Tuesday, July 28, 2009


One can only have so many roosters on the farm.

We have several flocks of chickens, some in a chicken yard near the house, some in a little field, some in the barn.

Roosters are wonderful protectors of their hens. They make sure the girls get food, gather them round when hawks fly over head.

Too many roosters mean fights. Mean fights. Since cockfighting is illegal in these parts, we try to keep roosters to a reasonable number.

A while back we ordered meat chicks. With the order came a number of free roosters.

Free meat!

I guess I knew that there is nothing free in this world.

Roosters eat a lot of food. They crow. They scratch up the garden. They have to be harvested.

So today we harvested roosters.

Rhode Island Reds, Black Austrolorps, White Rocks.

Our partners in poultry processing (Serge and James) came to work. Arlene, a new friend from down the road, brought ice and doughnuts. Ingrid, our intern joined in on the "fun." Sean jumped right in as well.

Thomas and Philip set the stage by bringing the plucker machine, the counter top and the scalding equipment up to the house.

Serge puts up the tarp for shade. Sean brings all the stuff we are missing (hose, propane tank, hose connectors.) Rose, Ingrid, James Patrick and Maggie catch roosters. Patrick performs humane execution, teaching Ingrid the basics. (Way to go Ingrid! Not the most pleasant of tasks, but a useful one if you find yourself hungry and no one else is around to process your chicken.) Serge, Sean and I scald, pluck and eviscerate the birds. Serge walked Ingrid through the steps of evisceration, many details on the proper names of the bird's anatomy. We all got a great biology lesson as we worked. Arlene washed the birds and placed them in the tubs of ice water. My friend Stewart (Serge's wife) brought the lemons and olive oil for the hummus and plenty of vacuum sealer bags.

Everyone cleaned up and put away equipment while I prepared lunch of homemade hummus, flat bread, garden veggies, roasted eggplant and cheese and olives with a side of fried gizzards for the brave members of the group with really good teeth.

I vacuum-sealed the chickens and placed them in the fridge to chill a couple of days.

We will not roast these old roosters. We will boil them for soups. We will stew them for gumbo or make them into chicken enchiladas. Perhaps some chicken and dumplings some winter evening. Chicken a la king. Chicken curry and rice.

Once again, farm life with friends gives the opportunity for community to be expressed via legitimate worthwhile labor. Tiring labor. Stinky labor. Labor that produces food for our families along with lifelong memories.

I wished to go see a screening of the movie FRESH this evening. It is a film about the sustainable agriculture movement.

After a late Weston A Price meeting at another area farm last night and a hard day's work processing poultry today, I was just too tired to go to Lexington. Philip and Thomas went in my stead. I hope they take notes.

It gives me great joy to know that somehow or another, providence has placed us in a situation where we can live out the principles of the movie. What a miracle! Who would have imagined that we would be raising our meat, our veggies our fruits and our dairy on our own farm? Not too many years ago we were the family with the overflowing shopping cart in Sam's Club, shopping for the cheapest and biggest. I feel satisfied and grateful. And tired. The dining room is filled with baskets of clean laundry. We will fold it tomorrow as we make plum jam. But for now, to bed. The sustainable agriculture movement has been great for my sleep habits. Hit the pillow, out like a light!


Tom Atkins said...

When I was a teenager, I used to spend summers on his farm in Surry County, and this brought back a lot of memories, not the least of which was how deeply I slept. I don't think it was just the fresh air and hard work, but a satisfaction and peace that came with it. Once again, an evocative post that brought a smile to my face.

gingerhillery@mac.com said...

Thanks Tom! You can come process poultry anytime in case you miss those summers too much!