Monday, May 1, 2017

Blood & Blossoms

This morning I woke up an hour earlier than usual. It wasn't even 7AM when the chores were done, the baby goat bottle fed, the kailyard seen to, and the dairy goats nibbling their hay, post milking. Perhaps a new spring record for me. It's a small victory to have the sheep grazing in the field and little chicks quiet with their feed before I even started sipping coffee. Take your smiles where you can get them. Gods know, they aren't being handed out.

I'm getting back my summer energy levels and it feels good. Last night around 6PM I headed out for a short 4-mile run and instead of feeling a chore it was delightful. Getting to the point where running is more pleasure than pain takes a while. It's a boon for the heart and body. And this morning, as the farm was sated and my body a little tired and ethereal (pre-caffeine) I took a moment to remember it is May Day.

On the apple trees where thousands of white blossoms coming out. What a beautiful promise of good things to come. I made sure to snap a picture. Starting my day having done good by my farm and taking a moment to revel in its beauty - that never is bad for the spirit. My agricultural to-do list on this day is the usual shepherding and checking on Marnie for her lambs (the only other sheep here who is pregnant, bad luck, so I need to buy in more for fleece and meat) - is to plant potatoes. The kailyard got in kale, broc, cauliflower and spinach. Peas are climbing up a container on the porch. But now is a time to plant spuds. A little chore like this every day adds up.

Happy May, everyone.

It's a world of difference from Friday. Friday morning there were no blossoms, just buds, and I walked out to the pigs’ pen feeling that hollowness of Harvest Day. I am used to seeing these beasts die but not comfortable with it. I pray I am never comfortable with it. Out of the five pigs that wintered here two were large enough to be slaughtered for the co-owners and I. The other three have a bit to go, but will be harvested as well. Soon the abattoir truck would arrive and men who know me from years of traveling-butcher work here will share pleasantries and catch up on stories before the bloody work starts. And then two cracks of a .22 will ring on the mountain, throats will be slit, blood will cover the hay below the large bodies, and the work of skinning, gutting, and halving will begin.


But at that morning visit the pigs were just happy to see their breakfast and I checked their bodies, ears, eyes and condition like I had every morning. Like I have for years of raising pork here. I felt that hollow feeling inside me. To the uninitiated, it might seem like guilt. It isn't. There isn't a drop of regret or doubt in the taking of lives raised on this mountain for food. It is the hallow, really. Not the emptiness of loss but the reverence of sacrifice. These are lives being taken in gratitude. These are lives being taken to feed myself, my friends, and to keep the farm moving forward. Hallow is the correct term. It still isn't comfortable.

That was just a few days ago, and now ravens gruk and swirl among the locust tree branches enjoying the discarded pieces, pelts, tails, and bones dumped far into the woods. I hear the coyotes and fishers at night. I know raccoons are running back across the creek with full bellies. I don't know if they understand the gift of the pigs like I do, but they aren't passing up the meal.

The days go on. The blossoms arrived. Summer is coming. May this day bring only luck.


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. It's also much needed between books. Very much. 

3 Comments:

Blogger A.L. M. said...

Beautiful! Love your writing

May 1, 2017 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Kara Middleton said...

Blessed Beltaine, Jenna. May the Gods speak your name gently.

May 1, 2017 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Claudia Karabaic Sargent said...

My husband and I were just talking about this sacred duty of farmers yesterday. We're city folk, but country sympathizers. I thought of you, and referenced you, in that conversation.
I'd rather buy meat that's been raised that way than spend less on factory farm produced meat. I want a connection to the folks who raised the animal I'm eating.
Thanks for your good work, not just on your farm, but in your books. I'm reading Barnheart now and it's wonderful.

May 1, 2017 at 5:34 PM  

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