The Reality of Country Life and Keeping Animals
(WARNING: this post contains images of dead chickens and a bit of blood)
At the moment there is a fairly small list of inhabitants on our relatively big property: My husband Bjarne and I, our two kids (Ida 7 and Emil 6), Our rooster Blåbær (the Danish name for Blueberry), his 4 hens and 13 chickens, our 3 cats Alot, Noni and Leo (two of which were adopted as adults from other families who were not able to keep them), and most recently our puppy, Molly.
Further down the line, I am quite sure we will expand with a second dog, a few sheep (my father in-law used to keep them when they lived here) and they are not only my favourite kind of meat to cook, but also add a lovely calm atmosphere when they graze quietly next to you. Although I don't particularly miss those sleepless nights when they sheep go into labour and you don't know whether you will be welcoming one, two or three lambs next morning or have to spend it digging a grave for the little still born ones. But it is all part of the deal.
Nothing about keeping animals is easy. Enjoying the fun rewarding parts is no problem but you also have to step up when things go pearshaped. You just have to decide for yourself whether you feel it is worth the hazzle, and for us it is a no-brainer. I am as anti intense industrial farming as you can get, both when it comes to vegetables and animals. So everything we can't grow, hunt, fish or make ourselves yet we buy organic (and local if at all possible). The only exception is my sea salt almond chocolate addiction ;-) Right now we are lucky enough to have easy access to eggs, chickens, vegetables, wild game and fish)
I think country living and self-sufficiency has been placed on a piedestal, and that piedestal has grown higher and higher over the past few years as slow living enthusiasm has spread across the globe.
Country living has become a romantic dream. And for most people in the Western world what we put in our mouthes and fuel our bodies with + the process of creating/prepping it is something that is completely seperate from us. Most people see animals and food as two seperate things because they are literally not seeing the process inbetween. I guess this missing link and understanding is the basis of last year's misplaced Copenhagen zoo/giraffe outrage.
Unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, living sustainably in the country means that you have to cuddle your animals, feed them every morning, your kids will most likely name them, you attend to their needs and become their guardian, you get attached to them. And then... at a certain point you have to look them in the eye and decide to kill them. You have to hold the animal while the nerves twitch and the last bit of life runs out of it. And in that split second, when the last bit of life has left its body it becomes something else, it changes, it goes from being a living breathing thing that looks at you and reacts to your voice and your touch and it becomes... food. A piece of meat. I have always found this transformation interesting. Not in a creepy way. But life turning into an object by becoming lifeless is something worth paying attention to. And when you yourself becomes an active participant in this process, you suddenly get native peoples' traditional blessing and honouring of their prey, the respect for the kill and for taking a life. And even more importantly: for taking only what you need to feed yourself and your family, instead of wasting life after life that becomes waste when it expires in the store and no one buys it.
In intensive farming there is (in my opinion) mostly no respect for the taking of a life, and even less respect given to the animal when it is still alive. It is treated as an object from beginning to end.
In our house we cherish every animal that feeds us. To me, to us, that is the only way to live.