Sunday, October 25, 2009

a bloody sunday

My friend Steve does a lot of things: he fly fishes, he hunts, he plays guitar in my open-mic trio. He also kills roosters. Or at least, that's what he did today. As an experienced killer of many things with wings—Steve offered to help me slaughter my angry Ameraucana Rooster. We made plans to do him in this morning. Together we ended the reign of terror that was Chuck Klosterman.

By the time his Tacoma pulled up the farm I had already done my chores and had coffee on the stove. I did what I could to prepare. I had a large stock pot handy, a chopping block and axe at the ready, and breakfast in the works. Steve would be bringing his game knives and work gloves. We'd make the hour very productive.

After a breakfast of eggs, toast, and strong coffee we put the hot water on and I went out to collect the terrorist. I think Steve assumed he'd be the one to grab Chuck. He put on his gloves and was heading towards the coop, but I insisted I be the person who carried him to the stump. I felt that was my job. Also, I knew this bird inside and out. I played his games. I knew how he tricked me, clawed me, caught me off guard... If anyone was going to grab him quickly—it would be me. So I walked into the coop, closed the door behind me, and stared him down. I chased him for a short fever of squawks and hisses but eventually caught that awful bird. It took a few tries. To his credit Chuck only got me once on the gloved hand. Man, it stung. It would be the last beating I'd take from him. That much, I was certain.

Instantly after grabbing him I inverted him—holding him upside down by his dinosaur feet. You do this for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it lulls the rooster into a complacency best suited for transportation to execution. I walked out of the coop beaming, walking towards Steve with the bird's claws in my hands like a cavewoman who just settled a bet. He laughed and said the look of pride on my face as I stormed out of there was perfect. I understood the fox a little better, too.

So, to the stump we went. He would die by the same woodpile I used to heal. Farms are complicated animals.

I thought this would be the hard part. It wasn't. There was no prayers or sentimentality—no squirming or flinching. There simply wasn't time Almost as soon as I set his long neck down on the stump Steve came down with the axe and Chuck was no more. After some spraying and flapping we carried the bird over to our processing station (AKA my porch). We set up a long piece of cardboard, knives, the near-boiling stock pot, and a plastic bag for the feathers. Before we went about the business of scalding and plucking, Steve removed some select feathers from Chuck's cape and tail. We set them aside in an envelope to tie flies with this winter. "You can catch some brookies next summer thanks to this guy," he said as we slid them into an envelope. For all the trouble this rooster had cost me, he certainly was paying his way in the world. He'd be freezer meat, a story, and next summer's trout on the line. What a guy.

The whole ordeal was done in about twenty minutes. Steve and I plucked feathers and cut off the feet. He gutted and washed the meat and then we wrapped the jerk up in plastic. As all this was happening Winthrop, now the head honcho, walked around in what I can only assume was relief and joy. (Winthrop, by the way, did not so much as say boo to us.) Here's Steve posing for one last photo with the stew meat formally known as Chuck Klosterman. The rooster reigns no more.

As I write, Chuck is silently occupying the freezer. He'll be crock pot fodder one of these weekends, or something of that sort. His feathers are in the drawer, waiting to be flies. Steve suggested we have a fall bonfire up here soon with music and our friends and everyone can have some Chuck Stew. I like this idea very much—a party in his "honor". We'll call it Chuck's Wake and sing songs and enjoy what's left of October before the snow comes and carries her away from us all. Saying goodbye to October is always hard on me.

I now live a life where chicken blood can start a party and dead leaves are becoming a sign of true mourning. Vermont keeps teaching me lessons, and I have a feeling it's the state that's going to make me into who I'm going to be. A woman who can appreciate what she has while she has it, but can also tell when it's time to get rid of the ones who cause her pain. Godspeed, old girl, get me home fast.

I'm not happy to have taken a life today, but I am glad I did what was best for me and this small farm. I have no qualms with my choice. What may appear like a heartless act to some, I assure you, was not. An aggressive rooster is no comfort to hens he is over-working and no use to the farmer he is attacking either. It was a bloody Sunday, but a necessary one. I'm proud we were able to do the job that needed to be done and I'm grateful to have a friend like Steve who was willing to give up a weekend morning to help. I'm also certain Winthrop and the hens will all sleep better tonight. So will I.

We cleaned up the gut pile and I washed off the axe. Our work was done. Before Steve left I gave him the apple pie I baked for him as a thank you gift. On it was the head of a rooster and an axe. A little crass, but what can I say? I'm a little crass. He took it and headed out the door. "Blood money." was what he said with a smile.

I like the crowd I fell into here.


Blogger P said...

Another great story.

I've been dieing to learn how to fly fish! When I mentioned camping to my husband right after we got married he said, and I quote, "I'm an inside cat." So I figure fly fishing is out too, which is too bad because I live right near the Clackamas and Willamette rivers (the Clackamas being much shallower and this time of year has all kinds of folks in it in their hip waders- jealous!!!)

So get him to teach you how to fly fish for me!

October 25, 2009 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger mySavioReigns said...


October 25, 2009 at 10:06 PM  
Blogger Tami said...

Bravo Jenna...a smart woman is one who knows what needs to be done...and while doing it, does it with class and a certain amount of grace...
Tami E.

October 25, 2009 at 10:40 PM  
Blogger Vickie's Michigan Garden (my backyard) said...

Your story is a good one-he kind of reminded you one more time why you needed to do this when he got you one more time.

October 25, 2009 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

And Steve's a pretty good looking guy, too. I wouldn't mind having coffee and killing roosters with him anyday! lol :)


October 25, 2009 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

What flies are you going to tie with Chuck's cape?


Pick up a copy of, "The Sierra Trout Guide," by Ralph Cutter. Fly fishing does not have to be hard. In fact the real simplicity is what makes it beautiful.

October 25, 2009 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I'll never forget the first time I realized that sometimes you have to kill animals on a farm. I grew up on a dairy farm, so I was pretty young when I found this out. One of the cows - one of my dad's favourite cows - was sick, and wasn't getting any better. I remember him leading her out to the back of the barn, just the way he would if she were going out to pasture. He had someone else shoot her, he couldn't do it, but I rounded the corner just as he was tying her up, and he gave a yell for me to scram. I did, but not before I figured out what the big deal was about. It's a tough lesson, but it's one that comes with farming.

October 26, 2009 at 12:01 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I never tire of reading your writings of your adventures on CAF. You have a reverence which translates like nothing else.

October 26, 2009 at 12:06 AM  
Blogger ammamcp said...

I'm so glad God paired your many skills and talents w/ storytelling talent as well. I've been sick for 2 wks so I really look forward to your next post!

October 26, 2009 at 12:31 AM  
Blogger Robj98168 said...

Good. Now maybe you can get aon a new topic.

October 26, 2009 at 1:21 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Thumbs up!

October 26, 2009 at 4:21 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Understood! I have one rooster , 4hens. One day 5 of our relationship "mister Mister" atacked my feet, drew blood. On day 6 I enterd the coop with a crop (sm. horse whip) in hand. Mr.Mister has not struck again. If he does I will fill a pot. PS chesck out 41 bales @

October 26, 2009 at 6:34 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I grew up on a small farm for a few years of my young life. I found myself right down the road of this farm 25 years later. So being 31 years of age now, I can still remember when the men in our small 3 house rented farm land would go round up dinner. My mother would tell me to stay away and keep playing horse shoes. I did, for a few minutes. I remember the feeling of "if she doesnt want me to see whats going on over there, I KNOW I want to see it." Kids and adults are stronger than we all give credit for. I remember peeking through the line of trees between the shoe pit and the barn. I would crouch down and sneak a peek at what the men were doing. It didnt freak me out, it didnt burn any bad memories into my mind. It just seemed like the men were doing what they had to do. It wasnt as big of a deal as my mother made it out to be. I still remember it..but not in any bad ways. I just know now, what to expect when we slaughter ours.

I think you handled it very well, with a ton of grace and dignity. I am happy you have found a group of people who help and guide you in your life. It amazinf when it all falls together that way.

I still think you should consider having a class with your buddy Steve on how to do this. Its a real, ture part of Homesteading.

October 26, 2009 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Chicken Mama said...

And, double bonus: Steve's really good looking! ;)

October 26, 2009 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Well Done, Jenna.

I have a hen who is getting on in years and is not producing any longer. I know I have to do the same made my decision a little easier. But my dad will do the deed!

October 26, 2009 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Jenna, It sounds as if you are developing some really wonderful friendships and relationships with outstanding people. Maybe a close girlfriend hasn't come along yet, but like myself, you walk to the beat of a different drummer. It is not always easy to find other female companions of like minded nature. I do not yet have chickens, hopefully this spring, but I do relish all the time I can get in my gardens. It can be a spiritual experience for me. However, it is not for every woman. I prefer the earth in my naked hands rather than using gloves, so often my nails suffer and I have at times developed contact dermitis. I prefer in warm weather to wear cheapy flip flops when I'm digging, hauling and adding horse manure to my gardens, so I don't have flashy looking toenails either. One ex-lover of mine often teased me about having Hobbit feet during the warm weather months. Not every girls summer style.
Anyways, just seems warm and wonderful that you are finding a niche that so suits you.
Like yourself, what I'd give to chuck this full time job and work at what makes my heart happiest.
I am glad to hear that harvest Chuck will turn into a celebration, as it should be. Enjoy each moment!!!
Blessings, Chris

October 26, 2009 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

Ol' Chuck Klosterman came to Jenna,
A cute, feathered chick with peeps.
The older he got, the meaner he got,
And gave everyone the creeps.

He ruled over the roosts they say,
The hens he tried to lure,
He wasn't a romantic fool
But a bully with razor spurs.

Then he made a choice he'd regret,
And dug his spurs into Jenna.
His fate was sealed, chicken stew he'd become,
And off came the head of this fella.

Ah, Chuck we'll miss ya', your colors and walk,
As Winthrop takes over your Misses,
And we say farewell to a notable bird,
Over hot chicken stew and cold Guinness.

October 26, 2009 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Tammi said...

Great post Jenna. I talking about Chuck Klosterman at my dinner party Friday night and telling them about your blog.

We "relocated" two roosters recently and I hear you about the upheaval they can cause.

Thanks for sharing and good luck with your farm.

October 26, 2009 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger hlbrack said...

Nice! Great post.

October 26, 2009 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Tora: said...

Great story Jenna...I look forward to thee "good reads" every day...thanks a lot.

October 26, 2009 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger dogear6 said...

Thanks for your honesty in sharing the real life of what happens on your farm. I'm glad you took care of the problem with Chuck without regrets and I'm glad you also took time to think it out and share with us why you did it.

The self-reliant homestead is great, but there is work, effort and difficult decisions to be made.

October 26, 2009 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Funny Ernie said...

Welcome to the next stage in homesteading! And Steve is a cutie, too. Maybe he is single for you?

October 26, 2009 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Heathers T and E said...

I agree with Chicken Mama about Steve.

October 26, 2009 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Conny said...

@Patsy - Yaay! You may have written the first Ode to Chuck. I haven't yet checked the CAF forum to see if a thread has begun for the Ode...

@Jenna - Somehow I now feel a sense of peace - that you're not a target for ole CK anymore.

October 26, 2009 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

"An aggressive rooster is no comfort to hens he is over-working and no use to the farmer he is attacking either"

Very true. It's also worth noting that aggressive roosters almost never find a good home elsewhere, either (which seems to be a common misconception).

You know you are suited to farm life when you can do these things and not balk. And chicken blood always starts a party around here - we invite friends to come help! Makes the day go faster.

October 26, 2009 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger tine1973 said...

I don't know if your dogs are started on this road already, but my dogs LOVE chicken feet. Its a little bizarre - but apparently they are yummy!

October 26, 2009 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I'll have to let Steve know he has a fan club here....

October 26, 2009 at 4:26 PM  
OpenID localnourishment said...

No "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" references yet? Okay, I'll do it.

I love that Chuck is paying you back for all his trouble. Be sure you save his feet and bones for stock, his liver for pate, oh, there's just so many ways he can contribute now that he's more peaceful!

October 26, 2009 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

That's what a farm yard is all about. Next time you should do the killing. It's a good experience, no matter what the squeamish say.

October 26, 2009 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger Elsie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 26, 2009 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Elsie said...

Ha! I found myself looking at the picture to see if Steve's left hand (ring finger) was visible!

October 26, 2009 at 6:02 PM  
Blogger Sharyl said...

Oh, kudos to you. Chuck's demise makes me a little sad (or rather, his life--such a deservedly unloved bird!), but my hat's off to you for doing what needed to be done.

October 26, 2009 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger Robj98168 said...

Here is the "W" Answer

October 26, 2009 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Steve's single, yes, but I'm not the object of his affections.

October 26, 2009 at 7:21 PM  
Blogger twistie said...

oh the peace on the farm after the dreaded deed is done....

October 26, 2009 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

the circle of life goes on...

i have so been wanting to learn to tie flies for years now, hubby just laughs!

October 26, 2009 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger deborahwolfe said...

Fantastic post. Letting go. A hard lesson for many of us.

October 27, 2009 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

It sounds as if you really "fell" into a terrific crowd of people. Sometimes places capture our hearts because of the beauty of the surroundings. Sometimes it is the beauty of the souls who inhabit a place which make it special. It is true great fortune to find both at once. Almost heaven.

October 27, 2009 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Howie Long's Mom said...

Jenna - full of Grace. Kudos girlfriend.

Maybe you could set aside a portion of the meat to make those great sled dogs some home made treats.

Chuck...the gift that keeps giving.

October 27, 2009 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger Leigh said...

Being from the burbs all my life, the homesteading lifestyle is very foreign to me and exciting to read and dream about. I have to admit that I was a little weirded out by the event when I first read the blog entry. I decided to come back and read the responses to see what the community had to say. I now have respect for and understand why you ended Chuck's life. Thank you for being honest about the ups and downs of owning chickens and homesteading.

October 28, 2009 at 1:41 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Leigh, this is as bad as it gets. In three years it's the first and only bird we had to dispatch and it was done with friends, outside, in the same place he grew up in. No, it's not ideal, but had to be done. Sorry abou the weird but I think it's important I cover everything that goes on here so people who are considering all this get a taste of what really goes down....

October 28, 2009 at 6:15 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

He'll make great soup. I grew up on a ranch, so I have no qualms about eating mean roosters (or cows). My uncle had a nasty piece of work that would just wait to ambush people walking back to the house from the barn. He was a huge leghorn -- biggest damn chicken I have ever seen (okay I was 10, but he was still big). Luckily he never hooked me with his spurs, but I did spend a great deal of time on the top rail of the corral until the menace got bored & wandered off. He eventually became soup as well.

October 31, 2009 at 12:20 AM  
Blogger Clay said...

Mean roosters are a pain. We currently have one (Barred Rock) and I've been reluctant to send it to that great coop in the sky because he keeps the hens in line. A rooster-less flock can be a little scattered.

"and then we wrapped the jerk up in plastic." Wow, if I had a dollar for every time I've said that.


November 4, 2009 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger M said...

This will sound naive, I'm sure, but couldn't you have tried to give the bird away? Death seems such a drastic measure. I'm (obviously) a stranger to this lifestyle, so I can't pretend to understand.

By the way, did you grow up on a farm, or is all this what you've learned completely from scratch in the past few years? Really impressive in my opinion.

November 11, 2009 at 10:21 PM  
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Blogger Cindy said...

My best friend referred me to your blog just to read the story of the demise of Chuck. Several years ago I took care of her chickens while she was on vacation. Unfortunately, she did not warn me about her son's attack bantam. In the years since I have repeatedly stated that that rooster was going to be dinner one day. I laughed my way through story, and can't wait to read about Chuck's wake. God bless.

May 11, 2010 at 9:21 PM  

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