I butchered a pig yesterday all by myself. That sentence needs to be torn apart. First of all, I am never alone, never by myself. God is always with me, in my heart, in the stars, streaming infinite, perfect Love to me. Love and guidance. I say by myself because of the many animals I have butchered, I was never the leader. My farm partner was always the leader, I was the student helper. There are many parts of a butcher that I have never tried, important parts. I have sort of watched as the bung hole gets removed in a way that contains ALL the poo. There is a way to remove it so that all the poo stays just where it should and the meat on the carcass stays clean. That is important and I had never done it and I really did not want to learn how to do that because its a lot of responsibility. I was content with him doing it since he was able and willing. Also removing the bladder and penis and long tube that carries pee needs to be handled in a careful way. There are bones to cut with a saw, the sternum and part of the pelvis. There is an order to do things also that I had vaguely been aware of but never responsible for.
So when I say that I butchered a pig all by myself what I mean is that by the time I went and humbly asked for help, that pig was mostly skinned, it was completely cut open and all the guts were out. I had successfully (cleanly) removed the bladder and the bung hole. One hard turd had escaped but that was all. The piggy was clean. Also I had taken most of the liver, leaving the bile duct and sac intact so no stinky bile was spilled. I had a bucket full of organs to feed to the dogs. The hind legs had hooks through them and it was up off the ground on a spreader. I totally butchered the pig!!
And it feels so good because the whole time I was guided by God. I opened myself to inspiration, I listened, and I followed. That is such a wonderful feeling and I’m getting good at doing it throughout each of my days. But this was different because it was sustained, three hours. I checked in with God and then stayed totally connected for three hours, listening, worshiping, following, rejoicing with each tiny triumph. Oh I feel invincible.
That’s really what it was. I made a conscious effort to notice what I was thinking about and always shift it back to God and appreciation. It was impossible to think about the fact that miguel said he didn’t want me using the tractor. So I heard him say that and just closed the door and went back out to the pig. Inspiration came immediately. God is so gentle sometimes. I didn’t have time to begin a good “curse him” story because I was too excited to try the idea that had been lovingly placed on my heart. We always use the tractor to move the animal to a good location, then lift it up by the hind legs which are spread apart. This is a user friendly way to butcher an animal. It allows the human with the knife to work in a comfortable body position, it employs gravity to help get the guts out. The tractor is a lovely tool. My vague plan was to use the tractor. The key wasn’t in its normal place, which is the ignition. It wasn’t in the little tool compartment behind the seat. My heart raced as I walked to the house. But already I could feel the calm, the knowing. It was ok.
Bottom line, that pig is dead and I want to eat it and share it with my family so I am going to cut it up, tractor or no tractor. As I walked back down the lane without the tractor key I just knew it was going to be ok.
This farm is an absolute mess when it comes to equipment and tools are scattered everywhere, mixed up with discarded junk. Its beautiful when it comes to nature and I love living here but that’s another story for a different day. My point is that I look around, I see stuff, and I believe in God. Its hard to see the tools sometimes because the mind gets all jumbled up with the disorganization of it all. So I knew there was a spreader in the saw building right next to my pig.
Listening to my inspired heart that pig ended up with its rear end propped up on a tire, each leg with a hook hanging from the spreader and the whole thing hanging from a chain wrapped around a tree branch. It wasn’t up very far but it worked and the exhilaration from getting it that high up was tremendous and kept me going strong.
Back to that original sentence. Butchering a pig implies that it is dead and I did not do that part myself. There are so many layers here and I want to tell my story without defending myself. I do feel abused but I know that that is not real. As I cling to God, no one can hurt me because truth is always available to me and Love is wrapped around me. And I am a human and all the human communication gets real confusing so I’ll just try and see how this comes out. I want to tell my story.
After the pig butcher last year my farm partner said he didn’t want to kill the pigs next year. He said if I decided to get pigs, then It would be up to me to get them killed. This was a conversation he initiated. The killing had not gone well and it was not the first time that it had not been smooth. I did not bring this up to him. I am at least humble enough to know better than to criticize how a pig is killed when I won’t learn to use a gun. I wasn’t sure what to do about it. So it felt like sweet relief when he brought up the topic and said he was not going to kill the pigs for the next season. During that conversation I gently agreed that it had not gone well and miguel said that he had not sighted down the barrel of the gun. I asked what is the advantage to not sighting down and he said that he was in a hurry. That was all I remember from that particular exchange. He offered his perspective and plan for the future and I agreed and it was decided, clear.
I was horrified. I did not share any of this with my farm partner, its not relevant. He is an adult with much gun and butchering experience. My horror would not change any of his behavior. How could someone not sight down the barrel? The pig was not attacking him. It was in a small, secure pen calmly, quite happily drinking milk from its pan. Pigs hold completely still when they are alone and they’re drinking milk. They get real focused on taking in as much milk as they can because they know that other piggy is going to come over and try to drink some too. Again, I don’t use a gun but it seems pretty standard that if one is going to use such a powerful, useful tool, it should be used correctly and sighting down the barrel, taking aim, is the correct way to fire a gun. Its the correct way to kill an animal. Taking aim is the honorable way to take an animal that will feed you and your family. I can’t even describe the horror I felt when the farm partner offered his perspective about why the killing had not gone well. Again, this was information he offered freely, not in response to anything, he initiated this conversation.
So mostly I was glad and relieved that he said he was not going to kill the pigs. The pigs are an integral part of this farm, their contribution is key to how we live our lives. We like to make our own food and cheese and butter are a huge part of our diet. We eat a pound of butter every week and it needs to be made between June and October. That’s five full months of butter making, 16 pounds per month brings 80 pounds which gives us plenty to get through a year plus some to share. Making butter in that volume produces large quantities of skim milk. That’s where the pigs come in. They store all that milk for us, easily, happily. All they need is a simple shelter and a good fence and their milk. The piggies are incredibly low maintenance relative to how much they offer the farm. Because we have pigs, we get to make, eat, and share butter abundantly. That’s the way I see it. I love the pigs. They are like huge cheeses.
It was obvious to me that of course I would arrange for us to get pigs again in the spring and then I would find someone to kill them for us. That seemed reasonable. There are lots of people around here that use guns regularly for hunting or target practice and I felt confident that it would all work out well. The next conversation that I remember about killing pigs occurred during sugar season when my friend Ian was visiting. Ian talks a lot and it can be stressful to be around him. Its really good practice for compassion and for not engaging, focusing on my own inner being for guidance. He got miguel going somehow about hunting or killing and miguel started talking about the pigs and how hard it was to kill them. Again, I totally support what he wants to do and I know that his experience is valid. I’m not the one with the gun and I am just eternally grateful that someone kills them so that we can eat them. There was a lot of back and forth between Ian and miguel and I don’t remember what all was said but I do remember seeing a reasonable opportunity to ask miguel about how he had decided to cut the pig’s leg off before it was dead. I acknowledged that the killing had not gone well and that’s ok, it is what it is but the only reasonable thing to do, the only humane thing to do, is wait for the pig to die. It was going to die, it was injured and bleeding and dying and it was only a matter of time. Recently my girl friend asked me why I allowed that to happen. I am sorry I have even shared this story with people but it weighs heavy on my heart and the person that did it never acknowledged my question about it and never acknowledged that it even happened so I feel a little bit crazy. But I was there and I heard the animal scream.
So she asked me about my role in the whole thing and I said that I didn’t think he would do that. I was holding my 3 year old child at a safe distance away, waiting for the pig’s energy to leave it physical body. I didn’t know that I should have made the knives unavailable until the pig was dead.
Writing this really messes with my head. One reason I am writing about this is to explain how I decided to handle the pig butcher this year. I hope that my farm partner can gain some understanding of why I asked a friend for help. And I want that friend to understand why my farm partner didn’t know what we were doing.
The next conversation I had with the farm partner about the pigs was about a month ago. I told him that I remember him saying that he was not going to kill the pigs and so that when I had gotten the pigs back in the spring I had intended to get a friend to kill them. I told him that I had spoken to my friend Randy and he had agreed to do it. My farm partner replied that he didn’t mind killing the pigs but that I should do what ever I wanted to do. I asked him if he would still participate in the butcher if someone else killed the pig and he said sure. It was disturbing and confusing that he was now saying that he didn’t mind killing the pigs. I have learned over the years to not ask about this kind of thing because it will get more confusing and I will be accused of misunderstanding something that was discussed clearly. So I just ignored his comment and went ahead with the plan. I just wanted the pigs to die well and also to relieve farm partner of the obvious stress it causes him to kill the pigs. Looking back over the years I can see that every year it has been hard for him meaning its been riddled with anxiety and there has been no honor or gratitude in it. And I totally understand his discomfort, I won’t even learn to use a gun and do it myself so I think its totally reasonable for him to not want to do it. I wanted to support him in that. I also know that there are lots of people that use guns regularly and enjoy it and can create a sacred space around releasing, or dispatching the animal. So let someone else do it, we don’t have to do every single thing ourselves.
The next conversation happened about a week later and miguel said he was not going to coordinate with someone else to kill the pig so he could butcher it. He said he would kill the pig himself and that I was just upset because it hadn’t gone the way I wanted it to go.
I said ok. I asked him to speak to Randy to cancel the request and he ignored this.
So I just planned to hide the knives until the pig was dead. I thought maybe it would go better this year. But regardless of how the killing went, I knew I could ensure that the butchering begin after the animal was dead. So ok. Again I am just so grateful that someone will kill the pig. I can’t do it. I can’t cut their throat like a cow. I don’t have the skills necessary to kill a pig and I don’t want to learn how to use a gun. There are many things that I have learned how to do and I’m good at them. There are lots of people that are comfortable with guns and I don’t need to learn how to use one. So when miguel said he was going to kill the pig I thought well fine then, I just want someone to do it. I would prefer that it be done well, with honor and confidence, not hurry and anxiety, but hey, this is his home and since he now says he wants to kill the pig then I respect that.
So we looked at the weather and came up with two days that might be good butcher days. As the week went on we decide that Friday would be the best day so we had a plan. And I was glad because the pigs need to die this time of year. Its cold and they start to use up the good stuff keeping themselves warm. There is no reason for a pig to be alive on this farm this time of year. We only take one at a time so getting the first one done is a big step. Its still cold and there is still a 2nd pig out there. I was very relieved and eager for the pig to be changed into meat for this family.
Friday came and farm partner was not speaking to me. I heard him tell the 4 year old child that we were not butchering today. I asked him what his plan was for the pig and he said he wanted to do it by himself, that he would not discuss it with me. He said he did not want to do it today and it was not my concern because he wanted to do it without me. I said ok and told him that I would not be feeding the pigs anymore since only he knew when they would die then he would know if they needed to eat or not.
I knew that today was the best day to kill the pig as far as weather and I just knew. I called some people and left messages and I felt inspired to drive down to my neighbor’s and talk to him about it. On the way to my neighbor’s I saw that our friends were at the other property hunting so I stopped and spoke to them. I simply explained that I needed someone to kill my pig and I would butcher it. They know miguel and I figured they wondered why he wasn’t doing it and so I offered part of what I knew to be true. I told them that last year he had said he didn’t want to kill the pigs and that If I got pigs I would have to find someone else to kill them. S.T. offered right away, no problem. He had a 3 something rife with him, it was his father’s rifle from the war. He knew that would do it cleanly, easily. It’s a beautiful gun.
We agreed that S.T. and the other hunters would come back to my house in a few hours. I went home and just went on about the day as usual. I didn’t tell farm partner what my plan was. I imagined that S.T. would come over and we could just walk down to the pig pen and shoot the pig and that miguel would figure it out and decide what he wanted to do from there. I really just wanted the pig dead. I did not know what I was going to do after it was dead. I figured I would just start up the tractor and do the best I could until miguel showed up. I figured he would come down and help once things got started. Here comes another layer of the whole long story. A week before all this happened miguel butchered a 1 1/2 year old bull in the yard on a Saturday. I had known that a guy was coming to buy a bull and last year this guy loaded a bull up and hauled it somewhere to have it butchered. So when I found out this same guy was coming for a bull I just assumed he’d load it up and take it away and miguel never said anything different. Well Saturday morning rolls around and I knew the guy was coming and I asked miguel some questions and finally he said that he, miguel, was going to butcher the animal in the yard. I was really surprised. That seemed like information that would be relevant to share with a farm partner. Butchering is a pretty big deal and we always do it together. They planned to take one of the 4 month old bull calves that was tied on the yard but the two of them didn’t communicate well and turns out the guy wanted a bigger bull.
One hour after I learned of his intention to butcher a bull, farm partner asks me to help with the whole process, meaning, he can’t even catch the bull without my help. Sure, yes, I am happy to do it. I love herding animals and I’ve gotten really good lately at getting hold of their nose ring once they’re in a confined area. Bring it on, I love being a farmer! We got the bull across the road and I walked him through the pasture and around to the milk house. I was pretty mad that I hadn’t been told about this but I chose to enjoy my walk and especially enjoy that this guy had brought his wife and 3 grandchildren so my child would have kids to play with and someone to watch them. We got the bull in the hoop barn and I got hold of his ring. So much fun. miguel continued to fire questions at me as he had been doing all morning and I just handed him the rope and walked away. This was his deal. He had made a plan with this guy. I caught the bull for you now you two figure out the rest. And the guy was obnoxious. He was kind but filed with anxiety and saying 100 times “he’s not gonna go, he knows what we’re doing”. All these negative comments constantly flowing out of his mouth. Not helpful.
I was up in the house checking on my child and these people I had never met before. I looked out the window and saw farm partner beginning the butcher process. Oh wow. I was tired. We had run all over catching that bull. I knew that if I was tired he was probably tired. And it was a big animal. No hesitation. Out the door I went with a knife and a sharpener. I love to butcher and there was no way I was just going to sit in the house and watch. Things on the farm go like this sometimes. Bottom line, there’s a dead animal in the yard and it needs to be cut up. I know how to do that because farm partner has showed me how. He has allowed me to participate in countless butchers, he has been the leader in every one. I love doing it, I love knowing how to harvest my own meat and I owe respect to farm partner. We don’t communicate well and exactly 50% of that is on me so who cares if he didn’t tell me his intention? I’m not going to stand back and watch him do that alone. I went out there happily, participated joyfully, and I got the tail hide off by myself and I celebrated that because I’d never done that specific part before. It was fun, we had a good time.
So I was sort of hoping that when the pig was dead, farm partner would come out and help.
I was wrong.
and that’s ok. He gave me the opportunity to do it all by myself, even cooler than he does it because I didn’t have access to the tractor and I still got it done. Farm partner gave me the opportunity to connect with and rely on God instead of him. Which is what I should be doing and its what I want to do. so I am grateful.
Another reason I am writing this is to thank S.T. for his help. He can’t understand how grateful I am to him unless he understands how wrong things have been in the past. I want him to know that he participated in something that was not communicated to his friend miguel and that was my doing and I want S. T. to know why I did what I did. I didn’t want to disrespect him by not telling him the whole story but I also really wanted my pig to die and so I told him part of the story and took the risk of putting him in a bad spot with miguel. I’m sorry S.T. if I acted wrong. You have always been such an honest, clear communicator. I appreciate your integrity more than I can say.
S.T. killed the pig well. He intentionally set the whole scene. He was calm and told me that he feels dispatching an animal is a solemn thing and we made a clear plan. He asked me if after I got the pigs in position with their separate milk pans would I come back to him. I was used to just running out of the pen as fast as I could because I knew miguel was going to shoot the pig fast and I am scared of guns and he never once asked me where I wanted to be when the gun went off. I told S. T. that sure, thank you, I would come back near him and mostly I just wanted him to do what ever he was comfortable with. He was the one killing the pig and he needed to be comfortable. He said of course in a way that indicated he always does what he’s comfortable with. I was just shocked to have someone ask me what I wanted.
Anyway, he set the scene, he looked at all the humans present to make sure we were ok, he took his time, he got down real close and he fired the gun. Beautiful. The animal fell immediately . Perfect.
Everyone stood quietly as the blood and the life force left the pig and it was done. S.T. had created a space of honor and respect around the whole situation and I felt proud to be a part of the whole thing. Then they left.
I felt empowered, encouraged, humbled.
Then I walked over to the tractor and found that the key was gone.
This whole issue of killing the animal well, killing the animal with honor, humbly and skillfully releasing it from physical form, this is a deep issue for me. I have sort of believed that part of my identity is someone who doesn’t buy food at the store, we make all our own food, we butcher our own animals. This is the first time I’ve faced head on that I am totally dependent on someone who kills the animals in at atmosphere of anxiety, hurry, fear. Sometimes they die immediately, fall, its perfect. And other times, enough times that it is relevant, they die slowly, poorly, without honor or dignity. and then we eat them.
One of my favorite scenes from a movie that describes part of how I feel is in Avatar. Blue woman teaches the new blue one how to kill and animal for meat, how to hunt. They say words of respect and gratitude, they have their hearts right and they receive the gift. I don’t hunt and I don’t use a gun. But I killed two cows two weeks ago. I killed a sheep well in 2012 and a possum two years ago. I can kill animals and I do it well. I am prepared to kill the bull this year. I would be honored to get him tied up properly so everyone is safe and cut his throat. But I don’t communicate well with my farm partner and I’m not sure what to do. Its not like I moved here and demanded that he kill animals. I never told him to use a gun and shoot our food. He did it. He offered to do it. He bought pigs with the intention of shooting them himself with a gun.
I have stood by and watched each time. Sometimes it went well and other times it was an outright horror show. And then I participated in the butcher and ate the animal.
and I never criticized how it went because I didn’t know. I don’t use a gun and so I thought maybe that’s how it is sometimes. But what I’m realizing is that it was convenient for me to just stand by and let him kill well or kill poorly. I want the meat and it serves me to allow the killing to happen in what ever fashion it does. and i feel sick about it. I want to live this way, I want to harvest my own meat and I won’t learn to use a gun and I participate with my farm partner who is so uncomfortable killing animals that sometimes it doesn’t go well.
I don’t know what to do about it.
I think what I did this year was really good. I asked a good friend who I trusted to kill the pig. It went beautifully and now I know that every kill can be like that.
This past January I was cooking bacon at a friend’s house. There were a bunch of people there and I heard someone walk through the kitchen saying “I can’t stand the smell of meat cooking. Its like I can feel the animal’s fear.” I’ve never told anyone this before. My first response, (in my head, thank God I kept my big mouth shut) was all righteous indignation that hey, we keep our animals well and they are loved and respected and we are in relationship with our animals and you’re imagining something you vegetarian.
I am reduced to a humble quivering mess as I look back and see that the bacon I was cooking was from a pig that was not killed well. I believe 100% that that woman smelled the animal’s fear. I have been participating in something that I don’t agree with, in something that I know should be done better.