This week began our first chicken harvest of the season. It’s a power day indeed. I like to start the chicken processing season off with a blessing. I took this blessing from Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Animal Vegetable Miracle.” Great book!
“By the same power that slays you, we too are slain and we too shall be consumed. For that law that delivers you unto our hands shall deliver us into mightier hands, your blood and our blood is not but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”
The prayer is simple yet contains meaning and intention. I know a few people to who sing to their birds during harvest. We have too many birds, we’d run out of songs! But for us, this prayer sets things in motion, in a mindset that is settling and significant to what we are living as we come to understand what it takes to pasture raise 4000 broilers and harvest them.
There is empowerment raising your own flock and taking their life to fulfill your own and others. It’s not as horrific as people think it might be. Here are a few simple specifics things I enjoy about harvest day.
First, I like the kind people who come to the farm and pitch in! That makes all the difference in the world. It’s impossible for us to do this on our own. This need creates community. We enjoy teaching people this skill.It’s also a wonderful day working in the shade! The processing area is next to the pond, it’s comfortable and cool with a gentle fresh air breeze. You’d be surprised how important this can be when you’re working outside all day in sun or rain. We get a break from the elements under the processing shed.
In addition, the offal. We really really appreciate the offal that comes from the parts of the chicken that we don’t use which blends into our compost pile. In time it becomes great fertilizer for our kitchen garden, giving us a rich majestic dark soil and allows us to grow nutritious vegetables. Next music. We gather music specifically for processing days, it helps keep the energy flowing and gives us a chance to listen to a few good tunes while we work. A good James Brown tune never hurt anyone! Then there’s the customers! People who (all year) anticipate our first chicken harvest, including us! It’s a joy to offer them pasture raised chicken free of all that unhealthy stuff. And finally, we get paid! And who doesn’t like to make money?
I can still remember the first time we watched Polyface apprentices process chickens. Michael and I were attending a Polyface Intensive Discovery Seminar. Joel was holding Lauren, his beautiful granddaughter as he explained the process. Lauren didn’t flinch. No fear, no resistance. Just another day on the farm. When you see a child at ease in an environment like this you get the sense that we’re all in this together. Wouldn’t it be nice if this feeling was common amongst a majority? Now that’s something to look forward to.