Someone from Tyler’s work gifted us two ornery old geese from the farm, they were a little too aggressive with the farm patrons. We decided to house them in the pen for our ducks, though their general size has led us to believe that maybe we will need to build a third pen for our ducks that are coming soon.
I want to provide a big of a content warning for this week’s episode as I will be discussing firearms, hunting, pest management and slaughtering livestock. Firearms can certainly be a contentious topic and we are approaching this from a functional perspective as farmers, but not without reservations of our own.
Tyler nor I would really identify as being firearm enthusiasts, it seems like it would be an expensive hobby to maintain to me. Our desire to get our PAL really boils down to practicality. We are on our journey to self-sufficiency and part of that journey is being able to humanely slaughter your animals prior to butchering while also managing farm pests, protecting livestock and crops and possibly providing a humane death for an animal in pain.
The course took up a full day with a written and practical test. We were provided with manuals on firearm history in Canada, which were rather interesting by themselves. These manuals were written by the RCMP to encourage safe handling of firearms, though I think it has been a while since they were reviewed. Right at the beginning of the manual in the introduction to firearms, it states that explosive powder was probably invented by the Chinese but that Richard Bacon also invented it around the same time as the Chinese in England in the 13th century. This struck me as a little funny because the Chinese invented explosive powder in the 9th century, or a solid 400 years before England. The fact that they just casually mention that England did it around the same time just made me feel like the RCMP needed to flex for England a little bit in this manual. It also segways nicely into the second part of the manual that was a little odd, in that in the history of firearms in Canada, they strangely did not include war as one of the main uses of firearms along with hunting, trade, food and survival. Considering the colonial history of Canada, it was rather surprising to just skim over the use of firearms in colonizing the country and call it survival, because I really wouldn’t equate these two as the same thing.
After the introduction, the course delved into some interesting things, like explaining how firearms work in general, and then covering how each type of firearm works. About halfway through the day, we were split into groups and given the opportunity to handle six different types of rifles. We were shown how to safely handle each gun and how to load and unload ammunition. The day ended with a written multiple choice test as well as a practical exam. Tyler and I were two peas in a pod, both scoring 94% on our written and 100% on our practical exams.
Some questions arose from the course that we weren’t sure about, like whether we were permitted to use a gun to shoot animals on the property when slaughtering them or whether we had a special allowance for pest control. I figured I would need to contact the appropriate department, so I set out on a little research to find my answer.
This question really falls between two departments, the department of Agriculture and the department of Lands and Forest. As Farmers, it seems logical that it may fall under the umbrella of the department of agriculture because our primary use of the firearm is to slaughter our animals for consumption. However, there is a secondary driver that motivated us to get our license, in that we may want to occasionally use our firearm to protect our crops or flocks from things like bears, deer, rabbit, or weasels, all known to be living in the area.
I tried to do some digging online between the two departments but I couldn’t find a straight answer on their websites, so I tried to call the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture instead, thinking that may know the answer. Here I was successful in getting an answer, it is indeed legal to slaughter your own animals without requiring an extra permit on your own property for consumption. However, there is a permit requirement to manage nuisance wildlife on your property, however the permit is free and can be extended from the original application as needed. You can apply for this permit at any local office for the department of land and forests, which for us is in Lunenburg.
This is the second last step for me in my own journey getting up close and personal with processing farm animals for consumption. Two years ago, we helped some friends slaughter and butcher 20 chickens and I showed up that day because I thought it was important to learn and Tyler came along... mostly because he likes me. Then last year, we pushed ourselves beyond my comfort zone when we helped our friends Will and Ness slaughter and butcher their three Berkshire pigs. Tyler was pretty adamant that he didn’t want to be involved in the slaughter and gutting of the pigs however when everyone started getting going, he stepped right in so that the job was done efficiently. I was given the opportunity to learn how to safely gut the pigs from another fellow homesteader who was really teaching all of us, and I now feel far more comfortable in that role than I did before.
To really achieve my goal, I think the next step would be to attend another slaughter with friends and, once I have my license in hand, physically do the slaughtering myself with their guidance. This would allow me to get past that initial apprehension in an environment where there are understanding and supportive people to help me. Tyler and I both approach the work as a necessary evil- we both agree that we want to raise animals for our own meat and that if we are going to do this, we have to be able to do each step necessary in preparing it for consumption. It is uncomfortable however and we don’t take pleasure in the work. When we helped Will and Ness with their pigs last year it really highlighted why farmers have often worked together to take turns to slaughter and butcher their animals each year, it is definitely made easier by working with our budding farming community to help one another, even in just providing solidarity and support.