That's really the gist of it. That's why I get a little crazy this time of year with canning. My kitchen is a disaster, but my pantry is getting full! I love my CSA share, and I get one that's too big for our family, so that I have extras to preserve. I try to work with nature's flow of how food gets created. In the summer, you get the fresh bounty of greens and veggies. In the winter, we head to the larder and use the preserves to help make chilis and soups. OK, I'm not a true pioneer, I still buy cheese from the store! I make a bit of my own, but I don't have the skill or patience for cheddar, but I sure love to eat it!
But I really think hard about why it is I am OK with the processing part of our animals. I'm not a vegetarian, though my younger self considered it. Having been a bit of a recreational athlete in a former life, I really did need good protein in my life. I never gave up meat, even though I really struggled with the reality of the meat industry.
I got into canning years ago, and LOVE it so much, I made way more than my family could ever eat. Thanks to the Cottage Food bill passed in Colorado in 2012, I was able to sell this overage to our customers. It fueled my addiction to making food. The house fire made me lose access to a big canning kitchen for a while, but I have it back. With it, came a promise to my husband that I would ONLY can for the family. I used to spend every waking moment in August and September canning. The whole stove would be on for hours, heating up the house, spilling sugar everywhere. It was a mess. So I've scaled it back and am just restocking my pantry, one that has been almost devoid of my own canning products for a while now. So happy to have my own spaghetti sauce back in the pantry!
But let me be clear, there is a difference between making food and cooking food. Cooking, baking, etc, that's all using ingredients to make a meal to eat. Or a snack, what have you. I enjoy making the INGREDIENTS! OK OK, I like to cook too, but for some reason, taking what you produce and making it into food, that's the real joy for me.
So while I am in the midst of canning season, and wrecking my kitchen in the process, we also just finished the 4H fair for Boulder County. After fair, the market birds need to be butchered and I am always happy to help.
In the course of the last couple of years, we have upped our game in the processing arena. With limited access to meat processors due to several shifts in the supply chain, our freezers were getting empty. With our community of meat producing friends, we have a skilled hunter who also has a cold room. We have a friend who is a butcher for a living. And several other friends who have varying degrees of livestock experience. Between having animals that were ready to be processed, and a growing empty freezer, we needed to learn to go beyond chicken processing. We had been doing lambs for years, but finally got trained on how to properly break one down into cuts. We expanded into pork as well as beef. We even cured our own bacon!
As a young lady who spent the early years of her automotive engineering career telling big, burly union guys that they were terrible for being hunters, I sure have changed my tune. (See! People can learn and change!) I started raising poultry and lamb because I still eat meat, and wanted to know that the meat I ate got to live the life their species was supposed to live, was there to help regenerate the soil. I was all about their quality of life.
But sometimes when I spend a day butchering chickens or breaking down a hog, it gets me to thinking, why do I do this? I do NOT like ending a life. Even a creepy spider hanging above my bed. I don't like it, but I can't do spiders in my face. It's the hardest part and I won't lie. I have become hardened to it. I mostly don't cry anymore. Mostly because I don't think about it and don't talk about it. If I talk about it, I'll cry! But it's a weird feeling, to enjoy putting meat in the freezer. There's some sort of disconnect, or maybe it's not a disconnect. I know full well that the animal must give its life to become food for me. I full well know that, and I full well know what I am doing when I take that life. Once that step is over, the rest is about making food. The plucking, the carving, the wrapping and storing. It's the part of enjoying making food. I am filling my freezer. It's the same feeling as canning. I am taking something that the earth has grown, and making it into an ingredient I can eat. I do have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I enjoy a good chicken processing day. It feels productive. It feels fruitful. It feels beneficial. It's why we farm.