"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Runaway Chickens: The Final Chapter

After our neighbor brought back the two chickens a few days ago, I thought we had them all. There was the one we caught ourselves; the one they brought back and which escaped again; then the two they brought back together. That makes three. I had seen a big pile of brown feathers, and I hadn't seen any more chickens, so I thought they were all accounted for. 

Not quite. Yesterday evening, the neighbor brought back the last hen. What an incredibly nice man. I was mortified by the whole incident, and asked what I could give him for the trouble he'd taken. Did he like goat cheese?

No, he hated goat cheese. Grew up with goats. His wife liked it, but no need, no need. No big deal. Just chickens. Then he asked if we'd like him to come over with his big tractor and mow the small field so we could put up the hay. Well, hell, sure we would. Then he chatted for a while with Homero about welding, then he climbed in his truck and drove off.

After a couple of minutes thought, I decided I just couldn't leave it alone. I grabbed some of the chevre I made on Friday, and which turned out terrific, and a big ham steak from the freezer and ran over there. "If you won't take anything for catching the chickens, please take this for mowing the small field. I felt awful about the whole chicken thing and I didn't know what to do when I couldn't catch them. They won't come back, I promise, we're going to kill them tomorrow." He said "Well, thank you. It's okay."

This morning he was here at 8 am mowing the small field. 

He kept his word; we kept ours. 

I was canning beets this morning (lovely lovely beets given to me by my friend Marissa) so I had an excuse, albeit weak; Homero did the actual killing. He showed me how to pluck them. You just dip them in boiling hot water and then the feathers come right off, mostly. You only have to tug a little, on the wings where the feathers are strong. He gave me the plucked chickens to gut; but I confess, I couldn't do it. Part of the problem was the lack of a good cleaver, but I can't blame it entirely on that. I just didn't want to stick my hand in there with all the guts. Then I sliced open the craw by mistake and all the grain came out, and I went and told Homero I'd finish plucking, he had to gut.

There were two whole, fully formed and hard-shelled eggs inside the hens. 

We decided to cook all the birds at once because plunging them in hot water had half-cooked the outer layer of flesh. As I speak, there is a giant kettle of chicken stock on the stove, just coming to a simmer. We invited Homero's partner Juan and his family up and we're going to have a big mole feast. I'm very proud that almost everything in the feast (except the rice) will be either produced on the farm or traded for locally.