Wednesday, 28 March 2012

It wasn't so bad.....

And now it came to be the time of the passing of one of the sheep. A passing which was engineered by us. It wasn't too bad. Not as bad as I thought it might be. For months we had dithered about doing the task, setting the day then being thwarted by other, more urgent, matters.

And the sheep which was to be no more was one of the bottle fed lambs that was one of the first lambs born here, a male but no longer intact, eighteen months old so he was a hoggart, which is a  young adult sheep under the age of two.

We have too many sheep. Our grazing is going to be hard pressed to support the flock this summer, plus we want to bring in milking goats. We have to start reducing the numbers. It is a priority.

Hubs is familiar with this sort of thing, having spent most of his younger years in South Africa on his father's farm. I am not. But I would not for a minute walk away from the experience. Shoulder to shoulder, that it what it has to be for us to live here.

We had bought a bolt gun some time ago, which is a humane killer. It is my first handling of a tool of death, for Hubs, no. He was in the South African army and police, mostly out in the svelte. He knows about guns and things. Still, neither of us was really comfortable with this bolt gun.

Anyway, time to do the job...... got the equipment ready: some plastic dustbins, some bowls, a rope, a knife, a knife sharpener, a bowl of warm water, a towel, John Seymour's The New And Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency' , a plastic chair, and some Werther's Original sweets.  These last two items were for me in case I took a fainting spell, and to keep my sugar levels up because Hubs had said that it would be a long job.

We had thought that the morning time would be the best time. Get the job done so it would not hang on our minds all the day long. Didn't work. Sheep too actively engaged with wanting to be let out into the field. Too jumpy. Too unsettled. So, no go. Come the end of the day, though, then it was a different matter all together. All day the sun shone. It was a lovely day. I even saw this sheep do a fencing match with Jacob, the ram responsible for the quantity of lambs which have arrived.

All back in the Sheep Paddock. All had their heads in the feeding trough partaking of their evening meal of maize. Singled out the correct sheep. He bounced away into the barn. We caught him. ........ within a second it was done. Quickly. Cleanly. With the memories of his day out in the field laying over him.

With some effort we managed to get him into the Tall Barn. With huge effort we got him into the air. An hour and a half later he was wrapped up in a yellow checked table cloth, divested of his outside wool and inside plumbing. It wasn't too bad. In fact it was not bad at all. Most of the time I was reading out John Seymour's instructions to Hubs, although as he started his work memories of his previous experiences surfaced in his mind to help him along. No fainting did I do. Did not even feel squeamish.

The head was donated to a French neighbour. The French regard the heads as a delicacy. Him and his wife were thrilled to pieces when I appeared at their front door and handed the head over. They beamed ear to ear. No waste, nothing is wasted. Apart from some of the plumming. One would not want to engage with a tummy full of half digested grass, so those parts were burnt. Hubs was sprayed by some wee though when that part was coming out. There was also a little 'poooooffff' of gaseous air which went up his nose when first incision was made in the abdomen. Otherwise, the work was relatively cleanly done.

And all the while I was still engaged with the actuality of the sheep, of his life here, of the memories I had of him. But I was not upset at all. Indeed, I felt very respectful of that life.

The next day, and the time came to separate out the various parts of the body. This we did in my temporary kitchen. And with reverance I laid out those parts in the freezer, never forgetting the life that had been. Respectful, that is what we were.

And so we have come through another learning curve. The good life that the sheep had is now in our own smallholding food chain. It feels right. 


Leon and Sue Sims said...

Can't help to feel a little sad being a city boy, not sure how I would cope. But we do love our lamb just the same.
Nice post.

Horst in Edmonton said...

Well done Vera. I had to do the same thing on the farm. I was elected by my parents to do what your hubby had to do. I had to butcher the young bucks that we could or would not sell. The meat of these young goats was awesome, very tender and tasty. It was very difficult to butcher these young goats, as they were so cute. Hope you have some great meals.

Vera said...

Leon and Sue: I never thought I would be able to cope either, but I didn't want to let Hubs down. I actually surprised myself!

Horst: Well at least we have made a start! But I think, in truth, that it is the rabbits which Hubs finds difficult because they really are the cutest little things, especially the white ones. He has to really psyche himself up before he can butcher them. Hope to have goats in the future, then I shall really be hoping for some helpful hints from you!

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Glad you managed OK, as you say it is really not that bad.

I was interested to hear that your Husband is from S.A. we could have a lot to talk about if we ever meet up:) Keep well Diane

Vera said...

Hello Diane, yes, Lester is from SA so any time you are down our way (top of region 65) so pop in for a chat with him.....

Jean said...

A fascinating post, Vera.
It was very pictorial in a way and heartwarming too, that you did what you had to do with such respect and kindness for the lamb. I'm sure every morsel will taste better because you can relate to it and you cared.

John Gray said...

well done vera and good job!
amazing what you can learn and get used to isnt it
well done again!

Vera said...

Jean, our meat does indeed taste much better because we know its history.

John, thanks! I think one of the best ways to stop getting old in self is to keep learning new things!

Auntie Bliss said...

That was a heavy read.
Spoiled/shielded girl here :)
I live near Nashville, Tn. in the country :)

Vera said...

Auntie Bliss: Hello, and thanks for stopping by. I was once spoiled and shielded as well. Then we came to SW France and began to run a smallholding. Four years later I have surprised myself at how I have managed to adapt to the reality of eating meat and growing our own food. It has been a steep learning curve!

Niall & Antoinette said...

Really nicely written. Your care and love for your animals shines through and I'm sure after such a good life the meat will be very tasty indeed.
Well done.

Vera said...

Niall and Antoinette: Thank you so much. Your comment was much appreciated.