Friday, October 9, 2009

Chicken Butchering Day


I will preface this with a short blurb on butchering. I am tenderhearted and have always hated butchering days, from my youth through today. As a child, I ran off and hid as much as I was able. Though I love meat, I am always sad about death of any creature. I am no hypocrite, I just want it done as humanely as possible, and I take no joy in it. So the day was mixed for me. Something I have to do. I never know when times might get so rough that being able to butcher an animal to feed my child becomes a matter of survival.

So, with that said, we focused on learning new tasks, helping friends, and enjoying time together.

The day dawned beautifully. We did school and Bible study and household chores. Then we loaded up the three birds we were going to butcher yesterday. Two roosters are in the cage, and one hen was in the box. She was picked on mercilessly by the roosters, I have never seen that happen before. She also stopped laying. So she was boxed separately.

Got on our work clothes.

And turned out of our driveway to head out.

Arriving a little after noon, we unloaded at their shed, where they were just about ready to begin.

And here were their 20 or so birds they needed to process. Most of them were Cornish or White Rocks, I think. I'm not positive as I've not seen them outside of catalogs. These are the fastest growing meat birds you can buy. They are not the healthiest of birds, due to the breeding and have a lot of trouble with organ failure and walking, as they are meant to be butchered out before they are many months old.

Boys. Always running off to do something.

More help arrives!

Dressed appropriately...

This is not the way we butchered chickens while I was growing up, but this is how they did it, and we were glad to be there to help them and learn another way of doing things.

They set up 5 stations.

The killing cone and sand bucket.
The scalding vat.
The plucking machine.
The evisceration table.
The cooling bin.

Here is a rooster, he is not dead, he has simply been placed into the cone. The bucket of sand below. We have always used an ax, then immediately hung the bird upside down. Once the head is cut off, the nerves in the body continue to cause movement, so the blood is pumped out while the bird moves and especially if hung upside down.

The plan here, in this killing cone, is to quickly go in with a knife and, with one flick, go through the skin and pierce the jugular vein, causing the bird to lose blood and drift off. However, stuff happens, it did not go as planned, and I did not spend a lot of time at that station. I can now say I definitely prefer the axe.

The second station was the scalding pot. What a dream to use! We used to carry out 5 gallon buckets, over and over, of boiling water for this job. When you dip the freshly killed chicken in water of about 165 degrees, several times, the feathers come off much more quickly. With this propane-fueled scalder, the work was eliminated a great deal.

The next station was a wonder as well. The tabletop plucker. Boy, do I wish we'd had one of the these when I was a kid! I hated being made to pluck the chickens!

Michael ended up working here for most of the time.

Then came the evisceration table. I kicked myself for not bringing our butchering knives. They did not have many sharp ones, so the job was lengthy. This is where I spent most of my time.

This was also different than I was used to. My folks would hand the birds upside down with wire on the legs and a bucket below, and stand to do the job.

We had one sharp knife. I found it. What is it with me and sharp instruments?

And the last outdoor station was the ice water bath to cool the chickens.

Once cool, after about 20 minutes, they were taken inside, rinsed and cleaned of any remaining feathers, bagged and placed into refrigeration for 2 days before going into the freezer.

We needed to leave the job early, before the last 4 were done, for a last practice before Michael's demonstration on Saturday. So with blood on my jeans and shoes, we headed off for that, and missed the ice cream fun that was to follow. I got Michael a McFlurry while in town. Those Oreo crumbles are good stuff!

Because days like these need to have humor inserted into them or they become unbearable, the next few pictures will show us lightening the atmosphere with silliness, or just some interesting facts from the day.

We found that most of the processed chickens made a squeaky-toy noise when you bounced them on the table. So several times we had dancing chickens, quacking at us.

Some of the meat birds our friends were doing in were hens in full lay. They have all their yolks for a lifetime produced already, and each day a yolk is brought to size, surrounded in albumen, encased in a shell, and laid. Some will even have an egg ready to lay, as one hen yesterday did. Here we set one hen's yolks in a row according to the days she would have laid them.

Apparently someone had not eaten lunch before arriving!

What I could probably get millions from the government for by calling it art.

So another day of friends, dear to our hearts, and adventures of trying new things was had.

Hey, you guys! How was the DQ?



Thursday, October 8, 2009

Them Are Some Big Rats!


That's what I was thinking at 4 am yesterday morning as I heard scuttling in the walls and could even FEEL the vibrations from them.

However, as the sun rose, I was relieved, sort of, to find this:

The weight of all the rainwater this week finally pulled the sukkah over onto the house, where it slowly slid down into this sorry pile you see now.

Lesson learned, either invest in building sukkah a lot sturdier, or don't try to put one up if the weather is going to be bad. We had not gotten much time in it anyway, so I was a little disappointed. But the sun came out as we were working so we spread all the fabric out to dry.

Here is the Autumn color beginning to be more noticeable lately. It feels so Autumn-like this week!

A new victim has fallen prey to our wild and keeeeeeeeerazy group of sewing and dance aficionados. She is a natural dancer!

Dorcas, dressed again for the occasion.

Having taken up a new sport this year, we've added a second model to our racing fleet.

The first model is still in use at the other dental track, but is the handle and no-wheels type.

THIS baby really flies!

And we get multi-level tracks, because this place is huge! Elevator up!

I think all places everywhere should have charming nooks about every 75 feet, don't you? After cleaning that office last week, I took the time to take a few photos in the area where it sits. Here is an alleyway. I love when old downtowns are renovated.

Early Sunday mornings are a prime time to go on a photo hunt.

We began our day yesterday with the tornado-inspired sukkah cave in, and we ended the day with getting in the car at nearly 11 pm, only to find our oil light suddenly screaming at us, "CODE RED! CODE RED!"

Bummer, can we make it to Walmart?

No, the car is overheating right now. Drat! That means we have to stop at a convenience station to check the oil. Sure enough, almost to the end of the dipstick.

Can we make it to Walmart?

Better not risk the engine... Taking the quart up to the register, the girl with tattoos and chewing gum rings it up and emits a half choke - half giggle.

"What?" I say.

"That's what you pay for convenience." $4.98

Remind me, today I need to add oil into the van from our stash here at home.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Have A Confession.


I hate video games, they are limited in my home. But I have fallen victim to one.

Most people would not consider this a game, but I do. It's a ridiculous waste of my time and it's on this screen I am looking at right now, and that makes it video.

Yup, we leave it open on the PC and, at various times throughout the day, we stop by for a few moments and add on to our dream home.

It's educational in a way, you might say. True, but it's also sheer fantasy. This dream home has about 30,000 square feet, and that's NOT counting the 20 foot wrap around covered porch with complete wrap-around deck above.

But, if you need a fun distraction through the slower winter months, have at it. It's free for home use and you can have 3 plans saved.

Don't let the small size of the grid fool you. We quickly pushed the limits and found the grid expands as you build on, and on, and on....

Yesterday we went to can the last of those pears and apples I'd not gotten too. And they were way too far gone.

So the horses got some nice treats, and the compost pile is a bit larger. And my back porch is emptier.

Michael has just about gotten his school work done and we are heading out to sew with friends and practice dancing.

Here was last week's get together.

One young girl was in a wheelchair all last year. She's out of it, and dancing for her is slow and a bit shuffly, but she is having a wonderful time.

Ashlee and Elaine, at my place last week. Working on an overskirt. I had to sneak this photo!

And Leah, helping me fix my dropped loops in a knitting project for my daughter.

And would you believe this amazing sewing job! Ashlee is just learning to sew, and she was so happy with her progress on the skirt, that she went and got herself a pattern and is sewing this cute sundress, all by herself! I am ecstatic to see her discover a talent she did not know she had.

Last week I also began to try to work on this truck again.

Typical beater-type truck: can of starting fluid, and a pair of pliers to be able to open the hood, since the handle broke off.

It's so bad to leave a vehicle uncared for, but I have not been able to get to it. The tires badly need to be moved as they are developing severe flat spots.

So we got some handy old mobile home skirting sheets that I keep around for this kind of work.

And we needed to see about draining the old gas out of the tanks, as it goes bad if not used. I turned on the key to see how much gas we were going to be dealing with in the two tanks, and found that I had no power at all.

Time to drag out the charger again.

Put your red on positive, and the black on negative, then plug the charger in.

And don't let this fool you. For some reason, the charger reads full at first, then it slowly drops over the next hour or so, then begins to come back up again. I'm not convinced I have a correctly functioning charger...

Underneath the truck, I find an exhaust pipe that has broken off the muffler which is help up by baling wire.... bummer.

I do locate the two tanks, and follow the hoses coming out of them up to this little unit, of which I have no idea what it's called. Generally, I'll look this up, but I have no time at this moment, as I am desperately trying to get off to sewing again!

And that's where I THINK I will need to be working if I drain the tanks. However, I've got to get the electrical problem fixed first, and the (hopefully) charged battery is sitting on the truck cab floor, waiting for me to grace it with my presence.

Seamstress by day, grease monkey by night...