Sunday, July 13, 2008

Life and Death of livestock

A warning to those who may be sensitive to the death of animals, skip reading this post if you're squeamish. The quick story is that a sheep diedand I participated in the culling of 2 chickens.

Les, the sheep who had the stillborn lamb, died on Monday this past week. We found her when putting Amber in at night in the evening. Andrew was following Amber in from the field and Amber stopped at Les' body. Mark, James and I arrived as Andrew was going to go get Gavin and Karen. We ended up burying her right beside where she died. She had been continuing to lose weight ever since she gave birth to the lamb, even though she was continuing to graze and we kept feeding her grain. We're not sure exactly why she died, but just hope that her last days were happy. She was certainly friendly, always happy to be petted as I fed her grain. The last time I saw her alive was on Saturday before I returned to Toronto for the weekend.

Lynn had 2 chickens, Marianne and Buffy, that she needed culled because they were not laying, so Mark decided that we should slaughter them on Wednesday as that's the one day each week when we're not usually exhausted from a full day of farm work. My motivation for participating in the culling was to see if I could continue to be a meat eater or should become a vegetarian. I felt that if I wanted to remain a meat eater, I could not divorce myself from the fact that the meat that I eat starts as a living and breathing animal which has to be killed to become meat for my pot. I certainly do not have any dislike of chickens and did not relish the task that was ahead.

We went to Whole Circle farm on Wednesday and when we got back, prepared ourselves for the task. A pot of water was put on to boil and we went to get the first chicken. I managed to get her from under the coop and carried her down the hill to the spot we had chosen. I held the chicken's wings and feet while Mark stretched out the neck and wielded the axe. The body does indeed move around a lot after the head is chopped off. I kept a good grip on her and moved her to a pail to drain. Then we went to get the second chicken, which Andrew killed. We then scalded the bodies in near boiling water and plucked the chickens. It wasn't as hard or long a task as we were expecting. Then Mark and I each removed the entrails from one of the chickens. One really fascinating thing was to see the developing eggs in the chickens. It led Lynn to wonder why they had stopped laying...perhaps they were still laying but eating their own eggs? Whatever the case, the birds were now cleaned and we put them in the fridge to cool overnight. On Thursday night, after a frustrating afternoon of laying irrigation lines, Mark and I quartered the chickens and I made them into chicken stew. The stew was quite tasty (with the addition of stock from chicken Mark had cooked that day in preparation for the farm celebration on Saturday), though the meat from the chickens was quite tough. Slow cooking might help to soften them up...stewing hens really do need to be stewed for a long time!

I had to leave Everdale early this week but before I left just before lunch on Friday, I helped Mark bake some biscotti to sell at the Saturday farm celebration. It's the first time I've baked using a scale to weigh out dry ingredients and I find that I quite like the precision of this method. I'm definitely going to keep my eyes open for a sale on kitchen weigh scales. It was actually rather nerve wracking to make the biscotti as I've never made anything for sale before. But they turned out quite tasty and with the right texture, so I'm happy about that! When I return tomorrow, I'll find out if any of them sold this weekend!

1 comment:

chiquitawonder said...

Thanks for the post, Brenda. There was an article about killing the meat you eat in the Star this week too, I think. If I had to do it, I think I would definitely become a vegetarian, which probably means I should be one now. My mom was asked by her grandmother to kill a chicken when she was in her early teens and she refused to eat meat for weeks later. You are braver than me (and probably my mom). Glad you are doing well - we want some organic eggs from the farm after you go back!