Diamond Tooth Taxidermy

Exquisite Taxidermy Art and Design

© 2013 Diamond Tooth Taxidermy
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About Beth Beverly


I am a State and Federally licensed taxidermist who graduated from the Pocono Institute of Taxidermy in 2010 with high marks. I have a deep respect for this craft and those who strive to preserve it.

It is my pleasure to work on any trophy mount, be it a shoulder, life-size, rug, or fish.

I accept custom orders for fantasy mounts, wearables, and bridal hair pieces.

Sculptural mounts and hats are available for rental provided they are in stock at time of inquiry.

Contact me describing your wish and I will be delighted to make it so.


Diamond Tooth Taxidermy Blog:



LAMBAG

This is a little lamb baby that was gifted to me from my 4H enthusiast pal who raises goats. So I guess it's actually a little baby goat.  I still get them mixed up.  Anyway, I had it soft tanned with the intent on making a plush mount that could be cuddled, but once I got it bag I realised it would make an excellent bag. And voila!


I made a carcass cast of the head using a silicone mold, one that I can use again and again.  This is great because I have about 5 other babies tanned and ready to go be future bags.








His little legs are filled, and the torso cavity is left hollow, lined with fabric.










And tassels make everything better, right?



I debuted this bag at a local design event and he made quite a splash.  This piece is definitely a show stopper.  It's also so fun to carry, like a furry little pet you can just keep hugging all night and day.  Better than a purse puppy; you don't need to feed him or take him out to pee!

This is by far one of my favorite creations.  I'm eager to create more, sell them and see how my clients take them out into the world.  My new signature piece!





A Most Unusual Commission

I recently sent some pieces to Hendricks Gin as environmental decor for one of their many famed Wondrous Affairs.  This one took place in Chicago and while I have yet to find photo documentation of my pieces in action, I trust the entire presentation was nothing short of tremendous.  I've had a friendship with Hendricks for some time, in fact one of my favorite interviews was with their blog back in 2012. Last November a few of their most stylish associates paid me the honor of renting some couture wearables for a Masquerade.
This time around they ordered a few wall mounts and my signature Goat Hoof Candle Holders, but the whopper was a commissioned luminary goat hide rug.  I hustled to get source the parts and get her produced in time, and here's the result:


I scored a hide from Alaska of all places, this specimen was once the beloved pet goat of a local animal control officer.  I'm so touched that she's gone on to live a shiny new jet setting life!


I found the lamp components from Mid Century Furniture, just down the road from my studio, which happened to be open to the public and completely empty of people on the day I needed to find these parts the most.  I didn't like the shade so I made a new one from some leather hide that I also used to line the bottom.  If you look closely you can see the branding:

I was compelled to embellish her, so voila: Pearls (genuine, to boot!), hair extensions and ostrich feathers.




Can't you just picture sitting in a rocking chair with a gin gimlet reading your favorite pen pal letter under the light of this lady?

So that's my latest luminary rug piece; hopefully photos from the event aren't far behind!


Shine on, Belinda.









 


Here is a pair of goat hoof candle holders I made about a year ago; they're one of the first pairs I constructed, and I consider them prototypes in a way.  You can see they have a slightly awkward standing angle and require museum wax to safely hold a candle and remain in grounded to the table.  I have since then developed new techniques in how I mount the hooves to rectify this.
They have recently come back to me after being part of a several months long exhibit at the Ward Museum in Maryland, and have also shown at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.  I just now got around to photographing them.  I don't have much else to say other then they are for sale, and I am have about four other pairs in the works.
Enjoy!











Lamb Fetus Hat, proper.

 I finally got around to shooting my lamb fetus hat, now that it's back from Maryland. Unfortunately I had some issues with the flash and I'm not a very skilled photographer so the pictures are somewhat lackluster.  I'm still sewing the lining into it, which I'll post photos of later, with these, when I list the piece on etsy. For now, though, I wanted to share this very special little gem with you.




























BORROWED POST: THE FARMER'S HUSBAND, ORKA

Please read the following post I borrowed from The Farmer's Husband, telling the story of Orka and the unexpected end to her charmed and lovely life.  This is the part where I step in; stay tuned for more stories of Orka to come as she is immortalized through love, art, and taxidermy:

 

Orka

April 24, 2013

Orka, one of our Icelandic ewes, began to show signs of lambing two Sundays ago. Her bag (udder) was full and she was becoming restless and aloof. A total of nine goats and sheep had successfully given birth so far this season, and she was to be the tenth. Well they say that one out of every ten births proves to be problematic, and if you are at all squeamish, I suggest that you NOT scroll down any further.
WARNING: RATHER GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW
Orka, in the front here, was by far the most striking of all our sheep
Orka, in the front here, was by far the most striking of all our sheep
Sheep really don’t require any intervention during the lambing process. We do not separate the lambs at birth, as we do with the goat kids, and it is best if the ewes can do everything out on pasture without the stress of us hovering over them.  I went out to check on her after evening chores and everything seemed fine. Her water broke while I was shining my flashlight on her vagina. “Great,” I thought, “We’ll have some more lambs in the morning. Good luck, Orka.” And we went to bed.
The next morning, there were no new lambs. We found Orka lying in the sheep house, exhausted and in pain. She was having contractions but was hardly dilated. Because of last year’s tragic lambing and kidding season, we know exactly what to do in these situations. We reached in, expecting to find a (preferably live) lamb in need of some assistance getting out. But neither of us could feel much of anything. Something wasn’t right.
Her bag was big, purplish blue (not normal), cold (definitely not normal), and very firm. We wanted to relieve some of that pressure in order to make her just a little more comfortable. But when Bailey went to milk her, a foul-smelling, chunky, cloudy, bloody liquid squirted out. We immediately called our friend Cindi, who is not only a goat and sheep expert, but also a professor of animal sciences at the local university. She explained that Orka had gangrene mastitis, that the unborn lambs were probably dead, that the only way to save Orka was to slice open and drain the udder, that if she didn’t die from the whole ordeal (which she likely would) that she could never be bred again, and that we needed to call our vet right away.
Our vet echoed all of that, but told us that if we wanted to bring Orka in to the clinic, she would be able to see her in 3 hours or so. We had two options: 1) Make her suffer for a few more hours before loading her into the back of the pickup and spending hundreds of dollars at the vet, where her udder would be sliced open, her lamb fetuses extracted, and then she’d be put on a serious course of antibiotics, which would likely not keep her from dying anyway; or 2) put her down.
We have a gun, but it’s not the right kind of gun for shooting a sheep. Plus we have no idea how to use it. So we called a neighbor friend who kindly came right over and put her down for us. When we called the vet to cancel the emergency appointment, she told us that we had made the right decision.
We then called Cindi, just to follow up and let her know how everything had transpired. As it turned out, she was teaching an Animal Sciences Lab that afternoon, and asked if we would be interested in bringing in Orka so that she could conduct a necropsy with her students. So sure enough. We loaded up the carcass after brunch and headed to campus, where, under the sun on a beautiful Spring day, Cindi disassembled Orka in front of 25 or so students. Not only was it a very rare opportunity for them to see gangrenous mastitis, but she also had two unborn lambs that had come to full term.
IMG_3369
The first thing Cindi did was remove the udder, seen in the above photo.  The little light pink patch is what healthy udder tissue looks like, everything else is toxic gangrene. On the bottom of the udder, she found a deep cut. Orka was short-legged and her udder nearly dragged on the ground when she walked; she had apparently punctured it on something–likely an unnoticed piece of wire sticking out of the ground–the wound became infected and gangrene developed very quickly.
IMG_3373

The two unborn ram lambs were big boys (nearly 12 pounds each). We got to see all of Orka’s stomachs, her reproductive system, and well, everything else.
We are so happy that she was able to be used for educational purposes and feel really fortunate to have been able to experience something like that. There happened to be a butcher taking the class; he was able to comfortable and cleanly remove the legs and head. The legs and lambs were put in the freezer for our dear Beth at Diamond Tooth Taxidermy. Maybe she’ll make some more hoof candleholders or fetus hats? And we are going to have the head mounted for our dining room. She was so beautiful, and now her beauty will live on forever.

VINTAGE POST: Meeting my Meat




Meeting My Meat

Last weekend was an exhausting yet emotionally fulfilling one. I made the trek up to Schoharie to visit my beloved farm boys Thomas & Bailey by way of a short stay in Harlem with another dear friend while working a non taxidermy job in NYC.  I arrived at the bus stop in Albany weary, bedraggled, and depressed and drained.
The reason for my visit was not only pleasure, but purpose: the boys had been raising some rabbits for food and the time had come to process a few of them.  Thomas, who was taking on this project, immediately thought of me as a viable processing partner, given my philosophy on eating meat.  I won’t call myself a vegetarian ( I still occasionally eat meat when someone offers me a free meal and I would otherwise go hungry due to lack of funds, so call me a hypocrite if you wish) or any other label because whenever I try to talk about it, I just sound pretentious.  Unfortunately, it mostly comes up when I’m declining an offer at a gathering where everyone else is partaking in the meal.   It’s not like I want to stand up in a room full of folks enjoying themsselves and say, “well its just that you’re all eating shit meat”.
But for the most part they are.   And that isn’t the problem to me but more a symptom of something much, much more saddening.***
And maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone but this is my journey and perhaps someday I will articulate it (through words or taxidermy) more clearly but it’s no coincidence that the craft about which I am most passionate revolves around the manipulation of skin onto forms, or why I gravitate towards the rogue genre of taxidermy.  In this realm, I can take a skin and put it on a form that has nothing to do with the original specimen.  I can give it wings, diamonds for eyes, a stretched neck, anything my mind comes up with.  As someone who has struggled (to an agonizing degree)  my entire life to achieve a healthy amount of comfort in my own skin, manipulating fantasy creatures out of the dermis of others is a projection of my own wishes to occasionally escape this body I currently occupy.
It’s also no coincidence that underneath these hides are meat.  Thick, bloody, nourishing meat.  My journey as a budding taxidermist also led me down a path of exploring the source of my food, and the subsequent attempts to negotiate my ambivalent relationship with it.  This has been a years long puzzle in which I occasionally fit in a flurry of pieces in one instant, or spend months trying to jam the same ill-fitting piece into a spot that won’t accept it.  Sometimes I just have to walk away and come back when the time is right.
Last weekend in New York, my food puzzle was ripe for some work and ready to accept a flurry of new pieces to their rightful home.
Here is Thomas, watering their garden :

They’ve got corn, tomatoes, pepper, squash, a wide variety of herbs and edible flowers plus many others that I am forgetting.  It’s basically 99% edible though, and they are incorporating it into their daily meals. For example, here are some treats we harvested with which to make a salad dish for our Elizabethan Rabbit dish that evening:

Even though my parents had a garden in our yard when I was a child, my knowledge of plants and how to grow food is so profoundly lacking.  To actually see where the ingredients grow, how they are cared for, then pick them myself put some of those pieces back in the puzzle.
Meet Meat and Tilda.  Meat is just that; he’s to be processed sometime next year I believe.  Tilda will stick around for some breeding.  The boys know so much about breeds, and all the animals that they raise- they are fully invested in this life and it shows.  They admit it will be difficult to say goodbye to Meat when the time comes but I think Thomas put it best when he said “I’ve nourished you your entire life, now it’s time for you to nourish me”.  And how much more rich an experience to have touched that thick muscular tank of a creature and to have heard its delightful snorts while it was alive!

It saddens me how much bacon is consumed every day, purchased thoughtlessly at some drive-thru window or convenience store and consumed in a car or subway en route to wherever the day is to be spent. I understand that most of us are in no position to raise our own food, and the majority of us need to rush somewhere to keep whatever shitty job is keeping our electric running, and this is the larger issue I was referring to earlier.  We as a people appear to share this common need to multi-task and get everything done quickly and graduate from one spinning gerbil wheel (sorry for the cliché analogy but it fits!) to the next, never stopping to rest or be kind to ourselves because that type of behaviour simply is not encouraged.  Working oneself to death is rewarded, taking a day to sleep and rest is frowned upon.  Given this constant sense of urgency in everything all the time, it’s no surprise that food has become completely  overprocessed and unrelateable to its origins.  Eating.  It’s just one more thing we have to do.***

Meat receives his daily cocktail bath massage.
I cannot stress enough how much of a difference it has made for me to see the full circle.  I will never view dairy or meat products the same, especially after seeing the different ways in which farmers tend to their stock. If an animal is raised with love and respect, why shouldn’t it make sense that the meat it provides us will be better?



Which brings me to the rabbits.  Below is the big mamma rabbit who birthed the ones which will serve as meals.  She’s a really darling, and we thanked her for her hard work.
Now, the next few pictures after this are graphic, but no more so than any cooking website with a meat recipe.  There is plenty of educational material out there on how to humanely kill and process a rabbit so I felt no need to further saturate the internet with my own images, but there are some meat and guts pictured so consider yourself warmed.

After plenty of thought, discussion, and watching videos on the subject, we decided that severing the spine at the cervical vertebrae would be the safest and best bet.  I felt more comfortable using my bare hands than some external device like a broom stick of which I could possibly lose control.  So we each picked a rabbit, went to our designated spot, said a prayer of thanks and counted to three.  Mine didn’t go so smoothly but we remained calm and it was over in a matter of seconds.  My heart was pounding, my knees and arms felt weak and I had to crouch down to collect myself.
Wow.  I had just taken a life.  I had just looked this creature in the eye, held it, stroked it, comforted it and then snapped it neck.  And I wasn’t sorry.  I wasn’t even crying, like I thought I would.  Instead I felt surprisingly in touch with my surroundings and how I related to them.
Look.  I know that hunters dispatch animals all the time and every modern luxury I enjoy comes at the price of an animal’s life, one way or the other.  I’m not trying to pile on  any more significance to this event than my own personal amount, and certainly don’t want to be seen as the next hipster chick to fool herself into thinking she invented “farm to table”.  So please don’t misinterpret my words for any more than what they are: a description of my experience, the very first time I embarked on paying the karmic price for my meal, as Georgia Pellegrini has said.
Without wasting any time we hung them up and started processing.  Here’s Thomas peeling the skin off his rabbit:

Gutting: his went much more smoothly than mine, but I enjoyed the process regardless.  There is an intense heat that comes off a creature once it has died; I noticed this the one time I purchased a freshly killed squab from the live poultry market and I could feel its heat burning through my bag and into my back as I rode home with it.  This heat is even more concentrated inside the gut cavity and it was a bizarre and grotesque thrill to stick my hands in it and yanked out the heart.

Thomas successfully removed his bladder- which is just beautiful -while I cut right through mine and wound up with a pee covered pair of bloody hands.

The butchering, if you can call it that,  (I feel like I’m insulting real butchers by calling the hack job we did by that name) took the better part of an hour.  Clearly both Thomas and myself could benefit from some lessons.  If only we each had our own reality shows where attempts at self betterment through education could be sponsored by some third-party….
The rabbit chunks were tossed in flour and then lightly fried, and ultimately went into this wine-based stew mixture and cooked for three hours in Thomas’ new Le Creuset.  Please check The Farmer’s Husband for full recipe and details.

In honor of my visit, Bailey created an outstanding centerpiece for the dinner table.  Mr. Pickles approves.

All the photos I took of our three course meal came out blurry and dark, so I’m going to leave that coverage to the pros at The Farmer’s Husband.  What I will say is that it was by far one of the best meals of my life, and along with the dazzling sensory experience of taste, smell and sight, there was also the sense of having earned this meal by getting my hands dirty and truly engaging myself in it.  I felt so full that I had to undo the top button of my jeans but for the first time in my life I felt no shame associated with this fullness.  Nary a hint of the words calories, exericize, weight, needing to justify this food or guilt reared its ugly head.  I just felt nourished and content.
And for me, that was the gap closing right where it needed to.
The next morning I “helped” the boys with their chores by hovering about taking pictures.  Here they are treating the pigs to some goat’s milk.  I think the Lass was tickled mid milking and stomped her hoof in the bowl, warranting it pretty much unfit for human consumption.  But just right for hungry piggies!  Nothing is ever wasted on this farm and everything has a purpose.

Even rumps double as pillows.

Story time with the Littles.


Life imitating art imitating life.

Chicken city, rush hour.

Sandals are a poor choice on a farm during chores but my feet survived.  In other news, I would like for my hair to mimic the coloring/pattern of this chicken.  Can anyone help me with this?

That afternoon I boarded a bus back to NYC  which connected to another bus to Philly which connected to another bus home.  All the while in tow I had a mini-coolor with rabbit heads, pelts and feet for me and organs for my cats.  They LOVE raw rabbit.  I also had a generous amount of treats from the boys, clear eyes and a full heart.
CAN’T LOSE.


*** It occurred to me I posted this that my sadness over mindless consumption transcends food, and is directly connected to waste.  How many times have your pantyhose ripped and you just shrugged and threw them out, knowing you could just as easily replace them?
I’ll just buy another.
I have come to loathe those words.  I’ve always had a disdain for waste, but my financial status as of late has forced me to put a very fine point on this.  Waste is unacceptable.  I cannot afford to throw anything out or damage my nice things so I handle my precious goods with care and find ways to use everything to the last drop.  I’m talking about slicing open the moisturizer tube and scraping the inside to get one more dollop.  I remember as a kid I thought it was so funny that my depression-era grandmother (who I’ve come to realise was never actually poor, she was just resourceful) would re-use her hosiery in so many creative ways: the elastic waist bands served to secure boxes of brownies, the material made into really cute puppets or even soap savers. Now I totally get it.  This mentality of “just throwing it away and buying a new one” is why we have an entire industry built around “Field Destroying” (it’s so difficult to find info about this online but basically it’s when folks are paid to destroy any merchandise that is flawed or just plain undesirable instead or donating, or selling at a discount.  It isn’t even permissible to toss these items in the garbage for fear of some filthy dumpster diver getting their dirty poor person paws on it.  If this isn’t a the canary in the coal mine showing us how fucked up the retail/consumer system is, than my head is exploding for no reason.)
There is no connection to where our goods come from.  Even if it’s techno-wares, someone’s hands touched it.  Someone made the packaging.  Someone trucked it over to your corner store and stocked it on a shelf for you and I, the consumers.  I really hope that when my clients take a piece of mine home, they treasure it and feel all the blood sweat and tears I poured into that item.  Obviously, a custom taxidermy hat is much more involved and labor intensive than a bobby pin but please, next time you’re at the counter, handing over your paper or plastic to be swiped, run through your mind the series of events which brought this product to your possession, and acknowledge the extraordinary amount of coordination and teamwork that made it possible.  Thanks for reading.

Dances with Chickens (and goats, sheep, rabbits, sweeties, etc)

               
Recently. when the kind folks at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction approached me about curating a show of my work, I responded with an enthusiastic yes (despite my having sworn off any type of gallery-style exhibition after a spell of lackluster experiences - AITA and their products/people are a sound and superior bunch and will always be near and dear to me). I took the opportunity to do something I've been itching to do for a while now- write a public love letter, of sorts, to my guys at The Farmer's Husband where about 99% of my specimen come from.




Meet Bailey and Thomas.  For those of you who don't already know these two dolls, they are a delightful pair who lived in Philadelphia until just a couple years ago.  While still in a row home in South Philly, they had already begun their slow and steady ascent into full blown farming with a chicken run, two beehives and many plants packed in their teeny back yard like a tetris champ's wet dream.
I met Bailey first when he contacted me through a mutual friend about borrowing some taxidermy to incorporate into a window display for his floral shop, MODA botanical.  It was kismet.  I had been admiring that shop for a few years and wondering who was behind the mind-altering arrangements on the other side of the windows.  I met Bailey at his house one day and he showed me the elegant urban farm system he'd set up outside.  I believe he sent me home with a couple fresh eggs.  I was smitten.  Thus began a long and careful courtship into Dear Friend Land, in which Bailey would call me when one of his chickens passed and I would come spend some time while collecting nature's spoils. 
Bailey is a thoughtful and deliberate person, like me.  Perhaps even more so.  I immediately admired him for his approach to this farm life he was taking on.  He knew from the start that he would eventually graduate to  "real" farm out in the country, but he also was smart enough to build a solid foundation upon which his future lifestyle could be layered upon.  No cutting corners when it comes to educating oneself on raising livestock and self sustainability.  Most of all, it was his calling and something he pursued on his own, not something to brag about (I think I brag about him and Thomas enough to pick up their boasting slack) or impress friends with- which I think is a dangerous trap many of us fall into at this time of intensely curated lifestyles crafted to be shared on social media.
Thomas came into Bailey's life shortly afterward and it was like I met my long lost brother.  I'm fairly certain that he and I shared a womb in another life.  I actually can't imagine Bailey without Thomas, now that I think about it.  It's like he was always there.
They fell in love, got more chickens, peeved the neighbors (deal crack and scream obscenities at 4 in the morning, YES.  Raise chickens in your yard that cluck and shit, NO) and decided to move on.  Two years and two farms later, they've grown and evolved beyond our wildest dreams. I wonder if they ever gaze out upon their 100+ acres housing chickens, turkeys, geese, peafowl, goats, sheep, and pigs, and scratch their heads in astonishment at how far they've come and how gracefully they did it. 
Anyway, I love these two.  I love their farm, their lifestyle, their philosophy, their aesthetic.  I love the way I feel when I'm there and the happiness hangover that lasts for days after I leave.  These are two delightful and compassionate people who make the most of every last bit life has to offer. I urge you to read their blog- it might change your life.  In fact, I'll spoon feed you and start repostig their posts on my own blog.

Hence the inspiration for this show.  Almost all the pieces on display are made from specimen sourced on the farm.

I often will use chickens in parts, separating the pelt from the wings and legs to make several different items.  Talon charms are my calling card, so to speak:

 I created several new mounts using chickens, showing them interacting with man-made elements.  I wanted to convey how smart and creative these little birdies can be, and personify them a bit just for fun.  This guy is guarding an antique glass light fixture filled with pretty trinkets.  Perhaps this will add a bit of edge to his game with the ladies.  Or maybe he actually is a lady.  I still have a hard time discerning the two!
 A yawning chicken in her repurposed bird cage, and another who can't handle the sight of skulls.



Many thanks to Daniel at AITA for providing all the farming accouterments.  His curating skills and sourcing ability really brought the show together.
 

A small vignette of life inside the farm.  

  
Goat hoof candle holders.  These are from Harriet, the 80 pound goat I skinned in my bathtub before I had a proper studio.  Her hide and head were incorporated in to a rug/floor lamp which is on display in the shop window for the show. Please come see her in person.

 Finally, what Diamond Tooth show would be complete without hats, my signature specialty?  All from chickens on the farm:

Thanks again to the folks at Art in the Age, and to Bailey & Thomas.  Seriously, read The Farmer's Husband to keep up with developments on the farm, and info on ordering some of their future edible delicacies like hand raised porrrrrrrrk! (I just had some a few weeks ago and it pretty much blew my mind).

This Little Light of Mine-

 



 



both front



Well, this little light of Harriett's, actually.  She's the 80 pound goat I took from my lovies up at The Farmer's Husband after she expired during childbirth.  I fashioned her hide & head into a rug which has turned into a rather complex project involving fiber optic lights and whatnot, and her feet have been spun into candle holders:



 



 



gem detail



 



Please pardon the waxy bits I forgot to dust off before photographing, I was too excited by how festive the red candles look with these hooves.



left then rear



These are just two of Harriett's four peds, I am in the midst of fashioning the other two into candle holders as well. I'm quite smitten with the idea of honoring this beloved goat with light.



 



 



sans sticks

Meeting My Meat

Last weekend was an exhausting yet emotionally fulfilling one. I made the trek up to Schoharie to visit my beloved farm boys Thomas & Bailey by way of a short stay in Harlem with another dear friend while working a non taxidermy job in NYC.  I arrived at the bus stop in Albany weary, bedraggled, and depressed and drained.



The reason for my visit was not only pleasure, but purpose: the boys had been raising some rabbits for food and the time had come to process a few of them.  Thomas, who was taking on this project, immediately thought of me as a viable processing partner, given my philosophy on eating meat.  I won't call myself a vegetarian ( I still occasionally eat meat when someone offers me a free meal and I would otherwise go hungry due to lack of funds, so call me a hypocrite if you wish) or any other label because whenever I try to talk about it, I just sound pretentious.  Unfortunately, it mostly comes up when I'm declining an offer at a gathering where everyone else is partaking in the meal.   It's not like I want to stand up in a room full of folks enjoying themsselves and say, "well its just that you're all eating shit meat".



But for the most part they are.   And that isn't the problem to me but more a symptom of something much, much more saddening.***



And maybe this doesn't apply to everyone but this is my journey and perhaps someday I will articulate it (through words or taxidermy) more clearly but it's no coincidence that the craft about which I am most passionate revolves around the manipulation of skin onto forms, or why I gravitate towards the rogue genre of taxidermy.  In this realm, I can take a skin and put it on a form that has nothing to do with the original specimen.  I can give it wings, diamonds for eyes, a stretched neck, anything my mind comes up with.  As someone who has struggled (to an agonizing degree)  my entire life to achieve a healthy amount of comfort in my own skin, manipulating fantasy creatures out of the dermis of others is a projection of my own wishes to occasionally escape this body I currently occupy.



It's also no coincidence that underneath these hides are meat.  Thick, bloody, nourishing meat.  My journey as a budding taxidermist also led me down a path of exploring the source of my food, and the subsequent attempts to negotiate my ambivalent relationship with it.  This has been a years long puzzle in which I occasionally fit in a flurry of pieces in one instant, or spend months trying to jam the same ill-fitting piece into a spot that won't accept it.  Sometimes I just have to walk away and come back when the time is right.



Last weekend in New York, my food puzzle was ripe for some work and ready to accept a flurry of new pieces to their rightful home.



Here is Thomas, watering their garden :







They've got corn, tomatoes, pepper, squash, a wide variety of herbs and edible flowers plus many others that I am forgetting.  It's basically 99% edible though, and they are incorporating it into their daily meals. For example, here are some treats we harvested with which to make a salad dish for our Elizabethan Rabbit dish that evening:





Even though my parents had a garden in our yard when I was a child, my knowledge of plants and how to grow food is so profoundly lacking.  To actually see where the ingredients grow, how they are cared for, then pick them myself put some of those pieces back in the puzzle.



Meet Meat and Tilda.  Meat is just that; he's to be processed sometime next year I believe.  Tilda will stick around for some breeding.  The boys know so much about breeds, and all the animals that they raise- they are fully invested in this life and it shows.  They admit it will be difficult to say goodbye to Meat when the time comes but I think Thomas put it best when he said "I've nourished you your entire life, now it's time for you to nourish me".  And how much more rich an experience to have touched that thick muscular tank of a creature and to have heard its delightful snorts while it was alive!







It saddens me how much bacon is consumed every day, purchased thoughtlessly at some drive-thru window or convenience store and consumed in a car or subway en route to wherever the day is to be spent. I understand that most of us are in no position to raise our own food, and the majority of us need to rush somewhere to keep whatever shitty job is keeping our electric running, and this is the larger issue I was referring to earlier.  We as a people appear to share this common need to multi-task and get everything done quickly and graduate from one spinning gerbil wheel (sorry for the cliché analogy but it fits!) to the next, never stopping to rest or be kind to ourselves because that type of behaviour simply is not encouraged.  Working oneself to death is rewarded, taking a day to sleep and rest is frowned upon.  Given this constant sense of urgency in everything all the time, it's no surprise that food has become completely  overprocessed and unrelateable to its origins.  Eating.  It's just one more thing we have to do.***



[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Meat receives his daily cocktail bath massage.[/caption]



I cannot stress enough how much of a difference it has made for me to see the full circle.  I will never view dairy or meat products the same, especially after seeing the different ways in which farmers tend to their stock. If an animal is raised with love and respect, why shouldn't it make sense that the meat it provides us will be better?















Which brings me to the rabbits.  Below is the big mamma rabbit who birthed the ones which will serve as meals.  She's a really darling, and we thanked her for her hard work.



Now, the next few pictures after this are graphic, but no more so than any cooking website with a meat recipe.  There is plenty of educational material out there on how to humanely kill and process a rabbit so I felt no need to further saturate the internet with my own images, but there are some meat and guts pictured so consider yourself warmed.







After plenty of thought, discussion, and watching videos on the subject, we decided that severing the spine at the cervical vertebrae would be the safest and best bet.  I felt more comfortable using my bare hands than some external device like a broom stick of which I could possibly lose control.  So we each picked a rabbit, went to our designated spot, said a prayer of thanks and counted to three.  Mine didn't go so smoothly but we remained calm and it was over in a matter of seconds.  My heart was pounding, my knees and arms felt weak and I had to crouch down to collect myself.



Wow.  I had just taken a life.  I had just looked this creature in the eye, held it, stroked it, comforted it and then snapped it neck.  And I wasn't sorry.  I wasn't even crying, like I thought I would.  Instead I felt surprisingly in touch with my surroundings and how I related to them.



Look.  I know that hunters dispatch animals all the time and every modern luxury I enjoy comes at the price of an animal's life, one way or the other.  I'm not trying to pile on  any more significance to this event than my own personal amount, and certainly don't want to be seen as the next hipster chick to fool herself into thinking she invented "farm to table".  So please don't misinterpret my words for any more than what they are: a description of my experience, the very first time I embarked on paying the karmic price for my meal, as Georgia Pellegrini has said.



Without wasting any time we hung them up and started processing.  Here's Thomas peeling the skin off his rabbit:







Gutting: his went much more smoothly than mine, but I enjoyed the process regardless.  There is an intense heat that comes off a creature once it has died; I noticed this the one time I purchased a freshly killed squab from the live poultry market and I could feel its heat burning through my bag and into my back as I rode home with it.  This heat is even more concentrated inside the gut cavity and it was a bizarre and grotesque thrill to stick my hands in it and yanked out the heart.







Thomas successfully removed his bladder- which is just beautiful -while I cut right through mine and wound up with a pee covered pair of bloody hands.







The butchering, if you can call it that,  (I feel like I'm insulting real butchers by calling the hack job we did by that name) took the better part of an hour.  Clearly both Thomas and myself could benefit from some lessons.  If only we each had our own reality shows where attempts at self betterment through education could be sponsored by some third-party....



The rabbit chunks were tossed in flour and then lightly fried, and ultimately went into this wine-based stew mixture and cooked for three hours in Thomas' new Le Creuset.  Please check The Farmer's Husband for full recipe and details.







In honor of my visit, Bailey created an outstanding centerpiece for the dinner table.  Mr. Pickles approves.







All the photos I took of our three course meal came out blurry and dark, so I'm going to leave that coverage to the pros at The Farmer's Husband.  What I will say is that it was by far one of the best meals of my life, and along with the dazzling sensory experience of taste, smell and sight, there was also the sense of having earned this meal by getting my hands dirty and truly engaging myself in it.  I felt so full that I had to undo the top button of my jeans but for the first time in my life I felt no shame associated with this fullness.  Nary a hint of the words calories, exericize, weight, needing to justify this food or guilt reared its ugly head.  I just felt nourished and content.



And for me, that was the gap closing right where it needed to.



The next morning I "helped" the boys with their chores by hovering about taking pictures.  Here they are treating the pigs to some goat's milk.  I think the Lass was tickled mid milking and stomped her hoof in the bowl, warranting it pretty much unfit for human consumption.  But just right for hungry piggies!  Nothing is ever wasted on this farm and everything has a purpose.







Even rumps double as pillows.







Story time with the Littles.











Life imitating art imitating life.







Chicken city, rush hour.







Sandals are a poor choice on a farm during chores but my feet survived.  In other news, I would like for my hair to mimic the coloring/pattern of this chicken.  Can anyone help me with this?







That afternoon I boarded a bus back to NYC  which connected to another bus to Philly which connected to another bus home.  All the while in tow I had a mini-coolor with rabbit heads, pelts and feet for me and organs for my cats.  They LOVE raw rabbit.  I also had a generous amount of treats from the boys, clear eyes and a full heart.



CAN'T LOSE.



 



 



*** It occurred to me I posted this that my sadness over mindless consumption transcends food, and is directly connected to waste.  How many times have your pantyhose ripped and you just shrugged and threw them out, knowing you could just as easily replace them?



I'll just buy another.



I have come to loathe those words.  I've always had a disdain for waste, but my financial status as of late has forced me to put a very fine point on this.  Waste is unacceptable.  I cannot afford to throw anything out or damage my nice things so I handle my precious goods with care and find ways to use everything to the last drop.  I'm talking about slicing open the moisturizer tube and scraping the inside to get one more dollop.  I remember as a kid I thought it was so funny that my depression-era grandmother (who I've come to realise was never actually poor, she was just resourceful) would re-use her hosiery in so many creative ways: the elastic waist bands served to secure boxes of brownies, the material made into really cute puppets or even soap savers. Now I totally get it.  This mentality of "just throwing it away and buying a new one" is why we have an entire industry built around "Field Destroying" (it's so difficult to find info about this online but basically it's when folks are paid to destroy any merchandise that is flawed or just plain undesirable instead or donating, or selling at a discount.  It isn't even permissible to toss these items in the garbage for fear of some filthy dumpster diver getting their dirty poor person paws on it.  If this isn't a the canary in the coal mine showing us how fucked up the retail/consumer system is, than my head is exploding for no reason.)



There is no connection to where our goods come from.  Even if it's techno-wares, someone's hands touched it.  Someone made the packaging.  Someone trucked it over to your corner store and stocked it on a shelf for you and I, the consumers.  I really hope that when my clients take a piece of mine home, they treasure it and feel all the blood sweat and tears I poured into that item.  Obviously, a custom taxidermy hat is much more involved and labor intensive than a bobby pin but please, next time you're at the counter, handing over your paper or plastic to be swiped, run through your mind the series of events which brought this product to your possession, and acknowledge the extraordinary amount of coordination and teamwork that made it possible.  Thanks for reading.
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