death on the farm

henriette, humphrey bogard & hepburn, my beloved birds
death is apart of life. it's especially apart of farm life. we long knew that we would have to get used to eating our own animals as that is the primary reason for raising most of them. but there is also the unexpected causality list of animals that reach their untimely end due to a sly fox, the shovel of pity, squashings & animal bullying or illness/injury of some kind. the latter is the most difficult i think because of its unexpected, messy nature & also that it is one animal that has been singled out & we know it's name as opposed to slaughter day where everyone gets done on the same day & we can't distinguish who's who in the freezer. no names just delicious nameless meat for the dinner table.

we've lucked out so far in the way of accidental deaths until this weekend. this weekend we lost two chicks, a chicken, a duck & a porcupine. the chicks got squashed in the brooder by their overzealous siblings. the chicken we had inherited from another farm in the area & had died of old age (i didn't really like her anyways, she had been debeaked as a chick & it just looked so weird). the porcupine was a casualty of the shovel of pity. it not only had previously smacked Jackson in the gums but also happened to be deranged. in all the early morning confusion, the only thing we could think to do to the poor thing was kill it to prevent it from spreading whatever it had.

 (interesting fact #1: did you know that there is currently no rabies in Ontario? the ministry of natural resources had eradicated it through various programs quite a few years ago which means the number of deranged animals we've found on the farm is kind of a big deal. it could still be distemper or another terrible disease, either way our vet had recommended to kill it if we found it to avoid unnecessary vet bills. interesting fact #2: porcupines are not typically the carriers of disease due to their prickly nature making species to species infections unlikely. interesting fact #3: no one in ontario is interested or knows what to do with a rabid animal which became pretty clear after calling & being transferred to nine different governmental departments. i gave up trying to report the numerous animals that had crossed our property which were clearly sick with something very similar to rabies)

anyways, the main event this weekend was loosing my favourite duck, henriette. we have been free ranging our ducks & chickens to save us the annoying work of having to build a proper chicken run over the bedrock of the barnyard. which had been going great, until the ducks, who had up to this point in their short little lives always been contained in a cage of some sort, learned that they could fly. something came over jackson that could not be stopped & he injured her beyond saving. she died a few bloody minutes later. she was my favourite! i still can't look at jackson, even though i know it is entirely not his fault. it was just his instinct which i know we need to respect. the kids weren't even upset. they were kinda like "yeah we know... this is what you've been preparing us for since the day we got them". but i wasn't ready!

steve took care of yet another carcass & deplummed her with my brother in the backyard & readied the meat. he thought he had adequately hiddden her unused parts until the hushed whispers of the kitchen caught up with him. "uckhead day in the og day's outh may" my aunt whispered so's not to cause me any more trauma. but after retrieving her beautiful head from the dog's mouth he walked straight into me on his way into the kitchen & i cried... just a little.... at the sight of her speckled little beak & trusting eyes.

the dinner table was very quiet. the mood was overcast as we all stared silently at the plate full of her abundance until my uncle piped up and said "i just don't know if i can do this. it's just so sad. it's really more of a funeral isn't it?" to which steve replied "yeah, but at least it's a tasty one!" and began dishing her up. after having a few delectably, guilty bites i excused myself from the dinner table to paint my grief away in one of the various rooms we are currently renovating.

this will not be the last death on the farm. but it's certainly wasn't my fondest. her deplummed feathers now fill the barnyard, occasionally swirling in the summer breeze, as a reminder that we can't get around the facts of life, especially the farm facts of life.

she was henriette. and she was my favourite.