The cycle of life

This week provided us with a very thought-provoking experience. It has made us think a lot about the cycle of life and the role we are allowed to play in it. We think living ‘on and off’ the land is all to do with respect for life, as well as respect for death.

A few days ago I shot my first roe deer (see previous blog post for background). I had been out stalking a few times previous but came back empty handed. However this week I got myself into a position where I knew it was now or never. After watching it through the scope of my rifle for about a minute, I pulled the trigger.


This little makeshift hut was here when we bought the croft. It provides good cover from which to stalk over the gully


What happened afterwards is now a haze. The whole thing was over in about 10 seconds. But what I do know is that from the point of committing to the shot, the focus centred on ensuring a quick, respectful death. When it was all over we quietly gralloched it on the hill, removed its head, buried the lot and carried it home.


Our make shift larder – table, butchers saw and a gambrel on a pulley (to hang the carcass). Ignore the rest of the mess in there….


We have made a make shift larder in the croft house so on our return we skinned it, butchered it, bagged it and it all went into the freezer. It was really important for us to make sure that we used as much of the animal as we could and everything else would be returned to nature. After that we had a VERY large dram….


Some of the larger cuts of meat we butchered


So in summary the whole ordeal was quite a new and humbling experience, and one that will happen again in the future. This is something we believe we have to do and is an integral part of our woodland establishment, croft management and land stewardship. The deer I killed lived a good life eating unimproved and untreated (pesticide or herbicide treated) grass, flowers and trees. Its meat will be full of natural goodness. If we can raise our livestock to have as good a life, eating vegetation rich in a mixture of flowers and grasses and a bit of rough grazing that is as good quality, well then our work here will be done.


So enough for now. Time to start preparing the venison for dinner tonight. Happy New Year one and all!


8 thoughts on “The cycle of life

  1. Yes, it’s pretty humbling to see death up close. May you never get hardened to it. In my day you left a little for the eagles (no, not in the hotel California).

    Happy New Year, I love the blog, PaulF


  2. [J+D] Because we sell our Hebridean Hogget Lam, we have to take it to the abbatoir and main cuts are made there. We break some down into smaller cuts, pack and freeze. What we recommend to you is to buy a vacuum seal machine. If just for yourselves, then you don’t need a commercial machine – a domestic one will do fine. Packed this way, three advantages: (1) moisture kept off the meat, and it freezes without becoming encrusted with (and penetrated by) ice crystals – which reduce quality of meat. (2) you’ll be able to recognize the cuts in the freezer! (3) they look more appetizing. It’s essential to freeze as quickly as possible to ensure ice crystals are as small as possible. Obviously the freezer is put on fast freeze and temp adjusted to get it down to as cold as possible before you even start cutting the meat, but if you do this a few days before, and put in old milk bottles 3/4 full of water (with lids, but keep upright!), the frozen water will absorb the relative heat of the meat. Once the meat is in check progress from time to time – as soon as the water in bottles has thawed, remove them. when freezer down to -14degC, you can turn the settings back to normal. Before Xmas, we processed and froze 148kg of hogget lamb this way, storing it in one medium chest freezer and two ordinary under-worktop uprights.


  3. What you’re doing is entirely right. Killing is tough, but people who eat meat (me) need to face up to the fact that this involves sentient beings being killed. I love our native deer. We have killed all their natural predators. So if we don’t want massive environmental degradation followed by mass starvation, we need to kill them ourselves.


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