Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's Time for a Turkey Slaughter!

We were up before 5 am this morning and out the door till somewhere just before 4 this afternoon.  There was a turkey slaughter to attend.  Yep, turkey slaughter.  It's pretty exciting and we have been looking forward to mid-November for quite a while.  Due to living on National Forest property we are not legally allowed to have much usage of the land our house sits on.  However, we live in a major agricultural area.  Our family - mainly The Barracuda and I - help a local farm bring in their raw milk, organic produce, slaughtering their free-range birds, mend or put up fences, and general farm work.  More than anything, this is a way for us to afford high quality food, help the local food bank (over half the harvest goes to the food bank), and practice hard work.  We work for food and maintain the local sustainable community of agriculture fostered around here.  From pigs, to raw milk, honey, fowl, beef and veggies, it is all grown within 30 minutes of our house and directly traded to create an off the grid food network.  It keeps our freezer and canning shelves overflowing, it shows The Barracuda exactly where his food comes from and helps him get his hands dirty.  At its core, it places the value directly in work since no money is ever exchanged.  It is one of the many ways we try to practice justice, love kindness, and walk humbly in our everyday existence.

This big boy is in rut and all he wants to do is snuggle!  If only he didn't stink quite so badly...

Often times there are Spanish Immersion lessons as well, since one of the moms (it's a family farm with lots of extended family) is fluent and The Barracuda has a bent for languages.  We harvested thousands of pounds potatoes while listening to multi-cultural stories in Spanish, we learned anatomy while gutting over a hundred chickens, and today we proceeded to turkeys.  When a calf died of bloat, The Barracuda got to hear all about ungulate digestion and various stomachs, as well as the special needle-tube used to piece the distended organ to let the pressure out. It was fascinating!  There is a skin to scrape, brain to smear, and a hide to tan.  He wants to make mittens.  Sometimes he gets to ride in the tractor, sometimes he gets to listen as the men fix the tractor, sometimes he gets to feed the pigs;  he always has fun.

We have seen these birdies since they were small and fuzzy.  Now they live in the freezer.  There is nothing more intimate than watching your food grow and feeding it as it will feed you.

I'm learning as well.  Today it was the signs used to communicate with a tractor/fork-lift driver and how to anticipate the movements of a machine weighing in just over 11 tons.  We hauled fencing off a semi and will later use a power auger to string high power electrical fencing.  I get to learn electrical work from an engineer and taxonomical anatomy from people who raise and breed animals.  The continual reinforcement of learning outside a classroom is always a major perk.

That tractor scares the crap out of me.  The wheels are bigger than I am and I've seen my son crawl under it to pull out jammed debris that only he could reach.  Today I ran back and forth around said tires and under the forklift to help negotiate the moving of hundreds of pounds of fencing.  Conquering fears can be immensely empowering! 

In the shadow of our mountain, the farm grows on. This is their life and they live it out loud.  We go up and get our hands dirty in freshly tilled loam or the guts of freshly grown fowl.  It is an authentic existence with death, and birth, and dirt, and guts spoken of matter-of-factually as we gather around the slaughter table and dump goopy innards into 5 gallon buckets. 

As much as they think we are crazy for getting up at 3 am to eek out one last climb of the season or meticulously teach The Barracuda knots so he can deftly preform crevasse rescue if necessary, they have a tube-needle to allow excess gas out of their cattle's stomach if necessary.  Both lives are equally crazy.

Neither is seen as odd though. We are both safe in our extreme existences.  They slowly talk to him about how to make the proper cuts to a bird's jugular or the proper psi for the wheel barrings of the tractor.  They describe all the different potatoes, where in the world they come from, what the different varieties taste like, their growing seasons, the adaptations evolved for different elevations and vast amounts of knowledge both The Barracuda and I soak up like sponges it is so interesting.  We can talk about hikes in all different ecosystems; they can talk about food and life.

The Barracuda is checking the temperature of the dunking water and warming his hands.  By the end of the 40 turkeys all our hands were numb and having trouble working.  Today was wet and cold, but he held on manning is duties to the dunking water and the feather plucker.  He is working his way up to the initial jugular slicing and has frequently helped with guttings.

The more I look around, the more I realize we are not isolated in our desire to live out loud.  Authentic lives are all around us.  These people aren't playing; they aren't dabbling; they mean it.  It isn't something they do on the weekends or do just for fun.  They live it 24/7 three hundred and sixty five days a year.  If we were playing at life, they wouldn't have us come and help.

As an on-call farm hand, I often only get a couple days notice for harvesting.  Usually I'm given the time to show up a day or less in advance, and it is an all day long affair - or sometimes multiple days back to back.  When the birds are ready, we slaughter.  When the frost is coming, we dig.  When the weather is good, we work.  They need to know we will be there in the cold, the muck, the dark, whatever.  They need to know The Barracuda will put in 6 to 8 hours of solid hard work right along with the adults, learning as needed, paying attention and keeping his mouth shut.  They need to know that we really mean it.  It works because both families are all in with whatever they decide to do.

The farm is named Sunnybrook and that is Rebecca - Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.  She and Micheal got married this past summer on the farm as we walked across the country.

These are our people.

We aren't so alone after all.

6 thoughts:

elaine said...

That's so awesome!!! Awesome doesn't even express how utterly cool this is! Good for you, for helping The Barracuda learn skills that will actually help him and other. Something seriously useful! When all hell breaks loose, I'm gonna try to make my way to where you guys are.

Anonymous said...

Great skills, all of them, to learn.

All commercial potatoes are one species (Solanum tuberosum), though many varieties are cultivated.

Granola Girl said...

Elaine ~ Come on over. The boy that will think it is SO cool to have a perpetual sleep over, the dog will love you once she gets over trying to rip your face off, and we can always use more hands :)

Anonymous ~ Thanks, I'll change the word to varieties.

babbaapril said...

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm!!! Only one of my favorite books as a girl. This endeavor is such a natural extension of your passion for life.

Mel said...

Talk about hands-on learning.

ste tomkinson said...

Looks interesting, ill be sure to check it out. Cheap property in Turkey

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