Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The end of the season...

Matilda is enjoying some time with "Blackie" one of our 2 lambs...

The farming year is coming to an end here at the Toadstool.  This past week I've been reflecting on my experience as a small scale farmer.  We live on 1/2 an acre out here...it's really not alot by country standards, but I'm proud of what we get out of it year after year.  We have 15 laying hens year round, who live in an old shed on our property, (they keep us in eggs year round...and also a few of our friends and neighbours).  We also have meat birds in the summer, lambs, 2 large vegetable gardens, a raspberry patch, and an aspiring apple orchard, (which we just planted last year). 

Yesterday truly marked the end of the season for us...it was the day that we killed our lambs.
We only have 2 lambs at a time, as the pasture we have is about 1/4 acre, and it's shared with the laying hens.  It's quite a spectacle to see the hens and lambs together.  This year we shared one of the lambs with some friends who live up the road...and we decided to slaughter them together.    With the help of a kind neighbour who has done this before, both our lambs were killed humanely in the field where they lived.  While there is always a sort of sadness when it comes to killing animals for meat, it was wonderful to look up the hill and see the men at work doing this job, this is a task that has been done for thousands of years.  My heart felt full by the sense of community...here we were, helping each other with our most basic need...the need for nourishment.  It was wonderful at the end of the day to have our own homegrown lamb that will feed us through the winter.  Our neighbour who came to help took away all the lamb blood to make blood sausage...the other parts that we won't eat will go to feed our friends dogs, (she has a team of sled dogs).  The skins will be made into rugs for the dog sled in the winter...nothing went to waste.

Another neighbour, (country neighbour 10 min away), gave us apples.  In exchange for these I made his family an assortment of the preserves that I made with the apples.  Some applesauce, apple butter, chutney and fruit ketchup. 

Enjoying a meal together post lamb killing.

There is real kinship when we help each other produce food.   I think as gardeners, and "farmers" we can get so caught up in our own little bubbles, but truly when we reach out and help our neighbours and friends be a part of the process...well that's real community.   I'm hopeful that next year will bring about a bee exchange of sorts with some other friends, (we have to work out the details), and I'd love to find someone to share the garden with...I'm certainly no where near maximum garden potential!  I need look no further than my pantry and freezer to see the success of this past year.   Food is something I feel passionate about...I love being a part of the process of growing food, and love it even more when the greater community is involved in some way.  I know not everyone is able to do this...but, it's like the books say...I think even growing something simple...herbs or tomatoes.  There is something about growing food that just makes your heart swell with pride.  I wondered about posting my farm experience on this, (our sort of craft blog), but then I think, farming really is the ultimate creative project. 
So...here's to the end of a great season!

xo maureen


  1. Our lot is very shady and until a few trees come down we cant grow much. My oldest wants to be a farmer, and I've had a medicinal herb garden since I was twelve, so it takes patience. We can get out a few herbs and a pretty nice set of greens in early spring. We look forward to next year, and the next. And are also hoping to keep some bees one day. But the sense of community is still strong regarding our food. We feel as you do, and are lucky enough to have a year round market about a 1/2 hour from us. It has been our sunday ritual for 3.5 years now. We have a real relationship with our farmers. And now we have several other families that feel the same way. We bring our produce together to preserve. My freezer and pantry are full and I feel such a sense of comfort knowing these wonderful, healthy foods will keep us nourished this winter.

  2. So glad you posted this! It defintely is part of the creative process! While I understnad the sadness behind killing an animal, if you are going to eat meat this way of doing it really is the most humane, respectful andleast greedy way of doing it. We become so detached from our food sources that most people wouldnt blink an eye at buying meat from the grocer or throwing some out after leaving it in the fridge too long (I am guilty) without thinking about the animal killed for our convenience. I love that the WHOLE animal was used for a purpose not just the meat. Your little community sounds lovely.

  3. I am glad you posted about your little farm life. I think farming is the height of creativity! We have never raised lambs before but we always raise a few meat chickens with our laying hens. I would much prefer my children to understand exactly where their food comes from and that they were raised with respect and killed humanely than never giving it a thought and glibbly picking up a plastic/styrofoam wraped chunk of meat and never giving it a thought as to where it came from.

    Your harvest season sounds so wonderfully productive! Good for you and all of your country neighbours!

  4. Wow what an amazing experience! I'd love to be doing that very soon!


  5. I enjoyed reading this post, thank you. Don't worry about posting about farming--I think most of us these days want to learn more about, and even experience, how our food is produced. Then there are those like me, who dream of having our own little farm, and have to live vicariously for now through other people's blogs. :)

    What I liked best about this post was the community you described. This is one of the things about country life that draws me. I truly hope that someday my husband and I can find a rural community like this. I love the idea of families trading their surplus with each other--it just makes sense, and I'm sure it's the way things were always done until fairly recently.

  6. What a wonderful post! I really enjoyed reading it. I'm so amazed that you do all of that on only a half-acre.

  7. Food and community should go hand in hand. I started counting up the number of people I've shared our garden produce with this year and it warms my heart. I'm so glad to be able to share. We are still bringing in the apple harvest.

    I love this "behind the scene" post. So bountiful.

  8. You were very brave to post this. If more people could be self sufficient there wouldn't be so many of those poor animals suffering in those awful feedlots....and so much beautiful land taken away from wild animals, plants and trees for a ridiculous amount of agriculture and pasture, using all the water resources. Meat and agriculture should be expensive so people wouldn't take advantage and waste so much of it and in turn think to grow their own.

    How hard it must have been especially living so close to them.

  9. @ Earthboys...I think whenever you kill an animal...even though you "know" that it's going to feed you at some point and time, there is always a tinge of sadness. We take it all in stride though...if we want to eat as local as possible, well, in our Canadian climate, eating meat makes sense. I'll tell you...seeing this box of lovingly wrapped meat in our freezer just makes my heart soar...knowing that I'm feeding my family good, homegrown meat makes my soul sing!
    Seeing a film like "food inc" and seeing the feed lots and chicken warehouses just helps to "know" that we're doing the right thing by raising our own, (or buying from other farmers in our area). Here's to us farmers!
    (I admire that you do this on a much bigger scale than us)!
    xo maureen

  10. Hi Maureen, I am trouble replying to my emails, I can receive them thou, my son is home this weekend so he can sort it out. Yes to your question re photos, do use any that you like, and I will let you know when your parcel arrives. cheers Marie

  11. Good for you and your family! We should all be so lucky to grow and raise our own food, how we want, with good energy. We also live as close to our food sources as possible and I love that we can visit our meat animals, our honey bees, our egg chickens (and meat birds, if we wanted). We have three gardens here (two for food), and I love the simple pleasure it brings to put our dinners on the table. Thanks for sharing!
    xo Jules

  12. Wow...you do an amazing job with such a small property! We have two acres, but the soil is so heavy with rocks and clay that raised beds are the only gardening option, and the milk cows need quite a bit of pasture. We have chickens as well (haven't done meat birds yet), and we have in the past raised a steer and pigs. I think that the small-scale farm is really enjoying a resurgence. It is nice to see so many families growing their own food!

  13. How wonderful - all you do with your land!
    I so enjoy reading what others are doing to make food for their family.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

  14. Maureen, I'm sorry, I forgot to get back to you about 'dispatching' the lambs. I'm glad you found someone who knew how to do it right. Earthboys seems to forget that most of Canada can't be self sufficient. Millions of people live in cities without any land to call their own. Those that do have a scrap of land have by-laws. It's unreasonable to say 'Meat and agriculture should be expensive'.

    One note of "Food Inc". Please remember that that movie (and most of the rest of them) is American. You would be surprised at the differences in American food production and Canadian. We can talk about it later if you want :)

  15. This is really a very touching post. Personally, I don't think I'd have the heart to kill an animal up close and personal like that (I have an "Awwww but it's so cuuuuute" issue that kicks in when confronted with a cute food animal 2 feet from me), but I have heard many stories from hunters who fed not only their families, but the families of others with the meat from their hunting trips. The use of all parts of the animal is extremely important, and I'm so glad you've covered that here.
    I was raised on organic food, myself. I remember my grandmother making arrangements with a friend who had a farm (natural, free-range) to buy part of a pig. Well, that included the head. If you've never come down the stairs at 9 years old to see a skinned pig head looking at you from the dining room table, it's an interesting experience. After the initial "HOLY CRAP IT'S A PIG HEAD!" then there was just curiosity.
    Hunting is one thing (I own a rifle myself and greatly support the humane One-Shot-One-Kill vs the ham-handed, cruel "shoot it anywhere, let it bleed out in terror" viewpoint) but I am curious; what was used on the lamb? A captive bolt pistol, or what? Macabre, yes. Sorry, I swear I'm just curious!

    Still, the whole post is a very sweet, realistic view of the end of the season. I think it's great how your group came together for it.

  16. Mary...to humanely kill the lambs, we used a gun...one shot apiece, to the head. I'm glad that we reconsidered out initial plan, which was to slit their throats...in the end we just wanted them to die quickly and as painlessly as possible, so after talking to our willing neighbour he came over and shot them for us.
    Yes, it's really not a pleasant thing to think about, killing your own meat...I still struggle with the "cute little animal" syndrome, but the reality is that we eat meat, and as such it's so good to be a part of the process.
    Thanks for your comment, question and support!
    xo maureen


We ((LOVE)) your comments!!! Thank you with all our hearts for visiting us here at Twig and Toadstool. xo



Related Posts with Thumbnails