When my grandma was young, her family moved from farm to farm, finding work where they could. They didn’t have much money, but she said she never realized they were poor because they always had enough food to eat. They grew it themselves.
She talks about the harsh realities of farm life. Like the year they all raised turkeys and loaded them onto the refrigerated rail car. Those turkeys represented several families’ incomes for the entire year. Someone, however, forgot to turn the refrigeration on and all their hard work, hopes and income spoiled with that one forgetful act.
Grandma just turned 88 in April. She grew up in a world I know nothing about. A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with her on the phone about my chickens. She told me a story of when she was a young girl, maybe 13 or 14 years old when her mother (my great grandma) sent her and her younger sister outside to butcher a chicken.
I stopped her, “You knew how to butcher a chicken when you were thirteen?”
“No, but for some reason Mama thought we did. I guess she thought we could because she grew up around that and knew how.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“We just went outside and waited for the postman to come. We asked him to do it.”
The POSTMAN?!?!?!?!! I had visions of my postal worker, driving by in her neat white postal truck, shoving mail into our mailbox. I wonder how many postal workers these days know how to butcher a chicken? And even more, would stop mail delivery to do the task for a couple young girls?
Oh, how the world has changed.
I read recently that there aren’t enough places that butcher to keep up with the current demand. More and more people are raising their own food, but want to pay someone else to do the butchering. Either they don’t know how, or they don’t want to get that up close and personal with their dinner.
Around Portland, you can take classes at places like Zenger Farms to learn how to butcher your own chickens. They’ve also got videos up on YouTube if you’re inclined to learn how to do it yourself.
There are also places like Harrington Poultry that will do the deed for you for $3.50-$5.50 a chicken.
To be honest, I’ve been contemplating adding some broiler chickens to my homegrown food raising experience, but I’m such a modern, city softy, I don’t know if I could eat them. One of my neighbors (who also raises hens for eggs) thought of a great idea, though. She suggested that we both get broilers and raise each other’s chickens. Then, when they end up on the dinner table, it will be a ‘stranger’ bird, not one we actually took care of in the back yard.
I suspect though, I just need to toughen up. This journey between being clueless as to where my food has come from, to being up close and personally involved, is an eye-opening one for sure. And it sometimes requires developing new levels of inner strength!
In the meantime, I marvel at how the world as changed since my grandma was young. Butchering chickens was considered part of life, possibly like making a box of macaroni and cheese is for our modern, disconnected world. Anyone can do that, right? Do you think I could talk my postal worker into helping?