Harvest in the Garage

havest area 004 (2)

The harvest area is prepped.

The jack props and wood beam are in place to take the weight of the carcass as I dress it. Once the animal has been bled I can remove the hooves and secure the back tendon on to the angle iron. This will keep the hind quarters apart and allow for easier skinning. Whilst I work I can use this contraption to slowly raise the carcass, with the neck down. In the first few minutes I hoist up to ensure a good bleed. There will be a lot of blood.

Having the responsibility to slaughter a big animal that you and your family have been accountable for, watched and cared for – it’s not a task you just potter off and do.  First I have to wrap my head around the fact that this beautiful animal that has helped to explode the composting worm population, has assisted me produce some amazing compost teas, has made me laugh, is about to hang in my cold room.

If there was a button I could press and “bing bang” beef could be vacuum packed, with a twig of parsley on a blood mat sitting in my freezer – I would press it. If there was an easier route that remained humane and sat well with my farming ethics – I would take it.  I spoke to a farmer who mentioned a service he uses to have his animals processed; R850, and they pick up in a cattle truck and transport it to the abattoir for you – easy as that! R850 (including slighter fees) and all that stress gone. Best dam R850 the farmer told me he had ever spent.  But to me it feels I owe this beautiful animal the respect it deserves, in celebration to the life it can give, the substance it can offer my gluttonous need for beef. And I owe it to myself as a testament to the life I have given this animal: one that has been stress and suffering free. I would be throwing all of that away if I were to send her off to that abattoir for the measly R850.

Despite the value this bovine added to our farm, we have had to be very creative to find her unused areas for grazing. In some periods we resorted to unused greens to keep her fed. The time has come that she will be of more benefit in our cold room than on our fields. The task at hand becomes how to turn love, effort and good stockmanship into healthy meat for the table. For weeks I have been thinking of the harvest, taking into account all variables. I have to be surgical, methodical. In this process the margin for error is limited.

The un-dressing of the animal is task on its own.  Skinning and gutting the family cow in the garage is urban agriculture which is at the heart of producing AAA meat in a closed loop system. We have devised our own method to ensure that there is zero wastage from this process. We boil the bones into stock. We even use the blood to catalyze our worm farms. Bran will soak up the blood that will collect on the plastic sheets taped down to the floor. Blood – the by product of meat – is something people give very little thought to while they feat on their meat stew. Yet blood is a critical factor that drives the environmental impact of modern day slaughter houses. Most often the blood is washed down the drain, or washed into water which is then treated and returned to the water system. This process can be averted in a system like ours.

I am clearly not about to become vegan, nor am about to send an animal to place of  fear. It brakes the promise I made when I took the responsibility to farm food.  So skin and gutting in the garage is the only ethical option available to me, though it might sound like a rusty nail to some. But I know it’s a  place of calmness, cleanliness without any bad juju and smells from other dead  cows.

For others the red button is the meat down at the convenience store. There is no red button for me, I have to go through the process of harvesting the bovine. I suppose the red button is there because the harvesting of a large animal is a mammoth one, it also brings us too close to the circle of life. In nature there is death, for there to be life.  By being connected to that death you get to transcend into the deep complex rhythm of nature. The human species seems to keep itself as far removed as possible from nature – maybe that’s why we are all fucked? (We have turned our back on nature and the roots that entwine us to pulse of nature, and in the process we have become hollow)

Deep Breath. I am now mentally prepared, and ready for harvest.  There is still a storm in my mind, but that’s normal.  Monday morning will begin the harvest.


Green Guerrillas

havest area 002 (2) havest area 003 (2)

3 comments to Harvest in the Garage

  • Christine  says:

    Dear Akim,

    I received your email about the day of the harvest before I read this. I was a bit shocked by the rawness of it all. My hat off to you! This is big stuff! It goes into one category with giving birth and dying. Areas of human life we are(Western people) still not comfortable with. Same with conscious, sacred killing of an animal.

    There is one thought to the blood. Coming from Germany, where the family based home-slaughter is still common in small villages, I remember images of big pots on open fires with all the blood from the animal (usually a pig)boiling together with certain spices and small cubes of meat and fat into blood-wurst (sausage). I had to eat a lot of that as a child – not my favourite, but it was actually quite tasty. It came as a thick sausage which would be sliced as cold meat. Blood is such a full nutrient that it seems a waste to give it back to the earth instead of using it for food. Like the Kenyan tribes who live off blood and milk from their cattle….Just a thought…

  • Monica  says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. As a meat eater, I have high respect for people who are part of the entire life cycle of the meat they put on their dinner plate.

    • Green Gorilla  says:

      Thanks for the feedback Monica. We understand that not many people are able to keep and slaughter their own animal, but it’s very important for everyone who eats meat to understand how the animal arrived on the plate. Today is the harvest day, so we’ll have a blog post up tomorrow detailing the actual harvest.

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