Death, dying, & freezer camp

During a recent visit to help with a pregnant doe, Dr. Chris gave us a quote that was befitting of her demise -- "you can't have livestock, without deadstock". Well, ain't that the truth? We have certainly had our share.

Our first experience with live/deadstock was when Scott's team roping horse Stanley broke its leg during competition. I'll never forget the look on Scott's face when he pulled up to the barn with an empty horse trailer. We have also been struck with colic, a horse running a fence through his chest, a horse found in the pasture on a foggy morning, stillborn colts, & old age. For a while there, we were the farm where aging horses were brought to live out their final days. We have had a set of twin colts with Luke still with us but his twin Bo died about a week after birth. Yes, I know Bo & Luke Duke were cousins, not twins.

Our next livestock venture was goats. Nary a kidding season goes by that we don't lose a baby or two. Apparently there is a reason many goat farmers arrange kidding to be in the winter. Not exactly sure what that "reason" is. Whether it is the heat, or the nutrients they get grazing the pastures & woods, we have lost more babies & mommas this summer than we have in the winters. Although cold winters are harder on us during chore time, the new families seem much more content snuggled up in a drafty, chilly winter barn than seeking cooling comfort from a dreadful, hot summer sun. We can proclaim to never had lost a goat to the coyotes who travel between the woods on either side of our property. After a period of time & weight gain, our goats are taken to the sale barn. While I know this is not the case, I like to believe that the remainder of their goat lives are spent grazing happily in new pastures for years to come.

It is an honor & privilege that our chickens are housed in the very same building Scott’s Grandma Mae raised her chickens to sell eggs during the Great Depression & for the many years following. There is nothing better than farm fresh, free range eggs! However, that does bring about a certain danger. In the Spring of 2012, I was eerily fascinated by witnessing a sly, swift fox grab a chicken right outside my kitchen window. My only hope was that fox snagged a hen who hadn’t been laying & needed to feed her hungry kits in their den. Then there was the "Father's Day Massacre of 2013” brought on by our neighbor’s dogs. Many chicken lives were lost that day. We have made only one attempt to dress out chickens ourselves for freezer camp. They were good eating, but not sure it was worth our time & effort.

Several years ago we bought our first calf to raise & send to freezer camp. Buford was the best tasting steak we’ve had this side of South Dakota! Every Buford supper we had, a young Kaycee would give a little thanks to Buford for providing us a scrumptious meal. Heifer Crescent Moon was our most recent camper.

Today was not a good day to be a hog. If you will recall, we only began raising hogs last year. The first of our herd to go to freezer camp was our barrow Kevin (as in Kevin Bacon). I think it was hard for Scott to see the first of these children go. We provided Kevin with the best life. He had good feed for his healthy appetite, room to roam whenever & wherever he wanted, & had a farm family consisting of many species to keep him company. Kevin will be fondly remembered & thanked at every breakfast, holiday dinner, & baked good.

Kaycee, having been around livestock her entire life, respects their lives but shows a slightly warped sense of death. That became evident when her toddler self carried a dead chicken from the coop & exclaimed that we can now have fried chicken (because it would be incinerated). The worst was when she was 5 & showed little emotion to her first human death when my dad died. Her first reaction was “well, at least he won’t beat me anymore (long pause)… at bowling”. Thankfully, Kaycee has become more aware of appropriate emotions & when to have a respectful mourning period. Scott has a heart of gold for all our livestock. He often forgets to remain detached from the ones who will go to freezer camp some day. For me, I do respect our livestock & the feed they provide our family. Although, to be completely honest, I find it hard to become attached to them when I sometimes dread doing the chores it takes to care for them. I think the deaths of our horses are the hardest. They are such big, beautiful creatures. Unlike other livestock, they live to please us... not feed us.

'Til next time folks (with cheerier chatter).

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