The way out here

A slice of life

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 12/22/21

I talk a lot about the way things are out here in the country. Some of the hobbies I enjoy, the lifestyle I pursue, and the work that fulfills my soul. As a somewhat belated update on the latter of …

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The way out here

A slice of life

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I talk a lot about the way things are out here in the country. Some of the hobbies I enjoy, the lifestyle I pursue, and the work that fulfills my soul. As a somewhat belated update on the latter of those points, I’d like to reiterate that I have recently changed occupations. I briefly mentioned this perhaps a month ago, but now that I’ve put a few months under my belt at the new job, I figured I’d share a few of the details.

For clarity’s sake, I used to work at the Delaware Valley Job Corps Center, which is a residential vocational training school, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. Specifically, I helped with student recruitment and worked on the various services the students received upon arrival and through graduation.

I worked there for more than two years, but with the recent turn of events in the federal government, as well as COVID-19 requirements for federal contractors, I decided it was a good time to investigate my options in the job market. During one of many chats with my father-in-law, the subject of his need for help at the farm came up, and rather than simply sympathizing and attempting to make time to help on the weekend, another opportunity presented itself.

On the farm, he is responsible for several kinds of livestock, including pigs, dairy cows, chickens and ducks. On top of that, he maintains almost all of his own equipment, which, due to the age of the equipment and his need for it, became a regular chore. He also runs a full custom-butchering shop, accepting livestock weekly, and requiring attention until the animals can be dispatched and processed for customers. Somehow in between all this, he sleeps for an hour or two a day and manages his annual hay crop, manure spreading, cover-crop planting, silage planning, and of course all of the bookwork for each aspect of the farm. That he needed some help was known but never really discussed until this fall.

The long and the short of our conversation resulted in an opportunity to work with him in the butcher shop full-time. Since I’ve started, there hasn’t been a moment of pause between all the animals that have come through, and I think he’s even gotten more than an hour or two of sleep each day since I came on.

Now as for me, you may be thinking to yourselves that a change like this seems awfully random. In fact, it was practically inevitable. For years, I’ve occasionally helped him in the butcher shop as well as cut plenty of wild game for my father using the shop. Over the last year or so my wife and I have been using some of his resources to process our meat chickens as well. So while I’ve traded my clean shirts and ties for a fresh cloth apron, I still get to make a living for my family doing something I know I enjoy. Instead of a pen in my hand signing paperwork, I’m wielding a knife and carving out a new future.

Even with my brief background in butchering, though, it has been refreshing to clean up my existing skills and add new knowledge of the trade.

I have to brag just a touch—I often get a late morning breakfast between cutting, served by my father-in-law. So between that and of course the proximity to family and the area where we are currently planting our crops, there are more than a few perks of the job. Oh yeah, and I smell like bacon all the time. Who doesn’t want to smell like bacon?

Two words to go with that thought: Quality assurance. Yes, it’s a thing, and yes, it’s my favorite part of the job. And no—I don’t abuse it.

The way out here, we aren’t defined by our jobs, but if we’re lucky and very blessed, we get to make a living doing the things that inspire us and feed our family. For me, it’s always been gratifying to produce healthy food, not only for my family but to provide that important life-sustaining product to others.

A side note to the men reading this: if you have the opportunity to smell like bacon, I highly recommend it. Your wives will thank you. Ladies, feel free to smell like bacon as well. I can count the number of guys I know who don’t like bacon on one hand and I’m pretty sure even they like the smell of it.

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