Sunday, February 06, 2005

Marvel & the Harveys play an encore

In the paddock where Orville (aka New Calf) was born, there are three orphans I think of as my babies -


Harvey I:

and Harvey II:

Yes, it’s the paddock brought to you by names with “v” in the middle; there used to be a Harvey III as well, but he died. Marvel was a sickly calf, no real reason for it, and she didn’t pick up any condition until she was separated from her much-bigger peers and moved into this paddock. Harvey I’s mother died when he was a few days old, and Harvey II’s mother wouldn’t feed him, so I fed both with a bucket for months (which means mixing up a milk powder formula with warm water and carrying it out to them, a few times a day, seven days a week, and trying not to get knocked over when they’re frantically drinking it). When it was time for them to go onto solid feed pellets, Harvey I wouldn’t eat the stuff, so I used to make rolled oats, which he loved, and mix it in with the feed. I also used to groom them with a horse brush. And I know real farmers would be rolling their eyes in derision right about now... (laughing).

I’m dreading the day when these three little beasties will be sent away to their deaths. I asked Dad to not tell me when they’re going (just to clarify: this is my parents’ farm and their cattle) because it’d be too awful. Once they’re dead it’s fine with me - it’s the scary suffering getting-yelled-at-by-strangers part in the interim that eats my guts out. I know they’re going any day now, though, and the truck goes on Mondays. And Monday is tomorrow.

I’m encouraging you to look at meat differently (repeating myself). It has a lifeforce in it, transferred by the processes of god-knows-what from one creature to another. We all know we need food, and by extension, that food supports us. But if you stop to think about the connections between cattle and the meat we eat - the history of it, the journey it takes between hoof and plate - and then add all the connections between ourselves and every other thing we eat (I’m imagining long lines radiating out from each of us like rays from the sun) then you can see we’re all deeply embedded in a web of life, supported by forces far beyond our recognition or awareness. And here, just for the record, are three little bits of that web: Marvel and the Harveys. They’ve had a good life, and it’s nearly time to go.

Monday update: Not today, babies!!

When Dad got here this morning, I couldn't stop myself from asking:

Me: "Are those calves going today?"
Dad: "No."
Me: "Next week?"
Dad: "No. Three or four weeks, maybe... a month or two. Depends on the market [price]. I've got stacks of grass. There's no hurry."

!! Smiling, reader, smiling!