After single-digit-weather, 17 degrees felt almost balmy. A perfect day to celebrate my farmer husband’s birthday.
We drove the short distance to the field that held the chickens and Great Pyrenees puppies. They are protected by a pliable electric fence that separates them to keep chickens with chickens and puppies with puppies.
Something wasn’t right.
Our LGD’s (Livestock Guardian Dogs), Molly and Lacey wagged their tails as we drove up. Trouble was, they were munching on black feathers. And chicken wasn’t on their menu.
Tom intervened. They’d just begun their feast when we’d appeared.
I heard Tom scolding the “girls,” and watched as their tails swiped back and forth like windshield wipers in a snowstorm. They were clueless about their misdeed. All they knew was a chicken flew over to their side of the fence. I’m sure at first they were playing, but then their carnivore instincts kicked in.
When am I gonna figure this whole livestock thing out? I thought as I collected eggs from the traumatized ladies.
Tom threw the bird in the woods and we trudged back to the van.
“If we were brave, we’d go get that chicken and cook it.”
That’s all I needed to hear. You see, we could probably have paid for another child’s wedding with the money we’d been pouring into our poultry adventure. “Someone besides the neighborhood fox should benefit from the chicken and it might as well be us,” I stated as we headed back to the forest.
We loaded the chicken in a bucket and traveled home to watch a Youtube video. Also, I knew I could call my friend and farm-wife-guru, Kelly Josey, to figure out what to do with the bird. (The bird was almost completely intact.)
“Get as many feathers off as you can, dunk it in hot water, then gut it.”
I did what Kelly said. Soon, what I held in my hand looked like meat that would stock the shelves of any local grocery store. I boiled it, added vegetables and a crust.
I made two chicken pies – courtesy of one of the “ladies.”
When I committed to being a farmer’s wife, I had no idea I’d be plucking and cooking a chicken. In fact, before I moved to the farm, I never really thought about where my food came from. I guess I thought it magically appeared in the store.
Now I know how much work it takes to cultivate the land, plant a seed, and harvest a head of lettuce. I understand how the tomatoes on my sandwich are pruned and fed. And now I’ve a glimpse into the complicated life of owning livestock.
I now have a context when I use the phrases, “you reap what you sow,” and “there is a pecking order.”
For Tom’s birthday dinner, we decided to eat my very first farm-to-table chicken pot pie.
After that, I understood another phrase – ”She’s a tough old bird.”
That she was.
May she rest in peace.