Sister Anna has been tugging at my sleeve to fill her column for some time now.
She is under the impression that perhaps readers would like an alternate view of how life goes down on the farm.
Well to start, as the self-appointed animal nanny, I am bitterly disappointed when Anna complains about the menagerie. She takes issue with the extremely gastro-prolific ducks, the overly-athletic heritage chickens pulling apart our carefully constructed hay bale castles and the brainless turkey who mistakes Annaís toes for wormies and beaks in for the kill. I suppose the antisocial cows may have jumped the fence once and trampled her carrots, but certainly not on purpose.
She has also been known to curse my sacred honey bees. So she got stung once or twice: I know, right? Next time she might get out of their way sooner. The rub of it all is that Iím away a fair amount right now learning how to intubate people without my knees shaking with fear, and my time at home on the farm is limited. I am no longer in charge, I have hung up my bossy boots. My commitment to calloused hands and creating the ark of endangered animals is sidelined for a bit. Ouch.
Secretly, I know Anna loves the farm animals. Every day she bikes up with her compost for the chickens, cheerfully feeds potatoes to the cows, gazes at the bees in wonder and may have smiled at the turkey last week. Itís her compassionate side ó we have this in common.
Love Ďem or hate Ďem, many of these aforementioned ducks, chickens and turkeys are not pets and therefore arrive at dinner somehow and this week we got Ďer done.
Since Iím away so much I didnít get quite as attached as I do in other years where I have been known to plead clemency for a turkey at the last moment or try and hide a particular chicken that I enjoyed communing with over chai. Mom and Anna have to gently explain to me that the turkey is not, and never was for keeps, so turn away if I have to, but please do not disappear and pretend to write a school paper for the rest of the day (I completely deny ever doing that). Itís an all-hands-on-deck sort of day. Even my dad, who is one of your softer-hearted animal lover types, sits down to pluck a few feathers.
The intrigue of how in the world a turkey drumstick ends up marching alongside the potatoes and gravy for Thanksgiving should be food for thought for any meat-eating person. Not many are willing to roll up their sleeves, get bloody and gnaw down to the marrow of the question.
Interestingly, our kindest and most sensitive friends arrived to help with ďpluck and gut day.Ē Itís a wonderful thing when nine folk from completely different walks of life (a ski guide, RCMP officer, videographer, chef, weaver) get together calmly and with much gratitude, turn into food the animals we love and care for.
Today I am thankful that there are people who are interested in learning more about the story of food. I am thankful that I have some options in my own food sources. I am thankful that intubating gets easier with practice.
Jennie Helmer enjoys accumulating a diverse selection of farm animals and the pre-hospital care of critically ill people.