Cluck...SQWAHK...cluck cluck cluck

*Author's note: photographs at the end may be disturbing

Inspiration is everywhere.

Spent a day with my husband, son, daughter in law and granddaughter harvesting/butchering/culling/killing meat chickens. Hard to find the right word to describe this experience. My son's a new farmer and this is his first year of raising chickens for eggs and for meat. I bought in to his enterprise under the assumption I'd help with the killing process. I think it's really important to know where our food comes from, it doesn't just simply appear in the stores in styrofoam packages.

It was a cold and rainy day. There was some joking but not about the chickens. There's a reverence for life and the circle of life. I was in charge of plucking. After the dead bird was swished in very hot water for a couple minutes it was put in the "Whiz Banger" which twirled the body around plastic spikes to help further detach the feathers. I then pulled them out by their feet and gave them to the next station...cutting off the feet and heads. I did that in the afternoon. After that two people slit the skin around the anus and pulled the guts out. The cavity was washed and put in a huge icy cooler waiting for the guys who cut up the parts and vacuum sealed.

It wasn't difficult work but it was intense. One bird wasn't completely dead when it was plunged in the hot water and when it started sqwacking everyone was startled and hurried to end the bird's misery. The assembly line process got a reality check. 

There was beauty and color everywhere. The birds were beautiful with feathers and without. The feet were amazing and I was told they make an amazingly rich and intense stock. I didn't know most of the people involved in the process but the little I gathered from a day of working side by side gave me a sense they respected the process and the animal.

It was a joy to go to their home afterwards and see my little seven month old granddaughter. A happy, chortling at life, baby girl. So much life yet to see and experience. And a funny coincidence, she has a little stuffed animal in the shape of a yellow chick that seems to be a favorite lovey of the moment. Which has inspired me to create little stuffed lovey creatures for sale at my farmer's markets.