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Dirty Mama: Rise and Shine

May 14th, 2010 | Category: Columns

by Shona Hilton

“Rise and shine, because today the pigs die.”
These are the words which woke us last September on butchering day.  Our 6-year-old almost sounded as excited as a kid on Christmas, but along with this excitement was definitely some more mixed feelings – and that, to me, is the way it should be.
Like many, many country dwellers we have chosen to raise our own poultry and pork and we buy our beef from a local farmer. Now I won’t claim to be 100 percent perfect in only eating home/locally-reared meat – we also support the local restaurant which provides tasty, but conventional dishes, and yes, we’ll have fast food occasionally.  But for the most part as a family we are well on our way to only eating animals we have met.
This has not been without incident.
Our two young un’s have always been involved with our chicken butchering. Once after one too many vicious attacks on the boys we put down our first two roosters. The youngest, who had born the brunt of the last savaging and was becoming really quite afraid of chickens, wielded a drumstick that evening and triumphantly proclaimed: “I’m eating Optimus Prime.” Talk about closure – and yes many of our animals are named after Transformers.
However when I told my two little boys our first ever piglets were coming and that we would raise them well and then eat them it prompted an unexpected reaction.
“I love my piggies – I don’t want them to die,”  wailed the youngest.
“You know mom, some people don’t eat meat at all,” lectured the eldest.
“Uh oh,”  thought the mommy.
It hadn’t even crossed my mind that our children, being so young, would have such strong feelings about where their food comes from – I mean they were fine about helping to butcher 50 broilers in a day, why were pigs provoking such a different emotion? I should have known better. Once at preschool the children were having a discussion about animals they had. One little girl said, “We had pigs but they died.” Another little boy sagely nodded his head and asked, “Did the man shoot them?” These little country tykes are way more clued in than I would have thought. And pigs are very, very personable animals as we were to discover.
Over the months our pigs grew and quite frankly were some of the more delightful, and easy to care for, animals I have had – although I always had the feeling they would eat me if I tripped and fell in the field. On butchering day the boys said goodbye to them and thanked them for providing for us.
Having them killed felt faintly treacherous, to be honest, but we eat meat. To get meat animals have to die. Chickens are not just a packaged pair of breasts and bacon may make everything better for the consumer, but, well, not for the pig. And quite frankly they taste fantastic and I think that part of that is knowing they were born a mile from us and from five weeks old we have watched them play, plough their field, wallow in their mud patch and completely enjoy their short life right up until their one Very Bad Day.
“Is this Poky or Piglet?” says youngest child holding up some bacon. “I’m not sure but I’m glad your dinner has a name,” says I.
This year’s piglets are due anytime and we can’t wait for their arrival.

Shona Hilton lives in an old log cabin on a small farm in the South Fork Valley of Whatcom County and contends with mud, rain, dogs, small children, pigs and poultry and all the other things that make country life worth living.

3 Comments to “Dirty Mama: Rise and Shine”

  1. huck says:

    Great wee article Shona, well done. I’ll feel a lot better now when I eat an animal that I have known personally!

  2. Cheryl Perry says:

    Well said Shona! Children are alot stronger than we give them credit for and I think it can be very healthy to witness and respect the full cycle of life (and death) that is involved when we choose to eat meat. Plus dinner really is better when it “has a name” 🙂

  3. Bill Bill says:

    Beautiful dirty mama!

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