Apr 10 2008

Harbingers of Spring

The white, once beautiful but, now oppressive canvas of winter if finally being disrupted by tell tale signs of spring.  The lawn is pock marked with spots of green reminiscent of children with bad acne in High School.  Turkeys cross our path every day as they scramble about frantically in search of still sluggish bugs shaking off their winter coats. After a weekend with our Ornithology enthusiast friend our ears briskly became piqued to the sounds of Pileated Woodpecker’s, Tufted Titmouse’s, Blue Jay’s, and just possibly but not positively some Bohemian Waxwing’s as they all participate in their great migrations.  Most exciting of all these things though are the waves of life cascading through all the farms of now good friends in this area.  Calves, Kids, Piglets are all in full swing and appearing on the scene on a daily basis.

On a recent outing to see a Calf that had been born within the hour, we happened upon another mother in waiting who began the labor process in our presence.  Slightly bewildered but fascinated we decided to stay and witness “the miracle of life” for ourselves.  If I remember correctly that last and only thing I’ve seen born was kittens and quite frankly I don’t even think I witnessed the whole thing.  Patiently, Chase and I shadowed the soon to be Mother wondering just how this was going to go down.  With great discomfort the Heifer began laying down and then sitting up in order to constantly readjust herself.  With no previous warning a hoof finally protruded and showed itself to the world.  This protrusion went on for hours, coming and going over and over again.  Once we were joined by our friend and cow owner Sean , the situation was quickly diagnosed as a problem due to the fact that the calf was coming out backwards.  Without hesitation but a bit of difficulty, we brought the cow into the barn and began a process I never thought I’d get to partake in.  As I began pulling on the slippery back legs of this yet unborn calf, I really began to wonder what I’d gotten myself into.  Minutes later it all came to an end as the calf just slid out in fell swoop and we were done.

We told ourselves 6 months ago that if we could make it through the winter up here we would be ok.  There were a lot of moments throughout these last 6 months that had us wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into, but now there is only the affirmation that we need to make this work. Although that doesn’t mean we have an answer yet, but at least we have the vision.



Mar 14 2008

Narragansett eyes on you…

There is something mildly disconcerting about turning around and being accosted by a rafter of Narragansett Turkeys…


Mar 2 2008

Slaughter Redux

It’s been brought to my attention that in a previous post concerning the nature of slaughter, that I was a bit crass and may not have explained the process thoroughly enough. In essence, what I was trying to convey was the fact that one should proudly eat meat, if and only when they have learned to be honest about their relationship with it. Before we get ahead of ourselves, I am not a preaching fanatic and by no means have I been this way my whole life, but after learning a few things and experiencing that much more I can’t help but feel that I’ve been lied to my whole life.

For some reason, after reading Michael Pollan’s “Omnivores Dilemma”, something inside me changed. There was something brooding inside me yearning for change and it was as though a veil had been lifted from my face, allowing me to see clearly for the first time. We make decisions everyday of our lives that impact us greatly and eating has to be one of the most significant and most undervalued decisions there is. Ironically, we’ve developed and nurtured a culture where we rely on corporations to make food choices for us. This system could be fine and hum harmoniously alongside this great engine of a society that we’ve created if it weren’t for the fact that we let the corporations treat it like any other capitalistic business model.

Food production in the United States is controlled by the USDA, which has commissioned a food business that worries more about numbers and subsidies than actual quality and taste. The USA alone produces around 9 billion chickens a year. We have a pork and cattle industry that has been dumping so much waste into our water systems that we’ve created a toxic wasteland the size of Massachusetts in the gulf of Mexico in which no life form can be sustained except algae and bacteria. These are only a few examples of food production atrocities that go so deep, most people will never know or would prefer not to know what they really put into their mouths on a daily basis.

It makes me furious and sad when the USDA recalls 143 million pounds of beef, not because they deem it unsafe to eat but because a video on youtube surfaced showing cows being tortured at what is considered a humane industrial farming cattle operation. The video was so disturbing and horrific, that the embarrassment endured by the USDA caused it to issue the largest beef recall in history. What most people fail to realize is that the atrocious abuse of those animals is by no means unique and practically a standard in our food industry. If that doesn’t say something about the priorities towards the way our food is produced in this country than I don’t know what does. I even saw a commercial the other day from McDonalds which touted the fact that now they were actually serving 100% Beef as though we were supposed to assume that in the past a hamburger was something other than all beef. I can’t even begin to imagine what was in the last Big Mac I ate 15yrs ago.

In any case, back to my original point concerning slaughter. We all eat, and we all make choices about what we eat. I personally wanted to get in touch with what I ate and even more so understand what I was eating. Therefore, I set out on a mission to find meat that was produced under conditions that satisfied my requirements for humane and healthy food. In the galleries below, which are viewable after clicking on each link, I participated in two slaughters that were extremely humane and honest. The animals you see here have all gone to families that have raised and nurtured them through their entire life cycle.

You can say what you want about the notion of slaughter, and yes there is nothing pretty, fun, or easy about it. Although, there is something honest, rewarding, and humbling about it. Most of my experiences in this field have begun with a shot of whiskey around 8am and this is mostly due to the fact that it is very difficult to play God with something you’ve put so much time and effort into. In one instance, after deliberating for awhile because one lamb had witnessed another as it was in the throws of death and had become frightened, we decided to spare it for the time being because our primary concern was that the animal never suffered in the slaughter process and that hopefully death went unnoticed. Another interesting note, concerning the slaughter of a cow, was that after shooting it in a field grazing happily amongst its peers in order to make sure it wasn’t expecting is final moment, all the other cows didn’t flinch as though they didn’t notice at all. Somehow this made me feel better.

Please click on the links below if you’d like to see how something like humane, small-scale slaughter is done. The photos could be considered gruesome so beware, but I would just like to say that I only consider them to be honest.



Feb 13 2008

How to Acclimatize 101

What happens when you leave the city for greener pastures (no pun intended), and settle in a little pocket of the world known as the Berkshires. We’ll, as far as I’m concerned you acclimatize. Since moving up I’ve been volunteering with farmers in order to learn the ropes as far as basic food production goes. In the case of my experience I’ve been milking cows mostly and occasionally help “process” livestock.

Process is a polite way of saying slaughter and personally, both terms work for me. I’m an unabashed meat eater and I strongly believe in the food chain relationship we have with meat. As a species we are omnivorous and it’s a privilege that is shared with not many other creatures. On the other hand, we have grown incredibly distant from the actual act of being in touch with the things we eat. I decided not to long ago that if I was to continue enjoying the rights of an omnivore, I needed to begin to earn my keep and subsequently learn about things most of us would prefer to forget. On that note, please click on the following photographs to view what I’ve been up to: