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Farm Chores in 3 Degree Weather

Icicles in the Rabbit area
Icicles in the Rabbit area

FAIR WARNING: This post discusses actual farm chores of a working farm – not just the feeding and watering of animals.

We ended up with a cold weather system coming in that Southern Oregon hasn’t seen anything like in 30 years. Our town got 8 inches of snow in about 2 1/2 hours on Friday. The day started out sunny and bright. While the kids and I were in the store getting a short list of groceries – meaning, we were probably in there for forty-five minutes at the most – we came out to 4 inches of snow in the parking lot and on our car. We inched our way home in 4-wheel drive, cars spinning out along the side of the road all over the place.

I was supposed to have a big test on Saturday, but it was postponed until next weekend. Saturday morning, in 3 degrees, we walked out fifty pound water buckets to all the varieties of animals we have scattered across in pens and fields. The idea of a centralized barn where all the animals come for winter meals sounds like an amazingly wonderful idea.

Saturday was the day Scott had planned to process one of our pigs, and with me home unexpectedly, I got to help. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, we put the pig down, skinned it, hung the meat for a day to chill, then came back and cut it into pieces, wrapped it and put it in the freezer. The two of us did that, and the second day, today, we had no running water. We have water at the pump house, but somewhere underground between the pump house and our home, the pipes are frozen solid.

At this point, we have big plans for a dish-washing operation tomorrow outside at the pump house. We have two big buckets that we’ll fill with hot water from the stove, we will have dirty dishes on one table, soapy water to wash, steaming hot water to rinse, then another table to put the clean dishes. This will be outside in 3 degrees out in the field across the driveway from our house, at the pump house. Scott and the boys will dry dishes and cart them through the snow back to the house. As difficult as that all sounds, I’m rather looking forward to it.

We are handling business whether conditions are optimal or not. We are farming. We are putting meat in our freezer. This litter of pigs was bred here, and birthed here. I was Assistant to the Midwife (my husband) who brought these pigs into the world. We treated them with love and respect. Scott works closely with all our animals. He is out there walking his pigs around the back field. They all adore him and will follow him anywhere. They will let him rub their bellies. They trot over when they know he has food and sing for him. They want kisses. They have never known fear.

It has been said that if everyone had to process their own meat, there would probably be a lot more vegetarians. That may be true for traditional meat-processing in a large facility, where things turn into an assembly line. Here, on a small farm, working with one animal at a time in a respectful, humane manner, it is a lot of work, and the first part is tough emotionally, but from that point on, it is very scientific and almost precise. Once the pig is down, it is meat, and it is to provide for our family, and it is all incredibly reverent. And when the pile of butcher-paper-wrapped meat is so big it takes the two of us carrying several loads to get it all to the freezer, we realize how important this is for us to know how to do, and for us to do for ourselves. We know what is in our food. We know the labor that has gone into it, the good feed, the love and the happiness. We also feel prepared for winter.

Other than that whole frozen pipe deal, we’re good!

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