You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you. — Barbara Sher
We had ordered meat chickens and they were growing fast, but we didn’t have any experience in how to harvest them. (Isn’t “harvest” a nice word to use?) Dave had a co-worker who had chickens, and she invited us to come and help one weekend when she and her husband planned to harvest some of theirs. I got up that day with some nervous excitement: ready to learn something new, but not so sure about the killing part.
When we arrived, they showed us their set-up and as the guys prepared their knives, I followed the young farm wife to the barn to grab a bird. As I carried it back to the guys, I thought how strange it was that in a few minutes, the creature I was holding would be dead.
We walked back to some cones attached to the shed wall and stuck the chickens in head first. I made myself watch. I didn’t like it. The blood and head fell down into the bucket, and I felt a bit queasy. Next came dunking in hot water (150 degrees) to loosen the feathers, and then on to the chicken plucker. Hot, wet feathers stink.
The plucker was pretty cool. It was the couple’s first time using it, and they were thrilled with how much faster it was than pulling by hand. Then the naked chicken went to the gutting table. I looked at this young woman, seven months pregnant, blood splattered on her leg and a big knife in her hand, pulling out the chicken guts like it was something she did every day. What a woman! I thought in admiration. I wondered if I would ever be like her.
Dave jumped right in and asked what to do. In contrast, I stood aside with my hands behind my back and a look of disgust on my face. I felt wimpy. But Dave couldn’t show any hesitation—this was his junior-ranked co-worker from the base, and she already had made references to him not being up to snuff for such work. She walked him through the steps, and he took off the feet and emptied the insides amazingly well.
I knew it was now or never, so I forced myself to step up for the next chicken. There’s something disconcerting about reaching into a chicken and finding it warm. It’s always cold when from the store and there aren’t any guts inside, either! The first one was difficult, since everything was new, but after both of us doing a few, we began to feel like we had the hang of it.
I went home that day feeling like I had grown up some how. I had learned a very useful skill that people had practiced for generations before me. I had conquered my distaste and come away with a new respect for my food. Now the question was, would we be able to do this as a family with our own flock in a few weeks?