Tuesday, May 27, 2008

sixteen birds in a bathroom box

I took off work Friday. Partially because it was the day I was picking up my poultry at the feed store, but partially because I needed a long four-day break from fluorescent lighting and ergonomically designed office furniture. Two things I hate. So when 8 AM rolled around, I loaded up the station wagon with a pine-chip laden cardboard box and drove the twenty minutes to North Bennington. My twelve laying hen chicks, and two goslings were waiting for me at Whitman's Feed, a local farm and garden store. I was pumped. New downy life was coming back to my small homestead and a new chapter in our farm was getting started.

I arrived at the feed store, box under one arm, and asked where the birds were for pick-up. The guy at the counter told me to head into the back and there I'd find Penny, the woman sorting the boxes of overnighted chicks, ducklings, and goslings. I went through the double doors and found big wooden boxes of chirping adorableness (See picture of goose and duck box). We packed up my order and I noticed a sign...that there were extra ducks and turkeys for sale. I took one of each. I'm a sucker.

The duck, a rare breed called Magpie was for kicks. He could co-exist with my geese and enjoy dips in the creek pools and live a normal life, but the turkey, well, the turkey is in for a more "traditional" fate. I will be raising the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner for my family. I might be the lone vegetarian of the tribe, but come November, regardless of who that bird is, a turkey is dying for that kitchen table, and I'd rather have them eat a healthy, clean, organically fed free-range Tom from my farm - then some assembly line, feces and maggot ridden factory farm mutant pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. I'd feel proud to help produce a big meal for the family that was safe and lived a happy, natural life in sunlight and green grass.

When I told them this, the response was mixed. My dad was amused, my brother-in-law hungry, my mom and sister creeped out. Creeped out by the fact they'd know the bird before it went to be processed. Which confused the hell out of me. I thought this was great news for them, you know, free organic turkey... But the idea that an actual animal would die for their table, an animal I personally knew and raised, put them off.

Their response isn't uncommon at all. Most people, I'd say probably 90% of us, would never eat meat if we had to raise, kill, and dress it for the table ourselves. Besides not wanting to do the dirty work of ending an animals life, most of us don't have the space to raise them even if we did. Pasta sales would soar. Which is why this farmer, is taking the animal to a local organic turkey farm to be professionally prepared. I'll drop off a gobbling bird and the next day pick up a foam cooler. Maybe I'm avoiding reality too, but I don't have the experience or tools do this this kind of faming. Right now the only thing I can harvest is a head of broccoli, which I prefer anyway.

But why the disconnect? When you drive past a farm there aren't giant foam trays munching on grass, there are cows and lambs. How distanced have we become as a culture from our deli sandwiches? Don't we realize a farmer had to plant and grow those tomatoes and lettuce? That a turkey was killed and hung upside down so the blood could all drip out and keep the meat white? That the wheat was milled for the bread? Of course we realize it, but it's become so removed to our lives we forget that we're eating sinew and muscle from something originally having a brain and eyelids. Oh no, like us!

When we're reminded about these things we're grossed out. Which isn't only ridiculous, it's disrespectful. Disrespectful to the hundreds of people that made that sandwich happen, from farmers growing it to the truckers hauling it, and more importantly, disrespectful to the animal that died for it. A living being had it's life taken away, and I'm not even saying that's a bad thing, but the least you can do is remember that at your next barbeque.If you can't, tofurkey is in your natural foods section of your local grocer. It is delicious.

Anyway. I now have a cardboard brooder box with 13 chickens (bought a spare barred rock pullet), a duckling, and two giant goslings. Yesterday I was holding my goslings during a thunderstorm on the porch. Which was a completely new experience for me, goslings in a rainstorm. I recommend it. They'll live inside for about a month, or until they "feather out" and look like hideous half-chicken teenagers and then move outside with the other birds. I hope they all make it, there's always 25% mortality rate with hatchery birds. So far, all of us are going strong.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My omnivorism is an expression of my part in the earth. I have supreme respect for the creatures that I consume, and do my darnedest to make them be as close to the source as possible. I was raised as a duck hunter, and grew roots in Ojibwe land. Eating meat can be a blessed and wonderful thing when you respect your part in it.

I'll eat your turkey any day, when he's good and ready.

By the way, I really do have a spare pair of waders, women's medium. We'll be headed north again in July, if you want them, you really can have them. They're awfully nice and barely used.

June 2, 2008 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

darn it! I just bought some! But you guys are welcome to stop by the farm if you find yourselves in the vermont area, we can get a few drinks.

June 3, 2008 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Damn The Broccoli said...

Just catching up on your blog, wasn't going to make any comments until I'd got through it all but this one touches a nerve with me. I am a self confirmed carnivore and grew up in a particularly rural area in northern england. I am horrified by just how detached we are becoming from our food, not just in terms of where it comes from but in some cases even which animal! This detachment is leading to an increasing amount of food waste as well.
I would personally make all meat eaters have to kill and prepare one animal so they appreciate it more and respect the life that feeds them.

January 15, 2010 at 7:45 AM  

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