Nelson County, Virginia
The day the pigs leave the farm to go to the processor is always a tough one. Let’s just call it what it is. It’s the kill date. Processor just makes it sound nicer. I was around this sort of thing during my childhood back in Tennessee but never was involved so much on a personal basis like here in Virginia. We’ve raised hogs for food for almost all of the 7 years since we sold our other house up the road and bought here. This particular day never gets easier. When we started, it was Yvette’s idea. I really wasn’t interested in going back to livestock on the farm. It’s a lot of work. Before, during and after. But it’s always so satisfying knowing you’ve grown and provided your own food. Now more than ever before. As the months ticked by Yvette became so busy I had to take on more of the involvement until I finally took it over completely. And have grown fond of it again! When you get pigs just a month or so old them and raise them till they are ready for slaughter, you can’t help but get attached some. If you don’t. You’re not human or you lack a soul. I commend those farmers who slaughter on site. It’s not easy, mentally or physically.
A fellow farming friend of mine, Elizabeth Van Deventer over on Davis Creek, always helped me out this on perspective. She has lots of livestock and poultry. She always thanks the animal for their life and what they provide. A prayer if you will for each one.
I’ve done the same here. I did it today before the pigs left. I know Yvette does when she slaughters chickens. Each one. They are to be respected. Appreciated. Honored. Confined industrial feed operations are horrible and are as far removed from how livestock should be raised. These animals have open spaces and fresh pasture. The end is nearly the same. The in-between is not.
Today Yvette drove the pigs to their final destination. After spending every single day in with them I didn’t have the heart. From picking them up as little pigs to feeding and moving them in storms, wind, and snows. They look up to you to provide. Having your own meat is rewarding. But if your head is on straight and your heart is right, you never gloat on this particular final day.
It’s strange when you walk back into the field to remove the feeders, the housing, the fencing. It’s quiet. Strangely eerie. With spring coming now it’s time to till up the ground where the pigs once were and plant new pasture. The hot days of summer are ahead, and I’ll be bush hogging the pasture a lot in the coming months. With each pass. I’ll remember each of the animals raised here and honor their memory.