At the end of every Mayan long-count, season, year, five minutes (or whatever timescale you use), it’s worth having a good look at your life and deciding what works and what doesn’t.
One of the things we’ve decided doesn’t work for us any more is pigs.
About five years ago, I blogged our reasons for getting into pigs. It’s been an easy experience on the whole, but continuing to keep them was going to get harder. Successive pigs have cleared the areas we wanted clearing and, to save the trees, we were going to move the next set into the horse field. But the only place for them is South facing, which meant we were going to have to build more structures and put in infrastructure.
The financial cost of feeding the pigs has also been noticeable this year, living on (by Western standards) a very low income. We planted a field with an animal food crop, cut it, stooked it, stacked it – all by hand – and still have it sitting down there waiting for threshing. We haven’t had the time, energy or space to process it. Sometimes Pepito breaks out and buried his face in a stack. Occasionally I catch deer having an easy meal. We don’t know how much grain we harvested, but we both decided the physical cost of growing food for big animals is not sustainable. After watching a couple of very interesting films (“Forks over knives” being one), and realising how many vegetables we could grow – or even buy – for the €15 a week we were putting into our pigs, plus how much they tie us to the land, we decided that these would be our last.
I suspect, if keeping animals for meat was assessed at a global level, the conclusion would be the same. The energy investment for the return in meat wouldn’t make economic sense. Large animals would disappear from our landscape, meat from our diet, and the world would be a healthier, happier place. You don’t believe me? Watch the film.
We’ve also decided to stop breeding rabbits for meat and will be keeping some for pets. You might think this extravagant, but if you’d seen a young rabbit and his mother survive myxomatosis, you’d probably do the same. Our last rabbits will live out their days and be buried here. We’re even reducing our stock of chickens.
But this once-in-an-age review is about more than livestock. Having fewer animals means doing less work, which gives us more time to use our other skills. Next year, Her Outdoors is going to create a range of crafty products using recycled materials, and more art (among other things).
I’m going to start working for people as an extreme gardener, join a band, get involved in the transition town movement (I just learnt our nearest town has become the first in Aquitaine) and sell my professional skills as an ethical copywriter.
All of this feels very appropriate, positive and timely.
On which point, I find one thing about the Mayan calendar very exciting. For the first time, billions of our fellow humans will be focused on the destiny of our species at the same moment. For one day, we will have the opportunity to look at ourselves and decide what works and what doesn’t. In the days that follow, we will have the opportunity to become a better species. To find a more healthy balance between work and play. To use more of our talents. To move, collectively, from fear and survival on a rock floating through space, to joy and thrival.
I have a feeling that the new age is going to be excellent.