Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pigs: Closing the Beta Site

As much as this culture loves its hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets, I am continually surprised at how hard it is to raise a few animals for your own consumption. We're a big, fat, bacon-loving country, but when and where you can raise pigs is regulated almost to impossibility for the common man. It's fine to get over-processed, low-quality eggs on a muffin for breakfast every single day, but it is an imposition on one's neighbors to raise chickens and enjoy fresh, delicious breakfast protein from your own back yard. Even if you are operating completely within the rules, one overly sensitive neighbor can make your life miserable with threats and unpleasantries, no matter how unfounded.

That's exactly what happened at the Beta Site; one small-minded neighbor overreacted and ruined the whole arrangement. Our host loved having the pigs in his back yard. He could show them off to family and friends, he had a constant supply of high quality pork, and he didn't have to do any of the work. All that changed the day his dog- a big, overfed, lazybones of a Rottweiler- wandered into the neighbor's yard and startled an adult caregiver. The homeowner threatened our host with making complaints to the authorities about the dog and about the pigs, and now the pigs must go.

That's right, we are moving the pigs... AGAIN.

The bad news (for you, good news for us) is that we have gotten very good at relocating the pigs. That means there is no funny story like the first time (story here). There is only the news that once again we are being persecuted for our lifestyle. Slaughtering and fence-building are being completed in a rushed manner, not the measured, thought-out way we prefer. The Gamma Site is being set up in a hurry, and the adult pigs are being put down rapidly. Speaking of which, I really must be going. I have to rearrange the freezer... again...


Saturday, April 21, 2012

In Memoriam

I actually knew my brother-in-law before I ever met Mr. Farmer. For most of my young life he was head cook at a ten-table, Mom & Pop pizzeria a few miles from where I grew up. Every time we would go there to eat, we would see him come out of the kitchen for a break. As soon as he was out of earshot my mother would say, "He broke his back, you know. He fell off a roof. That's why he comes out and leans- to stretch his back." She told that story on every visit, without fail, as if it was news we had never heard.

Back in January, Mr. Farmer's brother went into the hospital for a very serious illness. The usual tests ensued and all seemed to point to liver trouble. It was nearly a month before the cancer was confirmed, the treatment planned, and the paperwork handled. In late March, however, after a few hospital stays, his health took a quick and irreversible turn for the worse. My enabling brother-in-law passed away quietly, in his sleep, with his teddy bear, his closest brother, and his youngest son at his side.


This year I will have to plan my garden based on past years' experiences, not what was on sale when Mr. Farmer's brother took his lunch break at the flea market. Mr. Farmer and I will have to decide what plants we want and when to plant them on our own. Of course we are capable of doing that, but seeing what was going to arrive unexpectedly at our door was part of the fun of spring. This year, there will be no such surprises.


Our garden rarely produces enough to be preserved. Most of our home-grown preservation is of meat and eggs. My skills in canning and freezing are largely due to gifts of produce past its prime, rescued from destruction by The Enabler. This year there will be no boxes of bell peppers: half good, half rotted. There will be no flats of strawberries or cucumbers. There will be no two-dollar heads of cabbage the size of basketballs with just one or two bad leaves.


My brother-in-law loved his backpack leaf blower from work. He used to come up on fall weekends just to clear my driveway, my neighbor's driveway, and even the whole street! He napped on the floor in front of the woodstove, and when he got chilly, he would wake up and add wood to the fire. And perhaps most importantly, he kept Mr. Farmer company while he did outside chores on cold evenings when I would rather stay inside where it's cozy. The leaves that are just now budding on the trees will eventually fall, and we will have to remove them ourselves. It will be a chore rather than a source of joy.


Mr. Farmer's older brother lived with us for 3 years. He helped us remodel the bathroom. He kept an eye on the children when we wanted to get away for the evening. He bought fencing for the pigs when we were short on cash. We cremated his dog here. He moved out a while ago but his visits were still frequent. I will miss those visits. I will miss his little surprises. I already miss him.

My Brother-In-Law (1959-2012)
Doing the Plumbing on my Bathtub
(in 2006)