Olivia, Some Pig

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

I woke up before dawn this morning, nightmaring about Olivia. I dreamed that we had moved to a new house and had no pen for her, so she was spending her last day in our concrete basement.  She was like a prisoner, and I cried because she had no mud.  Her last day of life and she couldn’t do the thing she loved so much, to root and roll around in a muddy wallow.  She sat slumped in a corner. I had a huge basket full of colorful vegetables, Kohlrabi, big fat carrots, kale and squash.  All her favorites. I kept bringing her armloads, trying to make her happy.  She started snorting, then I heard someone call my name and woke up, relieved that it was just a dream.

A lot of people have said that I shouldn’t have named her. Naming her isn’t what makes this hard, and I don’t regret doing it at all.

I love Olivia. I love bacon. In my family, if you really love someone, you make them a pork roast for their birthday dinner. The words, “this would be awesome with some bacon in it…” are common around here.

Olivia at 12 weeks

Raising Olivia, I’ve learned that there is so much more to eating pork, than how tasty it is.  Being nice counts.

She’s been petted, patted, belly scratched and well fed.  She was able to live a life the way nature intended, going ears deep in a muddy bog, then napping in the bed she made of straw.

Knowing that Olivia spent the last year and a half being adored by, not only by me and John, but by hundreds of kids and parents, and even blog or Facebook followers , all of this counts.

As Joel Salatin would say, Olivia has lived a great life, and had one bad day. In my mind,  The good life outweighs today, the bad day.   I don’t have to be here when the ranch butcher comes. I could just let him in, pay him, and go get a  pedicure.

Olivia, yawning before a nap

But I won’t.

In order to bring this full circle, to follow my core values, I have to take part in the end of her life. It will, easily, be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I’ll spend the 45 minutes, or so, that it will take, giving silent thanks to Olivia for all the joy she brought to the farm, and the meat that will feed my family for the next year.  And I’ll try to not to cry, but will let myself, if I need to.

Enjoying an ear scratch, Spring 2012

It’s later in the day now. The butcher came out right on time. I won’t be giving a graphic description of the process because it seems disrespectful to Olivia and anyone reading this.  (If anyone is planning to raise a pig for harvest, and wants to discuss, email me) Suffice it to say, I wasn’t prepared. He worked so fast. The shot went off while I was mid thought. My eyes filled with tears and I made a (too) loud gasp. The first 10 minutes were really difficult and I was swearing that I’d never do this again.  All of the animals knew that something was going on. They just know.

I’ll be spending the rest of the day doing hard farm work (which always makes me feel better) and trying to keep the trust of the other animals, who are very suspicious, now.

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12 Responses to Olivia, Some Pig

  1. Pam, thank you so much for this account. We loved Olivia. And I really respect that you wanted to/needed to raise your own meat. You said in your FB comment: ” If I couldn’t do it, I would have to give up meat. Simple as that.” Well said. RIP Olivia.

    • Thank you, April. Your words are extra special, with organic berries on top to me. 🙂 I know I have an awesome picture of Nia petting Olivia’s nose, but didn’t find it today… Lots of love to you guys!!

  2. Kluv says:

    Brave and lovely share-thank you for being so open and loving.

  3. This is an amazing post. More people need to be responsible or at least knowledgeable about where their meat comes from. I am preparing myself to get hens to butcher next spring and I know it will be hard, but I also know that it will be right! And this post made me feel more strongly about that too! It sounds like Olivia lived quite a special life. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Whitney. Your words mean SO much! Olivia WAS special and well loved. We also harvest chickens and turkeys, which are much easier on me, mentally and physically. If you have any question about what breeds to get or how to go about it (just say no to Cornish X), I’d be happy to tell you what I know. And if you’re in the Santa Cruz area, I’m available to help you when it comes time to harvest. You can do that. It’s the right thing.

      • What breed of meat chickens would you suggest? I have 20 laying hens but can’t butcher them because they are pets and all named 🙂 I live in Montana but April Johnson Stearns is my sis-in-law so that is how I came across your blog! I should be fine on the butchering (we butcher deer, elk and grouse every year) but thank you so much for the offer and tips!

      • Ohhh, you’re Aunt Whitney! You rock! Go to this website and see what breeds he recommends. This guy, Jim, has some really great ideas for bringing heritage breeds back to the farm and will answer questions, give advise, even help you get set up. You want to go with the heritage breeds, for sure. I’ve found Dorkings and Marans to be the biggest, best meat (not as tough as some others we’ve had). Dorking is my #1 choice and what we’ll be getting next. They’re on the ALBC list of endangered breeds. You can get the from Sand Hill Preservation Hatchery. And, if you done game animals, chickens will be like nothing! I’m going to follow your blog, it looks like you guys are doing some really cool things!

  4. Kimber Beals says:

    I can’t stop crying darn it! Hope your ok! xoxoxo

  5. A very difficult thing and I haven’t found it to get easier (which I guess is a good thing) but I know where our meat came from, what it was fed and the care it was given. We treat our animals with respect and try our best to make sure their end is swift and not filled with fear.

  6. mendomama says:

    it will be our pigs’ time very soon….and like olivia, they’ve lived very happy lives wallowing, playing, followiing us and the dogs around….this will be my first time, and yes they have names too, and yes it will be hard, and yes it’s the right thing to do.

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