A scenic trip to visit my dinner
About a year-and-a-half ago, one of my high school classmates moved to Schoharie County from Philadelphia with the goal of becoming a farmer.
He began leasing a farm that was no longer in use and raising goats, chickens, rabbits, sheep and pigs.
And when he began taking orders for pork earlier this year, I decided I had to buy some. Not because I love pork, although I do. But because I had some extra cash, wanted to support him and thought it would be cool to eat locally raised, organic pork from a farmer I went to high school with.
I didn’t think I was capable of consuming half a pig by myself (or fitting all of the meat into my freezer), so I asked my landlord and her boyfriend if they wanted to go in on the pig with me. They said yes, and during the winter we made a $150 down payment.
“You can visit the farm this fall and see the pig,” my high school classmate said when I handed him the check.
I mentioned this possibility to my landlord, who shuddered.
“I don’t want to see the pig,” she said.
I understood my landlord’s perspective.
But I did want to see the pig.
Maybe I just wanted an excuse to drive around the Schoharie Valley — a beautiful place I love to visit — or maybe I simply wanted to visit my friend’s farm. Or maybe I’m heartless and cruel, and took pleasure in the prospect of meeting the cute little animal I’m going to eat this winter, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I recently had the opportunity to take stock of my purchase and assess just how committed I am to my meat-eating ways.
Last weekend my friend TZ and I spent Sunday checking out the Schoharie Quilt Barn Trail, and I decided that a side trip to my friend’s farm was in order. But before heading over, we spent a couple hours on the trail, which showcases historic barns (as well as businesses and homes) with big, colorful plywood quilt squares nailed to their exteriors.
According to the trail brochure that I printed off the web, “The Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail emerged as an outcome of the devastating floods of August 2011, caused by Hurricane Irene & Tropical Storm Lee. It celebrates the unexpectedness of art on a building or wall instead of a gallery. The quilt blocks are honest, authentic, spirited, creative and most of all accessible. People relate to the quilting of ancestors, relatives, friends and themselves.”
I am not a quilter, but TZ is quite crafty, and we both thought it would be fun to search for the squares.
We started in Middleburgh, with a sturdy brown structure — more of a shed than a barn — perched above a rocky creek bed. The quilt — a vibrant blue cross on an orange, yellow and green background — hung between two windows. It was a picturesque scene, and I pulled over so we could get out and take a closer look. There was something almost mystical about finding the handiwork of artists in such a rural and out-of-the-way setting.
My favorite square was featured on the side of Generations Antiques & Gifts on Main Street in Schoharie. Called “Tumbling Block,” the design is a tessellation — a pattern, comprising geometric shapes that can fill a plane to infinity. This particular tessellation is similar to one that I used to scribble on my papers in class when I was bored: three-sided blocks that look like they were lifted from a print by M.C. Escher, the Dutch artist known for his mathematical and architecturally impossible woodcuts, prints and lithographs.
Conveniently, one of the quilts took us to within a mile of my friend’s farm in Cobleskill, and we arrived midafternoon eager for a tour. My friend was happy to oblige, and he brought us down the hill, to a pumpkin patch where his breeding sow and boar live. These are massive creatures, free to roam within the confines of the electrical fences that kept them in check and hang out with the chickens and geese who visit them from time to time.
After gawking at the giant pigs, we walked up the hill to the barn, which houses about two dozen goats. I love goats, and I enjoyed scratching their heads and watching them prance about.
The pigs were on the other side of the road, up a steep hill. When we approached, they came running up to us, eager for attention, and I was happy to oblige by letting them sniff my hands. “They’re so cute!” TZ exclaimed, and I had to agree.
“They’re going to live a nice, happy life here on the farm, and then they will be killed as quickly and painlessly as possible,” my high school friend said, adding, “Your pork should be available in November.”
I thought of the movie “Babe” — a Foss family favorite — and the classic children’s book “Charlotte’s Web.” For a brief moment, I considered making a sign that said “Some Pig” and hanging it around my pig’s neck.
Trouble was, I didn’t know exactly which pig I should try to save — which pig is destined for my dinner table. And also, I like pork.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.