12 April 2007

Coco Puff's Revenge

Yesterday morning, with considerable satisfaction, I took Coco Puff the Psychotic Ram off to the slaughterhouse. Actually, "satisfaction" isn't quite the right word. "Relief" is more like it. It's always a little poignant when we drag the sheep out of the back of the Bronco or the station wagon, and move them into the holding pen at Forrest Meats. Even when the animal is an obvious "cull," or has caused danger or damage to our farm, I can't help feeling a little sad.

Not so much for the lambs, when we take them in at the end of each year, because we never have them long enough to consider them long term residents of the farm. The rams are different. As much as I despised Coco Puff for the damage he wreaked on the fences and pasture shelters, and as many times as Coco Puff's sire, Buddy, injured and tried to kill me, they were still "part of the gang" in the pasture. A flock is an organic unity that goes beyond the sum of its parts. Seeing one member of that flock isolated and standing alone in the holding pen at Forrest Meats never fails to bring on an odd mix of emotions. Add to that the dreary, cold, rainy weather yesterday...and that only made the emotional mix more strange.

But that's all part of farm life, and I turned the Bronco for home. Later that day, the call came from Forrest Meats: Coco Puff dressed out to 62 pounds, and how would I like him prepared? I asked them to grind up everything they could, and to make soup bones out of everything else. Easy enough, they replied. I really like this place: they're a small operation in a small town, part of a dying breed of local custom slaughter operations. The building isn't much to look at, but they give wonderful service. I just wish there was something closer: Forrest is 34 miles from us. In years gone by, there were slaughterhouses closer to our town --- but with consolodation, they've been closing down everywhere. It's like everything else in rural America these days, it seems.

A storm came blowing in at about 4pm, with lightning and very strong wind gusts. As the kids and I watched from the window of my office building, the entire pasture shelter that Coco Puff had bashed the supports out of just plumb picked up, smashed, and blew over the northwest quadrant of the pasture. I muttered something under my breath about Coco Puff's revenge.

Once the winds died down, I went out to inspect the damage. It was a total loss: both the sides and roof were blown away and smashed. This left the flock with no remaining shelter from this nasty weather. And I couldn't bring them all into the barn. The one remaining shelter still had its roof, but no sides (thanks to Coco Puff). Fortunately, I'd managed to salvage those sides and stack them in a safe place, so in the spring I could repair them.

Guess what my project is for today? This morning, I got all the old manure and bedding shoveled out from the shelter area. The power drill is charging. A little later, my son and I will go out and see if we can get those sides refastened...and the flock a place to escape from the frigid wind. All I can say is: good thing no lambs were born last night.


Diane said...

I can appreciate your observation about the unity of the flock and seeing that one cull isolated. The most difficult time for me when I'm culling (roosters, usually) is that moment when I separate them from the rest of the flock. I usually do it the night before when they're roosting and quiet. By the next morning, it's technique and getting the job done. The other thing that always gets to me is when we're doing a whole flock of broilers and it gets down to the last one in the pen, alone and confused. We've taken to making sure we pull the last two or three together. I try not to get too emotional about it, but I also don't ever want to get to a point where taking the life of any creature doesn't affect me.

TYF said...

Good point about chickens - I've noticed the same thing. When there are several left in the "death row" pen, they put up a fight each time I open it to remove one. But the last one always simply gives a look of sad and confused resignation. I like your idea to do the last 2-3 together. I only have one poultry killing cone, but perhaps I can come up with a way to do it.