Active pursuit of the dream

Today’s post may be a bit graphic for some.  I hope not.  I hope you’ll continue with me through the entire thing and celebrate with me along the way as I share how I accomplished one huge task in pursuit of my dream.

In case you don’t already know, I will tell you what that dream entails.  I dream of owning a small parcel of land in the country, but not too far out in the country.  After all, a girl has to have access to a mall, theatre, restaurants, and grocery stores.  I dream of either refurbishing an existing house or building a new one.  I have drawn out detailed house plans over and over again in my mind and on paper.  I pretty much know the style I like – contemporary farmhouse.  On my property I want to have vegetable and herb gardens, fruit and nut trees, and berry bushes; raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, and any other kind of berry that will grow in that climate.  I also want chickens, and ducks, perhaps a few turkeys (to eat on Thanksgiving and sell the rest) and milk goats.  I’d like to work in a bee hive or two.  Yes, I have big dreams.

My husband has his own dreams.  They aren’t exactly the same as mine, but they complement mine; sort of.  He dreams of making me happy though, which, in fact, does make me happy.  He’s game to let me try my hand at just about anything.  But that’s just it.  MY hand. Not his.  He is happy to help me get the infrastructure up and running, but after that he says I’m on my own.  He will not weed the garden.  He will not manage the fruit trees.  He may gather an egg or two, but he will definitely NOT butcher a chicken.  No way, no how.

He also stated that BEFORE we move, order day-old chicks, and begin the dream, I needed to know with certainty that I could butcher a chicken.  You see I want laying hens, but I also want meat birds.  I’ve been doing my research and narrowed down my choice of meat birds to Freedom Rangers.  But, I didn’t know anyone in my area that raised and butchered meat birds.  That is until I saw a post on Facebook.  Eureka!  There was a farm about 30 miles away that was holding a chicken processing workshop on a Saturday afternoon.  I quickly signed up and eagerly waited for a week and a half.  During that time I watched several chicken butchering demonstrations on You Tube.  Yes, I know I am a strange, strange woman.

Saturday rolled around and I drove out to Temecula, California to Primal Pastures.  I was early.  No big surprise there.  The day went better than I’d expected.  I started off with some trepidation, but after a very thorough demonstration I was the first to raise my hand to volunteer.  I’m sure you’re not surprised by that either.  I’m going to let pictures tell the story.  I promise none are too graphic.

1First, I had to catch my chicken.  That wasn’t too hard since they were enclosed in a chicken tractor (a large pen that is moved around the grass daily).  I looked for a nice fat candidate and grabbed him.  Believe it or not I’ve never held a chicken before.  I flipped him over and grabbed him by the feet, as instructed.  The blood rushes to the chicken’s head and it calms down and eventually passes out.

6Next, I put him head down into a cone and left him there for a minute or two.  By that time he had passed out and I quickly made cuts on either side of his neck through the carotid arteries.  Honestly, it wasn’t as awful as it sounds.  I am very aware of where my food comes from.  I realize chickens don’t grow in the ground or in plastic containers at the grocery store.  I thanked my chicken for his sacrifice and promised to make the best chicken meal out of him that I’d ever eaten.  Once he bled out – another minute or so, I took him out of the cone and

2placed him in the hot water to scald.  After a few dunks and swishes his pin feathers easily came out and he was ready to be placed into the automatic plucker.  Now that is a wonderful modern invention.  The plucker looks like a washing machine drum with rubber cones sticking into the drum.  Here’s a picture of that process.

4Ten seconds around and around and voila’, all of the feathers are magically gone.  Now the hard part starts.  Yep, the gutting process.  I won’t show any pictures of that, just of me getting ready to make the initial cut.

3Look at those big feet!  I must say they made excellent chicken stock!  I followed the directions exactly and didn’t have any trouble cleaning my bird top to bottom.  The final product looked just like something from the grocery store.

5See, not terrible after all!  I bagged the bird, put it into hot water to shrink wrap it and took my bird home where he stayed in the refrigerator for three days and then he spent a few days in freezer camp.  I thawed him and fried him up for Valentine’s Day dinner.

fried chickenOne word – Delish!  Huge legs and thighs and large breast.  This picture shows just a portion of the bird.  We were eating leftovers for days, plus I made wonderful soup stock from the bones and feet.  The heart, gizzard, and liver were cooked up and turned into dog food.  I wanted to include little Mazey.

I was so proud of myself for accomplishing this goal.  I was able to process another chicken after everyone had finished their first.  I wanted the extra practice.  I can now say I have no fear of processing more chickens in the future.  Truly a milestone for me and a huge stepping stone on my way to seeing my dream fulfilled.  You know what else was very cool?  The chickens were Freedom Rangers, the exact breed of chicken I wanted to try my hand at raising for meat birds.  Yeah, pretty great how that worked out.

So what do you think?  I doubt most people will be inspired to go out and butcher a chicken, but have I inspired you to take a daring step along the path to your dreams?  If I can butcher a chicken you can sign up for that class at night school, finish your business degree, take a watercolor class, learn to ski, or try out for a spot in the next community theatre production.  Don’t limit your dreams.  The bigger the dream the greater the sense of accomplishment.

So what’s next?  Stay tuned…………………..

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