I’ll admit it. I’ve been avoiding you.
Not because I don’t like you. Or because I don’t have stories to share. But because I simply didn’t want to write what I know I have to write.
I’ve been putting it off for weeks. And weeks.
There’s so much life flourishing on our little urban homestead. The garden has been in full harvest mode. There are tomatoes, peppers and beans to pick every day. The kale is going positively gangbusters (anyone need some?). We’re busy preserving as much as we can and filling our basement shelves with glass jars. The squash vines are drying up and the sweet vegetables are being pulled inside.
Gracie is practicing her bird flushing skills by teaming up with Henry to chase chipmunks in the yard. My tummy is getting rounder minute by minute and baby is moving nonstop.
All of this activity makes our recent loss even more difficult to take.
MaryAnne was our beautiful Buff Orpington. The bird who would let me hold her as visiting friends would gently pet her feathers. The quietest of our flock, MaryAnne would simply coo and cluck softly while the others crow after they lay their ever-important eggs. Her yellow-orange feathers earned her the nickname “Gold’n Plump” among the neighbors.
And she’s the first life we’ve been responsible for that’s been lost.
When we knew MaryAnne wasn’t going to make it, there were tears. And it sounds so funny to cry over a chicken. A chicken? We eat chicken all the time. If I cried over every chicken life lost, there would literally be time for nothing but sobbing. But this was our chicken. Our chicken who was young, still laying eggs and had a personality that we knew.
But raising animals for food means losing them, most often at the Farmer’s hands. I think of my hog raising friends who tell me they make a comfortable bed in the trailer they use to haul their heritage breed pigs to slaughter. They remind the processing crew to treat the pigs with kindness. And there hasn’t been a single one of those trips that hasn’t been hard.
I also think of my dear friend’s mom who just can’t eat the meat of the first grass-fed cow she and her husband raised on their hobby farm after knowing the animal from the time it was a small calf.
Or a lovely baker I know who came home to the horror of neighbor dogs chasing her chickens, leaving her flock much smaller and terrified.
Raising animals for food comes at an emotional cost. We learned that. And there’s no question we’ll feel the pain again.
There. I said it. No more avoiding.
Goodbye, sweet MaryAnne.