Tuesday, March 13, 2012

endings & beginnings

Farm to Table
From farm to table

  The last couple of weeks have been rather eventful here at the mini farm. After an almost two year (and not so productive) stay, I decided it was time for the hens to go. Into the freezer that is. I know what some of you are thinking (and saying for that matter), "How can you butcher animals that you raised from cute fuzzy babies?". Well the truth of the matter is, I never viewed my chickens as pets. I knew they would end up on the table someday, and acted accordingly. I am a staunch believer in fully accepting that those pristine packages of wrapped "pork" or "beef" or "boneless skinless breasts" are in fact pigs, and cows, and chickens. I also believe in treating my living food with respect, and giving it everything it could ever want while it is here.
  Unfortunately, the local wildlife doesn't agree with my philosophies. A couple of days before the Big Day, a opossum visited the coop. Now I will be the first to admit that I had gotten incredibly complacent with our security, and the raid was my fault. Having never had any issues, I grew lazy. I awoke to a yard covered in feathers, a dead chicken that was split wide open, another still living but missing it's rump, and several remaining panicked hens. I was kicking myself for having let it happen, and cursing the opossum for stealing two of my chicken dinners that he didn't even eat himself.
  He returned the following night, which was a bad move on his part, because this time I was there to take care of it. And no, I didn't stew him. Although it did cross my mind...for a second. He must have told some friends though, because the following night, there was another attack. This time it was one of my beloved ducks. The ducks have never been one for sleeping indoors at night, so they were quite literally "sitting ducks". I do tend to view my ducks more as pets because they are so comical and social. I also love roasted duck, so this is a moral bridge I will have to cross at some point.
  Following all of the mayhem, I butchered the seven remaining hens. I won't go into harvesting details, you can read all about that on one of my previous posts. The last harvest I did was accompanied by several people, this one was me by my lonesome. I was actually pretty thankful for that, because it gave me a true opportunity to connect with where my food was really coming from. Killing an animal is never a fun task. I can't say that I ever enjoy that aspect, but I could never disrespect something I was going to eat by pretending their death didn't happen.
  After looking each one in the eye, thanking it, and talking calmly to it as it expired, I had several beers. Kind of a butchering day must to calm the nerves. After that, the fun did begin. Plucking a chicken has to be one of my favorite things to do. It was interesting to see how each different breed dressed out, and how lovely and yellow the fat was. I can tell you that I will be getting Wyandottes again in the future. After the cleaning was finished, I packed them in bags and labeled each one by breed. Then it will be time to compare each breeds' flavor, starting this Friday. ;)
  Several days later, five baby chicks arrived on the farm. Yay chick time! Having had an Easter egg assortment of chicken breeds last time, I opted for all Rhode Island Reds this time, and a much smaller flock. Rhode Island Reds are a classic heritage chicken. With beautiful mahogany red feathers, a constant supply of extra large brown eggs, and nice big carcasses, they should make a great addition. I will miss my blue, pink, and speckled eggs, but for now I just need consistency.
  Stay tuned for more fuzzy arrivals next week. Never a dull moment!

new chicks
New Whiskey Chickens

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