Cock-a-doodle-doo

6 Nov

I never really understand those people who decide which way to vote on the morning of the election. Until now. I just keep wavering on Prop 2. I’ve done a fair amount of research and I’m really torn.
Years ago, pregnant for the first time, I did all of the research about natural childbirth, and the statistics involved with intervention versus natural labor. I was adamant that natural was the only way to go. I was judgmental and opinionated. Then, I gave birth! I clung to my principles and managed to go natural (with a lot of support from my good friend Julie M) and had two more babies sans medication.  After pain like that, I will never pass judgment on anyone choosing the ever popular epidural. I get it.
Same with meat. I’ve committed. No meat for me. This process isn’t easy, but I’m not making that decision for anyone else. I’m also fascinated with the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, the local food movement, and just generally exploring alternative relationships with my food and all things holistic.
Within the last few days, as my mind has been wandering around these issues, I found Emily’s blog. Emily is Lisa’s BFF and I enjoy my friendship by association with her. All of Lisa’s friends are super-fascinating, and Emily is no exception. So, below I stole one of her great posts for your reading enjoyment. It seems to me that we could all use a little introspection into what we’re eating, where it comes from, and more personal involvement with it. Emily is a great example of this. I don’t know what I’m most impressed with, Emily’s honesty, her sense of adventure, or the fact that she killed, plucked, gutted and butchered 10 roosters while her husband was gone. She also documented and wrote about it. You go girl. I hope you enjoyed your rooster dinner – you certainly deserve it.

Meat II: Eating My Words

Our first backyard ‘rooster’ dinner.

So, in a previous post I exposed my sentiments of, what Dustin and I like to call, skeptical environmentalism. In other words we are environmental because it’s practical. It makes sense that you should eat meat that comes from one animal and is raised in your backyard. Just as it makes sense to use “real” plates, instead of paper, because you have a dishwasher and paper plates cost money. So, to eat my words we bought half of the neighbor’s steer and to further make my point (and to get rid of half of the enormous monthly chicken feed bill) we slaughtered a dozen of our chickens (all roosters) on Saturday. It was, to say the least, an amazing experience. Katrina, the famous localvore blogger of Kale for Sale, came to join in the fun. I was grateful for her presence because she did bring a sense of order to the whole operation that Jeremy and I would have probably botched. Dustin suddenly had to “work” and so I was left to oversee operations on my own. The little kids were always near and interested, but not totally aware of what we were doing exactly, except that it must be fun because we were adults and seemed to be ‘playing.’

We started off with a prayer. It somehow seemed appropriate as we were about to extinguish living beings. I prayed that we were grateful for this experience, for the chickens who would provide sustenance, and very grateful that we didn’t necessarily have to rely on this as our only options for meat (read: COSTCO). I truly felt like Ma, only lacking an apron and a bonnet. Jeremy was the non-contested self-appointed chicken killer and did a great job. This time he held onto the chickens until they stopped moving…this was much less dramatic than watching them flip around without a head. We then blanched them in some almost boiling soapy water and Katrina and I began plucking. Whew, what a job. Nobody was kidding when they said that it’s time consuming to pluck a chicken. I was REALLY glad that Katrina was there then. She was great and even had a system to the plucking madness. The plucking was done in the heat of midday with our backs scrunched, most uncomfortably, over a plywood table. We had a great time visiting as we worked and Jane was good to help out. She really wanted to pluck her own chicken.


Here are the chickens–plucked but not yet gutted.

After all twelve of the chickens were plucked we began the cleaning and gutting process. I was a little nervous about this part, I haven’t opened up any kind of animal since the crayfish in seventh grade. Jeremy began with a tutorial and showed us how to cut the chicken open to pull out poop (by far the worst part), intestines, stomach, liver, heart, esophagus, to finish by scraping and cleaning any other residue that was left. At the end, they were looking like true “freezer” chickens. Katrina delved right in and was marvelous…I followed and soon began to like this process. It was kind of fun to be able to recognize the organs by touch as you’re pulling them out. Katrina and I had an easier time because our hands were smaller to get into the chicken. We then bagged and froze them. It was an exhausting, yet rewarding day.

So, I decided that we should eat a few of them for Sunday dinner. I made a brine of salt and water and let two chickens soak in it overnight. The next day Lily and I went out to the barn with some red potatoes, carrots, and red onions drizzled in olive oil and ranch seasoning. We stuffed the chickens with onions, rubbed butter all over them and sprinkled with salt and pepper. We placed the chickens on top of the potatoes and roasted them for almost two hours, rotating positions every 30 minutes. The barn smelled delicious and…the chicken was the BEST I’ve ever tasted. It just fell off the bones, was so tender and flavorful. I was so glad that, after all that work, the chicken wasn’t disgusting. We are definitely going to have roast chicken for Thanksgiving and you’re all invited. So far my experiment with eating meat out of my backyard has been successful. I’ll let you know how our first steer steak turns out.

Dustin got home just in time to see the chicken neatly lined up in the freezer, the kitchen scrubbed and disinfected, and all bloody remains carefully buried in the back. He only participated in the eating…I feel a bit like the “little red hen.”


The vegetables were delicious cooked under the chicken. The chicken drippings added so much taste.

The chickens prepped and ready.

Lily, rolling up her sleeves. She was a great helper. This is her stuffing the chickens with onions.

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4 Responses to “Cock-a-doodle-doo”

  1. Julie November 6, 2008 at 7:40 am #

    Thanks for the childbirth lessons! It was great to watch you go through it (you never even screamed! TMI?) before I delivered my baby two weeks later. Of my five deliveries, that first one would have been the one to have had an epidural. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt like punching the doctor. Yes! There is a reason epidurals were invented.

    Emily’s post about her roosters was fascinating. Once, on a three day trek with our church youth group, we had to kill, pluck, gut, and cook our chicken dinner. Watching the chickens flop all over the hillside without their heads was a memory I’d rather not have. There was no brine soak or slow cooking with carrots and potatoes. The meat was tough and tasteless. I couldn’t get past the first bite. Emily, I’m so glad to know that there is a way to raise and eat your own meat.

  2. Emily November 6, 2008 at 9:25 am #

    Laurie,
    Thanks for reposting this…I’m happy to have my meat opinions spread around. I’m ok with eating meat (I love it actually), I just think that we need to be more responsible meat eaters. One way to do this, without raising your own meat, is to buy whole chickens. Instead of buying a costco size bag of dozens of chicken breasts (think of how many chickens were slaughtered and how much of them was potentially wasted) buy a whole chicken and eat as much of it as you can. And just THINK about what you’re doing as you eat it.
    I’m grateful that my family can eat chicken and beef that was raised and harvested in our backyard and that they know where meat and eggs come from. Anyway, thanks again.

    You’re welcome to come and have dinner with us sometime…we’ll put some chickens in the brine.

  3. barefootbhakti November 6, 2008 at 11:10 pm #

    Thanks Emily! My boys would be really grateful for some meat about now…

  4. barefootbhakti November 7, 2008 at 9:42 pm #

    Yes, childbirth and chickens! You know Julie – just call me a squaw, I like to birth quietly. Thank God you were there that day, who knew Dan was afraid of hospitals? It was great to have a coach.

    I never have enjoyed chickens. Maybe it was cleaning out the coop and getting attacked by roosters in my formidable years. I have memories of tough, gamey chicken dinners too. The brine soak must be the magic key. Chicken has been the hardest part of vegetarianism to me because it was my mainstay before and honestly I have little empathy for chickens.

    Cows however, have my heart. Those cute baby cows toddling around the hills as I drive to work every day? They wink at me as I drive by.

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