Those of you who have been reading for a while may remember a series of posts a while back lamenting the loss of a particularly cherished Thanksgiving tradition. The family was no longer butchering and processing its own hogs, and was in fact no longer buying hogs from another farm to butcher. We were all done with having our own fresh frozen pork. No more of our own sausage, no more enormous cauldrons of heads and tails and feet boiling down for scrapple, no more hours spent in the cutting house repeatedly dulling and sharpening knives on shoulders and hams and tenderloins.
Don’t get your hopes up too high, there’s still none of that happening.
This year, however, for the first time since my grandparents both died and the farm turned into an ugly bitter argument about who was Christian enough to inherit the bulk of it, there was a family livestock butchering. (Loyal readers remember and can inform new ones- I shit thee not, that is in fact what the last two and a half years of my life have been about. Bitchy old aunts were having secret meetings to try and cut Mom and I out- oddly enough Dad or my brother were never part of their conversation, just Mom and I- and actually having the audacity to claim that one of them should simply inherit the whole thing since after all ‘we’re doing all of the work on it’ which I’m sure came as a real shock to our decades-loyal field renters, the cousin with the cattle, and the folks with the goats… but anyway… I digress.)
I am happy to say that neither of the bitchy old aunts were involved. Instead, a group of us who are cousins and co-religionists got together for the new annual butchering of goats. We’re quite fond of the meat, and when a group works well together it’s not really work to process a few yearlings. The hides are going into pickle today for tawing (technically, it’s only tanning if you’re using something with actual tannins and I use a sulfate solution to preserve the hide.) and they look pretty good. I’ve got a batch of long bones left over from boiling out stock which I’m going to take some needle files and a woodburner and experiment with. Turns out one of the folks has a good steady hand for such detailed work as skinning out heads- I’ve never had goat faces to taw before, so this will be different, and the skulls have already been claimed for this year.
This didn’t happen over Thanksgiving itself, obviously, but a couple of weekends before. We had talked about making it a Thanksgiving thing but it didn’t work out that way this year- too many other things happening on Thanksgiving.
Since there are all manner of other things happening on Thanksgiving itself, we got a good group together for Friendsgiving the Sunday before. I haven’t had a good long chat around a full table surrounded by awesome pagans and heathens in a good while, and it was much appreciated by all. Epekos came along and was well-loved by everyone as well, she even mostly behaved herself and only climbed on laps that didn’t have plates of food.
So no, it’s not the tradition of my childhood. It’s the tradition of my adulthood and of the family who actually cares and of the friends who are walking this path with me. I think, in the long run, that I may prefer it this way.