Doing What Needs to be Done

More sweets from the trees

Snow in the night. Not much, but enough to hide the mud, a brief respite from that small despair. But it’s melting already and the mud is returning in patches, first in the wells of my footprints to the barn and back at morning chores, then along the high edges of the furrows created by the weight of the tractor when I moved firewood yesterday. A nice old beech, a big tree, straight-grained and easy-splitting. I’m thinking it’s a half cord at least, which probably means it’s a third at best, and probably closer to a quarter.

Yesterday I walked past the remaining fatted hog on my way to drop that beech. He was supine and snoring in his nest of hay. I laid the saw at my booted feet and paused to scratch behind his ears a minute. He stirred, rotated his big head according to his pleasure, and as I scratched I realized how wrong I was when I wrote recently that I don’t mind killing animals for meat. Because I do mind. Quite a lot, actually. Truth be told, I’m dreading killing this fellow, which probably explains why he’s still alive, though of course I’ve been careful to couch my procrastination in the language of practicalities: Weather, conflicting obligations, other priorities, and so on. But the excuses are fast slipping away.

So, yes, I mind. But what I don’t mind is minding, and I suppose that’s where my confusion originated, although now I’m left to wonder if I’m a more compassionate person because I am bothered, or less compassionate because I am bothered, yet will not allow this discomfort to dissuade me? Riddle me this.

Either way, I know I will kill that pig, and soon. He is eating too much to not kill, and we’ve been out of bacon and pork sausage for months, now (fortunately, the supply of beaver sausage remains ample). Soon enough, I suspect, the acceptance of my discomfort will become a bigger thing than the discomfort itself, and I’ll stop thinking about whether or not I’m a compassionate enough person, and just do it. Or maybe we’ll arrive at the juncture where the pragmatics can no longer be made to justify further procrastination, and I’ll be reminded (yet again) of how many things in this life – my life, your life, anyone’s life, I suppose – really just boil down to doing what needs to be done.

24 thoughts on “Doing What Needs to be Done”

  1. Ben, you embody the enviable mix of both passion and compassion. Thanks for exposing yourself . . . inspiring.

  2. We were driving back from Northern California with the last two horses in the trailer and past Los Banos I saw a sign on a building. Abattoir. (slaughterhouse). Don’t the French have a way of making something that’s gruesome sound high falutin’? Somewhere back in the recesses of my repository of useless information I knew what it meant but at the time I wasn’t sure so when I got home I looked it up. Along with the description came the images. I looked at them because I had to see. Ugh. This is what it means to me because I’m not going to stop eating meat: I have the recognition, maybe a prayer, every time an animal body part is on my plate before me. Understanding that an animal gave it’s life to nourish me. Not blasé. Recognizing. I think this is part and parcel to our trouble as human beings. We, in general, have lost touch with death. Actually, we try to avoid it altogether. Death is not pretty.

      1. Not in North Cali anymore. Miss the total peace and quiet. We live south of Sacramento on our own place. Not employees anymore doing “stupid” projects for absentee rich owners. Yay! We are doing “stupid” projects for ourselves. 😉 Much better. Where we are is supposed to be smack dab equidistant between northern and southern border of CA but it feels like south Cali. The air is different. Enjoy NoCal.

  3. I have my meat chickens and turkeys processed at a facility. I carry them to the kill room and watch them die and feel very badly. I butcher my rabbits as the time I had someone else do it I didn’t feel it was a good kill so now I do it. It takes me days to finally reach the point of “today is the day”. What we have to keep in mind is we like to eat meat and when we raise it ourselves, we know what kind of life it has had, that it died quickly and is appreciated. It is nice when a guy is able to be open about the dislike of killing.

  4. At the point of killing your pig, isn’t there a feeling of, “I have betrayed a good and trusting friend.” You should read The Redemption of the Animals, a new book by Douglas Sloan.

  5. read these words earlier today and haven’t been able to shake them. then reading this, they seem apropos.

    questioner: how are we to treat others?
    ramana maharshi: there are no others.

    wouldn’t feel right not to mind.

  6. I think the knowing it feels bad is much better than being so out of touch with what your food was/is. I struggle with this- vegetarian on and off again, only eating meat because of that damned anemia I cannot seem to shake.

    Now, stumbled across locally shepherded free range (all over the hils around the house), grass and wild herb fed lamb. So that’s what I do, enough to keep from being sick. I cannot imagine doing the slaughtering myself, I am way too soft….I dislike washing chickens 🙂

    I respect your principles, your honesty, and the good life and death you give your animals. Just wanted to say that, no sure if any of it matters. I have gone from hating meat eaters to seeing that for me, I can take synthetic junk to be well (aminos, b vitamins, iron) or eat a bit of really good quality meat, carefully sourced. People should not rush into judgement.

    Take care Hewitt clan !

  7. My fiance and I argue quite often about eating meat/vegetarianism (why we argue I don’t know….we both feel the same way?). Those damn pictures on the internet of CAFO’s and slaughterhouses have about turned me into a vegetarian. I don’t agree with treating animals that way, but I’m going to eat local grassfed meat. Someday I might be able to kill an animal myself (used to kill them all the time as a kid…what happened?), although I have no idea of how that will happen. I read that article you linked to where you talked about having a relationship with your animals and killing them and it really made me think. How would I want to be killed? With love and compassion? Yes! Preferably from someone I know and love:} We all kill animals every day just by existing in the lifestyles we live (whether it’s directly or inadvertently- if you wear clothes, have a house, a car, well guess what? You kill animals) I think to kill them ourselves is natural, and all the disconnected killing is unnatural. You’re good and brave. The rest of us are a bunch of damn pussies.

  8. That is maple sugar I presume; very nice. I agree with Heather, Tricia, and others above. Thanks for putting it into words.

  9. At our house, the food bill overrode the cuteness factor last weekend when we processed those four rabbits. I, too, hate to kill them, but that is what they were raised for, to provide meat for our family.

    Spring has sprung here in Lower Alabama. Flowers, new leaves and lots and lots of pollen, my least favorite of this season.

  10. For me it feels more ‘right’ to be really close with the animals i/we eat and i make sure their names follow them to the freezer. I find the killing really hard and the follow up to it, sure each animal loves it’s life every bit as much as i love mine. If I was’more’ hungry i suspect the hardship would be less but my gratitude magnified tenfold. In all the debates and opinions and decisions to be vegetarian or not I am surprised that it rarely considered that plants more than likely also love their lives and i suspect are as full of ‘feeling’ as anyone only we don’t see or hear or notice so it’s easier to disregard.

    1. My family often discuss this….and ultimately, rocks trees air etc all have sense but we know not.

      Begs the question, what exactly, are we meant to eat? Why are we endowed with compassion, empathy?

      Thanks for bringing this up, though, good stuff!

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