Today a teacher and five members of the Urban Livestock management class from Owens Community College in Toledo came to visit the homestead! It was an exciting day, and I was happy to have finished making my house look at least a little presentable in time.
We processed two rabbits today, bucks that decided to be most uncooperative, kicking and trying to run away the whole time, but otherwise the processing went well. After the class left I processed one more for our dinner this evening. The last two will be processed in the evening as it cools down a little.
The flies are desperate with all those organs sitting out, but little do they know their eggs will be bundled up in plastic bags and shipped to the landfill. A thousand less flies in my little corner of the world.
And keeping the furs moist in this heat has been very hard. For that matter doing anything in the heat has been hard.
So anyhow, the visit. The teacher, Joanne, was a great lady that I feel like I could be spectacular friends with, and asked a lot of great questions. She was sweet and enthusiastic. The students were as entirely unrelatable for me as anyone I’ve ever met in college outside of the local nerd and engineering school. They were all around my age but I find that I can’t relate with many people in their early 20’s at all. I’m in such a different point in my life, have such a different mindset, I throw myself into things with unbridled passion that most people don’t, and I never went to a normal school… Besides which I have a sister that bears all the pretences from just such an opposite lifestyle of my own and I have trouble tolerating her. Interestingly the class was all girls, and some of them were clearly a little more OK with getting the dirty work of farming done than others. Some seemed to have real plans for their futures… The rest I am not sure they’ll end up in farming at all.
I struggle to think that the future face of farming could be a (probably bleached) blonde with mascara delicately applied, hair straightened, and short shorts, chattering on a Smartphone behind their sunglasses with an attitude of a diva, but a look at this class could make one think otherwise. (A group description there.) This is not a lucrative career choice, nor one that’s clean or easy or one where you get to hug bunnies all day. It’s certainly not a career where you can maintain your look, act bigger than you are, or step away from the dirty work. Most of the people I know in this “biz” are lucky to brush their hair and put on a clean shirt every day as they humbly beg the earth to provide through blood, sweat and tears.
Two people (other than the teacher) were willing to watch the actual processing of the rabbits and none were willing to try their hand at processing their own, be it the butchering, the skinning or the gutting. After the first rabbit was done the class went to sit on the front porch in the shade. It didn’t help that this could be the hottest day of the year. The teacher stood by as I processed the other rabbit so she could buy a pair to take home.
The lack of participation was disappointing but not surprising. Think on when I processed my first batch of rabbits… How many people showed up? I asked dozens of people and only four showed. But these people are taking a class on livestock management and butchering your animals is an important part of that. What happens when your chickens hit three years and stop laying eggs? What happens when you breed your goats and find yourself with a pair of twin bucklings, useless for milk production and can’t even produce offspring? What happens to all those rabbits you breed and can’t sell to 4Hers or to people who have more guts than you? What about the day your cow gives birth to a deformed offspring that can’t be milked, shown or bred?
Recently urban chicken keeping has become very popular and people who are unwilling to take that step in management are dumping their unwanted chickens on animal shelters. Really? Yeah, really. We’ve seen it before in a smaller scale on farms where rescue workers have to come in and save dozens of starving farm animals. But now as “farming” becomes “popular” animal shelters have no idea what to do with the chickens they’re getting. It’s irresponsible and wasteful. And in theory you could send your animals to a butcher, but that is expensive. Large animals are $0.50/lb live weight, plus the cost to kill it ($80 at most butchers) so for a goat that’s $200 to get your animal processed. That could be $200 that you spend on your next project instead, or $200 to pay off your loans, or $200 to buy your groceries, feed your animals, pay that medical bill…
Life is a full cycle. Death is just a part of it, and one that’s unavoidable. It’s up to us to decide if the life and the death of an animal will impact the world and how it impacts the world. When an animal shelter euthanizes a dozen dogs which are then thrown in the trash, I feel like that’s a negative impact on the world that just makes people unhappy. There’s no benefit to a death like that. When a farmer butchers their turkey for thanksgiving it’s a death that can bring joy to the world! But a death is only positive if we make it happen.
I know which impact I’d rather have on the world. I hope the students figure it out what sort of impact they’ll be having as well. I hope they all make it in farming… And if they don’t I hope they find something more suitable to their own desires in life.
In the meantime, I’ll just be here on my homestead, eating some delicious rabbit, with fresh garlic and onions from my gardens. Mmmm~~!