Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Chickens-the grand finale



Solving Three Problems at Once
Or
An Only-Slightly-Adapted Version of
Killing Two Birds with One Stone


  •          Problem One:  Nothing to write about in the blog this week
  •          Problem Two:  Three chickens I can’t get rid of
  •          Problem Three:  I’ve been meaning to cook one of my most popular dishes, Chicken Gourmet, and post it to my food blog.  Except now I could re-titled the recipe “Free Range Chicken in Mushroom Sauce.” That sounds a lot more exotic, doesn’t it?  
It’s not like they are family pets.  Only the rooster has a name and nobody really likes him.  Jack has been known to attack children when he thinks he can get away with it. When a stray dog killed Juliet it just took all the joy out of keeping chickens.  What was left was a vivid picture of their faults:  they made a mess on our front porch.  They ate my flowers and destroyed my vegetable garden.  They dug huge gapping holes in the yard taking “sand baths.”  We had to time any social event away from home around making sure they were safely locked in for the night and they only went to bed after dark. But we couldn’t wait too long after dark for fear of predators. We needed to be here almost the minute darkness arrived, no sooner and no later. I know more about sunset times now than most people.  And, without Juliet, the other two hens stopped laying.  We couldn’t come up with a really good reason to keep them.

We decided to give them to our next door neighbors.  We got together with them and developed a plan. Sunday, after dark, we slid the roof off the coop and grabbed them while they were sleeping.  Then we put each one in a pillowcase and piled all three into an ice chest— it was just the right size and had a lid.  We drove next door and put them in the chicken coop with all the others.  I was sure since they didn’t know where we went that they wouldn’t bother coming home. 

They showed up so soon after daylight that I figure the minute the neighbor let them out to free-range they must have hot-footed it straight home, crossing the creek between us and navigating the woods.  I have no idea how they found us unless their sense of smell is better than I thought.

Any other donation whether via livestock auction or giving them to other farmers farther away would require a big wire cage which we don’t have.  I was going to have to spend a lot of money and go to a lot of trouble just to get rid of chickens we had fallen out of love with. I’ve had much better luck with old boyfriends. It was starting to look like we would never figure out how to get rid of them.

I puzzled through these problems while I was driving home Monday night.  Then I thought to myself, “JaneHoney, you simply cannot die and go to heaven without ever having slaughtered and cooked a chicken.”  I mean, come on-- Isn’t that on everyone’s Bucket List?  To be honest, I never knew it was on my list until Problems One, Two and Three appeared all at once.

So I stopped by the store and bought mushrooms.  I usually have all the ingredients on hand for Chicken Gourmet except mushrooms and chicken.  Now I had the main ingredient sitting right outside my kitchen door.  Pooping on my porch, I might add.

Just about the time I was looking up youtube videos of “How To Slaughter a Chicken” (and it turns out there are a lot of them), Beaven got wind of my plan and came to their rescue.  He suggested my farmer friend, Leeann.  Leeann used to be in the dairy business and I swear this is true:  her last name is Moos.  You can’t make up stuff like that. Now she’s a veterinarian pharmaceutical rep.  She’s just a treasure trove of practical information on farms.

Anyway, Leeann doesn’t get flustered by much.  “Sure”, she told me, she could always use another couple of hens.  Jack barely slipped in purely out of Leeann’s gracious nature. Plus she kind of owes us after the night she needed a favor and Beaven helped her out. 

For a long time I had been interested in going to a livestock auction and Leeann had been promising to take me.  Once in a while she buys a hog at auction, has it slaughtered and gives the meat to the ladies at the rehab center. So about a month ago she mentioned she was going to an auction that night and invited me to come with her. We drove there in her pickup.  She was trailing the high school FFA’s hog trailer she had borrowed in case she found a hog she liked.

Words fail me in describing the auction.  The bleachers were full of good old boys in scuffed work boots and worn jeans.  They would bring in the hogs one at a time and walk them around the show area for the ranchers to see.  Leeann had such a practiced eye she knew almost instantly if anything was wrong with an animal.  That one hadn’t been castrated yet or that one still had some piglets nursing or it was too young or too old. 

After the hogs they paraded in sheep, goats, cows and chickens…even a cage or two of parrots and parakeets. All the while the auctioneer kept up an almost indecipherable babble of numbers and instructions.  The animals would be dispatched in a matter of a minute or two although I couldn’t tell who was buying them. I kept looking around for someone to hold up their number or raise their hand. There must be some subtle signal to bid.  I never could spot it but decided I dare not scratch my nose for fear of going home with a goat I never intended to buy.

 Instead of a hog that evening, Leeann decided to get some chickens.  But on the way home she got a call that her mother had been taken to the Emergency Room in town.  We switched to my car so we could travel faster.  But then she ended up at the hospital with no car.  That’s how Beaven ended up driving a total stranger’s truck with the “borrowed” FFA trailer full of chickens all over Winnsboro. If he had been stopped by the police he would still be explaining it.  He’s a prince that way.  I can call him with the most outrageous request and he doesn’t even ask questions anymore.

So when he was ready to chain himself to the chicken coop to prevent their deaths I reminded myself that he doesn’t ask for much.  I called Leeann and she stepped in with a rooster foster care plan.

God is good that way.  And I will still give you my recipe using store-bought chickens. Click here.

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