On Saturday, we harvested almost a hundred of our chickens here on the farm.
After twelve weeks of raising them, it was time to bring to close the circle of life that had begun with day-old chicks just a few months before. Although the final part of that circle is not always easy to do... it is what these birds were born and raised for.
One of our goals this year has been to become more self-sustaining here at our farm. To raise not only as much of our own garden vegetables as we can, but also as much of our own meat, poultry, and eggs as we're able to. And it's been quite the learning process. Besides a big garden this year, we've been raising five cows, four pigs, 20 turkeys, and scores of chickens. We took two of our pigs and all of our turkeys in to be processed in the last couple of weeks, and they should all be back here and in the freezer in a week or so. That's the easy way, but with our meat birds, we decided that we would do the processing right here at home this time.
We recently purchased all the equipment we need to do the processing ourselves and for some of our crew, including me, it was the first time to use it. Joey and I had harvested lots of meat birds here at home many times over the years, but almost always, it was by hand. We never had our own automatic plucker or scalder, so for me, this time was a real blessing, being able to not only have a lot of help, but also great equipment to help make the job easier.
Although Indy has been around chickens and other animals since the day she was born, this was her first time to 'help' Papa with the processing. She was excited to be part of what she called "making fried chickens," but of course had a few questions and concerns as we were going through it. But she was brave and got really excited when she saw the feathered chickens suddenly turn into the 'chicken' she sees us buy at the grocery store.
It was not only Indy's first time, but it was also Mrs. Rebecca's (from the schoolhouse) first time. She has a real tender heart for all animals. But she also knows that ours is a homestead school and that this is all a natural part of life, especially life on a farm. And so, although she knew it would be difficult at times, she was bound and determined to be part of it and see the process through and she did. She was so excited too, to see the final product. Especially knowing that these birds have been taken care of, from their first day of life on the farm, to their last.
I think that is what makes this day and experience so important. We get to know where the food we are feeding our family comes from... that the chickens we will one day fry or bake, are from right here on our land, where they got to graze and grow up naturally. They weren't contained in a factory building, where they were crammed in tiny cages with twenty thousand other birds day in and day out. They were, and are, a part of our lives. A part of making our lives better.
Honestly, processing this many birds in one setting was a lot of work (it took almost eight hours), but it was also a wonderful learning experience for all of us. Luckily, we had some wonderful friends and neighbors who joined in. I'd like to send out a special thanks to Dalton, Keith, Gabe, Rebecca, Maree, and especially to Kevin Krause from Liberty Trace Farm, for continuing to teach and encourage the new 'homesteaders' in our community.
Check out Kevin's farm at: http://libertytracefarm.com.