Now, that isn't to say I wasn't sad at the loss of my lamb. The hogget was too small for breeding stock, and Monday the ram had the only position he could apply for. So the little guy born here last spring was butchered today. His meat was taken to hang and package at the butcher's shop and his fleece was salted and frozen to be turned into a sheepskin. I'll mail it off to be tanned, my first sheepskin from my own farm in the house.
So there is the loss of the sheep, but it is not the focus of this day. He was thanked and I am mighty grateful but as a producer of lamb, pork, chicken and rabbit I no longer see the death of animals as a period of morning. It is a solemn task, unpleasant work, but the recipes and events that follow the meals that animal will be a part of are amazing! For example:
Right now I also have dough rising for a large, braided loaf of egg and honey bread. It is eggs from my chickens, honey from my hive. Tonight just sugar, flour, butter, salt, pepper, and olive oil will not have come from this 6.5 acre piece of magic called Cold Antler Farm. Even the booze will be courtesy of the land: hard cider from last year's apples. I am so excited for tonight! Tonight many friends are coming for the restart of our regular Game Night Season! Which tonight will be Agricola and potluck. There will be glasses raised, clever eyes around the table, phones turned off, bluegrass turned up, and a night of laughter, full stomachs, and good drinks.
When the soup was on simmer, the bread rising in bowl, and a fire in the woodstove - I set outside for chores and grabbed Merlin. I wanted to see the view of the first changing leaves from the hilltop. It would be a short ride, just twenty minutes to the top of the mountain, but worth it. The morning was four hours of archery lessons starting at 8AM, a fine Indie Day with a family of four. At 1PM the butchering team came, and I helped where I could. After that was evening chores, milking the goat, cleaning for company, and walking the dogs. When dinner was ready I felt I deserved the short ride. I wanted it, very much. I was as grateful for Merlin's effort as that hogget's life. Perhaps his pelt will become a saddle pad?
On the mountaintop I could not see my farm, but I could see the small trail of smoke. It warmed my heart. I was watching my farmstead, watching the smoke from a swept and safe chimney. Watching and knowing 2 cords of wood were already put up and dry. That 50 bales of hay filled the barn and several bags of feed were stocked for the week ahead. Good food from my own piece of land was waiting for me. A carve jack o lantern was grinning, a welcome to fall himself on the kitchen table. I sat tall on that black horse, smiling at the first changing leaves and smiling as I pet his strong neck. He was mine now, finally paid off. Soon my small home would be full of friends: human, canine, and feline in various stages of exhaustion from their long days. Tara and Tyler are building their home. Joanna is working two farms. I was the one who stacked the cords, did the chores, and put up the bales here. We all work so much to keep our lives in this Shire strong as we can. Perhaps tonight we will just celebrate that fact. Even if the temperatures do drop into the 30s, as predicted by the weather service.
I road that horse down the mountain and home. We have each other, us feral 30-somethings in the wilds of the Northeast. We have each other, good drinks, good food, and much ahead. Not a bad way to end a long weekend. Not bad at all.