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Ok…off the subject: I read your about me section and linked over to the pigs and chickens. So, I have a few questions. How do you chose which chicken to “process”? How do you not get attached to those cute little pigs? Do you cry when they go to the “freezer camp”? Does Fred do the dirty work and you keep your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears as you sing “La-la-la-la-la” the whole time (I think I would)? I know people might roll their eyes at me on this one, but I really would like to know. Yes, we all eat and nothing “magically” gets packaged at the grocery store….but I was wondering how you can let go of “pinky” when you are eating him? Forgive me…I am NOT being a smarty-pants or anything. This is a real question.

Fred is actually the one who chooses which chickens need to be processed – and at this point they’re almost always roosters. If you have too many roosters, they fight each other, and run the hens ragged to the point where the hens get bare spots on their backs because the roosters pull at their feathers to balance during, y’know. THE ACT. I hate seeing hens with bare backs.

The very first chicken we processed (in 2007, I think), I was actually the one to wield the ax. I felt that I couldn’t, in good conscience, expect Fred to do all the work, and I needed to prove that I was willing to do my part. It was not fun, to say the least, and that’s the last chicken I slaughtered myself. If I had to do it, I would. But he does the processing, I do the cooking, it all balances out, right?

He processes several chickens at a time, and he does it over by the end of the driveway, which is a spot I can avoid looking at. I usually don’t see any of the processing going on until he brings the chickens inside, when it’s time to put them in freezer bags and label them. By the time I see the processed chickens, they look exactly like the chickens you get at the grocery store.

The pigs are very personable, but they’re also very obnoxious as they get older. We don’t process the pigs ourselves, we take them to a local butcher, and that makes it a little easier to deal with. I got pretty attached to the first set of pigs we had, and it was very hard to see them go off to the butcher. I don’t think I’ve gotten as attached to the subsequent sets of pigs, though I like to watch them run around, and they’re pretty entertaining.

It’s never easy to know that they’re about to go off to the butcher, and I always feel especially bad for them the day before they go because they’re running around, they’re eating, they’re pushing each other out of the way at the trough, and they don’t know that it’s their last day. It’s a little easier – for me – with the chickens because there are so many of them and I ask Fred not to tell me which ones he’s going to process ahead of time.

It probably helps that we simply don’t think of the chickens and the pigs in the same way that we think of the dogs and the cats. We never regard them as pets, and don’t allow ourselves to get that attached to them.

Actually, scratch that – there are a few chickens that we’ve considered pets in the past. My favorite was an Americauna hen we got with our very first batch of 12 hens. She was a character and would come running over like a puppy every time we went outside.

This is Frick (short for Fricassee) and Sugarbutt:

I always thought of her as a pet, and we would never have eaten her. Sadly, when she was about 1 1/2, we found her dead under the chicken coop. In retrospect, she was probably eggbound, which we didn’t realize at the time.

(We buried her in a corner of the chicken yard.)

When we bought this house, it was our intention to move toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. A large part of that is raising our own food in the form of the chickens and pigs and the garden. Because we have the space and the time required to raise our own food, we do.

I like knowing that the pigs and chicken live happy lives where they can roam the field, where they’re protected by George and Gracie, and where they eat bugs and grass and the occasional kitchen scraps. (Our chickens’ favorite food? Tomatoes. They would cut your throat for a bucket of tomatoes. I gave them the last tomatoes of the season this afternoon. I’m a little afraid they’re going to come after me when there are no tomatoes tomorrow!) We treat them well – did I ever mention that our pigs each get a homemade chocolate chip cookie every night? I’m not kidding. (I cook a batch of them and keep them in a bag and the pigs each get one in the evening. I don’t make them FRESH cookies every day. I’m not CRAZY.) – and I believe that they have happy lives right up until the end.

Good lord – did you know when you asked the question that I was going to go on about it forever?

If I can guess the questions my essay will lead to, I’m going to guess someone’s curious why we don’t have a cow (we’re not quite ready to make that commitment. We do eat beef, though – we bought half a (processed) cow from the butcher who processed our pigs last year. We’re hoping next year to trade a (processed) pig for a half cow from the same man.), why we don’t have goats (I don’t want goats. I’ve never eaten goat, and I have no desire to.), and how many freezers we have (a big chest freezer in the garage, a smaller chest freezer in the garage, an upright freezer in the laundry room, and the freezer that goes with our refrigerator).

So there you go. And now someone’s saying “Why’s she talking about FARMING? We’re here to see the kitties!” 🙂

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Starsky, staring at the ceiling fan.

It’s pretty amazing, that ceiling fan.

I guess he’d never seen it actually running before.

Starsky, hanging out in the foster room.

Hanging out on my desk.

Don’t Buster and Starsky look like they could be brothers?

Starsky and Hutch will be heading off to their new home this afternoon. They have a bit of a drive ahead of them, but I think when they get there, they will be two very happy, very spoiled little monkeys.

I’ll tell you all about it on Monday!

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Buster’s legs, hanging over the top of the pantry. I’m really wishing we’d had a “lip” built around the top of that thing, because seeing the bed (not to mention the CAT) hang off like that stresses me out!

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Sweet, sweet, SWEET Joe Bob. He is just the sweetest cat on earth. You talk to him, and he looks at you and squints up at you with love. He’s just a sweet boy.


2009: Sneaky little brat.
2008: No entry.
2007: She walked partway out the door, and then paused there LIKE THEY ALWAYS DO.
2006: No entry.
2005: No entry.



11-19-10 — 8 Comments

  1. Robyn, thank you for taking the time to thoroughly answer my “uncomfortable” question. It was very informative. As I was reading, I hoped you did not process the sweet Americauna hen, but was sadden to read that she passed in that way and was not able to always be your social butterfly. I totally “get” and respect your way of life and I certainly wish we all could do that as it would eliminate the cruelity that happens in many slaughter houses (has everyone watched “Meet Your Meat”? Oh my….tears. The chocolate chip cookies…love it as I am sure the little piggies do too! I bet you can see their “thought bubbles” when you come out each night with them. “COOKIES!!!!!” LOL. You and Fred certainly do it the “right way”. Hats off to you.

    Now…for the kitties….. FRICK’N CUTE!!! We will miss S & H so much. I think Buster will, too. Joe Bob looks like a sweetheart…and he has a nice nose swoop.

  2. You know I’ve been a vegetarian for 8 years, and I can only wish more people would raise animals for food the way you do. They live happy lives, are well taken care of and well-fed, running around the way they were intended to do… and then transported and slaughtered humanely, with respect. What more can we ask of farming??
    Would I eat meat if ALL animals were raised and slaughtered that way? No, because I don’t like it and I’ve done a great job convincing myself that it’s dead body over the years.
    But our planet sure would be a better and healthier place if countries would switch back to traditional cattle raising techniques. Quality over quantity, happiness and respect versus profit.

    Robyn you’re awesome 🙂

  3. I like the farming descriptions, actually — as well as the kitteh stories, of course! Glad to hear S&H have a new home and hope all goes well for them.

  4. i love the info about the farm animals! i want to be able to do that too, but there’s no way in hell i’d be able to do any processing myself. and i’ve always had a thing for pigs, so i doubt i’d ever be able to have a pig as anything but a pet. and i want a dairy cow – i want fresh, fat milk!! i’m going to end up having a farmily like shreve of the daily coyote and just have to buy my meat from elsewhere, lol!!

  5. I, like many of you don’t have the resources to raise my own animals to eat. But I’ve found some great CSA’s(community sustaining agriculture) that I buy veggies, eggs, meat, honey, even flowers from. If you’ve never heard of this it’s a really cool program where you buy a share/subscription to a local farm every year and each month you get a box of veggies, fruit, eggs, whatever is in season at that farm. You can also buy partial shares from many farms.Cost is very reasonable because the food does not have to be transported or packaged. It’s fabulous, CSA’s are now fairly widespread in the U.S., look for one in your area. A year ago my family bought a half pig raised at a local CSA farm and processed at a local butcher. Best pork ever, completely different from grocery store fare.

  6. Oh wow. What a lovely lifestyle!! I’m much happier knowing that you have such respect for the food that you eat. Seriously. I always thought in my heart that cows, chickens, pigs etc that are roaming free and happy and tended, give better milk, produce healthier meat, eggs etc than battery hens, caged cows, intensely farmed pigs. I think it’s so important for people to connect to the animals they farm and eat and use and to keep things small scale. It’s just better and healthier for the soul! So Yay for you!!!!

    Personally I’d love to be able to have a small holding with cows and pigs and a donkey and goats and chickens and all sorts. I’d never eat them of course being a veggie but I’d just love the thought of them running amok in my little vegetable field! LOL!

    Awwwww Yay for Starsky and Hutch!! I am so so so so happy for them!!!!!! 🙂 I’ll miss them though! Take care

  7. Personally I would MUCH rather eat a chicken that had been well cared-for and kept happy and healthy, than one that was packed into a factory slaughterhouse! It’s too bad all livestock isn’t given such a great life.