The butchering of chickens and other forms of protein happens all of the time, by individual hand and factory. It’s an ordinariness that never loses its unease. Picking up your protein from a local butcher does however take the edge off.
What I wonder about is, when it took two urban farmers plus one 5th grade farmhand all day to butcher, prep, make stew and stock from two hens how anybody had time for the quilting, sewing and woodworking. Hell, even just splitting wood for a fire seems like it would go by the wayside.
post butchering cleanup
remains of the day
“We all go a little mad sometime.” Psycho
Today is a frightfully annoying stereotypical Monday. Much started, less finished and suddenly it’s time to pick up the boy from school. The boy whom with which I had to have a conversation regarding what constitutes a legend. In other words the difference between legendary and infamous and how that might translate into the short attention span world of 7th grade. As it turns out he’s being greeted or crowned with the nickname legend. This is not due to his Lacrosse skills but rather his ability to get five detentions within the span of 15 minutes last Thursday. Yeah, it’s apparently like that.
My day off from the parenting gig this weekend was Sunday and it was spent helping out (well I plucked feathers from a wet, dead hen) butchering and documenting the transformation of two hens into delicious chicken stock as well as crock potted chicken stew at Garden Girl Farm. I’m thankful for friends in helping with the restoration of my sense of humor and sanity. I don’t know where to start so will leave you with this teaser. One of these images does not fit, or maybe it’s that two don’t.
vintage jewelry advertisement
what's inside your chicken
vintage jewelry advertisement
I’m thinking that I might have a second rooster on my hands, just a gut feeling with the help of suggestive visuals. If that’s the case I want a blue chick from Garden Girl Farm. Had a chance to visit with these girls, and guy last week.
And because it’s Monday, a song for you,
Big Gay Al
Big Gay Al is a resident of Garden Girl Farm. I’m happy to report that because of his delightful personality he is on permanent reprieve from our annual fowl tradition. The rumor is that my Thanksgiving host has ordered an Heirloom Turkey from the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market so I can stop eyeing those wild turkeys that I see roaming off of Lucas Valley Road. I’m responsible for a savory wild mushroom tart which makes me think I’ve got the good deal. A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your beloveds or at the very least the family that you chose to move far, far away from.
Sasquatch, Don King and Baby Jesus
Hooked up with this menage a trois at Garden Girl Farm and they came home with me last night. Sasquatch is a lovely rabbit as is her offspring Baby Jesus who is looking like a boy as we were checking out his bits while he calmly gave us his “whatever” look. Don King, part of the mess of a duck shipment has issues and is being picked on by his flock so is joining our flock of four less than able ducks. Cassie loves these two bunnies but is going to be focusing on raising an uber form of rabbit hence the move. Big Daddy, a handsome black male will be joining us as well so Baby Jesus could be joined by siblings. Two required classes in my Catholic all girls High School aka San Domenico were “Old Testament” followed the next year by not surprisingly “New Testament”. I bring this up only because I’m going to have to utilize some creative license in the lineage not that my recall of either classes material is spectacular.
Coq au Vin, the authentic version and a vast amount of chicken stock for canning was on our minds when my friend Cassie needed to dispatch four of her roosters for various reasons. I had Henry as a captive audience in the car so was inclined and able to give my “Where do you think your food comes from?” talk and tossed in “Chickens don’t poop out breaded nuggets.” for good measure. I didn’t know how he would react to the butchering.
The sharp knife option, you know they are dead
By the time we arrived at Garden Girl Farm Cassie had already butchered two of of the four roosters but we were up close and personal for the remaining duo. It’s not an urban or in this case farm myth that chickens run around once the beheading has happened. It’s unnerving just how long they are still active. In the moment it feels like forever. Once the birds was killed we dipped them in boiling water to ease the plucking off of their feathers. I have no plucking shots because, well I was busy with handfuls of feathers, going back in for the stubborn quills.
Cassie waiting for the headless chicken to quiet down
Once plucked Cassie butchered the chicken. Also a bit unsettling was the behavior of the remaining flock. Those hens were hanging around waiting to be tossed the bits and pieces of what was an outstanding anatomy lesson. Apparently there is nothing more tasty to a chicken then a fellow bird’s lung or liver. Moving on to the portion of the day that most of us are more familiar with we browned the now salted chicken in some olive oil.
The browning chicken
Into a stock pot the size of which I’m envious went the browned chicken, onions, celery, carrots and various herbs from the garden. Another portion of the chicken along with the above ingredients and a couple of bottles of Merlot went into another pot for the start of Coq au Vin. Remember scratch n’ sniff stickers? I wish there was that option for the simmering stock image.
The simmering stock
There had been a whole bunch of verbal bravado from the boy. Would Henry swear off of meat? Would there be tears? Nope, I think he’s just fine. A chicken pot pie was consumed for dinner that night.
Surf Camp for Henry and three of his friends has come to a crashing halt. It’s not due to shark sightings or a glassy ocean but the looming responsibilities (my theory) of their coach. He’s a nice guy, thirty six with a girlfriend who’s pregnant. In lieu of wetsuits and boards these guys have been helping out at Garden Girl Farm here and there.
The view of the highway and Chevron refinery from the deck of Garden Girl Farm
This past week Cassie’s ducks from Ideal Hatchery arrived and they were far from. While there appear to be happy customers on their website this was not Garden Girl Farm’s experience. She had ordered a straight run (males and females) of Peking ducks. Out of the 20 ducklings that arrived four were deformed, three have neurological issues (one runs in a circle), one is missing an eye and nine are crested. We have four of the “retards” which is Henry’s unfortunate choice of word at our house as they were being picked on by their peers.
Elsewhere around the farm Sasquatch after pulling out bunches of belly fur and making a nest with the fluff gave birth to two kits. Sadly she sat on one of them and it died. The remaining kit is thriving, here held by Freddy.
The boys while taking a post lunch break hung around with Big Gay Al hoping he would make a turkey move on them despite the warning that they would end up scratched. They finally got bored as he was not showing any interest in any of them. Which reminds me, there are also a couple of turkey chicks born about a week ago (Al’s the dad) and a new group of one day old chicks. Just another day around the farm!
A few of the one day old chicks
Misha with Big Gay Al in the background
Goose with Big Gay Al
A huge muchas gracias to the thoughtful individual who sold Henry a couple of lighters at the Marin County Fair when he was wandering unchaperoned with friends. One has a distinctive leaf and skull motif the other burns so strong and bright that “crack pipe” floats through my mind. He says they are “just for show” and I’m trying to tease out exactly what that means.
Jennifer and one of the curly fur bunnies
Last night there was an impromtu garden party at my friend Cassie’s house. Henry and I harvested potatoes from her recycled trash can potato towers which we later consumed in a delish potato salad tangy with greek yogurt. We shared blueberries and apricots from our garden. As it turns out, thinking ahead Henry had one of his above mentioned purchases in a pocket ready for the fireworks. He thus earned the nickname “Sparky” which he will be forevermore known as when at Garden Girl Farm.
our new housemates
We also came home with five (three of them one day old) chicks and I barely escaped a bunny after holding the furry bundle. They are thriving in Henry’s bedroom two of them growing larger overnight. The one day old chicks are runts and probably would not have survived outdoors. We are hoping to alter those odds. The coop gets built on Tuesday so will be ready for the new residents in two to three weeks.
I’ve been immersed recently shooting images for Garden Girl Farm, an urban farm located in Pt. Richmond with an expansive view of the Chevron facility and the other day a well attired woman walking on the freeway. Cassie, the farmer behind Garden Girl Farm has chickens, turkeys, rabbits and assorted produce. A recent trek to the local market found the butcher hard at work trying to get her phone number. She mentioned that she was married and noted to herself that he was probably too young, the braces on his teeth being the giveaway. She however took his phone number as she wants assistance butchering her current crop of bunnies.
I planted my Victorianesque Black Hollyhocks late this year so they need more time in the ground before I see any action. Garden Girl’s however are prolific.