Sep 28, 2010
WARNING: Sensitive subject for vegetarians. If likely to be upset, please do not read :-)
We're all so looking forward to our move! It's going to be a time of many changes but the main one is that we are going to have to get used to not being as self sufficient as we have been these past years. Our chickens are going to be staying at our old house as the new owners have said they would love to have them and I will miss saving all our scraps for them. I guess our compost bin is going to be full to overflowing! Fortunately we will still get to enjoy free range eggs for no cost, thanks to one of Noel's most regular clients. His wife started keeping ducks and chickens as a hobby a little while back but it soon got out of hand and she has found herself with eggs coming out of her ears and we get a whole tray of delicious fresh eggs every week for free! In return Noel takes them smoked tuna and marlin from the freezer but I have a feeling it won't be long before we have a constant supply of fresh fish to barter with instead!
As for veges, we will already have a large raised vege bed in which to plant things and all the trees in our postage stamp of a back yard are fruit trees. Should we lack for anything in the fresh vege department, there are plenty of farm gates that Noel can buy things from on his travels. Already we're enjoying delicious avocados and kiwifruit straight off the vine. The potted herb gardens can all come with us; the only real difference is that for the first time we won't have any livestock on the property. The 45 acres we were leasing has now been passed on to someone new and the only livestock left are the boys' calves. Ali would love for Speckles, his favourite and most productive chicken to come with us but it wouldn't be fair. She is used to free ranging wherever she likes, she is better off to stay where she is with her mates. As for meat, apart from not raising our own, nothing will really change there either. We will still be able to purchase a whole sheep, pig or beef animal and freeze everything in bulk, just as we did before. In fact as far as I'm concerned, it will be better because we will know longer be personally acquainted with who we are eating!
It will certainly be easier too, going by the performance we had last time. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, since watching Food, Inc Ali has refused to eat chicken that isn't free range. I agree with him completely and so does Noel. The gold plated price ($22 for a free range chicken compared to $14 for a supermarket bird!) is rather inconvenient but it's worth it as far as we're concerned. The only problem is that free range chickens are so blooming hard to find! So chicken has been largely lacking on the menu for the last couple of months but this won't be a problem for long as there is a great butcher in Whangamata who sells a wide range of free range meats, including chicken. Ali said at the time that he was very grateful that all the rest of the meat our family ate was free range and had lived a happy life where they weren't just given a number or a dollar value. Until the day arrived recently for our four sheep to be sent to the butchers. For several weeks Ali had been concerned about this and tried to talk his Dad out of it. 'Can't we send them to the sale instead Dad, and eat some sheep we DON'T know instead?' he pleaded. Noel told him that if we did that, the same thing would happen, only worse because the sheep would suffer more stress in transit, being trucked from one location to the next and spending hours in the yards with no food before going to their final destination.
Ali couldn't argue with that logic but it still preyed heavily on his mind until the dreaded day came, which unfortunately turned out to be a day where all the students had a compulsory day off from school. He had already shed tears the night before and gone out and taken photos of the sheep to remember them by. Noel rolled his eyes. 'Mate, you know what the deal is. We raise our own sheep and beef, we have done for years. You know from the day they come to us that they are here to give us meat. Besides, you're a hunter! Killing animals for meat has never bothered you before.' But that's because I didn't KNOW them. I KNOW these sheep!' Ali said, eyes welling up. 'They're nice sheep, they're my friends.' 'I agree, they are nice sheep', said Noel. 'But I'm sorry mate, that's just the way it is'.
Ali understandably refused to have anything to do with getting the sheep in the pen and into the trailer but watched mournfully as Noel gathered them up and drove slowly off down the road. No sooner had he left than all hell broke loose. There came an almighty banging and crashing from his room, followed by the most heartrending wailing I had ever heard. I rushed upstairs to find Ali in the foetal position on the floor, sobbing his heart out. I have never, ever seen him in such a state. It broke my heart.
It didn't matter what I said, nothing could take the pain away. Ali cried all day, all night and much of the next day. The third day school sent him home sick but I knew perfectly well he wasn't sick at all - he just didn't want his classmates to see him break down over his beloved sheep. Noel was not amused. 'This has gone far enough!' he grumbled.
Before we knew it, the sheep were on their way back from the butchers and in the freezer; not only our freezer but those of my mum and Noel's parents. Noel insisted that we cook up a lamb roast for dinner and Ali understandably hit the roof. 'I'm not eating it! I'm never eating it!' he protested. As someone who doesn't eat meat myself, there wasn't much I could say. I understood how he felt and wasn't going to talk him out of it. 'He's 12 years old, he knows his own mind', I told Noel. However, as anyone who knows Noel will vouch, he can be very persuasive. He sat down with Ali and gently told him that the sheep had always been destined for our family table and that if he didn't eat them now, then the sheep's lives would all have been for nothing. That struck a chord with Ali; he couldn't bear to think of his friends' lives being wasted. 'Not only that; they not only gave their lives to feed us, but also three other families. The sheep did a really important, really valuable thing. Everyone appreciates the sheep and what they have given us'. So Ali sat at the table and ate roast lamb for dinner. I really admired him because I couldn't have done it and it was a very hard thing for him to do - but even he had to admit it was the best lamb he had ever tasted!