October 31, 2005 – Graveside at Halloween

Note: Today’s post deals somewhat graphically with death and burial of animal remains. If that makes you uncomfortable, you may want to skip reading this post.

Today didn’t go as planned. I didn’t envision I’d be outside after dark on a chilly Halloween evening beside a shallow grave, watching the steam rise up from the intestines and assorted other organs of the sheep.

I knew I’d be burying sheep offal, just never thought it would be after the 10 o’clock news. I asked the locker to call call me after the sheep were slaughtered so I could retrieve the lambskins to start the first part of the tanning process. They promised they would. The renderer does not take sheep offal, so the farmer has to take the remains and dispose of them.

So I kept checking the phone every 15 minutes or so. I’m told if a hide isn’t quickly salted down, the hair will fall off later in the tanning process. Nine am passes, 10 am, 11 am, noon. One pm, finally I can’t stand it any longer and decide to drive in before I pick the girls up from school to either pick up the skins because they forgot to call me or see when they would be done.

The “Critter Ridder” does the slaughtering. His truck advertises he will get rid of problem bats, raccoons, skunks, moles, feral cats. etc. His side job is slaughtering the animals for the locker. I wonder if the guidance counselor in high school was disturbed when the results of his career interest survey came back.

Critter Ridder tells me he is way behind as there were a couple of emergency cows that came in and that the lambs should be ready around 6:00-6:30. I return then (missing trick-or-treating) to find nothing at the slaughter house. The lambs are not in the outside pen where I left them, nor are the lambskins and offal outside, nor is anybody there. I wait around for a half hour or so, hoping he had just run to get some smokes or a bite to eat.

I resign myself to thinking I’ve missed the boat on these skins. Around 9:30 he calls and says they are ready to pick up. I run to town to pick them up and when I return home, start rubbing the salt into the hides. There is something satisfying about this step. I don’t know if it is reminiscent of earlier times when hide tanning was an important skill for survival, whether I’m feeling good about using the a part of the animal most people throw away, but at any rate, rubbing the salt into the hides is satisfying.

After the hides are all salted down, it’s time to drag the offal into the pasture to the hole that Martin and I dug earlier in the day. As the darkness and chilly air surround me, I hear more than one strange sound as the offal falls into the shallow grave. In the darkness, I fill the hole with dirt, happy that this part of the day is finally over.

October 30, 2005 – Sheep Gone

Today many small events overlapped. Our friend and favorite Guiness Book of Record holder and one of the, if not THE, nation’s top amaranth curator stopped by to harvest the seed increase we grew out for him. The girl’s piano teacher and her husband stopped by to look at our corn stove. The kids had a fun time walking inside a round section of a small bin, walking inside like a rat on a treadmill.

It was also the day to bring the lambs in to the locker. Many people may think it’s kind of corny, but I always make a point to verbally thank the animals for their gift to us before I drive away. I have no doubt that their lives were much better than most of their brethren, many of whom are confined to small spaces eating a diet of primarily grains to fatten up quickly instead of grasses for which their rumens were made. Claire has a name for them – “Happy Meat.” She fiddled with vegetarianism for a while and eventually decided she would eat only “Happy Meat.” (I don’t think there is any happy meat in a “happy meal” under the golden arches.)

Our customers are looking forward to the meat and bringing their friends into the table. It is rewarding for the customers to really look forward to their annual special meat arrival.

October 28, 2005 – Green Machines

Our neighbor has finished up all his harvesting and brought some equipment over to store in our shed. Here’s Marty getting a ride in the tractor.

Today my Nikon digital camera went on the fritz. I bought the first one new and it had this problem, so I bought the same model used off ebay and it worked for a few months before developing the same problem. I guess Nikon digitals don’t share the lineage of their 35 mm SLR predecessors. So I will be without photos until the new camera arrives. I really want the Canon that accepts lenses from my old SLR, but the budget called for an inexpensive point and shoot.

October 27, 2005 – Lad from Liverpool

It’s not often that one of the Beatles stops in Iowa to play a song or two, but tonight Paul McCartney was in town and we brought the girls. It must be hard to select just 2 1/2 hours of songs from the Beatles/Wings library. A good time was had by all. What struck me is how many of the songs are just a part of everyday life and how the ladies must still go nuts for those puppy-dog eyes!
sir paul

I still remember (for no good real reason) as a college student driving from a lake in Northern Wisconsin late at night with two guys (let’s call them “Mike” and “Tommy”) and for some reason we had the tape recorder on taping a variety show of sorts while we traveled. For some reason that made sense at the time, there is a particular painful version of “Hey Jude” with the three of the harmonally-challenged guys singing along. If I recall, the playback revealed the “na-na-nas” were particularly painful. I’ll have you all know that singing along 20 years later with 18,000 or more people, the “na-na-nas” sounded much better with my mature voice!

As far as a concert experience, the songs were all played pretty true to the originals – to my ears, the later Beatles and Wings songs (Band in the Run, Jet, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) lent themselves much better to the stage than the earlier Beatles tunes. “Let it Be” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” worked well as stripped-down versions. I would have preferred more improvisation and letting the two young guitarists loose, but nonetheless, it was a show to remember.