A friend of ours holding chickens to be slaughtered

For the squeamish or faint of heart, I regret to inform you that, unfortunately, my Monday was not such a good day for 32 meat birds on my farm.  The following may be a little too blatant, so by all means, stop reading.  But it is important for a few different reasons. 

First, for mostly myself, it helps remind me that I may be sort of an “in-between livelihood” person because for the most part I am a regular teen, attending college, hanging with friends, the usual, but my farming life is never far behind.  Things like butchering meat birds during the summer and taking care of my laying hens remind me that life can be simple.  I am always making things more complicated than they need to be and taking on more than I can handle.  Farming allows me to slow down a little and remember that if something can’t be done for the love of it, then it shouldn’t be taken on in the first place.  I’ll admit, sometimes that doesn’t factor in with farming, but in today’s age, farming is a choice, not a discipline.  We choose to labor night and day over crops and livestock that may not equal out all the money we have put into our work in order to uphold these simple but virtuous qualities of life:

1.  Your food does not come from the supermarket or the freezer.  Aldo Leopold has a great line in his book A Sand County Almanac that puts into words exactly this: “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace”   -12

2. Family (both the human and otherwise included) is the greatest and most valued gift on this earth.

3.  Hard work does build character, even if you don’t realize it until it’s too late

4.  Life is about the choices we make and about the responsibilities we owe to the world around us and to each other

5.  The simple things in life are best – like a meadow full of wildflowers, or when a newborn lamb comes bounding down a hill like nothing could make it happier

6.  What goes around comes around – treat everything you touch with kindness, and it will return the favor

7.  Never take anything that you possess in this world for granted – because when it comes right down to it, we don’t own anything besides the decisions we enact

8.  Nothing is straight forward when it comes to farming – for everyone, it’s a learning experience that is most

Getting your food the right way....

 definitely taught by trial and error.  There’s ups and downs (mostly downs with some great ups) and if you don’t learn quickly that a very open-ended sense of humor is needed to survive, farming won’t be a lifestyle choice for long

9.  Killing is something that will take place on a farm, there is no getting around it.  However, there is a lot you can learn from the experience when the animal is respected.  Learn a little more about the struggle here if you like.

10.  God has a sick sense of humor sometimes – live with it.

So, Monday morning at 7:30, Monte arrived and we got to work.  Monte has been in the slaughtering business for most of his life and he is damn good at it.  He does on-site slaughtering and travels just about everywhere for his work.  He is quick, a hoot to talk to (he’s got more stories than anyone I know), and most importantly, he believes that the work he does is crucial to both the people and animals around him.  Like most of the Vermont and New York farmers, he believes that an animals death is just as important as the life it lived.  The birds we had raised this year were being split with a friend of ours who is just getting started in the farming business.  Monte set up his equipment while we

Monte at work

carried over the birds.  They get placed in these cone-shaped holders, allowing their heads to poke through the bottom so that Monte can quickly and carefully dispatch them with a knife and let the blood drain out.  Water is heated to a certain temperature to scald the dead birds’ feathers, loosening them for plucking.  The birds are then held over a plucking machine, which is pretty much pieces of rubbers on a wheel that spins.  It is efficient and much faster than by hand.  Monte cools them off in cold water and then guts them on a sanitary table.  It’s amazing to watch him work at the speed he does, all the while holding a conversation about another farming experience.  Monte is incredibly knowledgable and will answer any questions we put to him, always with smile and a laugh. 

Our freezer is now set for the winter and we can rest easy knowing that it was a job well done.  I know many people who may disagree with the farming method, but I am proud to have grown up the way I have.  At an early age, I learned respect, responsibility, and a contentedness with the life I lead. 

How many people can say they learned all of that from public school? 

I took a brief video of the de-feathering process and a few birds at the knife.  If you don’t like it, don’t watch it or view at your own discretion.  I know that sounds harsh, but I am a farmer, this is what happens on a farm and how we get food on the table in the best way we know how.  I want to show this because it’s a reality that I am proud to be a part of and has been taking place on farms for hundreds of years.  With that said, I hope that maybe it will shed a little light on some of our less shining moments as farmers, but also the important role it plays in this form of lifestyle.