He was born crippled. He lived in a forest with his clan until the growing weight of a growing life extinguished what function he once had, however menial it ever was.
Should we minimize his contribution to his mates, to the earth, to us by measuring his contribution with time or should we be grateful for the quality of a life lived?
I only have control over one of those variables. You, too.
What is misunderstood by many is the deep disappointment of someone that dedicates their lives to caring for animals and then, by a twist of fate, cannot eat that animal because it died of illness or trauma. How can you care for an animal and then eat it?
The perversion is thinking the two are somehow distinct. It’s that logic that’s brought forth the inhumane, torturous conditions of factory raised animals.
To fully integrate ourselves into the natural world, into our natural selves, means living within the beauty and the brutality. It is to accept that to participate wholly we must wholly take on responsibility for our actions. It is to question our limited ideas and beliefs, nurtured and stroked by a dysfunctional culture that would have us lulled into smallness with the promise of comforts. There is great power and freedom in waking up and having a hearty, bitter cup of steaming truth.
It is not an evolved human being that guards their infantile, unchallenged emotions under the guise of compassion. There is no affinity in the narcissistic protection of one’s puerile feelings in, what is ultimately, an avoidance technique to face the uncomfortable. To be magnanimous, to be courageous and driven by rightness mandates the facing of our weaknesses and then acting to correct them.
The caul, or web-like blanket of protective, nutrient rich fat that surrounds the guts of animals, isn’t used much by the home cook. Let’s fix that, yes?
When we harvest our animals, I clean and cut the caul into pieces that would roughly wrap around a terrine or the size of a roast we typically eat. I then roll and freeze the caul until needed.
Those are the two main ways we use caul. If I’m using it to wrap a roast it’s because I’m using a lean roast like round or a sirloin.
Typically, when recipes call for caul, without the distinction of the animal source, they’re referring to pork caul. Pork caul is quite delicate, white, and has a more obvious lacy structure. It’s brilliant as a wrap for loaves, terrines, pates, sausages etc. It tends to melt into whatever you’re making with it.
Beef or bison caul, (in pictures) on the other hand is much more robust in density, flavour, and structure. It won’t disappear when it’s cooked with. You can see, in the pictures, how I use it to wrap a rather lower fat, rustic terrine of venison and rabbit, similar to how one would use a dough crust. With a lean roast, cooked on a slow braise, it will mostly saturate the meat, but it won’t melt away entirely.
The flavour of beef caul from a grass fed animal is not bland. Of course, the more mature the animal, the stronger the flavour. We love the earthy terroir of a ruminant animal, well-lived, well-died, well-aged.
If you’re in the “grass fed meat is gamey” camp, I encourage you to reclaim the tastebuds that have been hijacked with grain fed, immature, bland meat that relies on seasonings for flavour. Good beef needs salt, a skilled kitchen witch, and little else.
Pork organs, liver mostly, just do not freeze well. Not at all. Best to take those organs and cook them up fresh as a feast if you have enough hungry mouths to feed. In this case, I took all of these gorgeous, glossy gems and lightly cooked them up in batches with some ghee, garden herbs and leeks.
From there it was great globs of ghee, some bone broth, homemade vinegar and some raw cream before whizzing it all up and packing it in jars. At that point they can be frozen. Best fresh, but I ended up with 30 jars so to the freezer they went.
Last night we feasted on bone marrow bones and other delights, here at the Weston A. Price conference. You know things are good when the abundance of bone marrow bones necessitates an announcement to “pleases eat more”. Ok, no prob, I can help you with that.
Here’s our process for harvesting all of our animals: an instantaneous death via a bullet in the brain immediately followed by the severing of arteries. Same, same everywhere you go, the only difference is “the stun”, that is the moment the animal is rendered brain dead. That can be done by bolt gun (usually the way in a slaughterhouse), electrocution (sometimes for pigs), or sometimes it’s not used at all (sheep and poultry are usually a lightening fast severing of those aforementioned arteries). On the day of harvest, we feed our animals something delicious and patiently wait for the perfect shot. Cattle are separated into another part of the pasture, usually a place that is lush and abundant with alfalfa and clover. They are thrilled to be alone for a few moments before their herd mates interrupt their good fortune. Pigs are kept together. Pig stress comes from separation. They don’t know what death is, they don’t fear it, but they fear being alone. When their pig-mates fall, they keep on eating.
And that’s the logistics. The very smallest part of the equation. Please read the big parts, the important parts of what it is to take the life of an animal you have cared for from birth at #slowdownfarmsteadharvest It’s the whole reason I’m here, the thing I want to share most: that caring for an animal, connecting with and developing a relationship with an animal is not separate from later eating that animal. In fact, they are, and should forever be, intimately connected.
From the field the pigs get brought to the scalder (that’s what I’m stirring up in the first pic). They then get their hair scraped off, then gutted with all the good stuff saved. Then we split them, use the tractor to bring them over to our shop, where the meat cooler is, lay them on our “magic cube” (it’s an ingenious set of cupboards on wheels with our butcher block top for butchering). We use the cube to wheel the meat to the back of the room where our meat cooler is to let it hang until the next day when it’s ready to cut.
Nature’s systems marry the good life of an animal with nutrient density. They live well, we eat well. This should not be an exception, it could be, and should be standard practice. We have the power to change things in this whack-job food system. But from your farmer or harvest from the wilds.
We have a freezer full of pork that tastes of the sweet apples and raw milk it was raised on. With flesh and fat hard from use, moving and rooting, running and rolling, in their forest utopia. You should too. We all should.
The industrial food system is sick and dying, the destruction of the planet and poor welfare of the animals hidden behind pretty boxes and cellophane. That’s no place to get your food.
We are at the beginning of a change and you, my friends, are pioneers in rediscovering what it is to truly nourish our bodies, the animals, and our planet. We are leaving legacies for our children. I know what I want mine to be. What about you?
Everyone of these pictures here, blurred by the people or algorithms of this platform, are completely normal. Totally, absolutely normal.
The mere idea that anything in the natural world can be seen as damaging to our modern sensibilities speaks volumes of our disconnection. We of the Cutlery Clan, the evolved and civilized. We who decide our children’s sex with a scalpel or a petri dish. We who encase the earth in concrete and then grow food on rooftops and laboratories. We who drain aquifers, poison our waterways, and strip away life flush with biodiversity to grow monocrop death. We who use dollars to determine worth.
We are so very, very clever.
The civilized have crowned themselves arbiters of acceptability and we all fall in line.
Oh, our colonialized minds. Mother England and her great prowess. Her dictates so drilled down into our neurons and synapses, entrenched in our worldview, that we think they are our own. Centuries of dividing humans from the natural world and shackling them to her sensibilities. She got us good.
And so it continues. This great wedge between the Laws of Nature and the profit driven norms sprinkled in our every gulp of oxygen by the people that want you to know how you should think.
This place is rife with it. And from what I hear, so is the rest of the stuff swarming behind screens.
That’s not my world. My world is dank and raw, full of life and death. My world has community. Toughness and gruffness. Respect and helping hands at the ready. There is blood and shit and guts and there is love and wild ideas and humans sucking the marrow from the bones of their kill.
But, what happens to the screened in? The ones that don’t have that distinction. The ones that google something and are shown what the big boys want them to see? The ones that are told, by hazed out images, that the natural world is abnormal. It’s savage. It’s barbaric.
Who do they end up thinking they are? Do they become the people that rule over us? Politicians to monitor? Teachers to teach? The “evolved” to guide our way? Caretakers of the earth? But what, even, is our big, beautiful Earth to them?
Open your box and chew. Swallow lies and let them form the foundation of your being. Wrap yourself in a climate controlled life. Discomfort means it’s wrong. Physical work is beyond our capabilities. Leave it to the robots and the peons.
Use the comforts of sloth to buffer that nagging little itch that whispers “something’s not quite right”.
Challenges and hardships used to be recognized as opportunities to grow and expand. Now we worship emotion as if it’s truth and demand the world acquiesce to our failings. Who grows and learns, becomes more than they are, when the world around them is shushing them to sleep with lullaby lies? No one. And that’s why we are becoming nations of adult children. Infantilized forever in our cocoon of make believe.
Be a good citizen. Do what you’re told. We have your best interest at heart. Go back to your tv and bag of doritos.
Fuck that. We are responsible for our actions. Our self respect trumps their seal of approval. When things offend, look within. Question your conditioning at every turn. Why would anyone want to be someone else’s puppet? Question it all and have the balls to admit you’re wrong. I’m wrong! We’re all wrong!
But Nature is never wrong. She knows we’re animals just like the animals know we’re animals. There’s a place for us in this world. We fit. We belong. Dirty faces and bloody hands, feet grounded on Her skin. We belong.
If you don’t get that, it’s only because you have more work to do. In the meantime, stuff your pointed finger into your pocket and spend your time being a better human with the time you’ve got.
These chicken bits were headed for the compost pile. But not with SuperOffal Gal around to rescue them! Oh no, there will be no burying these treasures if I know about it.
I’d rather eat gizzards, hearts, and livers over actual chicken meat any day. Deep in flavour and so willing to adapt to a myriad of flavours and cooking styles. Yes, these are the gems hiding inside the chicken jewelry box.
And here’s what I want to say to those of you in the cities, looking for these nutrient dense foods – meet your dealer, er… farmer, your farmer-real-food-dealer. When we were raising our young kids, food was my hustle and my part time job. I met farmers through CSAs, I volunteered on their farms, I went to their farms and developed relationships. That’s how I found raw milk every time we moved (which was every two years AND I live in Canada where raw milk is completely illegal and considered a criminal offence). That’s how I got my paws on turkey/goose/duck eggs, farm slaughtered meats and poultry including tripe, roosters, and spent laying hens that should be legally mandated to be the only thing used in chicken broth (hello, flavour, you’re a revelation). It’s how I feasted on slow roasted whole pigs, learned that the great gustatory love of my life is bison hump roast. It’s how I witnessed and was mentored, was taught who we are and where I needed to be.
But I didn’t have a farm then. And I’m not suggesting everyone should. What I’m suggesting is the richness of connection to our food, regardless of where we are, is available to us all. But yes, it’s work. It’s work because it’s the last thing the monolithic food distributors want. That’s ok, that makes the effort all the more rewarding.
I spent about an hour cleaning giant buckets of organic, pastured chicken guts yesterday, saving my beloved gizzards because we can never have enough. Got my chicken feet, livers, hearts, and spleens, too. Oh, and I rendered down a bunch of fat to make schmaltz and cracklings. All of this nutrient dense food for free because I asked, “Whatcha’ doing with your gut piles?” and I was willing to invest my time to sort through it, transport it, and clean it.
So, yes, it was free monetarily, but with the investment of my time and energy. Which is the way we try to operate as much as we can. Relationships over dollars. And if you haven’t read Charles Eisentein’s “Sacred Economics”, I must really insist you do. There’s a whole other world out there where kindness, bartering, reciprocity, and relationships still buy you more than money ever can.
p.s. Hope you enjoy the ‘marvel of biology’ or the ‘miracle of creation’ (depending on how you feel about it) I documented in my pictures. It gets me every time. I hope it always does.
Bob the bon vivant on full display. His fine sheen glinting off the autumn sun, a backdrop of golden leaves to illuminate his handsomeness. His pleasure, with my tractor bucketload offering of windfall apples and pears, profuse.
He’s a good pig. He’s a happy pig. He makes me laugh. He makes me swear. He’s the kind of pig I will be happy and grateful to eat one day soon.
If that seems somehow unpalatable or wrong to you I invite you, with honest sincerity, to read some of my thoughts and experiences regarding animal harvest slowdownfarmsteadharvest
Compassion isn’t looking away. Compassion is witnessing despite our discomfort.
Question your conditioning. I did and it opened up a world for me that brought the things I didn’t know existed. Deep connection, understanding, my duty to responsibility, and the answers to the holes in my modern white-washed spirit. It showed me my place and handed me peace.
We each have our own paths. I humbly suggest that they start with consideration of what is even ours and what has been planted. Are they even our beliefs? Our chosen values? Our decided upon behaviours or just automatic, reactive patterns?
I’m heading into this second part of my life pulling weeds and growing my own seeds. What about you?
I am their peddler of wild apples, escort to new pastures, fluffer of hay, benevolent back scratcher, birth assistant, udder reliever, medicine woman, salty skinned human.
For this, they deem me worthy of their calm and trust. They depend on me, but I am not a part of them. I am not their master. They’re entrenched hierarchy has no place for a two legged.
But for beasts that care not for the superficial or allow themselves to be ruled by emotion, I consider their ease a reinforcement of the character I strive to develop in myself.
They know me. I’m familiar and I’m ok with them. What anyone else thinks about my relationship with my animals is irrelevant.
Someone sitting on their couch, insisting that what I do is antithetical to caring, is so lost in the dark woods, they sit and eat the breadcrumbs at their feet. Arguing their position rather than following the path ahead that just might broaden their understanding. Such a mundane, small way to approach life.
Learn and stretch if you want to, but don’t ask me to provide you with the proof of my position. I couldn’t give a shit to defend what doesn’t need to be defended.
I’m no authority and I’m no touchstone of absolutes. But Nature is. She’s who I answer to. She’s the governor of my world. No human. And definitely no human with a conditioned mind that delivers such juicy comforts that they dare not question their beliefs and the stories they’ve been told. Too uncomfortable. Yawn. “A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away it’s pork. What is significant, and so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements are connected by an and, and not by a but.” – John BergerCan’t say it any better, but I’ve tried to explain what it is to kill an animal we care for slowdownfarmsteadharvest
We shot our sweet milk cow under the old apple tree. Beautiful Daisy, fair and true.
She was feasting on a mountain of alfalfa and apples, sun on her back, her devoted farmers keeping their eyes open, taking on the heartbreaking responsibility of pulling the trigger. Of witnessing. Because that is what is owed. No matter the discomfort.
Our feelings are not guideposts on how to act. They tell us nothing about what is right and wrong. We cannot live ethical, morally driven lives if we live under the dictates of emotions.
I put my head to her heart and wept my gratitude and goodbyes to the winds that pulled her from her broken body.
I felt her leave. As I always do. She heard and understood every word I whispered. As they always do.
We formed a motley procession of heartbroken humans and farm dogs lead by an orange tractor carrying her body.
Deep into the forest we walked.
Her nose leaving a trickle of blood. A map for the wild beasts to follow.
I’m nothing special, just a human with a message that you are welcome to take or leave. I see myself as a simple message carrier, my voice in exchange for the gift of mighty creatures that give us life and ask only for a good life in return. I can show you pictures of golden butter and beautiful meats, the likes of which most of you have never seen, but that’s not mine. I don’t possess that kind of magic. That’s just me working as transcriber, honouring the needs of these beautiful animals that nourish us and the natural world that feeds us all.
She had cancer. So many of them do now. Bovine Leukaemia Virus is everywhere in North America. I’ll talk about that another day. Don’t ask me about it right now.
In less than ten days, this is what was left of Daisy’s body. Bones that tell a story of wisdom and honesty so true that I feel like I’m bursting from the beauty it all.
The bears and fishers, coyotes and foxes, porcupine, and all manner of birds and insects did what they were put here to do. Carried out their roles as they must. Driven by their nature, not the manufactured norms of politically correct conditioning and wayward ideals. Hallelujah.