Ok…off the subject: I read your about me section and linked over to the pigs and chickens. So, I have a few questions. How do you chose which chicken to “process”? How do you not get attached to those cute little pigs? Do you cry when they go to the “freezer camp”? Does Fred do the dirty work and you keep your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears as you sing “La-la-la-la-la” the whole time (I think I would)? I know people might roll their eyes at me on this one, but I really would like to know. Yes, we all eat and nothing “magically” gets packaged at the grocery store….but I was wondering how you can let go of “pinky” when you are eating him? Forgive me…I am NOT being a smarty-pants or anything. This is a real question.
Fred is actually the one who chooses which chickens need to be processed – and at this point they’re almost always roosters. If you have too many roosters, they fight each other, and run the hens ragged to the point where the hens get bare spots on their backs because the roosters pull at their feathers to balance during, y’know. THE ACT. I hate seeing hens with bare backs.
The very first chicken we processed (in 2007, I think), I was actually the one to wield the ax. I felt that I couldn’t, in good conscience, expect Fred to do all the work, and I needed to prove that I was willing to do my part. It was not fun, to say the least, and that’s the last chicken I slaughtered myself. If I had to do it, I would. But he does the processing, I do the cooking, it all balances out, right?
He processes several chickens at a time, and he does it over by the end of the driveway, which is a spot I can avoid looking at. I usually don’t see any of the processing going on until he brings the chickens inside, when it’s time to put them in freezer bags and label them. By the time I see the processed chickens, they look exactly like the chickens you get at the grocery store.
The pigs are very personable, but they’re also very obnoxious as they get older. We don’t process the pigs ourselves, we take them to a local butcher, and that makes it a little easier to deal with. I got pretty attached to the first set of pigs we had, and it was very hard to see them go off to the butcher. I don’t think I’ve gotten as attached to the subsequent sets of pigs, though I like to watch them run around, and they’re pretty entertaining.
It’s never easy to know that they’re about to go off to the butcher, and I always feel especially bad for them the day before they go because they’re running around, they’re eating, they’re pushing each other out of the way at the trough, and they don’t know that it’s their last day. It’s a little easier – for me – with the chickens because there are so many of them and I ask Fred not to tell me which ones he’s going to process ahead of time.
It probably helps that we simply don’t think of the chickens and the pigs in the same way that we think of the dogs and the cats. We never regard them as pets, and don’t allow ourselves to get that attached to them.
Actually, scratch that – there are a few chickens that we’ve considered pets in the past. My favorite was an Americauna hen we got with our very first batch of 12 hens. She was a character and would come running over like a puppy every time we went outside.
This is Frick (short for Fricassee) and Sugarbutt:
I always thought of her as a pet, and we would never have eaten her. Sadly, when she was about 1 1/2, we found her dead under the chicken coop. In retrospect, she was probably eggbound, which we didn’t realize at the time.
(We buried her in a corner of the chicken yard.)
When we bought this house, it was our intention to move toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. A large part of that is raising our own food in the form of the chickens and pigs and the garden. Because we have the space and the time required to raise our own food, we do.
I like knowing that the pigs and chicken live happy lives where they can roam the field, where they’re protected by George and Gracie, and where they eat bugs and grass and the occasional kitchen scraps. (Our chickens’ favorite food? Tomatoes. They would cut your throat for a bucket of tomatoes. I gave them the last tomatoes of the season this afternoon. I’m a little afraid they’re going to come after me when there are no tomatoes tomorrow!) We treat them well – did I ever mention that our pigs each get a homemade chocolate chip cookie every night? I’m not kidding. (I cook a batch of them and keep them in a bag and the pigs each get one in the evening. I don’t make them FRESH cookies every day. I’m not CRAZY.) – and I believe that they have happy lives right up until the end.
Good lord – did you know when you asked the question that I was going to go on about it forever?
If I can guess the questions my essay will lead to, I’m going to guess someone’s curious why we don’t have a cow (we’re not quite ready to make that commitment. We do eat beef, though – we bought half a (processed) cow from the butcher who processed our pigs last year. We’re hoping next year to trade a (processed) pig for a half cow from the same man.), why we don’t have goats (I don’t want goats. I’ve never eaten goat, and I have no desire to.), and how many freezers we have (a big chest freezer in the garage, a smaller chest freezer in the garage, an upright freezer in the laundry room, and the freezer that goes with our refrigerator).
So there you go. And now someone’s saying “Why’s she talking about FARMING? We’re here to see the kitties!” 🙂
Starsky and Hutch will be heading off to their new home this afternoon. They have a bit of a drive ahead of them, but I think when they get there, they will be two very happy, very spoiled little monkeys.
I’ll tell you all about it on Monday!
Buster’s legs, hanging over the top of the pantry. I’m really wishing we’d had a “lip” built around the top of that thing, because seeing the bed (not to mention the CAT) hang off like that stresses me out!