Koinonia (a.k.a. The Church of the Angry Doubters) slaugh-tered our pigs last weekend. One family has been raising them; the rest of us have been providing food, buying feed and keeping buckets of table scraps which we hand off to the swineherds each week. Our goals are to become more self-sufficient, and to become more honest carnivores, taking responsibility for the hard parts of being meat-eaters as well as the fun parts.
We gathered bright and early Saturday, fed the kids and some adults who hadn’t eaten, and began with a prayer that God would enable us to slaughter our pigs in a way that would treat them with dignity and minimize or eliminate fear and pain for them. The first and last slaughters were perfect–the pig died in the sunshine with breakfast in his mouth and never knew what happened. The middle slaughter didn’t go as smoothly as we would have liked, but even there the pig didn’t seem to be in any great discomfort.
We worked 11 1/2 hours Saturday: slaughtering each pig and processing his carcass to the point where we could hang the two cleaned halves in a jerry-rigged cold room in a shed for the night. It was hard (and bloody, and muddy) physical labor. Twice we dropped a 225 pound pig on ourselves from above while trying to get it into the 50-gal. drum to scald it, and twice we tipped over 50 gal. of hot water onto ourselves, but escaped serious injuries or burns all four times.
Sunday we spent another eight to ten hours with sharp knives and lots of plastic wrap and butcher paper, turning the six sides of pork into 600+ lbs. of neatly wrapped and labeled packages in our freezers. It was a long day of standing on concrete with a fair amount of time pressure as we struggled to get our meat butchered and in the freezer before it was too warm for too long. We spent a long Monday evening processing the organs, and still have the (now frozen) heads to turn into head cheese, and the fat to render down into cooking oil and perhaps soap. But we had very little wastage, and that was important to us, as a way of respecting our pigs.
We ate well both days. We threw random steaks and organs on the grill, then someone would thoroughly wash hands, cut the meat in bits, bring it round and, like a mother bird, fork it into the mouths of the rest who had dirty hands and couldn’t feed ourselves.
You connect in one important way through honest conversation; you connect in another, also important, way through doing things together, especially hard things. At times this was just about beyond our ability to pull off, but we did, and it was a good time for us as a community. We decided as we worked that this summer we’re going to spend one Saturday a month doing chores at each of our houses, or perhaps an elderly neighbor’s house, in turn, so that we can continue working together as well as just meeting together.