Yesterday, with the help of Paw-in-law and David’s brother Danny and his wife Jessica and a wonderful chicken plucker loaned by a sweet chicken farmer in Sandy, we harvested 21 fryers/roasters, all weighing in at about 5-7 pounds dressed weight (after cleaning). It started out rather poorly, with a lot of “is this worth it?” thoughts.
David was being too careful IMO about the killing part and I kept reiterating how the lady I got the plucker from just took a large serrated bread knife and had them upside down (by rope, we used a killing cone made from a bucket), and sawed 1-2-3, plop, head in the trash can catcher, and it was over. I actually did the second one myself to illustrate this point, (it took four saws, I found my place, held the head down firmly, then shut my eyes for the 1-2-3—4).
I was amazed at the difference in myself since last year. City slicker has definitely been countrified. Remember I was weepy and couldn’t eat meat after that first round? The second round a while back I was just ok, but this time I didn’t have one tender feeling about it. I felt grateful, and today’s dinner (shown above) for me had a stronger sense of thanksgiving and recognizing the reality of the bounty we enjoy (plus it was super yummy), but I didn’t feel much sentimental about it–after all, I’ve been complicit in chicken death my whole life, and at least I know these chickens were well taken care of.
About by chicken 9 I finally figured out the plucker really did work amazingly and required very little after plucking if the operator (me) actually used it right, so after that I was fast. Dave bled out and beheaded, popped them in a holding pot, I scalded them (15 seconds just under boiling water) and pulled out large wing and tail feathers, then went to the plucker which is just a wheel covered in rubbery “fingers” spinning to the left out of a grate. I finally figured out to hold the bird so the rubber things went against the grain–feet on the right, and rotated the bird top to bottom, left to right, under wings and between legs, and all of a sudden it looked like a lovely roaster from the store–except with big yellow feet and a too-long, gory looking neck. I cut off the feet with chicken scissors and tossed it into the icewater in the cooler. By the end, this whole process was well under 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, Dennis was running errands to get more coolers, get more ice, get bags, etc. and Danny and Jess where making sure my water stayed hot enough–makes a HUGE difference in how well you pluck (and too long in the hot water makes the skin come off with the feathers–in the end I had to skin 2).
Last year I wanted to spare my kids the trauma and make sure I had them far away for this, but not so much this year. Ben and Sophie knew what was going on and chose to stay inside, Ben ate his chicken tonight just fine, Sophie hasn’t feeling well for a few days and didn’t eat much of anything. Noah was outside some, and not visibly traumatized, but not really happy about it, seemed puzzled and trying to figure it all out. He wouldn’t eat it today, but in general he doesn’t eat much meat, so it’s hard to know. Lucy was outside the most and it was all we could do to keep her from the feather/blood hazmat area.
At one point when Noah first got out he came over to me while I was working a chicken over on the plucker, and said, “Mom, are you making lunch?”
Lucy came over and saw the first chicken alone in the cooler water and said, “Mom, is the chicken taking a bath?” “Yes, Lucy.” I said. She said, “Is the chicken hurt in the bath?” To which I replied, “Not anymore.” David called over from his killing station, “The hurting happens over here.”
I feel like my dead pioneer ancestors are not so much derisively laughing at me this time as I’m sure they were the last time I was all weepy and traumatized over killing chickens while being perfectly willing to munch down the supermarket/Del Taco version. I didn’t think I would come to this point, but I can perfectly see myself going out back on Saturday and wringing a neck for Sunday dinner.
Once we were all done, the cleaning was a pain. Danny did 5 or 6, which I was impressed by. Although I had done it before, I had forgotten some, and I was at 15 or more minutes a bird at first, but I worked myself down to 5-7 (still terribly slow). Today I found one I’d forgotten in the cooler and was done super fast. The trick is to carefully cut around the top and bottom ends in a way where you don’t nick any of the guts, but you are able to put your hand in there like you’re stuffing the bird and pull out everything inside at once, then you need to scrape out the lungs and kidneys, which are stuck to the back ribs, with your fingernails. My fingers were sore today, which made piano in primary a little tricky.
I’m just saying, like Victor Frankl says in “Man’s Search for Meaning” where he writes about his life in Auschvitz, people can adapt to anything. We really have no idea what we’re capable of, and the things we say we could “never” do today we may find one day we don’t give a second thought.
Dinner tonight was yummy, the best part was the strawberries Ma-in-law dipped in sour cream and brown sugar. Holy cow, life is good.
Speaking of life is good, our bunnies now live under the rabbit cages in the shed rather than in them, because I wanted them to be out and more free, and they seem to leave peacably with the chickens. I let them all out in the day to run about and then they all go back in at night on their own and I shut the door. I looked in the backyard today and saw Lucy swinging on the tree swing with a couple bouncing bunnies in the grass around her and a chick or two pecking about, and it was the most idyllic scene. We’ve been so blessed here.
I tried to let the turkeys have some freedom today, as their pen opens up to the back pasture our neighbors use to graze their sheep (but is owned by our landlord). I came back to put them back in and the sheep had gone in there, eaten all their feed and upset their water. So I guess freedom won’t be in the cards for them. Oh well, more tender meat, I guess. I’ll try to get pictures up shortly.
Sorry if this was too gruesome for you, this is pretty much my journal, after all, so feel free to skip whatever.
I’m biking to work tomorrow, 15 miles, so I need to get to bed. Wish me luck.
Thanks for all y’alls sweet comments–I miss everybody lots.