Thursday, September 13, 2012

Slawta Day 2012

Paul Bunyan and I have been taking turns growing muscle.  Yeah, yeah, yeah he's been growing his for over a year now.  But we've been working together to grow their muskulls:

The chickens are going to "meat" their maker. Get it?

He made the chicken tractor.  I'd feed them in the morning; he'd feed them in the evening.  He'd buy a bag of feed.  I'd buy a bag of feed.  I'd water them.  He'd water them.  The kids would help us move the "tractor" across the pasture every other day for 8 weeks.  He said, "should we feed them more," and then I said, "I don't know.  Do you think we should feed them more?" because all they ever wanted to do was EAT.  Forty animals with wings.  Crazy.

Yesterday we (this being a relative term) slawtad them.  Now, me being a professional homesteader and all, I knew that I had more important things to do than spend a whole day processing these chickens by my SELF (with, of course, Paul Bunyan's help).  So we hired a professional team- husband and wife- to do the dirty work.  They are, let's say, the World Weight Champions of chicken processing.  They have all they need in a horse trailer that they drive around the back roads of Vermont processing over 20,000 chickens a year. 

Now, considering the fact that we had ONLY 40 birds and not 100 or 200 or more (maybe someday), we had to drive to them.  But we didn't have to pay the transportation fee and at $3 dollars a bird, we felt it was worth it.  They also processed all of them in ONE hour.  Yes, I said ONE hour.  How bout' them apples?  They've been doing this now for 15 (or more years).  I wish I could remember.  All the stories that spun out of these two amazing people had to do with years- 25 year old horse, 16 year old son of said horse, 8 year old son of said horse, 8 year old dog, 7 year old dog, 35 year old house, 20 year old marriage, this many grandchildren this many years old, this many children this many years old, this is how old I was when I left Vietnam, this is how heavy that bear was that I shot, this is how many days the geese were gone for, this is how heavy that turkey was that I couldn't lift, this is how many chickens we slaughtered yesterday in this many hours, this is how many turkeys we have, how many ducks we have, how many...  The whole day was a series of stories set in numbers.   My mind went in circles as Ralph and his wife Cindy danced in that trailer like it was a hoedown at the community barn.  They threw chickens and parts in a pattern that looked like a traveling marionette troupe, all the while telling Paul and I stories of their lives that were written on their sleeves. 

Cindy would ask for three more chickens "please".  And Paul would grab three more out of the back of the pickup with a tool Ralph gave him that hooked a leg quicker than you can say, "chicken leg hooker".   That's what Paul was- a chicken leg hooker. 

And then Paul would hand one over and turn it upside down and Ralph or Cindy would take the three and shoot their heads first into the cones where they would quickly slit the throats.  The chickens would dance around a little, it being a hoedown and all, and then settle into their demise.  Then Ralph would grab em' and put em' in the HOT water to scald the suckers.

 He'd then toss em' into the cotton candy machine and turn on the switch.  This sounded eerily similar to turning on your dryer with your cat in it.   Not that I would know what that sounded like. 

 He would cut the feet off and throw em' two by two to Cindy who would take the entrails out and cut the livers and necks out for ME to keep for stock and pate.  I had to dig them out of a nasty bucket at the end of the hour and put them into a bag but that's the only time I had to get my hands dirty all day.   I know, I'm such a fair weather homesteader.

Paul Bunyan had to get a little dirtier- he packed the carcasses on ice into the buckets we brought and then helped me drain and bag em' when we got back to the ranch.  Overall, however, it was a fairly easy process.  I'm excited to have a freezer full of meat for the year that we "grew" ourselves.  Proud to be saving a few bucks.  Honored to have had a chance to meet Cindy and Ralph.  Blessed to have a friend and partner help me get back to our roots and SUPER excited for pate.  I'll pass on the recipe if I live(r) through it. 

I'm so funny, I can't get over it.