Those of you that have been following my blog for a while remember my adult 4-H program. I asked the Ladies to write a guest post for me if they felt like it. Again, I have a tendency to take my life for granted, cows and pigs and horses are my daily life. I love when I can get into someone’s head and see my life from their point of view, it helps me understand what and how I need to speak to people.
Shannon was not an original 4-H member. At the beginning of this project she was busy! She was in law school (!), has a family and a fulltime job, (having dropped out of law school, I know what that stress was like (OH SO SCARY! Run away, run away!)), anyway, Shannon wanted to raise a pig, but couldn’t. So I told her I would do it for her and she could come out as much or as little as she could.
Well she ended up coming out a lot, helping with the hogs and cattle. And she was darn good help! I’ve noticed some people have a natural knack for working around animals, she is one of those people. I got to know her and her daughter Olive, better as well, and I’m really glad I did. I’m looking forward to many, many more fun adventures with both of them (also: keep your eyes open for a pony for Olive, she needs one out here)!
I am super stoked to share with you Shannon’s guest post, enjoy!
Disclaimer: Megan called me up and asked if I’d be willing to write something for her blog. I was hesitant at first; I’m not much of a writer. In fact I’d rather be doing calculus problems then writing. But with the advent of the internet and everyone else thinking they are writers, how bad can it be?
I had the pleasure of helping Megan out with her Adult 4H pig project. She pretty much adopted me into the program. I work fulltime, was in law school at nights, and I have a family at home. So I initially told her I’d pass on the project as I had no more time to give to anyone else. But I ended up taking my daughter out to see the pigs on a number of occasions and helped Megan make them food. I found Megan, her Ranch, and the pigs to be so relaxing that I had to keep coming back to escape the crazy, hectic life I had made for myself.
Some background about me: I grew up in a suburb of San Diego in a basic 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. I loved gardening and my family had a variety of pets from dogs, rabbits, birds, and fish. Each year we’d go to the Del Mar Fair (now called the San Diego County Fair) and I’d marvel at the cows, pigs, sheep, and goats and all the young kids rising and taking care of them. But I never had to chance to do anything like that. I am thankful to Megan for giving me that opportunity.
I met Megan about 5 years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday party. She brought meat cupcakes. We talked grass-fed beef. And eventually I bought a half-cow from her.
It has become more important to me over the years for my family to eat healthy food. And a big part of that is knowing where our food comes from. I like knowing what goes into making my food. We grow most of our vegetables, we eat very little breads, starches, and sugars, and I like knowing that the meat we eat was raised humanely and fed well because what the animal eats, my family will eventually be eating. It just gives me peace of mind in this crazy world.
Side story… On one of our trips to visit the pigs Megan let my daughter and I herd cattle. Oh…my…gosh…I LOVED it. Basically the cattle already knew what to do. They’ve been walking from one huge field to the next for the fresh, better grass for years. There was one older cow and you could tell by her body language that she wasn’t too interested in moving. She walked slow and was unimpressed by the 4 wheelers coming her way. She was the last cow we needed to get into the neighboring field. So what did she do? She crossed a rather large creek to avoid us. It felt like she just gave us a cow’s version of, “F-you”. Megan got out of the vehicle and convinced her to cross back over the creek and into the adjacent field. I have 100% respect for that cow and Megan!
Back to the pigs… The first time we visited the piglets, I brought the whole family: my significant other, Jason, and our daughter, Olive. We had a great time and Olive got to feed the pigs and pet them. When we came out additional times, Jason didn’t want to come. I finally asked why. He grew up on a ranch where they raised pigs, chickens, and goats for his family’s food. He’d been through the raising of the animals, helped with the slaughter, and helped put the food on the table. (His grandma actually did most of the work, killing the animals and all. She’s currently 99 and a half. She told me you get to count the half’s when you get to be that old.) Although Jason is thoroughly enjoying the pork, he didn’t want to get attached to the animal that he would eventually be eating. I can respect that. Ranch life isn’t for everyone. And he’s been there, so he knows. In fact I would say it isn’t for most people. It’s easy to walk into the grocery store and buy the attractively wrapped meat that doesn’t have a face. It’s much more difficult to feed and care for these animals every day without a vacation, and then eat them. That takes a different type of person to do that day in and day out.
So Olive and I would still come out and bring the pigs treats. We’d also help Megan with cooking all the food. She would spend all weekend cooking up vats and vats of food for the pigs to eat for the week. I really don’t know how she did that all especially with her full-time job during the week. What a crazy time commitment. And also why I’d make a bad rancher…I like my vacations!
Slaughter day… I left Olive home for this one. She is only 2 years old. Although I think it’s important for her to know where her food comes from, this wasn’t the right time.
We waited around for the slaughter truck to show up. I wondered how I would feel about this. I’ve fed and petted these pigs too; will I feel bad or sad? I wasn’t there every day like Megan was so my attachment is much less. I was more nervous about my reaction then the actual event.
The truck showed up and the butchers got ready. A small caliber rifle was brought out. The butcher walked into the pig pen with some food. A pig came up and BANG, the deed was done. The butcher quickly cut a small hole in the pig’s jugular and the pig bled out. I was surprised how fast it was. There was some shaking as the body released its energy. But it was all pretty tame under the circumstances. If I had to choose a way to go, that would be it. Quick and painless. Then what surprised me more was the next pig that walked up to get food, completely unaware and uncaring that his buddy no longer existed and was laying there right next to him. BANG! And repeat the quick jugular cutting.
The two pigs were brought out of the pen and were put onto tables so the cutting process could begin. They were washed and cleaned up. Their hooves were removed and they were skinned. Then the organs were removed. The butchers walked us through the process and showed us everything. It was all quite fascinating. I looked over at the other pigs while all of this is happening and they are milling about in the pen like nothing occurred. Like it was any old day. I don’t know if they were oblivious or just didn’t give a shit, maybe a little of both. Pigs aren’t the nicest of animals.
So how did I feel? I felt honored to be a part of this process. The butchers respected these animals. There was no malice or disregard that these were living beings. These pigs were treated with respect and kindness the whole time. These pigs were here for us to eat and this is just part of their life and they had a great life. I feel that their happy, joyful lives gave me better meat. If an animal is stressed, that goes into their muscles and tissues. Just like humans have adverse health effects from stress, so does an animal.
I really enjoyed the process of helping to raise my own animal for food. I liked knowing what it ate and that they got exercise and rooted about and dug things up and were basically being pigs. Thanks Megan for giving me this opportunity to help you, and I look forward to our next venture together.