Growing up hunting taught me a healthy respect for life and death. My father instilled in me the understanding and respect of hunting as a way to obtain delicious meat and a form of wildlife management. My dad Carl grew up impoverished in a minuscule coal mining town in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The family often relied on the bounty of the hunt for (inexpensive) sustenance. Hunting also lessens the chance a herd will contract illnesses; especially Cronic Wasting Disease. This ravaged my home state of Maryland where whitetail deer overpopulate nearly all suburban areas. I participated in controlled, planned archery hunts designed to improve overall herd health. The meat harvested was either eaten by me or donated to local food kitchens. Death was a necessary part of this process. Is it easy to kill an animal? Absolutely not. In fact, I have cried every single time. I’m a pretty emotional dude. For me death has an immense impact. And yet, shortly after a kill the adrenaline wears off and I pull myself together quickly. Death happened at my hands and I accept its benefits and its consequences.
Going into this whole homestead farm thing, I felt that my experience around intentional killing to harvest meat, aka hunting, would benefit my mentality surrounding death on the farm.
Three of the Seventeen current residents of Folly Farms
Flash forward to this past Weekend.
Thanksgiving was spectacular. My mom made the drive down from Maryland to check out our developing homestead. The three of us enjoyed the holiday immensely, making the couple of days fly by. Mom left early Saturday morning to make it back home before the start of the work week.
Showing Mom our progress
We slept in a tad bit, rolled out of bed, and got to the usual AM chores. Casey went out to feed Dory, and I to the basement to grab the hog food ferment. Half way up the stairs I could hear screaming. Intense crying and screaming. I thought it was coming from the house next door but, as the corner at the top of the stairs was rounded, I realized that the painful moans were coming from our property. I dropped the food and I increased the pace of my step. I yelled for Casey, my first thought was to pull her away from whatever awful scene must have unfolded. As I got to our quaint pen the gate was wide open, my fiancé on her knees sobbing aloud, and no Dory bleating or tail wagging. I knew. We lost our kid. Our bottle baby kid was gone.
Over the next few hours our numbness went to sadness and our sadness to anger and our anger back to more more sadness. We dug a deep grave. As deep as we could go in the clay that was devoid of moisture due to the 50 + days of no rain. Wrapped in a soft clean towel, we laid Dory the Goat-Dog-Kid to rest and marked the site with a gleaming hunk of North Carolina Quartz atop our hill.
Hanging out with Dory-the-kid over the last week
The pain rocked us. As I type this 24+ hours later I still feel an uncomfortable sadness deep down inside.
Losing an animal that you have bonded with feels like cruel and unusual punishment. Many of us have lost dogs, cats, ferrets, and even fish. We loved many of these animals like family and are aware of the sting. It hurts like non other. Casey and I bottle fed our sweet Dory not even 12 hours previous to finding her lifeless in the corner of her home.
The more beautiful parts of our farming
Reality has reared its ugly head. Life on the farm has been absolutely stunningly beautiful, but death is a part of the equation whether through the harvesting of our hogs or the unexpected and sudden death of a kid. A kid we had grown incredibly close to.
Life and death on the farm. Unfortunately, they freaking go together. Dory taught us this lesson early on and I have to be grateful. I am more so grateful for the time we got to spend with her before she left us.
It’ll never be easy to lose animals here on Folly Farms but death is a reality we have no choice but to accept. We were reminded of the cost of the beautiful cycle of life that we all enjoy. Thanks little goat for everything you have taught us.