Pi in the Sky

Global Cooling

This photo isn’t from today but rather last Saturday. Unfortunately things have not changed much. It is still glorious sunny, snowy weather here about. Yesterday someone was telling me they drove down to Connecticut and helped plant a garden. Hard to believe when I’m looking up at our house window to where the snow level is 3/4’s of the way up the glass.

People sometimes ask how our kids handle life and death on the farm. My wife Holly recently emailed this story to family:

The other day we were taking a pig to the butcher. Hope (age 4) was with us and she loves to have me “be the voice” of various characters so that she can have a conversation with them. I have been the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, her teddy bear, anyone of dozens of her imaginary friends, our dogs, characters from the books we are reading (boy does she have a word or two for those bullies) and even a cloud in the sky. The list goes on and on. Fortunately, she does not really want me to change the sound of my voice. She just wants to have a conversation with them.

So anyway, Hope asked if me if I would be the pig’s voice. And it went like this:

Hope: Hi, pig.

Me/Pig: Hi.

Hope: Pig, do you know where we are going?

Me/Pig: No I don’t.

Hope: We are going to the butcher. They are going to kill you and cut you up.

Me/Pig: You’re kidding!?!

Hope: Nope. We’re farmers and that’s what we do. We take good care of pigs and then we take them to the butcher. Lots of people like to eat meat.

Me/Pig: Oh.

That’s the thing about farm life. It’s right out there in front of you. Life and death. There is no hiding it. It just is.

By the way, Pi is the name of a pig who was traveling that day. He was so named because he had a mark inside his right ear that was shaped like the mathematical symbol Pi. If I could have kept every great boar I would have kept Pi. He had amazing musculature, conformation and a deep well marbled loin. He tasted delicious. He had more chops than the average pig by far. In addition to having beautiful shoulders and hams, as well as a great docile temperament, Pi was one of these mile long pigs measuring 54″ long by 41″ in girth. That is a long ratio which makes for lots of extra loin and bacon. One of our selection criteria, taught to us years ago by our pig mentor Archie, is to look for long pigs. Unfortunately for Pi, only about 0.5% of the male pigs get to stay on the farm and breed. Females fair far better at about 5%. Like in nature, only the best of the best of the best get to breed and pass on their genes. The rest are Pi in the Sky dreams.

Outdoors: 32°F/28°F Mostly Overcast
Farm House: 55°F/46°F
Tiny Cottage: 68°F/55°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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9 Responses to Pi in the Sky

  1. I just don’t know what to say. This post was kind of sad, but also very educational, raw, and real.
    Reading the conversation between daughter and the pig was sort of profound.

    Thanks for sharing the life and death realities of farm life…..

  2. Sal says:

    Oh Holly you choke me up! I eat meat but I dont think I could ever eat what I have raised. It has to be more anonymous. I am very thankful to have farms likke your family who share not just the meat well raised but the stories you and Walt tell. Now when I buy my next pork chops — at plainfield coop — I will wonder if they were from Pi the pig that talked to little girls. Such a wonderful story that makes the cycle of life and death more real!

  3. Holly says:

    When we started to keep farm animals, I didn’t know how I would deal with the death part. I did tell Walter that I was not able to kill the animal. But I was willing to help with the rest. If you have enough animals you will see death, even if not by slaughter. Not all piglets make it and sheep are very tricky when little. When we have had little ones that were not doing well we bring them in and try to nurse them. Most of those don’t make it. I have lost track of the number of little ones that have died in my arms. And sometimes the big animals get sick too, although they tend to be very resilient. I think that my emotions have changed. Definitely not a callous feeling, but more one of acceptance. At this point we can generally tell when a sick animal is not going to make it. You start to get a sense. And I start to adjust to the idea that they are going to die before they do. (I would guess that working in a hospice would also give you this sense and acceptance. This does not mean that you do not grieve for ones you have loved.) It is hard when animals die, but you take the next step and deal with it and do what you have to do, then keep working to make the best possible environment for them. I guess all jobs have their least liked tasks. It is very rewarding to look out over a field of content, healthy looking animals.

  4. deb says:

    When we had chickens in Iowa I was surprised at how unconcerned my animal loving daughters were when it came to butchering and then eating them. They just weren’t upset.

    I think that part of their acceptance came because we told them from the beginning what the animals were for.

    Also, we stressed the fact that we were humane in the manner in which we killed the birds. A quick chop to the head didn’t really cause that much suffering.

  5. farmwife says:

    Yep, my kids have known their whole lives that there are “pets” and there are “food.” Both are treated well, but you just don’t get attached to food.

    We had a bunch of cousins over visiting and ohhhing and ahhing over baby goats — my 7 yr old dd took 2 cousins by the hand, walks them to another pen and says, “That was the boy pen. We don’t love on the boy pen — you need to love on the girl pen.” I guess she gets it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    That was such a wonderful down to earth story!

  7. Wait just a cotten pickin minute! Are you telling me my delicious bacon comes froma a pig? Man, wild stuff. Seriously though, Great blog, a friend just turned me on to it. To be real honest I have never understood why people seem to be so concerned about confronting the way our steaks get to our plate, or our happy meals get in the bag. I guess it’s a really big deal to some folks. Keep farming brother, I dooooo love bacon!

  8. Teri says:

    We always tell our animals that they are going to be turned into meat. My husband usually tells them that one day they will piss him off and that will be that ;) I’ve always felt like people should be willing to face up to that death, if they plan to eat meat. We give them the best lives we can, while they are here. It’s a better life than most wild animals get.

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