I think I've used that title before. "Meet your food." The last time I did that, I was meeting food at another farm, raised by another farmer.
Farm. Farmer. Those words have new meaning for me today.
Today, I delivered my pigs, raised by me and my family, on our farm, to the butcher.
I'm going to let that marinade for a moment.
What a cascade of emotions this evening brings.
I'd raised meat chickens last summer and that experience actually allowed me to convince myself that I had a grip on this animal raising thing we all affectionately call farming. Fortunately for me, I didn't have the first clue. Because if I did, I would have left the task to professionals. You know, farmers.
On mother's day, I gleefully skipped down to southern Minnesota, with the entire family in tow, to pick up my beef calves. Whilst there, I added on piglets too. Why not, they fit in the dog kennel, I reasoned. There's room in the barn too. Brian's eyes started to roll, but he smiled weakly. It was mother's day, afterall. I shrugged. Why not?
Fast forward 6 months and I'll tell you why (not), those pigs gave me an education. They made me cry. They made me laugh. They ran away to play with the neighbor's horses. They introduced me to the neighbors. They made me want to gouge out my own eyes. They made me surrender. They handed me my ass and it was exhilirating.
Humility. Humanity. Compassion. Dedication. Patience. Respect.
I was merely the pupil, they were the scholar.
I was determined not to raise our animals on gmo products and for the most part, I was able to do that. But there were a few days, scattered here and there, where I had to cave and buy a bag of feed from the shelves. I'd groan all the way to the check out, feeling like a failure, and dole out cash for a bag of stuffs that wasn't all that clear with its ingredient list.
It was rare and I can boast that 99% of my pig's feed was rich in organics, nutrition, and love. Apples from the abandoned orchard, organic greens, wild grapes, acorns & walnuts, roots of every species, free range roasted chicken, watermelons by the case and brie cheese.
I know. I'll take that to my grave. Handing over a 15.00 round of brie, that had become lost on that narrow, useless, shelf below the meat & cheese drawer in the fridge, still makes my eyes cross. How could I possibly forget about a round of brie? ugh. Crack in half the dried-up, perfectly wrapped, dairy delight and hand it over to two slobbering oinkers left me no choice, I had declare them gourmet pigs.
Nice ring, isn't it? Ok, humor me.
Somewhere in October I had gotten used to my pigs and wasn't seeing the growth that other people were. I thought they were still hovering around 200 lbs. Getting into late fall, I had to suplement their "free range-like" diet with something from the grain elevator.
I'd stand at the counter and the clerk and I would hee and haw, back and forth we'd go, trying to find a bag of anything that wasnt packed to the gills with corn. flax? no. Barley? uh nope. Ground oats? No, but we have whole oats. They barely digest it, I'd retort. Well they digest some of it, he'd balk. Ugh.
"Rolled oats?" he finally offered.
I about fell over. "Like rolled, oatmeal-for-breakfast oats?"
"Yes. They are even steamed," he said.
This steamed part didn't initially impress me because I was concerned about lost nutrients. But it was something and it wasn't gmo, so I loaded up the jetta with as much as she'd carry and off I went.
om.nom.nom. That's all I heard for the next couple of weeks, while I finished my pigs. It's true. Pigs eating oatmeal sound just like humans. Om nom nom. hahaha. I'd be a liar if I didn't confess that I thought about pouring cream and maple syrup on their breakfast. I didn't, but I laughed at myself for even considering it. Those oats certainly worked. I handed over 2 pigs, 280 & 300 pounds resectively, according to our butcher.
My smile weak and my laugh lame as Brian and the butcher scoffed at my suggestion that they were around 240 lbs. I don't know why I was surprised when they corrected and declared that 300 would be more accurate. Spoiled and pampered was how I'd raised them and it would be how I'd finish them, I guess. Swimming pools filled with cold water to stave off the summer heat, ear scratches, treats like chocolate chip cookies and cantaloupe, and green space to turn into mud. They'd lived a king's life and I was feeling pretty good in the middle of a very complicated day.
Today marked the end of pouring 15.00 bills down their throats, schlepping 5 gallon buckets and 20-40lb totes of veggies, no more mud splatters from flapping ears that would make Dumbo feel insignificant. Yes, I miss it all, I miss them.
We visited in the stock trailer and gave their last ear scratches while I fed them their last dinner; Sliced bread and bananas. They loved carbs and they deserved all 5 loaves and 20 lbs with the peels left on please. I thanked them for being swift and forgiving with their lessons. I promised to apply all that they had taught me to next year's pigs. Before I said goodbye I, for the first time ever, said grace over my food before it was on my table.
Blessed. Rich. Humbled.
Meet your food. You'll be forever better for doing so.