For you vegetarians, or the much too tender-hearted to think about killing animals for food, you may want to avoid reading this column.
I have raised and slaughtered meat animals for 35 years. It is something (like almost everything in my life) into which I throw myself whole-heartedly.
My friend Sharlee and I decided to eat her one-eyed crippled rooster back in the 1970s. Believe me, it was no small undertaking for two hippie chicks with absolutely no experience or expertise. I will spare the sordid details, but after several attempts we finally dispatched him. As we began plucking the feathers my then five-year-old son, Jeremiah, remarked “Oh, it’s just a chicken under there.”
Talk about comic relief. We were able to proceed and finally had the chicken dressed and prepared for the table. Although he was a rather tough old bird, we were hooked on the flavor and the idea of raising meat for our families. We had recently started raising fruits and vegetables, too.
Sharlee and I, along with various converts, have raised up hundreds, perhaps thousands, of chickens and turkeys ever since. Over the years we have had many starts and failures. We’ve done 50 at a time and traveled to New Bedford to a so-called slaughterhouse run by non-English speaking Portuguese men.
We have had friends over to make a day of it ourselves.
We have killed one for dinner and one for the freezer many times.
I murdered a rooster once. He attacked my little girl, Naomi, who was barely past the toddler stage. I chased him down with a two-by-four. When he was dead I put on the pot of water to douse him and remove his feathers. I made a nice revenge stew, much to the delight of my daughter. She kept saying “my mom” all proud while she ate supper.
After all these years we finally have the right combination of breed and numbers. We split 25 birds. This is the minimum number the hatchery will ship through the U.S. mail. Often we split it three ways with our friend Marie. With eight or nine to raise, it makes for an easy daily chore. We order Cornish game hens. We like the body shape and let them grow to about five pounds. It’s a wonderful size, as with a small family it allows almost a week of eating if you count soup. We do this twice a year so basically it is chicken every other week.
Now we come to pork. Yes! Now it gets heavy. I’ve raised pigs for decades. It is a very efficient way of converting table scraps into protein. There is the added advantage of the animals tilling and fertilizing the garden. I use a 12 foot by 12 foot pen which can be moved weekly, hence they are always on clean ground. They make short work of weeds and spent produce in the garden.
When the day finally arrives to actually kill them, there is some serious soul-searching and nervous tension. That day arrived last Saturday. My son Reuben and grandson Christian did most of the heavy lifting. Marie, Violet and I did the skinning. It was Violet’s first experience with a knife in her hand. When asked how she felt about it, all she remarked was “I want people to think I’m tough."
I spent most of Sunday and Monday butchering, weighing, wrapping and freezing. I was entirely grateful and humbled by the lives of the creatures who will feed the family for a year. It’s a big responsibility to take a life and it cannot be minimized.
How about that presidential debate? The spin from the various pundits has been fascinating. I guess if you lie repeatedly, are rude to the moderator and totally change your ideology from the past year, you “win.”
People said Obama had an “off” night. I saw him restraining himself from screaming, “Are you kidding me?”