One Chicken Dinner
That bird in the fridge is a story. A story as complicated and beautiful as a chicken dinner can be. Let me tell you just what goes into a bird rubbed down with some olive oil and seasoning on a Sunday night out here in the sticks.
This chicken and a hundred others were mailed here by Kendall and the folks at Freedom Ranger Hatchery who have support this blog for years. The birds were raised in the big brooder out in the barn. A brooder handmade by the Daughton Family as a gift to Cold Antler years before when I first moved to this home in Jackson. And when rats chewed through the worn plywood years later it was the ladies at Windwomen Farm who delivered hardware cloth and supplies to make it critter proof for this years batch! The feed, the pine shavings, the water fonts - all the gear inside was purchased at the Noble Acre Hardware store, downtown. These are people who know me and my life, who have Gibson's picture taped to their jar of biscuits on the counter, and who have never failed to help me in any home or garden project. And when those finally birds went outside on pasture three weeks later they did so in the tractors made out of inspiration from Darcie Confar (who mailed me the materials list and aided in design) and crafted by the good hands of the Connelly Clan who helped build the first model. Patty Wesner came over and helped me build the second one. The third tractor was made by the amazing Brett McLeod, it is wooden and strong and did its part with this chicken dinner as well. Oh, and let's not forget the friends and neighbors who helped pay for all this - by ordering birds from me as co-owners up front. Bailey in Greenwich, Miriam and Chris in Saratoga, Tori and her Mother, the folks who run The Stovery, and my neighbor Manya. Those birds were being raised to feed six families, no small honor or task.
And besides all these people involved, there is the story of the daily work of raising food. These are the chicks I bedded with extra hay on cold spring nights and set up with heat lamps on the lawn to keep farm from the chill and dew. I remember them glowing like paper lanterns on the side yard and confusing folks who drove by them on their way to dinner and a movie. I remember running uphill to protect them from thunderstorms and how strong I felt when I did so, naked and crouching under a solar shower, knowing once again that I love this life and the work involved. I think back on the days of heat waves, pulling them into the shade. I think of the days of rain - keeping them dry and comfortable. I think of hundreds of feedings and changed water. I think of how raising these birds meant living in one place, on one piece of land, and never taking a vacation from that fine duty. How being able to do that full time IS the vacation, and it is my whole life and all I ever wanted. I think of loading them up into my truck and taking them to Ben Shaw to be processed and singing Taylor Swift songs while Friday howled next to me over the hills and valleys of Washington County. And of course, I think of handing them out to the folks who supported me up front and the feeling of them driving off with pounds of meat raised with integrity and purpose for their families. That feeling of watching some one drive away with food from this place never gets old, in fact, it only gets richer.
So why all this background on a chicken dinner? Because it takes a village, literally, to defrost a chicken on this farm. If you think that is shameful you are missing out on the entire point. This is homesteading folks, this is it. Self-Relience is not the point and the longer I farm the more I believe that with all my heart. Homesteading is not about autonomy, it's about community. It's about making the choice once and a while to step outside the conventions of grocery stores and take out and opt for the road less traveled. Because you know what is on that road? Love.
All those people I listed above, all of them are only a part of my life because I chose this path. Not the path of raising chickens, but that is a part of it. I chose to make homegrown food a part of my life and that started with some potted peas in a windowsill and some backyard chickens in a rented space — and now here I am — on a piece of land I own in my own name, a single woman, living the life of her dreams in the service of six and a half acres of blessed mistakes and victories. And while on that path I met people I only know because of this blog and this life. Moving to the country didn't isolate me or turn me into a new Pioneer - it turned me into a community builder and humble receiver of lesson after lesson. It brought me people I love, who I can't imagine being without, and who constantly keep coming into my life. If gratitude had weight to it I wouldn't be able to swim in the river, for fear of sinking right to the bottom. It's a good problem to have.
So that is why I am so excited about a dead bird. It's not just a meal, it's a manifesto. It's what I work so hard to keep here through workshops, ad sales, stories, music lessons, logo designs and more. It's the reason I have not, and will never, give up on this dream. It's the reason I would rather stay home and turn up my iPod and dance with border collies or pony in the pasture while biting on a drumstick than leaving for a weekend in Montreal to see the band live. Because all of this good life, the "simple" life, comes from a complicated and beautiful tribe of lives who love this scrappy place.
Dinner is at 6, outside under the maple tree, come and join me friends.