Archive for February 14th, 2013



Random cheerful photo.

Yesterday in the comments on my post about Nutmeg’s littlest baby dying, the question was raised–what do you do with the body? I wasn’t sure I really wanted to answer that question. And maybe some people don’t want the answer, in which case STOP READING.


You had your chance.


Clover was a special case. I had her at the vet’s office at the time. She was cremated. Taking her ashes home wasn’t part of the deal, and I was okay with that. I was pretty emotional at the time and was just glad that she was being taken care of in a way that was better than I could have accomplished on my own. Not long after that, by the way, Cookie Doe also died unexpectedly, and I didn’t write about it because I was still so emotional about Clover. Nutmeg, Sprite, and Fanta are my only does at this time, other than my plans to keep Maia and the little white baby. I suspect Cookie Doe died for similar reasons as Clover, but I didn’t have her at the vet’s so I’m not sure.

I often look at BP and wonder what I will do when she dies. Cows are big. But I know…. I have discussed it with my hired man.

What happens when an animal dies depends on the circumstances and the size of the animal. Last summer I lost two sheep–MinnieBelle was dragged off, so that wasn’t an issue. But the young ram was in the field. I’ve had babies die, and I’ve had older sheep and older goats die. If you’re going to have livestock, you’re going to have deadstock, that is just a fact of life.

At home on the farm, there are a few options, and every decision is individual to the time and the animal and the situation and your abilities. This may sound strange, but as heartbreaking as it can be, this past year has been an empowering experience for me. Taking care of deadstock is a man’s job. If there’s a man on the farm, he usually handles “the problem” and the woman walks away. I didn’t so much as touch a dead chicken at Stringtown Rising. And I liked it that way, but it is a removal from reality that I’m no longer afforded. I don’t always have a man here to help me. I have to shoulder these events on my own, and handle them however I can. Taking responsibility from birth to death makes me feel stronger. Even though physically, I’m not. But I do what I can.

I don’t want to go into specifics according to any animal by name, but here are the various ways it can be handled. A large animal, such as a horse or a cow (which I haven’t had to deal with yet), would have to be moved with a tractor (and when that happens, I will call for help). A medium-sized animal might be carried, depending on the person’s strength, or placed in a wagon. A smaller animal can be tucked into a towel to be moved. A large or medium animal is probably not going to be moved very far, but would be moved to as remote a place on the farm as possible, depending on the size and where it can be moved. I keep agricultural lime in the barn, which speeds decomposition. For a smaller animal, a ravine a few miles away makes a good “burial” spot. Some people might dig a hole for small or medium animals, but I don’t have that ability. A hole needs to be deep. Or, if choosing the “ravine burial” method, it needs to be a few miles away. The worst thing that can happen is if parts come back to you on the porch because the hole wasn’t deep enough or the ravine wasn’t far enough away and the dogs found it.

How I handle a death is how I can. And when I come back to the house, in the middle of the sadness, I know I did it, by myself, and there is that sense of empowerment that comes with it. A farm is life and death, on any given day. I face it and I take responsibility for it. And whatever I do in a given situation, it often follows holding that animal as it dies–and then doing the unthinkable afterward.

I’m tougher than I used to be, and I’m proud of that.

Comments 39 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Summer 2013 Cheese, Bread, Herbs and Soap Retreat


Come learn at the farm!

Summer Cheese, Bread, Herbs & Soap Retreat
July 11 – July 15, 2013

Retreats in 2013 will be offered spring, summer, and fall, with options to choose the entire retreat or only parts. Each retreat will last five days, but it’s up to you whether you choose one day, two days, three days, or all five days, offering flexibility for your needs, schedule, and budget. Retreat days will be full days, going into the evening after dinner with mentored practice time for what you’ve been learning during the day.

Get the lowdown on the spring retreat:
Spring 2013 Wool & Writing Retreat (with Herbals)

Points to note–

Accommodations are not included. Accommodations in Elkview, WV, approximately 15 minutes from Sassafras Farm (closest and most convenient hotel to the farm): Elkview Inn & Suites. Their info is: 101 The Crossing Mall, Elkview, WV 25071, 1-304-965-9200. You can also find other options on the Suggested Accommodations page. (Come with a buddy and split your costs.) You’re responsible for making your own arrangements. If you’re local, you won’t need a hotel.

All meals are included. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks will be home-cooked and served right here from the studio kitchen, and will focus on fresh, culturally iconic and delicious West Virginia foods.

Teens are welcome. Mature teens 13 and up may sign up to attend retreats at Sassafras Farm accompanied by a paid attendee parent/guardian.

Spaces are limited. Smaller groups will allow a greater focus on the quality that I want–of each workshop, of each meal, and of the entire experience. But it also means–if you want it, don’t delay!

Open NOW for registration:


IMG_6401The summer retreat will span five days, including two full days working with all things cheesy and the family cow, one day of yeast breads, biscuits, and pie, and two days of expanded herbal workshops including a full hot process soapmaking session. My teaching partner for this retreat will be LauraP, an experienced herbalist, soapmaker, cheesemaker, baker, and home dairy farmer. Choose to attend one day, two days, three days, or all five–up to you! All workshops and activities will take place at Sassafras Farm in Roane County, West Virginia.

CHEESE & THE FAMILY COW WORKSHOP – Thursday, July 11, 2013 – Friday, July 12, 2013

Dive into the joy of home cheesemaking with two days of cheesy adventure at Sassafras Farm! In soft cheese sessions, experience making your own mozzarella from start to tasting. Learn the fundamental techniques of a variety of cream cheeses as well as how to make other dairy products including sour cream, butter, whipped cream, and clotted cream. Hard cheese sessions will prepare you with the basic how and why of milk, cultures, rennet, cheese presses (homemade and spring-weighted), as well as resources and education about the basic supplies and equipment to set up a home cheesemaking kitchen. We will make hard cheeses from pot to press, and you will learn how to set up a cheese cave at home for aging to perfection. You will leave with hard cheese demystified, ready to go home and make your own! And whether you are thinking of getting your own cow or just want to experience the whole process from cow to kitchen, we will also be at the barn where every attendee will get hands-on practice milking a cow both by hand and by machine and practicing handling fresh milk from filtering to skimming cream. Learn all about handling a cow, breeding, housing, feeding, and managing a calf along with managing a family cow, hands on. Glory Bee’s waiting for you!

Breads, Biscuits & Pie Day – Saturday, July 13, 2013

Carry on with the journey or just jump in for a day of hands-on baking secrets! There are few things more satisfying in life than taking a warm loaf of yeast-risen bread made from your own hands out of the oven. Using simple ingredients, you will learn the steps of mixing, kneading, and shaping to create your own fresh-baked rolls, loaves, pizzas, coffeecakes, and more using the Grandmother Bread recipe. With your own experience and individual guidance, you will leave this workshop with the knowledge and skill to make homemade bread a part of your daily life. Say goodbye to store-bought bread! We’ll work with whole grains also and even bake bread with whey fresh from the cheesemaking workshop. You’ll say goodbye to canned biscuits (yuck!) or frozen pies, too, because we’ll have a biscuit-making session followed by a pie-making workshop. Leave with the skill to make your own biscuits from scratch and the secrets of tender, flaky pie crust that never fails. Your family will love you for this one!

IN-DEPTH HERBS & SOAP WORKSHOP – Sunday, July 14, 2013 – Monday, July 15, 2013

Join us at the farm for two days of hands-on herbal instruction! In this expanded version of the one-day herbals workshop from the Wool & Writing retreat, we’ll start with a general overview of traditional kitchen and medicinal herbs and their uses. Weather permitting, we’ll take an herbal walk and gather wild edibles and medicinals to use in the practical formulas you help prepare in the Sassafras Farm Studio kitchen. You’ll learn how to use essential oils safely and how to make your own medicinal teas, tinctures, decoctions, infusions, herbal syrups, salves, and natural lotions. You’ll also learn how to stock a basic home herbal medicine cabinet and plan your own kitchen garden, a women’s herbal garden, a medicinal garden, and even a section for the benefit of pets and livestock, if that suits your needs. Whether you’re ready to begin making your own ‘simples’ and potions or just want to know more about the many practical uses for garden and wild herbs, this workshop offers the information and advice to get you started. But wait, there’s more! This in-depth herbals workshop will include a full hot process soapmaking session. With the knowledge you’ve gained, you’ll choose the right herbs for your individual needs and make your own batch of soap to take home!


Write your own ticket! Each two-day set (Cheese & the Family Cow OR In-depth Herbs & Soap) is $150 per person. The baking day is $50 per person. However–

Choose all five days (including BOTH two-day sets) and the baking day is free. (Total: $300 for FIVE full days.)

Take one two-day set (either Cheese & the Family Cow OR In-depth Herbs & Soap) and attend the baking day for $25. (Total: $175 for THREE full days.) If you want to choose one two-day set and NOT attend the baking day, your total will be $150.

You may also choose the baking day only for $50.

How do you sign up?

Email me at CITRevents@yahoo.com and tell me what you want to sign up for (Cheese & the Family Cow, Baking, In-depth Herbs & Soap–all or which parts). I will need the full name, address, and phone number for each attendee. (You may sign up for a friend if you are coming together.) I will send you payment information at that time. Directions to the farm and other information will also be provided to attendees in advance of the retreat.

The Spring 2013 Wool & Writing Retreat (with Herbals) is also still open for registration!

A 50 percent downpayment will be required to reserve your place. The remaining balance will be due by June 1. If you sign up, please plan to attend. Retreat reservations are nonrefundable.

Not only does offering retreats in this way at Sassafras Farm enable me to provide a higher quality and more in-depth experience, it also allows the full atmosphere of the farm to become part of the experience. The Cheese & the Family Cow retreat includes hands-on work with animals as part of the event, but every workshop at every retreat at the farm will include multiple opportunities throughout the day for attendees to visit with the animals, feed a goat a cookie, pet the horses, take a hayride, and join in farm chores if you choose–collecting eggs, milking Glory Bee, tossing hay, cleaning out the chicken house…. Did I sneak that last one in on you?

party2011Evenings will provide casual time to practice what you’ve been learning, hang out in the studio or the house, and even enjoy a bonfire. This is a real retreat to a farm, and I’m committed to making it an awesome experience for each person who is here. I will be welcoming each attendee not just to the studio and the farm but to my home.
Let the adventure begin! See you at the farm!

Comments 5 Comments
Share: |    Subscribe to my feed Subscribe
Posted by Suzanne McMinn | Permalink  

More posts you might enjoy:

Sign up for the Chickens in the Road Newsletter

Daily Farm


If you would like to help support the overhead costs of this website, you may donate. Thank you!

Sign up for the
Chickens in the Road Newsletter

The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

Today on Chickens in the Road

Join the Community in the Forum

Search This Blog

Out My Window

50°F Fair

Walton, WV


February 2013
« Jan   Mar »

I Love Your Comments

I Have a Cow

And she's ornery. Read my barnyard stories!

Entire Contents © Copyright 2004-2015 Chickens in the Road, Inc.
Text and photographs may not be published, broadcast, redistributed or aggregated without express permission. Thank you.

Privacy Policy, Disclosure, Disclaimer, and Terms of Use