Goodbye, Pigs, and Thank You


The pigs left yesterday.  We brought buckets of fallen apples, poured them into feed tubs inside the trailer and lured them in.  Only Ginger hesitated, but Edge had anticipated this and brought a tupperware of left-over cheesecake.  Karen put the cheesecake in front of Ginger’s snout and he followed, pausing at the door until Edge pushed him from behind, causing him to jump, and I closed the trailer door shut.

I pulled up the fence posts and rolled the fences up as Karen and Edge hooked up the trailer to the truck.  The sky swam in deep gray clouds, spreading an overcast light that caused the colors to pop: the flowers more vibrant, the grass greener, the  ridge line more starkly defined in the west.  Inside the trailer the pigs were busy eating the apples.  I don’t know how long it took them to realize the change, that they couldn’t wander back to pasture, that this metal rectangle was now their space.  Maybe it hit them as the truck began to pull and the wheels moved forward over the slanted pasture, bouncing through the grass before making the wide turn back onto the road; maybe it wasn’t until they hit the pavement, truck driving 50; or perhaps not even until they arrived at the slaughterhouse and the door opened to a hallway that led them down to their pen, where they’d pig pile for the last time, ending life as it had begun: jumbled and close, snorting and sniffing as they discovered a new space together.  Whenever the realization came, we at least knew they were sent off with a good meal, the small apples fragrant and sweet.

Before the pigs left, Edge and I put our hands on the trailer and said goodbye:

Thank you, pigs, for all you’ve done for us and the pasture.  Thank you for all the food you will give to us and to so many families this winter.  We honor you.  Aho.

There is always a certain sadness in saying goodbye to an animal, even one you’ve raised for meat, but it is not without deep gratitude as well.  There is a circularity in the act of spending months moving fence, hauling water and feed, giving our energy to the pigs as they graze, turn up soil and fertilize the pasture until the day comes when they give their energy back to us, feeding us through the fall, adding fat to our meals in the cold winter, even bringing us into spring when new piglets will arrive on the farm.

Today Edge found himself with extra time, the pig chores now complete for the season.  It is a welcome relief, a success of sorts to have gotten this far into our first year.  In a few weeks pork will fill the freezer, the Summer CSA will be winding down and we’ll be gearing up for our Winter CSA.  For now, though, on this cool September night, we rest.

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