Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making An Entrance

Woke up earlier than usual today. My alarm rang while the world was still very dark and I didn't want to leave the warmth of my blankets and sheepdog. Gibson wasn't thrilled to get up either. In the 48 degree house our bed was probably closer to blood temperature. But you can get a Border Collie out of bed if you whisper a herding command into his ear. I just asked him "Where's the sheep?" and he leapt to the window.

I got up shortly after and got dressed. Outside there was a big dog crate of four fat roosters. They spent the night in confinement so their stomaches would be empty for their date with Ben Shaw. Now, you may think four roosters wasn't worth the effort of a trip to the abattoir, but these guys were not your average-sized cocks. These were Magnums, easily weighing in around ten pounds a piece. Most of them Freedom Rangers who escaped capture earlier this summer and had a full autumn to keep putting on weight and grow even larger. But now the boys of summer had hit that plateau where more food doesn't equal more meat and it was time for Freezer Camp. The monsters had their date with destiny and I had plans for a roast dinner Friday night with company.

After feeding the horses, goats, and sheep, waking up the pigs with slops and new grain, and throwing some scratch down for the chickens—I drove the truck around back where the crate was waiting by the coop. I hauled it up into the bed and Gibson and I headed up over the mountain towards Greenwich. It was a fifteen minute drive to Ben Shaw's family farm and I passed an old coworker's home along the way. Her Subaru was warming up in her driveway and soon she'd be heading the opposite direction I was going to her desk at Orvis. I felt a pang I didn't expect to feel. I don't regret a thing about quitting my day job or my life at Cold Antler now—but it was like stepping back in time into a past life for a second. Getting that sense-memory shock of the early morning civilized commute. I would be all showered, in a nice outfit, heading into a long day of design, laughter, friends and lunch breaks with dogs and ponds. It was in no way a bad scene. But now I was in a giant black wool sweater and cap, flecked with hay and certainly not showered. I had oily hair in braids and an empty stomach. There was no just-ironed cardigan and steel thermos of coffee. I made a little sign of blessing and drove on past, putting it behind me. I had a mission in mind.

You would think roosters in transit in the back bed of a truck going 40 MPH along country roads wouldn't want to crow. You'd be wrong. The four tenors crooned the entire drive. They crowed at dairy farmers moving cows. They crowed at kids waiting at bus stops. They crowed at a cop waiting to catch speeders. They crowed at Gibson, who watched them whining out the back window. And when we got to the town of Greenwich and stopped at Stewart's (our local chain of gas station/mini marts) they crowed there too. We pulled into the blue-collar gossip hub with hay flying and roosters making like their voices were their last-chance auditions for a life on Broadway. Construction crews eating their donuts laughed, folks driving kids to school pointed. I just got coffee. Talk about making an entrance….

I arrived at Ben's place and unloaded the birds. He said it was a twenty dollar minimum charge and I could come back in half an hour. I agreed, deciding that I just paid three dollars for a coffee and seltzer, so an other two to have someone do a job that would take me an entire morning to complete (and an unpleasant job at that) and headed into town to get some provisions. I went to the grocery store and bought one of those aluminum cheap turkey pans for the big roos and when I checked out the woman clerk said, conversationally, "Oh, you cooking a turkey this week!" and I said no, that I had this for a chicken big enough to fit in there and she just nodded the way you nod at crazy people to make them go away. I had a wolfish smile at that, and told her thanks and good morning.

So how did it turn out? Well those four roosters weighed in at over thirty pounds! I picked them up and it felt like I was hauling off a bag of kibble. Now, I just paid fifty dollars for half a lamb with Patty and Mark and that didn't even come in at half the weight of those fowl. I was happy as I could be to hand Ben's daughter a crisp twenty and load up my truck with my groceries, meat, and giant turkey pan. The ride home was quieter, and when I passed the neighbor's empty driveway I didn't feel anything.

Change is good.
Roast chicken dinner is great.


Blogger Jenny said...

Our hunting dog jumps out of bed to the words "Where's the birds?" or if my husband yells "Rooster!" (as in male pheasant).

I wish I had a dog that jumped at "Where's the sheep?" Sounds nicer.

October 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Katie Falkenberg said...

I loved this post I read it twice! Enjoy your roast chicken dinner!

October 23, 2012 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 23, 2012 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger M said...

Ah, Jenna! That was great! I get what you mean by moving on. I finally mustered the courage to read dozens of letters from a long-term love I had many years ago. I learned a lot from those letters about why it didn't work as well as what I loved about that guy. But it still hurts a bit even now. My husband encouraged me to do that to "Get it out of your system." It's been therapeutic to burn the letters and feel gratitude for my present life. Even for my damned rooster. Blessings to you today :) M

October 23, 2012 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

We had backyard raised roast chicken last night, with sides from our garden and our neighbors! Eating homegrown foods makes me unbelievably proud, now if we could only do it everyday ☺ I love your morning story, and I'm envious of the size of your roos, that's some big chickens!

October 23, 2012 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Nice! Of course, once again my Barnheart is beating extra hard right now. I cannot wait to have my own roosters in a dog crate!!

October 23, 2012 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Black said...

this really made me laugh

October 23, 2012 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

yum, fresh poultry,humanely raised and without hormones. I had to start my day by corralling 5 bad mares who tore down their fence. For that my dogs had to stay in, their help is worse than no help around the horses and donk. You must have got one of the rare non farmer cashiers at Hannaford (same at Stewarts). Most are farmers, our friends, using those hours cashiering and stocking to supplement our unpredicable farm budgets. I need to call and price flu shots over there. CVS is cahrging $30, think Hannaford is cheaper. Those old men hanging out at Stewarts...what a crew, full of all the local gossip, my husband knows them all, many retired farmers in that motley bunch and they have opinions about everything. My husband's day starts every morning with a trip "into town" to Stewarts for his coffee and to touch base with the folks there. The Stewarts milk and ice cream is great as you must know, and they take good care of their farmers who provide for them. Stewarts has very strict standards for the farms to meet and they do rigorous inspections. The company also takes good care of its employees, again, a good company to support. Buying local is not only good business for us that live around here, but just plain good eating.

October 23, 2012 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger greendria said...

Great story. I think that's a very reasonable price for the butchering work. I've done that once and have a rooster who needs to go right now, but I haven't mustered up the strength to do it again yet.

October 23, 2012 at 4:01 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Question for you...
Did you pay $50 for half a lamb, or $50 for your share of half a lamb? The reason I ask is that I sell my extra lambs and am curious as to whether my pricing is comparable or not.

October 23, 2012 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Dave V. said...

Hi Jenna, I was at Ben Shaw's today too. Dropped my Freedom Rangers off at 8:10. Mine weren't quite the size of yours but they averaged about 5.25 pounds and they are 12 weeks old. Seems pretty good. Feels good giving this nice family my business. Too bad I didn't run into you, I would have liked to say "hi".

October 23, 2012 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger Josh and Haley said...

All this talk about roasted chicken makes me want to eat some! Can you share your recipe? Thanks! Haley

October 23, 2012 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger admin said...

Got a laugh picturing your roostermobile traveling down the road!

October 24, 2012 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Our dog Birdie (an English Shepherd) was hiding from the beginnings of the storm in our car and refused to move. I took a page of your book and whispered to her, "Birdie, the cows are out. Go get the cows!" Worked like a charm.

October 29, 2012 at 2:35 PM  

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