-posted by Jayne
What is new on the farm? We've been tending to our chickens; there's the new batch of laying hens, still in their "teenage years" as I like to think of it.
And then there are the broilers...
Not so cute. White Mountain Broilers - bred to eat and grow large breasts... and not very smart. We started with 35 and are now down to 22. Possums, fox, weasels, mink... who knows what else, have gotten into the pen and steadily decreased our number. Pretty sad, and my own fault for not doing a better job at securing the fences. But these birds are pretty easy targets. They grow very rapidly, producing large breasts which make them sort of front and top heavy. This makes it hard for them to walk up and down the little ramp leading in and out of the chicken coop. Even a slow, lumbering possum can snatch up one of these chickens in a matter of minutes. As much as I love raising good quality meat for our familiy, I am tempted to give up on raising broilers. I'm not very good at shooting possum (yuck), and it isn't really fair of me to ask Isaac to do this for me everytime one gets into the chicken house. Okay, I admit, I've never tried to shoot a possum, so I don't know if I'm good at it or not. But I don't want to try. If I could only convince Isaac to build me a chicken tractor...
Some of you readers may be wondering how and why we raise our own meat birds. I'm often asked, "Isn't it so hard to raise something you will eventually slaughter and eat?" My answer has always been that I'd rather eat an animal that was humanely raised and had a good life, than one that lived in confinement and was treated poorly, not to mention washed in a bleach bath during butchering. We do our best to eat responsibly. I love the Wendell Berry essay "The Pleasures of Eating"
where he explains how eating is an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines how the world is used. He says on the topic of eating animals one has raised, "Some, I know, will think of it as bloodthirsty or worse to eat a fellow creature you have known all its life. On the contrary, I think it means that you eat with understanding and with gratitude. A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one's accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes."
It is important to me that my kids fully know and understand where their food comes from, and how it is grown/raised. I imagine many of you reading this feel the same way about your food, since you are reading a blog from a small family farm. You want to know a little more about how and why a family would choose to make a living raising honey bees, and how that honey was produced. We are glad there are others out there like us who see the important connection between the land, the food we eat, and the importance of how the animals and plants are raised. If you have a few minutes, you should visit the link above and take the time to read Wendell Berry's essay. Not only will you be inspired to do even more to take part in your own food production, but you will also learn a little more about the philosophy that guides our own beliefs; who we are and why we do what we do.
I leave you with a few more sentences from Berry's essay:
Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.