The other day I sent eleven piggies to freezer camp. In the past I have been skittish about this task. Four years ago, when I sent my first two pigs to harvest, I ran away crying and hid in the barn. Over the years I have gotten better, watching from the porch, then standing nearby but turning away. But this time, this time I stood there and watched, point blank, as our butcher issued the final shot. I kept watching as the pigs were drained, gutted and halved. Mike the Butcher, who has been part of The Farmstead's journey from the beginning, turned to me on this occasion and asked me again, "Aren't you a city kid?" "Yep," I said. "YouTube taught me everything I know" (a punchline I use often).
"Well it didn't take you too long to become a farmer," he answered.
I didn't say anything. But secretly, quietly, I was giddy inside. Mike the Butcher, the former bronc riding rodeo champion who even as a grandfather still competes in team roping, and I am quite certain has barbed wire in his veins, had validated me and my existence on this farm.
A few days after this validation the mother pig who graced us with the accidental litter suffered from a vaginal and anal prolapse. Her condition deteriorated so quickly she became unsaveable. She was never supposed to be a mother, her genetics weren't strong enough to warrant breeding her, and she had proven barren season after season. The week before she was set to go to freezer camp though she gave birth to a very sweet litter of volunteer piglets. I wasn't in a position to call someone to come out and take care of her so I did something I have never done before. I loaded up my gun, walked into the woods, and ended her suffering. My mother (who was visiting from Oregon) and I then spent the next 45 minutes chasing piglets over stumps and under brush to bring them back closer to the barn to be milk fed.
I am a farmer.
If you have been reading the blog for some time you know the farm has been in a state of change as I work to find the balance of farming and life. Through months of soul searching, late night fretting, did I make the right decision, insanity I wrestled with the idea of scrapping it all and moving into an apartment.
But I didn't.
The other night Gizmo and I were eating dinner, my standby meal of ground pork, roasted tomatoes, and noodles, when I looked at her and realized, she was eating her own pork. Giz has been farming since her first week of life. I wore her everywhere while doing chores and even set up a swing in the milk room so she could play while I milked. The pork we were eating was pork that she witnessed the birth of and fed every single day, rain and shine.
Even at the tender age of 19 months Giz identifies with the success of accomplishing chores. She scoops feed into buckets, hauls empty watererers to be filled, diligently hoses water troughs and cleans out the spent barley bins. On weekends when we come in from a morning with the goats, as we are calming down for her nap, it occurs to me that while many women associate the smell of a specific perfume with their mother, or even a home cooked meal, Giz's scent memory will most likely be that of hay, sweat and goats. As she nuzzles into my chest, a feeling that I am quite certain could fill the Grand Canyon, I am proud of the reality that my daughter is, without a doubt, a farmer.
Ultimately, she is the reason I am still clawing and fighting to finish my dairy. Yes I'm passionate about it and yes it is my dream but, in my soul, I want it to be a success so that some day Giz can choose to run it, or sell it. Either way it will be a thriving enterprise that she can use as a stepping stone to discover and fulfill her own dream.
And until that point, I will continue to relish every single day she and I spend on this farm together. Two girls, two farmers. One made, one born. Both madly in love with this piece of Earth we get to call home.