Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I wrote this a while back, when the initial slaughtering of my first rooster was still pretty fresh in my head. We didn't have the blog up and running then, but I thought that writing about it at the time would be good for me. Here is the cut-and-paste from my journal. Remember that this was during the time that we were still fully in the old house and escrow had not yet closed on the farm:
"It all started about two weeks ago when my husband and I awoke to the cute, gurgly sound of one of our newer chicks trying to be a rooster. That half-crow was such a sweet sound at the time and I think it really made us feel like we would officially be changing our lives around. A few mornings later I confessed to Jeremy that I really loved the sound of that call waking me up in the morning and he sheepishly agreed that he loved it too. We both grew up in the city, far away from the likes of cock-a-doodling. That sorry little excuse for a roo crow tickled our heart strings and made us giddy with excitement of thoughts on our future farming project.
"A few short days passed with that cute gurgle manifesting into a full fledged crow. Boy, was I surprised with the speed at which those vocal cords matured! Considering the rate that a fertile egg turns into something you roast in the oven, I suppose I shouldn't have been so impressed. Within 4 to 5 months a hatchling starts to lay eggs and has breasts and thighs worthy of the dinner table. It was around this time that Billy called us with the news on their end- one of the chicks at their house had also started to crow.
Roosters are not legal in the city. We all knew that from day 1, but we also all knew that you won't really get into trouble unless someone complains. We all live in pretty close proximity to our neighbors at this point, but I think we all thought that we could just stick it out until that darn coop was built and once we could move those chickens to the bigger property no one would care. At least we were wishfully thinking that. As the mornings continued to pass, the "cute" inevitably turned to obnoxious. The makeshift coop is about 15 feet from our bedroom window, and that rooster was beginning to crow from about 4:30 am on. He had definitely found his voice and instinct told him that he was supposed to use it to protect his flock! I felt sorry for the poor folks, friends and neighbors, who would wander into our backyard unsuspectingly only to be greeted with the surprising call of a defensive rooster.
"As I was beginning to wear thin and count the days until the chickens could leave my cramped yard, Billy and Sarah came by and mentioned how they didn't think it would be a very good idea to take the roosters with us to the new property. Even though the feel is a lot more rural out there, it is still city limits and we really didn't want to start off on the wrong foot with our new neighbors. They had a good point. Considering that we would be starting a hippy-commune-farming project in their neighborhood that might have the potential of irking a few, we probably should try to keep our noses clean and our neighbors happy. But then what? What should be the fate of these beautiful, crowing, hand raised roosters? The way I saw it, we had three options. A) We could give them away on craigslist to someone who would probably eat them, B) we could "donate" them to the buddhist temple up the street so that they could make a meal out of them, or C) we could enjoy the fresh, homegrown meat ourselves. I opted for C.
"I don't know what the difference is between me and everyone else. I was vegan for a little while, and vegetarian for many years after that. It was never the thought of harming an animal that made me choose that lifestyle. I was always an environmentalist and interested in the ramifications of feed lots and hormones in our food. I became more of a health nut with the birth of our children and was alway averse to feeding them hormone or pesticide laden foods. The thought of meat never really grossed me out or disgusted me - quite the contrary! I just thought if I was going to eat it, I shouldn't have a problem putting it's blood on my hands and that feed lots shouldn't exist the way they do today. We should live in better harmony with the earth, especially as our population keeps booming and more strain is created for resources. My (judgmental, I'll admit) pet peeve has always been people who say they'd never be able to slaughter an animal, yet they eat it on their dinner plate everyday without a thought. I didn't think it was necessary for my children to be raised vegetarian, but I always thought it was extremely important for them to understand the proper place where their food came from and to understand the sacrifice that comes with eating meat. It is not something that just is born into square packages in the supermarket. I wanted them to understand the life that was lost and what it meant to have it on your plate, as well as the dirt that the carrots are pulled from and the water that goes into the lettuce. I am a food junkie, in the purest sense! Thoroughly obsessed with food from top to bottom, or dirt to table as it may seem.
"So on this fateful Monday morning in May I decided that it was time. I called our counterparts and told them to bring over their roo and I collected ours. They left, I was alone with our kids to do the dirty work. I was unsure of everyones reaction, so I made sure the kids were inside and preoccupied with some games. I pulled out my ipad and googled "how to process a chicken". I kept that thing by my side the whole time! Step by step, I followed the first blog I stumbled upon. I wish I had the site, I'll try to find it and post it in our links when I get time to search. I started with the roo they brought over, I couldn't bear to begin with the little guy we had hand raised. I hung him up by his feet and slit his throat, and watched his eyes ask me what I had done. I watched the life drain out of him and I won't lie, I cried like a baby. It took me a couple of hours to pluck and dress that first one and I dreaded moving on to number two. I lured the other rooster over, the one that trusted me and came to my hand when I stuck it in the coop. I gently picked him up, stroked and soothed him and then strung him up by his feet and whispered to him that I was so sorry. I repeated the entire process, and this time I cried even more. I stuck them in the fridge and couldn't imagine eating chicken anytime in the near future.
"During the process, a few things really struck me and have grown in my thoughts. I am a foodie, as aforementioned. I am Christian, yet I am interested and educated in other religions. I work at a synagogue, we tutor many Muslim refugees and I have Muslim and Buddhist friends. Food seems to be an integral part of each of these religions except for Christianity, and I don't know why. Slaughtering this chicken gave me so much respect and appreciation of what it means to be kosher and/or halal. I was given the opportunity to thank the chicken for it's life, I felt the warm blood come out of it's throat. I fully understood and received the impact of what it meant to have the blood of that animal on my hands in order for me to put it on the dinner table. For that moment, the sheer importance and reasoning of these religious rituals made perfect and clear sense. It made me sad that in this all, Christians have no blessing they must impart upon their meat during slaughter. If you are spiritual at all, you would most definitely understand the importance of this, I think. It is important to feel the remorse and the sadness and death that must take place in order for you to eat that piece of meat. It really made me feel that God gave us these amazing animals, this amazing life of this creature and it is so bitter-sweet because the meat is delicious and nourishing yet you have to take that life away in order to gain the nourishment from it. It is very post-Garden-of-Eden-esque."
So this blog is long and rambling, but I spilled out my guts during part of it and I hope that you didn't mind reading. Three days after the slaughter, we made some fantastic chicken tacos. Although the thought of eating the guys kind of turned my stomach, I thought it would be such a blatant disregard for their life if we just let them go to waste. I was kind of in a corner because there was really nothing else that could have been done. No way I could have let them go in the trash! I got over it =) I now (obviously) eat chicken, but I will not let even an ounce of it go to waste. The carcass gets picked clean and the leftovers go into stock for another meal later in the week. It seems like such an injustice to throw any of that life in the trash. I know, I am a freak. Whatever.
We have since slaughtered a few more chickens, a gaggle of ducks (also delicious) and we have 5 turkeys hanging out with the laying hens and getting fat for our Farm-tastic Thanksgiving that we hope to have this year. Maybe you can be a part of it too!