Sunday, August 24, 2008

Life in the Country

When I agreed to move to Nowhere, Ohio, I knew things would be different. I had lived in big cities (or the suburbs of big cities) all of my life. The smallest town I'd ever lived in was Ann Arbor, Michigan and that can hardly be called a small town. I have to admit, if I didn't love my husband and agree with his reasoning, I would have never ended up here. But let me tell you, small town life has some serious advantages.
For example, I have a garden here. This year I planted seven tomato plants and I now have probably 10 more "volunteer" tomato plants. I've rediscovered my love of beets and turnips as well as the simple joy of taking a plot of land and through a little work (very little on my part this year, but I have an amazing husband) be able to produce food. Like where there was dirt in the spring, there are now zucchinis and cabbages and onions and chili peppers. I'm also able to have fresh herbs any time I want them because I'm not restricted to growing them in pots on a window sill.

And then there's the county fair.

Growing up I thought that county fairs didn't really exist anymore. I mean they were the stuff of Judy Garland movies. Or Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Let me tell you people, county fairs not only exist, but they are a whole new world for out of place city girls like me. I love going to the fair. And not just because of the "fair food". In case you were wondering, batter dipped, deep fried cheese on a stick is a very bad idea that took me a week to digest. So what do I love about the fair if it's not the food?

It's the animals. There are cages and cages of chickens.


I love this one that looks like it's wearing a fancy hat. It reminds me of Cloris Leachman. She's hilarious! (And it's rumored she's going to be on Dancing With the Stars! Yippee!)

And prior to this year, I'd never touched a cow. Really people, when would I come close to a cow living in the Metro Detroit Area. Or Chicago? It's not like they take the El. So this beautiful bovine head was sticking out of the dairy barn and I walked right up to it and patted it's nose. I should also mention that after living in Kansas City and discovering that cows are roughly the size of Buicks that I'd been hesitant to come up to anything that big and that dumb. And I know they kick, but do cows ever bite? I have so many farm questions. Eventually we decided to go into the dairy barn and see all the enormous cows. I wish I'd taken a photo because that apparently wasn't a cow, but a bull for sale. Another myth shattered. In my head bulls are black. And have nose rings. And snort a lot. And are fairly dangerous. They're men for crying out loud. Think raging testosterone. I didn't think bulls had pretty eyelashes and look like something you want to pat and say "How Now Brown Cow!" to.

Which brings me, finally, to the main meat (hee hee) of this blog. So what was I cleaning out the freezer for? The Grand Champion Market Barrow Hog! Woot! Yep that's my hog. The one with the spots.
It's currently taking up 2/3 of our brand spanking new chest freezer. And we still don't have the feet, or the bacon, or the sausage links, or the 30 pound ham the Brain tells me we're getting. What the hell am I going to do with a 30 pound ham? Could I refreeze that? I supposed I could have some holiday meal here, except I don't think I could fit the number of people it would require to eat a 30 pound ham in our cozy little house. I wonder if I could bring it to a pot luck. Maybe I'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

But wait! There's more! Sometime this week, I think tomorrow actually, we're getting this here lamb. Yay! I will no longer have to travel to Michigan to get ground lamb! And all those delicious cuts of lamb that I hesitate to buy because they are so expensive will be sitting happily in my freezer. I have decided this must be the best way to buy lamb.

I'm not sure how exactly these county fair livestock auctions work, but it's something like this; some little kid's parents buy a baby livestock, then this little kid is in charge of feeding and taking care of the livestock. It's some program called 4-H which I think is like the farming version of scouting that also allows both boys and girls to participate. I'm fairly clueless on that one. So over the course of the year these kids take care of the livestock and help the livestock be the best it can be. The Brain had sheep and he told me you have to walk around with it on a leash enough times so that the sheep will follow you wherever you go. Then you have to be able to pose the sheep so it's showing off it's muscles the best. The Brain also had cows, but they ran away. (Cows on the lamb! How silly.) Eventually, the kids take these livestock to the fair and they get judged on how good the animals are.

Then they take these livestock to this auction. The auction is fun. They make the poor little kid stand in front of a fairly large group of people. Mostly a crowd of parents and local business owners. The parents have by this time sent out emails to all their acquaintances saying "buy our livestock! Little Joey has a goat in this year's auction!" And of course there's photos of little Joey with his goat. So people bid like crazy in this auction so little Joey feels good about raising his goat well. Meanwhile little Joey is standing up there looking like he's going to wet his pants. I really wish I had a photo of the auction. The little kids were hilarious. There are kids who are smiling ear to ear. There are kids who look like deer in headlights. There are some really scared kids. And then there are the older kids who try to stand there and look cool. Once a person, or more likely a business (if you win the grand champion, you get your photo in the paper and it's good advertising), wins the auction, that's apparently the premium price. Then the person or business has the option of buying the livestock at the predetermined market price or they can say no we don't want a freezer full of pig and they send it off to market. It's a really neat process. And why I don't need to buy meat for the rest of the year. Yahoo for small town living!

And the winners of my prize giveaway are Mrs. White and Amanda! Email me your addresses at marylonz at gmail.com.

9 comments:

Mrs. White said...

Ha Ha! That's so awesome! Although I'll have to find a way to erase the image of sweet little spotted Babe from my head somehow...

Thanks, Mary!

glamah16 said...

I see a lot of posts on pork! At least you dont have to buthcer it. This is huge. Your grocery costs will go way down for the next few months. I know what you mean about the comment yiu left on mine. At certyain point you just shift gear and realize you want the simple things.

Sara said...

You touched a cow (bull)? really? When did you get over your bovine phobia?

That little lamb is so cute. As much as I love to eat lamb, I'm not entirely sure I'd be capable of eating meat from a cute little creature that I'd patted on the head and looked in the eye just a week or so earlier. I guess I'm more of a city girl than I like to admit!

standing still said...

Oh my god, you bought a pig and a lamb? Good for you! Save on gas and fretting over what's for dinner.

We go to the fair in the morning. I'm SO excited. Sheep judging is all day, and it's my FAVORITE.

Cakelaw said...

I loved your photos, especially the goats at the top of the post. I'd love to have a garden - sigh ...

Grace said...

in my modest opinion, country life is superior to everything else. look at the fun (and food) you can have! good stuff. :)

Bellini Valli said...

Years ago I worked at the Stockyards Building in Calgary where I would get the occasional freezer full of good 'ol Alberta beef:D

Deborah said...

I would love to have my freezer full of pig! I haven't been to a county fair in years, but it sounds like fun!

Kitt said...

You must have a huge freezer!

I'm about to fill mine with meat, too, but it's just 50 pounds of marrow bones for the dog.