Holy shit. Today went perfectly. Weather perfectly overcast and a bit cooler, and everyone on time. We have the best customers EVER. Peaceful existences until the peaceful ends for the chickens.
We’d been up early to do chores and set up our “mise en place”, as it were, for the harvesting set up. Beheading stump with sharpened cleaver, then the scalder (a turkey fryer bought on craigslist), the plucking table, then the evisceration station. Everyone came at 8:30, some delicious blueberry coffeecake made with duck eggs was brought, and we got down to business.
As each bird was unknowingly collected and brought to the stump, I cooed my chickie poo poo tone to them to keep them calm. Andrew is very swift with the cleaver and immediately we got a rhythm going. Each of the 7 people fell into what they did and liked best. It was impressive to be a part of, and I was so proud of everyone. Kept checking in to make sure everyone was comfortable with how it was going. We oohed-and-awwed over the gorgeous plump chickens transforming from bird to meat as the feathers were plucked and wiped off. Scalding at 160 degrees for barely 30 seconds works so well. Our birds at 8 weeks old weighed an average of 8 lbs each. Amazing.
Some of our seasoned pro customers are going to try raising their own meat chickens next year and they really wanted to know they could do all the steps involved. They mastered scalding, plucking & eviscerating. Then they wanted to be a part of the death and the actual harvesting. He did the beheading, and she the holding of the bird- after the head comes off, there is considerable force coming from the electricity in the body, in the form of the wings flapping like mad. My hands took a beating from all the flapping. I was glad to see she could hang in there this step- it is really a fierce moment.
This type of day, ultimately, is what we’re all about; sharing skills and getting more people to raise their own meat, if they can. If nothing else, this harvesting day brings them closer to seeing it was an animal who gave it’s life to be meat which they’ll eat. And it helps us get it done too….on our own this would have taken a LONG time. But with our customers we were finished in 4 hours.
Also important to note- we have developed a clientele who LOVES organs and offal. This excites me beyond belief, except it means we don’t get to keep these as “farmers perks” anymore. One gal took even the heads to make stock! The feet were all divvied up, and the gizzards, hearts, livers. So proper to use it all. Our dogs were kind of bummed about the heads though- they love them.
After everybody took off, we moved the piglets to fresh turf for digging. Seeded the spot they had been on with clover, oats and buckwheat. Andrew worked on the walk-in cooler somemore, while I cleaned up, strained feta and started a batch of chevre for shares coming up on Tuesday.