Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lessons About Life and Death

We've been butchering roosters the last week or so. Well, just two roosters so far. One last week, which ended up being a sort of gory, tedious affair due to our own ineptitude. Today we butchered a second rooster and it went much smoother, and much less, ahem, goriness. The first time, we kept Robbie inside, didn't let him see anything. This time we decided to let him stay outside while we butchered the bird. He helps with the chickens, he knows they lay eggs for us. He didn't see the head get chopped off, and I kept him on the swings while the blood drained. But he got extremely curious when we were plucking the feathers and I couldn't keep him away. I was nervous about him seeing the bucket with the head and blood, but he looked anyway. He had a hard time articulating what he was feeling. He seemed to want the chicken to go back "home" with the other chickens. For it's head to go back on. He asked what happened to that chicken. He seemed sort of upset at first, although he never cried. So I sat him on my lap with me and told him that this chicken's life was over. Mommy and daddy butchered it, and it wasn't a chicken anymore, it was meat, and feathers, and bones. That it had lived a very good life, and it had been a nice chicken, but that it's life was over, and we would use his body for other things now. We went through this spiel several times, each time he was a little less upset. Eventually he wanted to help pluck a feather or two, and I let him touch the plucked body, and we talked about how the skin felt, and the meat and bones underneath the skin. He had fun gathering piles of feathers off the ground and tossing them around the yard. In the end, I don't think he was traumatized, and I hope he is on the way to learning something very important about the food chain, and where food comes from.

It seems that so much of the last generation or two has sort of lost touch with the life cycle of food. Example: J's old boss didn't know eggs came from chickens. This was a grown man, in his 30's, with kids of his own. Or people who think eggs are a dairy product. We'd like to try to break that pattern here in our family. I'll admit I had some reservations myself at first. I didn't grown up on a farm, and had no experience with livestock before we started our chicken ventures a few years ago. I thought maybe I'd be too squeamish to help butcher a rooster, or later to cook it. But I bucked up and J and I did it together. The second one was a lot easier too. I have people lined up for rooster feathers, I'm thinking I might even be able to sell them. And now we have some more meat in the freezer. Meat that didn't come from a factory.

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