Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 5-21

a sure sign of broiler week
white feathers in the backyard

Did you know that it was Broiler Week?

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t…the observance was pretty limited. As in, just here on the hill.

Once a month, we have a week that revolves around broilers.

Now, for those of you who may not know...a broiler is a type of chicken. A type of chicken bred specifically for quick growth and easy processing. If you’re interested, you can read more about them HERE.  You may want to read THIS one, too. 

There are other chickens bred specifically for egg-laying, those are referred to as layers (hens). For the record, the variety of egg-laying chickens is incredible. But, the vast majority of the chicken eaten in this country is of the cross-bred broiler type.

home-grown supper

I need to do  little “ag-vocating” here and then I will get back to my story.  Much of what you may have heard about the poultry industry in this country is wrong. All those concerns about chicken being “pumped full” of hormones are unfounded. Hormone use in poultry and pork is illegal in the US.  If you will read the fine print on the packages at the store, you will find that is precisely what it says. For the sake of brevity, I will not get into my aggravation at the term “hormone-free”. That will have to be a separate post sometime in the future. The rapid growth of the broilers is a matter of breeding and nutrition, not any sort of terrible manipulation on the part of the growers. It is indeed a good thing. (but, the discussion tends to get long and divisive, so I will leave it here)

time to harvest the broilers

Early Monday morning of broiler week has us out at the field pen catching the birds ready for processing. They are crated and brought up to the house for processing (butchering) in the backyard. Then on Tuesday, the brooder is cleaned in anticipation of the arrival of day-old chicks on Wednesday.
day-old chicks 

…the cycle continues through early November when we end broiler production for the winter months. 

It is satisfying work to produce delicious, nutritious food for ourselves and others.

But, there was far more to completing this particular batch of broilers than just putting food in the freezer or stocking the Market freezer with inventory…

Eight weeks ago, as these chicks hatched from their eggs, we were trying to wrap our heads around the fact that the Boss was headed over the mountain to UVA for surgery. Cancer surgery. The diagnosis had been shocking enough, but now we found ourselves headed to a place that conjures frightening memories as well as facing the Boss’ biggest fear…his worst nightmare was our reality. In less than two weeks he had gone from our local doctor’s office and diagnosis to the operating room.

Scary times.

It was too late to change the scheduled delivery. We would just have to muddle through, make the best of it and carry on. In some ways, our plan for this batch of broilers seemed to represent our life situation.   …muddling through and making the best of it…

The knowledge that the tiny birds would be arriving at the Post Office in the early morning meant that I had to leave him in the hospital hours after surgery and head back home at the very literal crack of dawn. I must admit, I had never driven over the mountain alone. And, the dark conjured memories of that horrible night back in ’10 when the Boss and I had to leave our gravely injured eldest daughter in the hands of a trauma team. I gave myself a serious little personal pep talk there in the parking lot, turned on the headlights, cranked the stereo and “hied meself” back to the Valley.
my early morning arrival took the dogs by surprise

It was bitterly cold, so I  tucked chicks into the chickie pool in the shop and returned to the Boss’ bedside. Then, it was a juggling act to check on him and attempt to keep the home fires burning until his return. Thankfully, his hospital stay was fairly short.

While the Boss continued to recover at home, I was responsible for chores. All the chores.

you just "do what you gotta do"

More than one person has asked me how I did it. To them it seemed like such hard work. To me, the work was the one thing that brought some sense of normalcy. Work (accompanied by loud music) has always been my therapy. Quite honestly, the work isn’t the hard part…the fear of the unknown is.

Incredibly, some good came from my time doing chores solo. Working alone, I had to come up with some new ways to do things. Because, as the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”. It turns out there is actually an easier, less stressful way to move the small broilers to the field pen. one bird.

We may have never known this if I hadn’t had to do this job by myself. And, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I was completely responsible for this batch, from start to finish…and I only lost ONE bird!

and only had one "escapee"!

So, this batch of broilers represents lessons learned, strengths recognized, new methods embraced and healing milestones. Not bad for a bunch of “bird-brains”!

We did get some help with processing...
THANKS, Blondie!

We even had time for some visitors this week...
Kman is totally ready to take over the mowing

MrB says
"I got this, Grandpa!"

The eight-week milestone means that the Boss is (in his words) back to 95% of his normal activities. We can put many of our cares and concerns behind us and go on with “normal” life. There are scans and tests scheduled for the future. (and honestly, the possibilities are more than a little worrisome) But, for right now, we can focus on the positive and go on with the growing season.

However, I must admit…our definition of “normal” may be a little skewed…

Case in point…

The Boss headed out to do morning chores before I did. By the time I got outside, he had the big, barn trash can out front and was digging through the contents with a pitchfork.

there has GOT to be a story to this one!

WHAT on earth are you doing?

There is something in this can!

(not anymore!   He was throwing stuff everywhere…but, I didn’t want to state the obvious)

As he continued to dig, I saw a rat wriggling through the handle-hole of the can.
see the rat down there at the bottom?

There he goes!

When I exclaimed, the dogs suddenly started paying attention. A free-for-all ensued as dogs and humans chased the rat through the grass. Yes, it looked just as ridiculous as you are imagining.

they got him cornered now

In the blink of an eye, Ellie grabbed that rat and shook it violently. The incident was over.

to the conqueror go the spoils

The Boss and I cheered…and laughed as Ellie proudly took her prize to the orchard to enjoy. (eww, blech)

…and then we wondered aloud just how many folks start their day with a rat-killing…and then cheer about it…?

On second thought…NORMAL should never be used to describe this place. Ever.

But, things have gotten back to the regular, the expected. We are actually back on track and working according to our plan, despite the unexpected turn of events eight weeks ago. (it hardly seems like EIGHT weeks…although in other ways, it seems like a lifetime)

 still needs a little help with the broiler pen

time to work the lambs

tractor tilling 
tilling the brassica garden

Personally, I’m all about the sameness…the mundane and monotonous.  There’s something to be said for the comfort of a routine.

Even Ellie looks nice under a beautiful sky at the end of a productive day

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by. Come “visit” us again real soon.

Want to see the Boss’ Market shots? Click HERE.

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