The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Life…and Death…on a Farm

Posted · 18 Comments


We were lounging in the cabin Saturday evening, arguing over whether MASH dvds were worth generator fuel, when my husband stood to stretch, glanced out the window, and bolted for the door yelling, ‘The dogs have the goats!” He supermanned off the front porch, shoeless, while I screamed at the dogs in my most commanding voice, “NO, COME HERE!” Two of the dogs trotted towards me while one, the hunter of the trio, held fast to her treat…our mama goat named Pica.

Pica, a sweet girl appropriately named for a disorder where people eat non-food items, had stuck her head through the gate fencing, as she’d done hundreds of times. And for whatever reason, the dogs thought she was offering herself, or whatever was going through their dog minds.  Natural instinct, I supposed, for animals who spend their days hunting in the woods.

When we arrived at the pen seconds later, Pica laid just inside the gate.  Her ear was gone, part of her scalp torn back, blood seeping into the earth beneath her narrow white face. She was still, unable to move, incoherent, unseeing…already gone.  And yet she breathed. She breathed, and she bleated quietly every few moments. Involuntary movements giving the appearance of life to our sweet friend as the children looked on from across the yard.  A life lesson only a farm can offer.

But I don’t think we are meant to be farmers.

Like the pigs “Haag and Dazs” we raised, and butchered, and packaged, and froze…then gave away because we just couldn’t enjoy a ham sandwich while picturing their fat faces.  Or the meat chickens that sat in the bottom of the chest freezer until they were too old to even be a good nugget. A waste, I know, but I just couldn’t bring myself to fry Marguerite and Wrinkles!

I ushered the kids into the cabin while Dan fetched his 22. We cranked on the generator and drown out the sound with an episode of MASH and I watched out the window as the man who’d lovingly petted and fed her fireweed just hours before, put Pica out of her pain.

My husband is a hunter, both with rifle and with bow. He’s put food on the table many times over the years.  He’s never had a problem pulling the trigger and aside from a difficult moment late one evening when he had to finish what his arrow didn’t quite do, his hunts were uneventful.  But pets…sweet, big eyed, loving, trusting pets…totally different.

But as hard as it was for him to pull the trigger, it was far harder to watch her round belly rise and fall, the sweet sound of her voice, hushed in death, easing from her throat.  He did what he had to do and then she was quiet.

Then Pica went into the woods and was laid to rest under the fall leaves of a swaying birch where she’ll complete the circle of life.


18 Responses to "Life…and Death…on a Farm"
  1. Kim says:

    I’m so sorry.

  2. Tammy says:

    I’m so sorry. That was a loving thing to do — putting her out of her misery.

    And I’d be a totally crappy farmer. Animals and vegetables.

  3. countrygalbelieves says:

    Aww so sorry! so sad 🙁

  4. Robyn says:

    Yes, if it’s easier to allow their bodies to waste than to eat your animals, you are not cut out to be a farmer. I grew up farming and loved our animals as pets, but you must draw a distinction between an animal raised to sustain your body and one who sustains your spirit.

  5. Jen Anderson says:

    Crying :'(

  6. Valerie Pienaar Landon says:

    Oh, I am so sorry you and the kids experienced this! I tried my hand at raising goats a couple years back. We acquired two nannies through Craigslist and I did just about EVERYTHING wrong, but managed to raise a few kids, who were duly dispatched and eaten (although the nannies, who were older gals when we got them and had only ever been pets, flat refused ever to let me milk them). The next year we raised more kids, and I was busy dreading the prospect of killing them when the dogs got in and dispatched a couple for me. I just didn’t have the heart to make a mess of it any more! The nannies and remaining kids went to a goat rescue … and while I do hope one day to raise more, I will not do it until I have the right kind of DOG-PROOF fencing, and a whole lot more knowledge about how to care for them properly!

  7. Liz says:

    Keri…it IS hard…but if you don’t name them…it really helps! I’m sorry..

  8. Shirley says:

    When we lived rural, we came home from church one Sunday to find that our two big Shepherd/Calihu mix dogs had gotten in the goat pen and killed our goat. We didn’t name the hogs we were going to butcher. We were too poor to keep feeding the rabbits, so a neighbor said to eat ’em. My kids were not convinced that it was “chicken” and dumplin’s, so the hogs enjoyed that meal. Not sure I would have been able to butcher the cow after feeding him with a bottle and seeing his beautiful big eyes…but he froze to death one night when the weather dipped way down and my husband wouldn’t bring him into the kitchen, eliminating the butchering day. I watched Mother ring the chickens’ necks, letting them flop around all over the yard…headless..and then helped her pluck their feathers. Never had any trouble eating her good fried chicken. When we moved from the acreage to a neighborhood, we took my little bantam hen. The neighbor’s bird dog got Banty and had a little chicken dinner. I probably would not name an animal I planned to butcher. My husband had to destroy dogs more than once that were dumped rural. We could only afford to feed so many strays. It’s a different kind of life out in the County, that’s for sure.

  9. Krysti Shallenberger says:

    We raised goats when I was a kid. After rescuing a young, Anatolian Shepherd whose owner abused him by starving him and shooting him with a bb gun when he ate the baby goats, we realized he could never be trusted around our baby goats. We lost several to him. And there were a couple of times where we had to put some goats down because they were too sick, or for several other reasons, too sad to describe. It’s excruciatingly hard to experience no matter how many times you do it.

  10. meghanbrock says:

    Our dogs will stand buy our goat and share a meal of apples. However when we first got goats my dad warned me that goats and dogs are notorious enemies. He had goats when he was younger and had lost one to bloat, one to colic, and one to dogs… We are also doing that farm thing… Butchered our first pig last month… I will cook him, and my husband and our kids eat him, but I also can’t find it in me to eat my friend. We now have two more pigs and just finished fencing in the yard and will be getting cows next week. (*Sigh*) I am sorry about the loss of your goat, they are truly kind animals. Best of luck on your farming adventures.

  11. Pam says:

    Such a terribly hard thing to experience.

  12. Debbie says:

    Awwwwwww So Sorry for this traumatic loss of your sweet Pica… I’m surprised the dogs attacked her… Usually farm dogs know to leave the animals alone because you had been working with them… Poor Pica…. :'(

  13. Joanne says:

    So sorry!

  14. Alec says:

    Such things are why I could only ever be a vegetarian farmer if ever a farmer at all. I know we’ve done it for thousands of years, but it’s just not in my nature to kill animals when I can grow other foods that don’t cause emotional trauma by eating.

  15. Sissie Cope says:

    Oh made me cry….I am so sorry for your loss but I have had to do that a couple times on my own growing up. My dad passed when I was 12 and my mom and I had to learn to deal on our own. My father was a ranch man and the years that he was on this earth with me taught me the hard lessons of life, but still breaks my heart. xoxoxo’s to you all

  16. Beth Haynes Butler says:

    We’ve had to do that too and I’m sorry, I know how it hurts.

  17. Anne says:

    thats so sad…..:( Such is life on the farm. Jerry and Lucy, our chickens had a similar fate and it was hard to put them out of their misery but harder to watch them suffer.

  18. Chelsie says:

    Awww…poor Pica…so sorry for the loss of your sweet girl. Hugs to you all.

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