I’m overdue a few days to my weekly posting  because I’ve wanted to avoid further talk and thoughts about the slaughtered chickens, which in my head at least I’d committed to writing a few reflections.

Maybe it would have made a difference if it hadn’t been a cold and gloomy morning.  It’s not that I expected it to be easy, I made a point to say a prayer for them before they went into the killing cone, for whatever that’s worth.  I thought about the increasing number of vegans in the world while I held one upside down so handy hubby could adjust the cone’s size, a bright orange plastic hazard cone.  The first time is bound to be awkward.  The bird was heavy and his feet felt like rubber coated bones in my hand, but it was his heart beating against my thigh that gave me the deepest reservations I felt through the whole process.  Touching him again a few minutes later, once he was motionless, that apprehensive feeling was gone just as quickly as it had come.

They were both roosters hatched by our laying flock, and we’ve no need for another rooster, it made sense to kill them and then of course eat them too.  But after seeing the first one go into the cone and his throat cut, the action of watching it alone was, for lack of appropriate words, mortifying.  I never watch horror films and I don’t like blood, or terror, or anything resembling those.  He kicked and squirmed, enough that I couldn’t watch the second one go.  It’s maybe a bit strange, but it was harder than the wild hogs or even the occasional deer, it is harder having raised them.  Others have told me this, but still I didn’t really expect it to be true since I’d never treated the chickens as pets.

It was raining so we sat under the carport with a tarp spread at our feet.  The plucking was time-consuming, but we knew it would be.  My fingers were freezing and stiff, the bulk of the feathers were easily removed after the scalding, but it felt like very slow work.  The full process, from prepping to fridge, was around two hours for two chickens.  Imagine!  Laughable no doubt.  Picture our ancestors taking that amount of time, but to feed ten.  Still, considering we learned online, what can you really expect?

As always, handy hubby did the bulk of the dirty work and then the clean up when I decided I needed to check out early.  I’m sometimes ashamed when I can’t pull my weight in these things, and I mentally store that away for the future vegan argument I plan to address.  There’s little I dislike more than my own hypocrisy.

I’m not looking for sympathy or eye rolls or even raised eyebrow here, and I’m not trying to gross anyone out, I’m just attempting to make sense of it all.  I do not want to distract myself away from unpleasant thoughts and feelings.  I have committed to diving right in, over my head when required.  Of course we will need a better system next time, since we will be attempting around ten chickens.  My shoulders ached from just the one, bending over the bird on the ground.

Handy hubby was done with his before mine was half done, but when I tried to use a tub the feathers were sticking to the body and when I tried to prop the carcass higher the half-severed head was flopping around.  I kept trying to maneuver him into more convenient positions but drops of blood kept landing on my socks and shoes.  Afterwards I really did feel like crying, I will admit it, since I am espousing transparency here.  New and awkward tasks can sometimes have that effect on me.  Or was this something more?

There is something permeating the entire process that is bothering me.  First of all we think of this as unskilled labor and relegate it to a low rung of the social hierarchy.  This hardly makes sense to me now.   If it’s a job so necessary and that few people know how to do, it seems it should be among the highest paid jobs, not the lowest.   For my own case, I’m sure I’ll get better at it, but it is quite clear there is skill involved, and a fair amount of unavoidable unpleasantness.  Is avoiding this reality by becoming a “pseudo carnivore” an option for me?   By this I mean adhere to the behavior of numerous people, several that I know personally, who eat meat, but refuse to believe that an animal is actually getting killed in order for that consumption to occur.

“Oh I could never kill an animal,” they have said to me.  They perhaps assume this makes them a kinder person, or more moral, or sensitive, or squeamish.  Maybe.  But what I hear in that more often is, “I insist someone else do my dirty work.”  I know it sounds a bit ludicrous to see it written in black and white, but a large number of people around the globe fall into this category.   There is at the core an inherent hypocrisy in this rationale, as in the belief that radio active waste is a necessary evil, but don’t dispose of it here. Or supporting a war but never dream of enlisting yourself or your kids.  A democracy certainly can’t exist this way.  It depends on authenticity and participation.

Sometimes one has to participate a bit more than the other; handy hubby also did the cooking.  The chickens were roasted and heavily spiced, more chewy than store-bought, but more flavor too.  We liked it more than our guests.   From prep to oven, and accounting for the couple months there was in raising them, there is the obvious connection of the effort involved and whether the process is worth it.

Like in Omnivore’s Dilemma and the various other sources I’ve come across these last years, there is an entirely new respect that’s felt at the level of experience in all that we now take for granted, and that our ancestors performed routinely,  What a difference time has made on how we see the world, the agrarian lifestyle, progress, skill sets.  I’ve learned one universal take-away from the experience also–that area of discomfort, the one where we are so torn between staring and looking away, that’s where we have to force ourselves to live routinely if we are to evolve.

I wish I could say it would be the last time, but that’s unlikely. I will let the future operations progress in needed skill sets so the process can be performed more smoothly, and add an automatic plucker to the wish list.  But I refuse to numb the reality of what’s emotionally involved in making the choice to eat, or not eat meat.

Sometimes you really do have to keep restating the obvious.   It is an unpleasant but enlightening personal reminder that as a culture we are not paying dearly enough for our food.

Such a curious George

Such a curious George

Have to catch 'em first

Have to catch 'em first

Some are very suited to country life

Some are very suited to country life