Fair Warning: this post contains graphic depictions of our experience learning about life and death on the farm, with our three legged farm dog Jerry. (No, not his death.) But it also provides a peek behind scenes from our workamping job on an organic farm in our book Be More Dog: Learning to Live in the Now.
As promised in my last post about our three legged farm dog Jerry tending to his chicken flock, here are the gory details about a certain cow. That’s how it goes sometimes with life and death on the farm. Rene first wrote about her views on this subject as a vegetarian in this LiveWorkDream post.
Loving Life on the Farm
So what events actually taught us about life and death on the farm? First there was the births of a cow and lamb we got to experience. Those joyful events were the life part. Of course, we were thinking about life and death with Jerry’s cancer all along.
Jerry was a very good boy around the chickens, and newborn lamb. As a result, he earned his rewards when one of the cows fell in a ditch.
And what a good boy he was. They didn’t even have to shout at him or grab him by his harness. Jerry was well-versed in the art of resisting temptation. Somehow, he had learned that rewards always follow good behavior. One day, a big bonus came to him from an unexpected source: the death of a farm animal.
— Be More Dog, Chapter 15: Life and Death on the Farm
I’ll never forget that morning, when Farmer Brain came in to tell us about the cow. We had been picking and washing lettuce all morning. And there was only so much water in the well’s pressure tank.
From the freshly laid eggs to the wrapped cuts of organic beef piled high in the walk-in cooler, every day on the farm featured a different experience about life – and death. Most days, they didn’t know which lesson would happen first. The day before, Rene had been holding a newborn baby lamb just days old, but today, as she washed and cleaned lettuce greens, she listened in horror while the farmer relayed some bad news.
— Be More Dog
I’m a farm boy at heart, but I had no desire in helping him kill a cow. Rene surprised us all with anther idea though.
She cranked hard on the oversized salad spinner, then shocked everyone with her request. “Hey, wait, don’t throw the heart away, we’ll take that. Oh, and yeah, the liver would be great, too!” She had no interest in helping the animal die, but she had no problem feeding the cow’s valuable parts to her dog. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, organ meat wasn’t just a treat for Jerry, it was included in the anti-cancer diet strategy she fed him each day. Jerry loved organ meat but never had the pleasure of eating it straight from the cow.
— Be More Dog
The Rewards of Life and Death on the Farm
Later that morning, I had my first – and hopefully last – job as a butcher. I’d do anything for our Chief Fun Officer. Even if it meant dealing with life and death on the farm.
Rene second guessed her decision, once we received Jerry’s rewards.
Rene jumped back in horror at the warm heart and liver laying on the shiny steel surface. She was grateful, but surprised at the sheer size of the organs.
Jerry was a bit more happy, if not just as surprised.
I had a surprise for myself, once the dirty deed was done. I discovered the well tank had run dry, and my arms were coated in blood.
The farm’s well water pressure had not yet recovered from the morning lettuce wash…Jim stood over the sink in a bloody mess with no way to rinse off. Jerry appeared willing to help, so Jim held out his hands. Wild-eyed and crazed, Jerry licked the sticky residue, but not even his giant tongue did any good. The only thing Jim could do was walk far out into the field where high water pressure direct from the irrigation wellhead could clean him off.
I’ll never forget that smell of of the untreated water coming straight from the rich Florida earth. It was a long walk to the wellhead.
Flies followed him as he walked along rows of lettuce seedlings holding his bloody hands up in the air like a villainous ax murderer. When he arrived at the wellhead, he reached down to turn the valve and open the four-inch pipe of untreated irrigation water. With no way to regulate pressure, the unfiltered water splashed into his face, reeking of rotten eggs and iron from its high mineral content. He felt even more nauseated as the warm liquid blasted the dried blood off his hands.
“The things I do for that dog!”
That is as gruesome as it gets in any scenes from our book, Be More Dog: Learning to Live in the Now. I promise! Therefore, I’ll leave you with this adorable photo of the newborn calf we saved by searching the fields one frigid night.
And that’s how it goes with life and death on the the farm. Grab your copy of Be More Dog to discover our other workamping jobs, and learn the various other lessons Jerry taught us on the road to happiness.