The day actually started the night before. The husband of one of my very best friends drove up to the Farm with his camper and two daughters. After a few minutes setting up and making a plan, the deed was done…
Tank was a beautiful Black Angus bull that we had purchased a year and half earlier. He was short and stout. He was long. He was fixin’ on eating us out of house and home! He needed to be sold and right away! The drought was affecting us all, big and small farmers alike. The fields were burning up more quickly in the heat and the crops were not growing at their usual rate. This left us with cattle but no feed. We had two yearling steers, a six month old steer, two pregnant heifers and Tank. Tank was like a big dog. He didn’t realize that he was an 1800lb animal and that we couldn’t play with him the same way he could play with other cows. The drought was getting to him. He was an eating machine! Not enough hay and too many other animals to share it with.
Earlier in the year we had decided to reduce the herd. We had two bummer calves that we had grafted on to our Jersey heifer after her first calving. She was so engorged and we were trying everything we could think of to relieve her burden. It turns out that, although we would try, these were the only two cows we would sell this year.
Tank went up for sale and we thought for sure we had a buyer. No luck. The rancher took one look at him and knew he was far too short for the heifers he was raising. I kept reducing the price on his ad but, no takers. He was getting sassy and becoming very hard on the fences. So, his fate was sealed.
When you take on farm animals you know that they are yours only for a time. Whatever happens, sale or butcher, we spend their time giving them the best life we can. We want to produce quality animals no matter what. Although we’ve butchered more than a few animals on the farm over the past 5y since we bought our land, it is never with a flippant attitude and it is always with a prayer of thanks before, during and after the process.
Tank was no exception.
Tank had grown to an enormous animal that we estimated to be around 2,000lbs at butcher. He couldn’t be hoisted so my husband and our friend had to improvise. His quarters were a struggle for the two men to lift together.
Fast forward to the morning…
After doing the major leg work until 11:30p the night before, we all decided to keep very un-farmer like hours the next day and not be up and ready for breakfast until 8a! We had decided a month an a half earlier that we were going to share the proceeds from this beef with friends and neighbors so this was going to be a weekend of processing, for sure, but so much fun with our friends!
I set the table with sausages, croissants, juice, milk and fruit. A fresh pot of coffee was set to perk. Our friends came with crock pots full of food to share, snacks and drinks. By 9a, the rest of the families were arriving and we were getting set up to go in full swing. The tables were set up outside, knives sharpened, the grinders readied. All told, we had eight adults and nine kids (ok, some of the “kids” are technically our adult children). The Farm was full and BUSY!
We laughed and talked, ate and worked. We so enjoyed each other’s company! When the evening chores were done, we all sat down to a dinner that had been cooking in the crock pot all day and filled the kitchen with the gorgeous smell of fresh sage. The kids pulled out the cards and played poker while the adults chatted. It was noisy and chaotic. And I loved every. single. second of it!
Day two was much the same as day one but, it was time for everyone to head home in the afternoon. We accomplished so much together that we could never have done so well apart. Farm life is like that. There is a comradery and a sense of family that can’t be duplicated by many other situations. We help each other, working hard on things that may or may not benefit us directly. The Farm is my happy place, the family that we have built around it is truly our gift from God.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12