Friday, 27 May 2011

A weekend back on the farm

The cow after the deed. Yep, that's all from
one of them.
It was only my last post that I mentioned that people here in Quirinopolis like wanton animal slaughter, and alas I must fulfil that stereotype again. Carlinho wanted to kill a cow, so therefore Cristina, Daniel and I headed to the farm with Ed Carlos and (the heavily pregnant) Shinayda for the weekend.

After arriving and helping them milk the cows (with surprisingly little excrement sprayed by them this time - it appears as though they've got used to me) I listened to Ed Carlos talking to his mum about the pros and cons of killing the new litter of 5 kittens that had been born. Apparently she had been waiting for his arrival so that he could do it (I'm not sure if it's seen as some sort of honour or not). He wasn't too fond of the idea however and hasn't as yet taken on the task.

So, whilst Daniel was off riding horses and calves
, we rounded up five or six cows and penned them in. We were going to go for a grey one today (apparently they have slightly different textures and tastes - the last one was yellow and supposed to be nicer. The nicest are the white ones). Carlinho had his rifle and took a shot. Unlike last time he didn't manage to shoot it in the correct place and as he didn't have another bullet with him, it meant that this time we were going to have to do it the harder way. The helper (who had been brought in from another farm specifically) managed to lasso it first time and we pulled it up against the fence, tying it off. Carlinho went round the other side and when the cow had a quieter moment, he pulled out his knife, and slit its neck. The cow was still on its feet as we waited and waited. It eventually collapsed, but was continuing to breathe.

It was definitely not the quickest death, and many of the cows in the pen seemed curious as to what was happening, they kept on trying to get closer to investigate. Across the main track I could also see a group of cows forming at the other fence wondering what was going on. Either that, or they were some sort of mafia, marking our faces for assassination.

After a good 10 minutes or so of it lying there, its breathing getting more and more shallow, it finally kicked the bucket (by that I mean it had its last death spasm in which its legs kicked out). Because of where we had killed it, three of us had to drag the corpse by the lasso (it was far heavier than the pig we've previously killed) out a little way to attach the rope to the tractor. After a lot of heaving and pausing, we managed it and the tractor did the rest of the work and pulled it out into the open.

I won't go into the intricacies of slaughter - I've gone over this before - but this time, with the extra hands I felt at a bit of a loss. I was left just holding the legs open like some human medical stirrups awaiting the doctor to do an exam on the awaiting cow. After the ankles and hooves were cut off, there really was not much need for me to be there anymore. So I was asked to go along to the next farm and ask them if we could have some cassava. I was told Cristina was told to come with me to help translate. So I went back to the house, told Cristina the situation and we all got in to the car and drove off.

Upon arrival at the aforementioned farm Cristina informed that she would not be coming in with me as she doesn't like to speak to people she doesn't know. Fair enough, but it seemed like a bit of a wasted journey! I walked into the farm clapping my hands (as is the custom) to get the farmer's attention (not to applaud him), and walked up to the house. They were outside eating dinner. I bid them hello and tried to explain that I had been sent to get some cassava. They looked a bit confused and told me to go to the next farm along. I realised that they thought I was looking for Carlinho, not that I'd been sent from him. I tried again, and fortunately the wife of the farmer managed to understand my intentions. Upon asking Cristina later why they misunderstood, she explained to me that the word I'd used for 'sent' was more commonly used for posting items.

The farmer and I got the hoe and a sack and went on our way in the dwindling light to get some cassava. Navigating through electric fences, we eventually arrived and proceeded to dig up the roots of plants. It was quite a fun thing to do, apart from having to make idle, almost incomprehensible small talk with the man. But anyway, we did the deedm collected a healthy sackload, and headed home.

We had a healthy barbecue with fresh meat and cool beer that evening. It was very nice.

This is not even all the meat. It is about two
thirds, maybe a little less. Click it for a
larger picture.
The next day was mainly taken up with stripping the beef from the bone as you can see in the main picture at the beginning of this post. It's not a quick job. Cutting the meat is easy, cutting it correctly is not. You have to find where the meat begins, and where it ends and cut it away along the seams, slicing through what I assume is membrane. If you pull at the meat you can see where it parts and that is where you should slice. For my part, I found it easier cutting a little bit through the 'membrane', and then trying to part the piece of meat from the meat or bone below. Then I would go back and cut it off at the top and the bottom. It's quite a fun job actually. The only downer for me was when I accidentally cut into a joint letting the salivary looking liquid (apparently it is called synovial liquid) run down my wrist and trickle onto the floor. There was an awful lot of it. I got over it though.

After you have removed the big slabs of meat, you are left with the little scrapes that are attached to the bone. We cut these off (as well as any excess amount of fat), and put them in a separate tub which we later used to make mince. What this has left us with is the very real possibility that for the next three months we will be mostly eating beef. In fact, once correctly cut up, the animal itself would probably enough to fill up the beef section in a small supermarket.

For any detractors out there, as you can see from the pictures we didn't waste much of the animal.

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