my six hens (who have just begun to lay) and am thinking about the day the stop, and what will become of them. I had firmly intended that they would eventually find their way to my soup pot, but now, knowing them, I don't know that I will be able to go throught with it. Having farm animals always forces us to make difficult choices. And I so believe that eating meat from the supermarket is just absolving myself of the responsiblility, but still, acknowlidging that fact, raising your own animals for meat is an emotionally difficult place to go to. I'm glad you have managed to get there.

Arina said...

thank you Claudia, for your comment. I have been thinking about this whole subject a lot. What I realized that if the stores were requiered to post photos of the dismembered animals they are selling, it would be a whole different picture in there, right? Plus their animals would not be coming from lovely green pastures, not at all. So to me it became the question of my emotional comfort vs. their (animals') comfort. Mine had to give way.
By the way, we don't eat our old layers, they really deserve a good retirement! But young bucklings? Roosters? Turkey toms? Different story.