Minus Two

Exhausted.  We harvested two of the big pigs.  It really isn’t the best season to harvest pigs, usually the coldest part of the years is best, but we are downsizing everything for when we are in Europe and my mom is taking over for two weeks.  I was already tired from chasing stupid Sappho around (Ethan has been calling her “Sapphole.”  I’ve been thinking of veal).  The good news is that she was still weaned when we got out there.

We got an early start, although not super early.  The morning was surprisingly cool and pleasant.  Our friend PJ helped out ALL day – she put in more than twelve hours with us.  We even managed to mobilize all three children out of bed at at the farm by 10:00 or so.  Mirin actually listens to her, so we extracted a shocking amount of work from him.

He downed both pigs with the .22, which he was very excited about.  As PJ pointed out to him, it wasn’t about killing something – it was about the opportunity to provide meat for his family.  Two other families drove out to hang out with us while we worked on the pig, and it was very fun, with lots of children talking and playing around us.  They loved to see and touch the fresh organs.  It is a great home school anatomy opportunity. There’s something so cheerful and social about work like that.  Everyone works together purposefully and gladly with food at the center.  The work is naturally communal and non-competitive.  Proper communication is a must.  It’s such a rare opportunity in modern life.  I think processing our own meat together is a major reason our marriage is so solid and comfortable.

Most of the day went to scalding, scraping, and chopping up pork.  We usually field-dress the carcass and bring it to the butcher, but PJ is experienced at cutting up pigs, and particularly sausage-making, so we were doing it all ourselves this time, with her showing us.  After everything was cut up and in coolers, the precious organs bagged up, we had our chores to do.

My mom had milked the goats for us – she is getting them used to her doing the milking so they won’t misbehave too much when we are gone.  But there were two mama cows this time.  I think it almost killed me after all the other work.  I’m so glad she did the goats, because I don’t think I could have done it.  My wrists already look puffy from all the extra milking muscles – I’ll be a mutant after this.  It’s like what Joel Salatin wrote about the old-fashioned hand-milking milkmen with the forearms the size of a vegetarian’s thighs.  Ethan stepped in when my hands got too tired and let me rest.  PJ also milked some.  We got four gallons of milk, which was backbreaking to haul over to the truck.  The Ectophye natural fly repellent from Agri-dynamics did wonders to keep the flies away this time, and we were not stingy with the barley.  Whatever it takes to get them used to coming down to be milked.

After that, I noticed dark clouds were gathering, and I began to wonder whether or not to water the garden.  I just put in some tender little melon starts, and I didn’t want them to wither up and die just yet.  Ethan checked the radar and advised me to water them, because it didn’t look like any rain was coming.  The clouds overhead seemed to say something very different, but I did turn the sprinklers on for a short time – just in case.  It was in vain, because within 20 minutes, rain was thundering down.  It rained and poured.  We sheltered under the barn, which wasn’t much shelter because the wind blew the rain on us.  I had thoughtfully moved all the paper bags and baskets with stuff under the barn beforehand, and it now appeared we would not be able to fit them all inside the truck with us.  So we began on triage, and only brought back what was necessary to the sausage-grinding at home, and it only just barely fit under and on top of all of us.

On the way out a small tree was leaning over the road, and Ethan steered around it, off of the hard-packed road and into a really gooshy bit of mud.  The truck stuck fast.  At this point, the rain had mostly stopped, so we got out and fished around for sticks to put under the wheels.  The big kids took Clothilde way up the road while we pushed the truck around.  First I tried steering us out, but was not successful, so Ethan drove and PJ and I pushed.  At last we were out of the mud!

When we got home, a new awful realization dawned on us – the milk was still at the farm!  We ate something very quickly, and Ethan drove back out to get it while PJ and I made sausage.  We were almost done by the time he got back.  The sausage turned out beautifully, but it was a really long day.

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