I don’t pay to have my dirty work done for me. I do it myself. —Ted Nugent
In regards to things dying, I have always been pretty much a wimp. The biggest thing I ever killed was a bug. And my grossness tolerance was rather low. That all changed when we moved to the farm.
It began the first few days after we moved in. I opened the back door to let the cat out and there was a huge coyote just over the fence in the field. My thoughts flew immediately to the safety of our 2 cats, as well as the new chickens. I normally would cringe at the thought of shooting an animal, but my mama bear instincts kicked in and I knew it was either him, or mine.
As I aimed the gun at him, I was surprised to find that my normal response of, “Oh, the poor coyote!” was absent. Was I happy about attempting to kill it? No. But neither did I feel upset. I knew that if I let it continue hunting on our land, the probability of one of our animals dying was very high. Something was going to die, and I preferred it to be him. I missed the shot, by the way, but he sure high-tailed it out of there and I didn’t see him again for another year.
Then the cute, little, fluffy chicks arrived. Chicks get something called pasty butt, where you have to wash off pooh stuck to their rear or it will dry and block their vent. Not pleasant, but someone has to do it.
And if you get a decent number of chicks, the chances are pretty high that some of them aren’t going to make it past the first week. If you don’t toughen up a bit, you’ll be a mess. I remember being at Rural King when their first spring shipment of chicks arrived. Boxes and boxes of them, and the employee in charge couldn’t get them out fast enough. Another employee offered to help. “Are you a softie?” asked the first one. “Because if you are, this isn’t for you.” I knew just what she was talking about. It’s not fun to see that dying, little ball of fluff.
Then came the deaths of 28 of our chickens from the neighbor’s dog (see previous post, “Of Chickens, Dogs, and Neighbor Relations“). A little more toughness came. Then we butchered 75 meat chickens. More callouses. A possum raided our eggs and was shot. Didn’t feel a thing. Okay, maybe I felt a twinge, (he looked so cute sitting in the nesting box) but it didn’t last long.
I will also now pick up worms with my bare hands (believe it or not!) as I work in the garden in order to feed them to my chickens. The things we do for love.
Is this new toughness bad? No. I think it has actually made me more balanced and stable than I was before. I have learned to better control this area of my emotions and bring it into alignment with the reality of life: things die from sickness, injury, or because we eat them or they will eat us (or our animals). Like a callous, a little toughness is protective. But that is different from becoming calloused.
I still don’t like it. I leave the close-up killing to the men as often as I can and still shudder when I have to hold a chicken’s legs while its throat is quickly cut. If we shoot a harmful critter, I am thankful for the men in my house who are willing to deal with the carcass. When a fluffy little chick dies, I am still sad, but I remember that this is part of raising animals. Having a farm means that at any moment I can open the barn door and find that a predator has decimated my flock. But now, if/when it happens again, it will still affect me, but I’m no longer a buttercup.