Thursday, November 24, 2011


The day came. And it was different than what I thought it would be. It didn't happen where I thought it would, the cast was slightly different. It was cold, I called that. I had knives and gloves and bags and I had a clear mind. A resolved mind, or a resigned mind. I checked my mind in somewhere else, there would be no complicating this process with how I felt about it. It would be a mechanical series of events. Slit the throat while holding the bird firmly between my knees. Lift the flapping bird carefully not to bruise the wing meat and place it head down into the metal funnels, tie the feet, let it bleed. Repeat, until the rack of funnels was full. No more room at the inn. Move to the next step. Untie the feet and lift the limp bird up and carry it to the scalding tank, where for 3 or 4 seconds I swish the bird from side to side, lifting and dunking, watching the accumulated shit balls stuck in the chest feathers mostly dissolve away. Lift the now dripping bird up and test pull a few wing feathers out to make sure the scalding has been effective. If needed, dip again, swish again. Carry the bird, always by the feet to the plucker. Resting on the edge of the plucker, cut off the feet, neatly, at the knee. Let the bird slide into the plucker until there are 4 or 5 inside. Turn on the plucker. Step away and slit more throats while kneeling on the frozen ground. Tie and untie, dip, swish, cut, pluck until all 25 birds are heaped into a clean white plastic container. Next step. Evisceration. With knives rinsed and sharpened and new gloves on we begin to gut the birds in unison standing next to each other at the evisceration rack. Evisceration station. First, cut off the oil gland which is below the anus, next, cut around the anus and gently pull out the guts. The guts are warm and unless they are punctured are not that disgusting, I am not thinking about anything beyond getting this job done neatly. Pull the guts out, the heart, the lungs, the liver. Save the livers and hearts and some necks. I am not being as thrifty as I should be, my feet are getting wet. If it weren't for the greenhouse where this is taking place, we'd all be much colder. Once cleaned the birds rest in a cold bath of water. There is ice on top, this is a good thing. They float in the water and look cold but like meat and that is a good thing. They are no longer living creatures, they have stepped across the threshold and have become food. This is a good thing. We bag them up. My fingers are numb and I can't open the ziploc bags. The bags, once loaded are pleasingly heavy. We clean up what we need to. I wash the feet and set them aside in a bucket and then bag them up. I hose feathers into a pile and we scrub blood from the metal bleed rack. It's done and we go home and get warmed up. I let myself think again, and the feelings I have the most of are related to accomplishment and righteousness. Once you have killed something with the intention of eating it you have crossed your own threshold from bystander to hunter.

Friday, November 18, 2011


There is no picture for this post. If there were you wouldn't like it. The distended anus of a chicken as it propels itself forward shitting one final shit as its heart stops and its nerves fire one last time and it lands way off in the corner of the pen causing me to grab at it with the pitch fork. All I can think is what a waste, 3 months of feeding and it can't be eaten. The butchering takes preparation and will happen in two days on another farm near here. If I were a farm wife, I'd know what to do in this situation. I might even have an over-sized pot boiling on the wood cook-stove up in the farmhouse, sharpened knives at the ready. 15 or 20 minutes and it would be ready to cook for my hungry family. If I were a farm wife I wouldn't  have on a Pashmina scarf under my chartreuse green coat, I wouldn't be worried about feathers and blood and guts. I might even have pigs that I could throw the entrails to like little treats or god forbid the entire chicken if it were suspect enough. I am not a farm wife, I am a designer and I have no time to pluck a chicken today because I need to finish a rush job, butchering a suddenly dead chicken was not on my docket for the day. Even still, I feel the futility as the limp body heavy with meat gets tossed into the woods, hopefully some other animal will discover it and eat it. Happy early Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Today, a link

In writing my novel I am being pulled into an arena that is all about a standard form of story telling and because I am inexperienced I am following it. It is like learning a language I may never speak or understand and I feel lost and foreign in the face of it but I am sticking with it. I am reminded of Lydia Davis who when I was introduced to her writing style felt like a sign from the universe that maybe I could be a writer too. While I understood that reality is what you make around yourself and not something that is thrust upon you I had not been able to translate that to the way I saw words and stories. I am becoming more comfortable with this notion and Lydia Davis is the embodiment of all that is possible in the realm of story telling.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I am not a long suffering mother. I am a person who, if you piss me off with your one word answers will stop speaking to you. I will make your supper and stoke the fire and do many of the jobs you said you'd do because I understand this one true thing. You are a child. Even though you wear a push -up bra and make-up, you are little more than a baby in a growing body and you know nothing and you know everything. And it is my job to push back now and then and then hug you 15 minutes later when you crawl out of your room knowing you were wrong or if not wrong, 13. And I don't need to forgive you because I was never mad at you in the first place I was just pushing back because that was what  was needed in that moment when I asked you those questions. You are a good kid and I am a dedicated parent and none of this feels like suffering because I won't let it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Are you experienced?

Meat birds at 5 Weeks

It's Sunday here where I sit, somewhere it's Monday and I will be thrust into that reality soon enough but until then I will enjoy Sunday. As I sit and write this in my espresso induced sweat my head is full and strangely empty all at once. I feel calm mostly but occasionally have a flash of things that need my attention and I try to add them to the list for the coming week, things I must do, food I must cook, emails I must respond to. For now though we are listening to Neil Young and my husband is sitting across from me the way he does at his house and we have our laptops spread out on the kitchen table and the kid is recuperating down the hall with a semi nasty cough watching endless movies on cable-TV.

I have done nothing to document the chicks development as I had wanted to and time is leaving this idea in its dust. I imagined pages of quaint gestural drawings, spontaneous captivating paintings and daily photos. I even considered building a small lit cove in which I could drop a chicken or two for a couple of real money shots but I have not done any of it. In its place is growing disappointment and harsh words directed inward to the file of things I just never got to. They are six weeks old now, we are on the home stretch, in the next 3 weeks we will organize the butchering day and even though I never thought I had the stomach for this type of activity (and maybe I don't) I am willing myself to fall headlong into the experience. Why not. Why shouldn't I attempt to butcher 27 meat birds at home with borrowed chicken butchering equipment? This has been the work of farm women for millennia why should I be squeamish and spared.

In casual conversation regarding the butchering of various commonly farmed animals the question of what to do with the plethora of nasty bits that we refined North Americans deem un-consumable, it occurred to me that I would be in possession of a treasure trove of chicken feet, a delicacy in the Chinese community. One of the strange features of the Cornish Cross breed are their huge feet and thick legs. In an effort not to waste them I inquired about eating them to my Chinese friend who's old mother is visiting soon. I half expected her to be completely grossed out but instead she waxed poetic about the wonderful experience of eating them as a child, their fried exterior concealing a delicious gelatinous interior. She went on to tell how she had gone with her mother to Chinatown to the chicken butcher where you could choose a live bird and have it butchered on the spot, carrying home the recently live bird in a shopping bag.

So my new fantasy is that this old woman from China via Los Angeles, who has been described as looking like Nelsen Mandela will join us on butchering day perhaps wielding her own cleaver and be our guide. Women working together to shouts in Cantonese and English, and cries of the chickens as their throats are slit while the pile of beautiful yellow legs grows to be taken home and enjoyed for Thanksgiving.
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