Saturday, December 28, 2013

Archibald


Our roosters got into a fight this morning. It was not the usual barnyard scuffle, but rather the kind which one of them was not going to leave alive. We came to the realization that we had to make that choice for them; the younger, friendlier rooster got to live, while the oldest and meanest rooster had to go. It was not an easy
choice--choosing when an animal will die never is. This was not my first chicken slaughter, by far. This last fall, we killed 70 meat chickens in one day, and I wielded a machete at the butchering block. However, slaughtering an animal that was not originally slotted for the freezer was different. I played with the dog so that his barking would drown out the sound of the gunshot.

Archibald came to us as a tag along. We paid for a flock of chickens, and he was thrown in to the mix labeled as "one old rooster that I didn't have the heart to kill." I don't know what that makes us. But, he was happy during his time here. He had his small harem of cast-off hens that the younger rooster, Henry, did not bother with. Archibald and Henry would occasionally get into crowing wars and, though Henry was always the clear winner, Archibald would still strut proudly after its conclusion. He had beautifully iridescent tail feathers, but the rest of him exuded a somewhat scrappy appearance.

We were going to be late for our family Christmas party. It was scheduled for this afternoon, but the rooster 
ordeal set us back. The husband had to chop wood, the goat had yet to be milked, and I was left
standing in the kitchen holding a feathered carcass among gift bags waiting to be filled. Upon spotting the headless bird, my toddler pointed and cried, "uh-oh!" I quickly sent her upstairs. As my dining room table disappeared under a pile of downy feathers, I could hear her running through the bedrooms. She was supposed to be taking a nap.

Eventually, I finished dressing the chicken and filled the slow-cooker with ingredients for stew. We originally
planned on discarding the carcass; however, I have a hard time letting food and life go to waste. If we are
going to kill an animal, we are going to use whatever we can. So, Archibald simmered in the slow-cooker, and a pile of his exquisite tail feathers was saved for my oldest daughter, who collects them.

We arrived at our gathering an hour late and somewhat frazzled. The morning had been full of setbacks. My
husband missed a shot at a deer due to an ill-timed bark from our dog, spent longer than expected trying to cut wood with a dull chainsaw, and was unable to get our 4x4 truck up our slick hills to pick up the wood after it was finally cut. My homemade gifts were assembled in a way that would make Martha Stewart blush, and I dug out leftover cranberry sauce from the fridge to present as a side dish. We were hungry and somewhat cranky, but happy to relax with our family and devour some ham and apple crisp. Our dinner-table conversation turned to the intimate details of chicken slaughtering and goat breeding.

By the end of the day, I came to a few different conclusions. First, we are blessed with a very gracious and
supportive family. They regularly put up with our farm schedule and all of its demands, and they laugh at our rather inappropriate stories. They bless us with homesteading and goat related gifts and appreciate my simple, homemade ones in return. Second, we can do this. We can make the difficult decisions and make the best of it. There are tough days--but not impossible ones--and plenty of joyous moments in between. And finally, I need a new filet knife. And a slaughtering table. Fortunately, we are going to Cabela's tomorrow.

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