Men who stare at goats

As many of you know, I’ve not been at Howling Duck Ranch for several months now. Living away from my home, the ranch, and all my animals has not been easy.  Consequently, I’ve been remiss with my regular posts. I have struggled with many things these past few months: from the lack of anything to write about (what do I have to say without my farm?), to the lack of desire to bore you with my life’s struggles. After all, that is not what brought you to this blog!

Suffice it to say, these past few months has been full of difficult decisions:  downsizing the ranch,  possibility selling the place, and finally, dissolving my  marriage.

Thankfully, I’ve had a friend living at Howling Duck Ranch. She’s been doing a wonderful job of taking care of the place and the animals, which has been a huge relief for me. She has, quite literally,  helped keep the wolves at bay! However, she can only stay until June and I’ve not yet found a suitable or affordable alternative for the Howling  Duck Ranch crew. Consequently, I’m faced with being realistic and that means disposing of some critters.

My farm sitter friend is helping with this task and has already given away many of my chickens. The goats however are not easy to find homes for. Moreover, I’m emotionally attached to them. I can’t quite part with them yet–they are my family.

However, I couldn’t avoid the facts forever. A couple of weeks ago, I had some time to get away so I planned a quick trip into the Valley to butcher some of the kids. Even a few less goats to feed at this stage would be helpful. I know this sounds contradictory to their status as family, but the boy kids always were destined to be food. Also, I convinced myself that rather than give them away and risk them being eaten by a grizzly bear or cougar, I’d end their lives myself–at least I know it will be done quickly.

While planning my trip, a blog follower sent an email requesting to visit Howling Duck Ranch and wondered did I do ‘farm stays’. Before leaving the ranch in January, I was planning to do just that. At the time, I wasn’t sure how to make that happen or what it would look like. Suddenly, before my eyes was an email request that had nestled in it an offer I couldn’t refuse: “If you ever need help with butchering goats, I’d be happy to help out.”

We exchanged a few more emails (one of which he confessed to having run a butcher shop!), and before I knew it I was planning my first ‘hands on farm stay’ experience at Howling Duck Ranch! Not only that, with someone who had a skilled set of hands. What I didn’t know at the time was just how many hands would be at my disposal that weekend.

The morning started out as planned, with me rounding up the kids:

Fetching the first kid of the morning.

Making the killing shot:

Not the funnest part of the job but a necessary one.

Prepping the carcass by hanging it in a tree, ready for skinning:

Waiting for another piece of rope to tie the second leg up by.

However, it wasn’t long before the men were involved. Before I left Smithers, I called Clarence to say I’d be in the valley (I’d never hear the end of it if he found out I’d been in town and not visited), and my friend Mike Wigle to see if he was interested in taking some photos (I encourage him to develop a farm photo portfolio every chance I get)! Both men agreed to come to the butchering day. But it was my farm stay visitor who was ‘first man in’.

Enter stage left. Jeff jumps in to help with the skinning process:

Jeff is the first man in on the scene and is laughing at how small and easy a goat is to butcher compared to the huge cattle beasts he's accustomed to working with.

Jordan came with Clarence and is soon eager to get his hands in on the process too:

Clarence's great grandson, Jordan casually approaches and offers to help.

There were some comments about the lack of edges on my knives followed by a request that I find a wet stone. As I dashed off in search of the stone, the men quietly moved in and without ceremony, took over the job:

At this stage, I'm enjoying watching men at work!

The three of them made light work of the butchering process and I was thrilled to have the help. It gave me some time to visit with my friend Colleen, who I’d not seen for months and had dropped in unannounced for a visit. Without the men at work, stopping to visit with Colleen was a luxury I would not have otherwise afforded:

No longer needed, I move away to go visit with my friend.

Eventually, even the dogs got in on the action:

Tui licks the saw and waits to be handed some tasty offal.

Colleen’s tiny pooch ‘Peanut’ gives a first rate effort as part of the ‘clean up’ crew:

Peanut eagerly eating some offal.

It is not long before the goat is in pieces:

Clarence and Jeff take over the process and cut the goat into recognizeable cuts of meat. Note: I love the look in Tui's eyes. She knows she's in for a treat as does the chicken!

Soon we’re ready for round two. At this stage, I barely have to lift a finger, let alone a goat:

Jeff is a quick study: this time, I don't even have to fetch the goat!

Although a fast and furious paced weekend, it was a wonderful visit home. Thanks to the men who stare at goats–my new friend Jeff, and my wonderful old stand-by’s Clarence, Jordan, and Mike–it was made all the more enjoyable. Thanks guys!

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12 Comments

Filed under Butchering, Goats

12 responses to “Men who stare at goats

  1. That’s some seriously tumultuous times – I was wondering why the blog-break. Not fun stuff and I wish you the best.

  2. I was just thinking of you the other day – and then here you are. Sorry you have had to make some hard decisions in your life. I hope things even out now for you.

    Great post as usual!

  3. workingcollies

    I’ve been thinking about you too, and missing your posts, and hoping things were OK. My thoughts are with you, I know these kinds of times are really rough. Wishing for better times ahead for you soon!
    Michelle

  4. MikeCronin

    Hello HDR
    Long time reader from Ireland here sorry to hear of our troubles, hope things work out for you soon. Have you hear of the HelpX system http://www.helpx.net . Loads of very eager volunteers willing to help with various tasks on a homestay basis. Without the continued help from this system my attempts at a self sustaining life would be futile. Also check out wwoof.com

    • Hello Mike,

      Well, thank you for your support. It is nice to hear from folks like yourself who understand the struggles but also who have ‘lurked’ in the background and are now coming forth to comment. I’ll go check out the links you sent. Tell me more about the kinds of things you are up to. I’m always interested to hear about what others do! Where abouts in Ireland?

      cheers from all the way across the ditch and a continent.

      Kristeva

  5. My support goes out to you for the hardship you are experiencing, but your resilience resonates throughout your blog, and I’m confident you will prevail! It is wonderful to find like-minded souls out there in cyberspace (we are in Maui, Hawaii). We are tackling self-sufficiency, humane treatment of animals, and a general well-being in life that seems to have fallen by the wayside in our modern lifestyle. We are newbies, too, and having a ball. I hope to continue following and learning from your adventures.

  6. Jo

    You have been missed but your absence is understandable.

    I hope everything works out for you x

  7. Lisa Brown

    Oh my, I have been where you’re at and it wasn’t fun. But good news its all been a huge blessing in disquise. As devistating as it was I have grown and now I have better land and many fabulous new adventures beginning. So keep your chin up and know you’re not alone. Love your blog. Keep up the good work. Email me any time. Lisa

  8. ET

    I hope it all works out. Extra hard when farms and animals involved.

  9. LittleFfarm Dairy

    Both Tony & I have been through it too (regarding previous marriages, I hasten to add!) & you have our heartfelt sympathies.

    We admire your tenacity & courage; as Jo says you have been sorely missed but you’ve had a helluva lot on your plate to deal with…!

    Great to read another fascinating post from you, looking forward to reading your new adventures.

    BTW we’ve now also joined HelpX – so many thanks to Mike for the link, will let you know how we get on. Jo, Tony & menagerie xxx

  10. Jeff

    Dear Kristeva, Thanks for letting me come to your place and help with the goat butchering. I was a little hesitant to try the goat at first because of a previous experience. I am now officially a convert. It was incredible. The roast you gave me to bring back to Alberta turned my family into goat lovers as well.
    You have an incredible little piece of land at the end of the earth. The road in was a little more than I expected!
    Your friend Clarence is a living legend that I am proud to have met. All of his stories have gotten me interested in cougar hunting.
    As cute and easy it is to butcher goats, you should come to Alberta and try your hand at ranching. In June we will be starting to brand calves and you are invited.
    Thanks again. Jeff
    XOE

  11. Thanks Everyone for the welcome, if not, much needed support. This past 9 months or so have not been easy; in fact heart wrenching would be more to the point!

    Things are on their way up. Looks like I’m on my way to a branding party!

    Kristeva

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