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Monday, December 26, 2011

Capturing those special moments

Ahhh, 'tis the season!  

The season of trying to get a decent family picture to send out in card form to all your family and friends.  The quest this year has been long and arduous.  So difficult in fact, that I had to look up a new word for difficult (hence, arduous).  The usual, "Hey,sit close to your sisters and let's take a photo on the couch" surprise family photo just didn't work.  Due in large part to Kiddo1's ability to mix and match her wardrobe, Kiddo2's ability to get dirty, and Kiddo3's nap schedule.

We were deep into the December calendar and still, I had nothing!

The day of the church Christmas program dawned.  We were dressed in our finest.  Well, the rest of the family was dressed in their finest.  I was dressed in the one thing that didn't have snot on it.  (Not mine.  No one told me in pre-natal class that mother = Kleenex.)

Here is Kiddo1 ringing the bells.  Look at that focus!  That concentration!  She didn't have a clue she was supposed to ring them at a certain time, she was just ringing them for all she was worth and having the time of her life.


Afterwards, I attempted to wrangle the whole family into a picture.  Kiddo2 needed some coaxing.  A LOT of coaxing...and restraining.  We didn't even hope for smiling.  Just sit still long enough to snap it on sports mode was fine with me.


Kiddo3 sweetly wondered "What's all the fuss?  I love to get my picture taken!"  Meanwhile, her brother hid behind the pulpit.  Literally crawled in there at one point.


See, is it really so hard to stand in front of the Christmas tree?  


Not when you're wearing a dress!


Kiddo2 viewed the photo session from his pulpit perch.  


We the resorted to bribery.  There, I admitted it.  I'm not proud of it, but when Mama wants a picture...Mama wants a picture!  We bribed him with Christmas cookies that were stationed at the back of the church.  He stomped over to the tree, stood for exactly 0.21 seconds, I snapped on sports mode (for I have learned), and low-and-behold we got one!!!  After the obligatory 0.21 seconds, Kiddo2 stomped off and said, "I need cookie now."  And the boy got a cookie.


Merry Christmas from our family to you!!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Careful. Don't schlip!"

(And if you can guess the title of that movie, give yourself ten points.)

Nothing says winter-time-family-togetherness like heading out on the ice.  No, we didn't go ice fishing.  For obvious reasons, not the least of which is the serious lack of diaper changing stations out on lakes these days.

Instead, we took advantage of the incredibly nice weather and the TINY bit of snow we had to take out the sled.  The kiddos have been begging (at least those who can talk) to use the sled but Hubby has strictly forbidden sled use on bare gravel.  Something about scraping the bottom of the sled, I don't know I kinda tuned out but I'm sure Kiddo1 could re-tell the tale in exquisite detail.  (Say that 5 times fast!)

We loaded up the sled with the girls.

 Kiddo2 looked heavenward begging for more snow.

 Really, this is all the snow we had.  I say had because the next day it was 47 degrees and now we have none.

Kiddo1 soon realized that it was more fun to give than receive, sled rides that is.  Kiddo3 hung on for dear life.

 We followed Hubby down to our lake where he has a hole to catch minnows for his ice fishing endeavors.

We all cheered him on as he sawed a bigger hole in the ice.  He was installing a prototype solar collector over the top of the hole to keep it from freezing.  He's not sure of the result, but if it's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly first!
For those of you fearful that my kids would fall through the ice (Hi Mom!), it was at least a foot thick.

The Little Grey Mouse (aka Kiddo3) loved, LOVED her first sled ride.  Laughing and waving her hands and trying to scoot the sled while we were stopped.

(And, yes, for those of you very observant readers, we did switch sleds mid-walk.  The baby sled was much safer for Kiddo3 and since everyone else wanted to walk.  Well, it just made sense!)

So, with winter upon us, we don't have a lot going on farm-wise.  But that's good, we all need a rest and even though sawing through the ice is hard work, it leads to ice fishing which is very fun!  And tasty!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

All I Want For Christmas

Hubby informs me the other day that he hasn't gotten me anything for Christmas.  AND he doesn't know what to get me.  


Apparently, the list I left on the fridge entitled "My Christmas/Birthday List" has not made a strong enough statement.  


So, because Hubby is a faithful reader of this blog (and not of notes left on fridges), here are the Top 10 Things I Want for Christmas this year.  In no particular order:


1.  A clean house.  Yes, I want you to find the magic fairy, steal her wand and wave it over my domicile.  Or get me a scoop shovel...


2.  A milk cow.  And seeing as dairy products are our #1 grocery expense, certainly spending at least $1000 will be a wise investment.  Plus, there's room in the hoop-coop!


3.  A pair of boots.  Not Muck boots or galoshes, but the really cool stylish boots.  Of course, that would require that I also receive calves that aren't the size of tree trunks...but on the other hand, you've said more than once you're glad you married a "sturdy" wife!


4.  A Lonesome Dove marathon.  Because nothing says the holidays like a cross country cattle drive.  "'By God, Woodrow!"  "Did you give that boy your name before you left Montana?"  "No, but I gave him my horse and I set more stock in that horse than I do my name."  Ahhhh, I could probably quote the greatest western of all time by heart (all due respect to Louis L'Amour, of course)


5.  The complete boxed-set, collector's edition, ultimate fan CD package of Alabama, the Statler Brothers, and the Oak Ridge Boys greatest hits.  I know it's hard to find because EVERYONE and their sister is going to want one.  Well, I know MY sister and brother would want one...oom poppa oom pappa mow mow.


6.  The M*A*S*H - Martinis and Medicine boxed set.  Yup, the whole shebang.  Hands down, my favorite TV show of all time.  You can't beat Hawkeye, Hot Lips, Radar or Colonel Potter.  Don't even try.  I have it on good authority that it is still available on eBay.  Start bidding.  


(I must admit, I'm a bit distracted by the Statler Brothers marathon I've got going on YouTube.  Jimmy Fortune can wail like no one else.  Except for me in my car.  Hubby dislikes them, how I wish I'd known THAT before the aisle-walking, and says that all their songs sound the same.  And I say, if it ain't broke...I'm Atlanta Blue.)


7.  To take a shower by myself.  No one peeking in to see "who's in dere?" or wanting to join me.  Just me and 40 gallons of hot water heaven.

8.  A brown Christmas.  Really, I wouldn't mind at'all!  I would like a 6 foot drift of snow on my garlic and strawberry patches.  But other than that, brown is beautiful!

9.  To go back here.  With you.  And cake.  (And the Statler Brothers.)


10. And if all the above should fall through, there's always THIS.  (Not the one-piece snowsuit, I had that in 3rd grade.  But I would take her calves, they're not as tree-trunky as mine...)   I love you, Hubby!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Today is my dad's birthday

(For those of you who are looking for my witty farm posts about naked chickens and other happenings, I promise they'll be back.  I just wanted to share this matter on my heart.)

Today is my dad's birthday.  He would have been 73.

Two nights ago I dreamt that he was still here, laughing with me, sitting at his end of the table.  Then I woke up and the pain of his absence hit me and I cried.  And cried.

Sometimes the pain is so great that I can barely breathe.

How is that I can go on without him?  Without the earthly father that I loved.  Without the earthly father who loved me.

The only reason, the ONLY reason I can smile and laugh and live is that I know without a shadow of a doubt where my father lives.  He lives in heaven.  He LIVES!  My father accepted Jesus's sacrifice of death on the cross as payment for his sins.  My dad wasn't perfect, no one is.  All, ALL have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.  Jesus, the one blameless and perfect, gave up His life on the cross so that we could be with Him...FOREVER.

My dad confessed his biggest fear was that God would forget him.  The God would not remember that he was there.  That God would not know him.  When I prayed over my dad, I asked that God would calm him.  Remind him that he was not forgotten.  Remind him that just as my dad would never forget me, God would never forget one of His children.  Instantly, my dad's breathing calmed and he rested more comfortably.

Do you have that calm?  Do you know, without a doubt, what will happen when you die?

There is a place for you, for each of us in heaven.  You cannot earn your way there, you can not give enough to get there, you can not do enough to get there.  You can only surrender your life to God, acknowledge your sins, ask Him to forgive you, to live within you, to take over your life.  There is no other way.  HE is THE WAY, the truth and the light.

I have the assurance that I will see my beloved daddy again.  I have the assurance that his death was not the end, but only the beginning of eternity with God.  There is no better place, there is no better ending.

Today is my dad's birthday.  And though we will never celebrate together again here on earth, when we are reunited in heaven there will much rejoicing.

I'd like you to be there with us.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Today is my birthday


Today is my birthday.  And for the first time in 35 years, my dad won't be calling me and singing "Happy Birthday".  You need to know what a big deal it was for him to do that.  He didn't even sing in church.  Yes, he'd sing along with the Statler Brothers, but never on his own.

When I was growing up, he sang before I went to school.  When I moved out and went to college and out into the big world, he and mom would call me bright and early in the morning and when I'd pick up the phone, they'd start singing.  I looked forward to it every year.  I'd take the cordless phone to bed with me because I knew they would be calling.

One year, they didn't call in the morning.  I called Dad (mom was at school) to ask him something and never mentioned my birthday.  He called back that afternoon, apologizing for forgetting to call and sing.  He didn't realize the date until he wrote out a check.

And this year, I won't hear his voice.  And my heart breaks.

When I was born, I came home from the hospital on my dad's birthday, exactly a week later.  The best present he ever got.

How will I get through this day?  I don't know.

But I'm going to deliver eggs to our wonderful customers who support our dreams.  I'm going to pick out a Christmas tree and decorate it with my kids.  I'm going to get my free birthday dinner at Paradiso.  And I'm going to miss my dad.  Oh, how I'm going to miss him.

I'm kinda hoping my mom doesn't call.  I don't think I could stand to hear her sing alone...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there really is an Uncle Joel...

It was a cold Sunday in February.  I had just finished presenting at a local food conference.  Hubby was at work, the same place he'd worked for the past 12 years.  He called at 4:30 and said he was coming home. I asked why.  (His shift didn't end until 7.)

He said "I've been laid off."  Those words echoing even after he'd hung up...

What were we going to do?  I was a stay-at-home mom.  His job was our only income and our insurance.  We had two kids under the age of two.

We cried, we prayed, we asked God to help us.  To show us what we do now, because we didn't know.

We had recently watched the movie "Food Inc." and saw a farmer in there that caught our attention.  His name was Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm in Virginia.  I googled him late one night and found that not only was he a farmer, he wrote books.  And I read books.

I ordered, then and there, Pastured Poultry Profits and You Can Farm.  Hubby started reading PPP and I read You Can Farm.  I read all 486 pages in two days.  We devoured these books.  This was what we were to do, we were going to be grass farmers!

What you have to understand is that both Hubby and I were raised on conventional farms.  I've tank mixed chemicals, cultivated summer fallow and fed feedlot calves.  Not only did we read these regenerative agriculture, land healing books...they spoke to our souls!  THIS is how we should farm.  THIS is how we should feed, not only our family, but our community.

We immediately made plans to start.  We planned to increase our vegetable CSA, get laying hens, do pastured broilers.  Hubby, who had never been around livestock of ANY kind, took the poultry head on and read all he could.

We all have those keystone moments in our lives, a moment in time we can point to that life fundamentally changed for us.  Ours is the first weekend in February, 2010.  We have all of Joel Salatin's books, we read them often.  We give them as gifts.  We quote his "Joel-isms" in our daily vernacular.  In fact, we refer to him as "Uncle Joel" because he is such a part of our life.

This past weekend, we had the pleasure of hosting Joel on his visit to ND.  Hubby and I took him to dinner on Saturday night.  It's always risky meeting someone that you admire.  Someone who literally changed your life.  But Mr. Salatin did not disappoint.  Oh no, he encouraged, inspired, entertained.  And judging by our laughter and conversation, just maybe we did the same for him.




Monday, November 28, 2011

Q & A - volume II

Just a few questions from a podcast I've listened to on occasion and thought I'd answer them here.  If you have a question you'd like me to answer, feel free to post it in the comments and I'll answer in a future edition!

Without a further ado (or doodoo, I told Hubby yesterday that I live for the day when I no longer have to deal with everyone's poop):

1.  Morning person or night owl?
Good gracious, morning person all the way!  Ask Hubby, I'm worthless after 9:30pm.  Even in my college days, I was done at midnight.  You might imagine my non-typical college social life.  I'm proud to say that I've never been to a "kegger", although I busted documented a few parties while employed by the university.  I'm most productive in the morning.  I love to get up and go...and then collapse after supper.

2.  How do you drink coffee?
I don't.  Never have.  When I was teaching I was often asked, "What kind of teacher doesn't drink coffee?"  My summer college roommate worked at a coffee shop and would try and sneak coffee into my patented hot chocolate drinks.  I could always tell.  Hubby makes his own coffee.  My staff makes the coffee when we have an event.  Trust me, you don't want me to make the coffee!

3.  9pm, kids in bed, Hubby's gone.  What do you do?
Seeing as how I only have a half hour before I fall asleep, I'd probably read.  Or call my mom.

4.  What is on your nightstand?
We don't have nightstands as our headboard is a bookshelf.  On MY SIDE of the headboard is our lamp, a basket for small items, a couple of magazines for Kiddo1 to look at when she naps in my room, a catalog that I read and re-read and my current two books.  On hubby's side, I really can't say, but it does seem as though he's paper training a puppy...

5.  What smell do you love?
The smell of growing things:  plants, animals, my kids.  For example, Kiddo2 hates, HATES to have his hair washed.  Eventually, he becomes reminiscent of a wet dog and we have to forcefully scrub his head.  I know that someday he won't smell faintly of wet dog when he snuggles under my chin and I'll miss that.  Also, the smell of our hoophouse in the winter with the chickens in it, compost, my garden.  Ahhhhhhh!

6.  What smell do you hate?
The smell of wet, rotting soybeans in moldering piles at the local elevator.  Ick.

7.  Other than your current home, where would you like to live?
I love ND, I don't think I would want to live anywhere else.  That being said, I love THE FARM where I grew up.  I love our neighbors, our church family, the land...all of it!

8.  Name a historical figure you admire.
I'm not specific to any one particular person, but pioneer women in general.  My goodness, those women did it all and dealt with loneliness, loss of children, hunger, sickness, loss of husbands, etc. when there were no other opportunities.  One of my favorite books is All Together In One Place by Jane Kirkpatrick, a historical novel based on the real story of an 1852 wagon train on the Oregon Trail.

There.  Some tidbits for your reading pleasure.  What else do you want to know??

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Oh, YES I DID!" (AKA What I do with leftover turkey)

It's that time of year again!  When we have a pile of turkey leftover and the thought of eating it all in sandwiches is just too much to bear.  Here's a great non-recipe that uses not just your leftover turkey, but your other leftovers as well.

May I present?  TURKEY POT PIE (kinda)

When you've finished eating your pie, 


and are staring down the barrel of turkey carcass, 


it's time to throw tomorrow night's supper together.  Literally, there's throwing involved.

First, use a large pan, we're using a LOT of leftovers.  Then, put your mashed potatoes (I won't keep using the word "leftover", because, well, they're all leftovers.  I'll just designate what is NEW.) as the bottom layer of your potpie.  I do "homestyle" mashed potatoes as a general rule unless there is a guest who abhors the sight of vitamins, minerals and fiber...then I'll peel them.


Here's the only NEW item:  a bag of mixed vegetables.  Cook them until almost tender.


While the veggies are cooking, take your fresh, farm-raised turkey that was utterly delicious and flavorful and chop up the meat.


Add the turkey to the gravy that has now congealed into the golden scrumptiousness that is homemade gravy.  If you had jarred or packaged gravy, I feel so sorry for you.  Really, I do.  That you were suckered into the lie that you can't make gravy.  It's like people who buy frozen knephla because they don't think they can make it themselves.  Gravy, I'd bathe in it if I was a bath-taking person...


Just like this!


Don't forget to add your other leftovers like green bean casserole.  Oh yes I did!  And if we were a cranberry sauce eating family, I'd probably add that as well.  My mom has perfected the cranberry salad, thereby freeing us from cooking cranberries.


And if you think for one minute that I didn't add the remaining french fried onions to this mixture, you would be sadly mistaken.  Oh, YES I DID!


Strain your vegetables.  Then throw them into the roasting pan turned mixing bowl.  That's right, throw!

Mix is all up in all it's congealed yumminess and spread it over your mashed potato layer.


I had about 2 cups of squash and in previous renditions of this meal, I added it to the mixture.  


However, this time I spread a thin layer over the top to give it a little color. 


And, for the creme de la creme...sprinkle your homemade stuffing over the top for the "crust".
Yes, I said "stuffing".  Here in tasty-ville we believe in stuffing our birds with homemade stuffing from home-baked buns that have seen better days, lots of onions, lots of spices, two eggs (eee gads, I know one home economist who would be apoplectic by now.  "You stuffed the bird and used eggs?!" ).  Oh, YES I DID!  Generations of thanksgiving turkeys have been stuffed.  And guess what?  We survived and lived to enjoy another year of stuffing as it was meant to be.


There!  Cover that baby with plastic wrap and slide it in the fridge.  Tomorrow you can bake it at 350 degrees until it's all bubbly and the stuffing is toasty.  (As full as my pan is, I'll put a baking sheet underneath to catch any bubbled over bits.)  Oh, YES I WILL!

Behind the scenes of Thanksgiving

I'll be honest.  This year was a rough one for me.  The first holiday without my dad.  A few tears were shed, hearts were heavy, but I'm so thankful that we will be reunited again one day.

So, while I am so very thankful for all of God's blessings in my life, I'd like to show you some behind the scenes of Thanksgiving on the farm...

First, we had a pickup load of squash and pumpkins to roast and process to be stored in the freezer.


Once again, Kiddo1 is a HUGE help on the food mill.  She'll either crank the handle or run the "strumpfer"(phonetically spelled for the Hubby's benefit, it's a great German word and the only name I know for the red thing).


From here the squash goes into freezer bags and frozen for delicious dinners and baby food for Kiddo3.

Then we had the turkeys.  Eight of them.  We have never had turkeys before and I have to say we love them!  They are very personable and make really cool sounds:  a "pop", a whistle, and a high pitched gurgle.  They always come right up when we are there to check us out.


The kids really enjoy watching them.  Here they are chowing down on squash guts and skins from the squash processing.  I had heard horror stories of turkeys chasing and pecking people, but having them in the portable range shelters is a wonderful way for the kids to enjoy them safely and the turkeys to be very healthy and safe from predators eating them.  Because we're going to.


Another chore we had to do was move the laying hens into the hoophouse (another post, another time). Again, Kiddo1 is a great help in catching an escapee.


Kiddo2 received a new hat from Grandma and when I opened up the pickup door he said, "I'm MonkeyBoy!"


And here we are, all holding hands!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Showing everything

About a week ago I was visiting with a friend and fellow blogger.  She mentioned that she loved my blog because I'm not afraid to show everything.

I asked her if she was referring to the full frontal chicken nudity.

She said yes, and the photos of the sheep and then the carcass.

I laughed and thanked her and we continued on trying not to be a distraction at our monthly meeting, but she's moving and I'm struck by how I'm going to miss her even though we're blog buddies.

Later on, I was thinking about her comments.  That I'm not afraid to show everything.  Oh, boy!  If she only knew...

Here's just a partial list of the things I don't show you:
1.  My two current knitting projects - one scarf I ran out of yarn and it looks ridiculous and the other I can't seem to figure out the pattern.  Really, it's 26 stitches of pure greek and my tried and true method of "just knitting out of it" is NOT working.  And it's my pretty yarn...

2.  The floor under Kiddo3's high chair - she's almost 10 months old and insists on feeding herself.  Have I ever mentioned I hate high chairs?  I do.  They are designed to be awkward, floor space eating monsters that are the most difficult item to clean ever designed by man.

3.  My exercise plan - I'll admit, I used to belong to a gym.  For a year, in my wild single days (or was it day?).  Then I got married, moved 34 miles from the nearest gym and had three kids in three years.  I tell myself that I just work my butt off.  However, I've seen no evidence that that is actually taking place...

4.  The storage room - it's that awkward time of the year when I'm putting canning stuff away and trying to fall clean and move out kid stuff that we no longer need.  It's a wreck.

5.  My weedy gardens - I've always felt that a clean garden is the sign of a dirty mind, but perhaps I've taken that a bit too far.  I love weeding, really, I do.  But it's impossible to hand weed 1.5 acres when working 30 hours a week off the farm.

That there is a just a partial, PARTIAL list of all that I don't show you and I'm the one who shows everything.  Perhaps I need to show more un-pretty.  More than one person has said, "I don't know how you do it all!"  I don't.  No one does.  And anyone who thinks they do is deceiving themselves.

I don't look like a woman in a magazine.  My house would never grace the pages of Better Homes & Gardens.  I burn a beautiful roast beef and have to scrape the char off so we can eat it.  I've sewed through my finger with my sewing machine (and had to rip out the three stitches with my seam ripper).  My laundry gets piled for days until I force myself to stay awake and fold it all.

But that's my imperfect life.  And until I see the other side of heaven, my life will always be a work in progress.  But the key word there is progress.  I'm not the same person I was yesterday, and thank goodness God's not done with me yet!

There, I think I showed you everything...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to butcher a chicken

Today I'd like to show you how a chicken becomes food.  Many of you may think that a chicken simply lays down on a styrofoam tray, gets wrapped in cellophane and delivered to your grocery store.  I'm sorry my friends, that is simply not the case.

(Warning:  There are pictures of naked chickens so if you have young chickens in the room, they should probably go watch Foghorn Leghorn.)

Here is how it happens on the farm!

First, we have to go out and catch them.
  
Although we do not feed them in the morning, they are moved to fresh grass and given water.  Hubby will get in the pen with the net and push them over to the door and I will catch them (usually two at a time) and put them in the carriers.

After a nice ride in the back of the pickup, we're in the yard and ready to go!  Hubby will ask for volunteers and usually someone speaks up.

When I was kid, we butchered many, MANY chickens.  We cut the heads off.  When I say "we" I mean my mom did while I held the rest of the chicken.  Then in a shower of blood and feathers the chicken would flop and flop and run around like "a chicken with it's head cut off".  I'll tell you now, it wasn't my finest hour.

Hubby does the duty to our chickens (the only thing in the process I won't do mainly because I'm afraid of doing it wrong) but in a FAR better manner.  He puts them in these cones, hanging upside down.  Remember when you hung upside down on the playground and the slight buzz you got?  It's kinda the same for chickens, hanging upside down calms them.  Then Hubby quickly and efficiently slits the jugular on the neck.  He does NOT take the head off or slit the trachea.  This allows the heart to keep pumping and removing blood from the meat.  It is the most humane way to "harvest" an animal and it is in accordance with Levitical law (see Old Testament).  

What happens?  Not the violent thrashing around of my youth.  Instead, the chicken looks at the grass, gets a little sleepy and goes to sleep.  

One of them slipped out of the cone this summer and trotted a few steps away and sat down, bleeding from the neck.  Kiddo1 and Kiddo2 ran over and petted her while she went to sleep.  Then informed us that she went "night-night". 


Our processing set-up isn't fancy.  But we're out in the open air and sunshine.  The best sanitizers in the world are open air and sunshine.  As soon as you put walls around it then you have to start using horrible chemicals and you still won't get it clean.  (Did you know that factory chickens are chlorinated?  Multiple times.)



 When the chicken is dead, Hubby takes him to the scalder.  Did you know you could buy a chicken scalder on eBay?  You can!  It is thermostatically controlled to keep an even temperature at 150 degrees.  This is a far cry from the giant kettle of boiling water we used when I was a kid.  The first chickens would tear and the last chickens wouldn't pluck.  And just like Goldilocks, somewhere in the middle would be "just right"!

Why do we need a scalder?  Because the warm water loosens the feathers so they come out easier.  Yes, you could hand pluck them without scalding.  Plenty of pioneer women did it.  But really, haven't we come farther than that?


Hubby holds the chicken by the feet and he goes for a little swim.  (The chicken, not the Hubby.)  He continually moves the chicken back and forth, up and down to work the warm water around each feather follicle.  Remember, feathers are designed to shed water so you have to work it up in there.  


When the wing feathers pull out easily, you're done!  Wing feathers are the biggest and toughest to remove.  (We put the wood cover on the scalder when we aren't using it to conserve heat.)


Then it's off to the plucker, the single greatest invention of mankind!    Sure, some of you may like the internet or the automobile, but I can't eat the internet or a car.  We trade the use of our scalder for the use of our friend's plucker, what a symbiotic relationship!


Here it is in action.  The bottom plate spins and rubs the chicken against the rubber fingers which rubs off the feathers which exit out the bottom.  GENIUS!!  If you've ever had to hand pluck chickens as I did as a child, this is your AMEN moment.    



In about 20 or so seconds, a clean chicken!  Not even my mom could pluck a chicken that fast.


I deliberately took a picture of the worst chicken of the day so that I couldn't be accused of just showing the pretty ones.  There are still some feathers on the wing that I will remove on the table.  I am the Quality Control!


Under the wing is a notorious place for feathers to hang around.  Make sure you check!


You'll also have to check for pin feathers.  They sell a pin feather knife, but if you have fingernails of any kind this is a waste of money.  On rare occasions, there will be a stuck one and I will use the edge of my regular knife and my thumb to grab it.


Sometimes I have a pint-sized helper with the feather inspection.  Kiddo1 thinks chicken butchering is a major event and requires a party dress.  (Before you have a heart attack that I would let my daughter wear such a fancy or expensive dress out to butcher chickens, you have to realize that she's wears this dress for a time just about every day.  It's how we know she thinks whatever we're doing is special.)


When the feather patrol is all finished, it's time to take off the head.  See that black hole in the head?  That's the chickens ear!  I'd never seen one until we started butchering chickens.  (Because we don't chop off the heads, the feathers on the head get plucked as well.)

Some people (like Hubby) just pull off the head, but I prefer to cut with a poultry shears.  Just a firm cut and you're through.  The head goes into the gut bucket.


Then I'm going to take off the legs next with the same tool.  One cut right at the knee to open it.  Exert downward pressure (the chicken is laying on it's back) and the joint is exposed.  Cut through the joint, between the bones.  Chicken feet are the favorite of our dog so we usually save them for him.  (Don't worry about those tail feathers, we'll deal with them soon.)


Now we move to the top.  You want to cut a slit in the skin above the sternum.


This exposes the crop.  The crop is just a thin storage sack for the food before it goes to the gizzard.  You will pinch it between your thumb and forefinger and pull it away from the skin.  This crop is empty because we didn't feed them this morning.  If we would have fed them, it would be stuffed with grain and very difficult to deal with.  That's why our chickens don't get a "last meal".


You will also want to pull the esophagus (connected to the top of the crop) out of the neck.  (Why?  You'll find out in just a minute...)



Like this!


Now we move to the back.  Again make a small skit, I mean SLIT.  This time beneath the sternum.  Be careful here as there are intestines back there!


The small slit allows you to work in your fingers and tear an opening.  Don't go wild here.  We just want an opening big enough to put our  hand in.


Why tear instead of cut?  Remember, we have digestive organs in here and we don't want to risk opening any of them on our chickens.  
(Keep in mind that factories have mechanical eviserators and break open organs routinely.)


Now slide in your hand along the top.  Just follow the sternum.


Reach up to the top of the breast and loop your finger around the crop/esophagus.  (That's why we loosened them first.)  I often use my other hand to help with this part.  Then pull back firmly but gently.


Almost everything will come out as one unit which is the way we want it.  


Now what do we do?  Well, we have to remove it all in one piece so we will cut around the vent (fancy word for anus).


Hold the large intestine up with one hand and cut around the vent with the other.  Use the hip bones as a guide.  Once you're done, it all goes in the gut bucket.


Ta-Da!!!  All clean and pretty.  Eviserating is a very clean and tidy business.  Just keep all the fluids where they are supposed to be and all will be well.  If you should happen to puncture or tear something, rinse and rinse and rinse with a pressure hose.


Now, about that tail.  The only thing you really have to remove is the oil gland right above the knife.  You can just clip it out with the knife point.


But most of our customers don't want to see a chicken tail and we don't want to take all those feathers off.  So we just remove the tail behind the hips.


Like this!  


We're almost done!  See the pink parts, one on either side of the spine in the middle of the photo?  Those are the lungs and they are nestled into the ribs.  You'll have to go back in for those.  Put one finger in each rib's crease and scrape toward the spine.


There's one!  Now go get the other one.


The trachea is still attached to the neck and we want to remove that as well.  Just pull it out and the bronchial tubes that lead to the lungs will come out as well.


After another quality control check by yours truly, the chicken is cooled in tubs of icy water.  We do three different cooling stations to get them cooled down quickly.  


When the fat is hard, they are ready to go into the freezer.  We bag them up, weigh them, label them and in they go!  

And that is how chickens become meat.  
(No styrofoam trays are used in the production of this food.)

What do we do with the gut bucket?  The contents get composted with wood chips keeping the circle of life continuing on the farm.