I killed my first chicken today. Well, 141 chickens to be specific. Okay, I didn't actually kill any of them, Sam and Tom did most of the killing. But I scalded and plucked the majority of the 141 and even cut off the feet of a few. It was far less disgusting than I had imagined...really.
I was a vegetarian for almost 15 years. I gave up eating meat for Lent one year when I was living in the dorms in college and just never went back. I hardly missed it, to tell the truth. Except for bacon. I really missed bacon. For years I lived out in the country and raised my kids and even raised chickens, ducks, a few goats, a calf or two, and didn't eat them. My ex-husband was the meat eater, but I was usually the cook, so we ate vegetarian at home and that was just fine with me. A few years ago, after my divorce, I was reflecting on many of the life choices I had made over the years. I had gone through periods of choosing not to drink alcohol in the hopes that I would inspire the alcoholics in my life to do the same. I stopped eating dairy and sugar and wheat because it was better for you. I didn't eat meat because I was a vegetarian! But why?
Every once in a while someone would ask me that question. Depending upon the crowd I was currently hanging out with, my answers ranged from: It's gross. It's unsustainable. I don't like it. I've been a vegetarian for my adult life, I don't know how to cook it. All of a sudden it dawned on me. If I ate what tasted good and made choices based on what I thought was best, I could not call myself anything and eat meat if I felt like it! Imagine that! Besides. I missed bacon. I have now been a meat eater for about 3 years. I eat it a few times a week, and I like to know where it lived and how it was taken care of before it was killed. I've even learned to cook with it.
A few months ago I joined a poultry co-op with a few friends. I no longer live on acreage in the country, so a friend agreed to house my birds, and several of us arranged to slaughter and butcher together when the 8 weeks were up. I liked the idea of raising my own meat and being so involved in the life of my food. Last night I began to dread the work ahead. I'd never killed anything. I'm not really thrilled at the sight of blood. I tend to look away during violent scenes in movies. I began to have doubts. Maybe I wasn't cut out for this meat eating business. I called my friends who are experienced homesteaders and butcher chickens often, and explained my fears. They promised I could have a job involving the least amount of blood and guts. They also listened to my worries and encouraged me to give it a try anyway. As I fell asleep, I prepared myself for the worst. Maybe I would return to vegetarianism after all.
On the drive over this morning, I got amazing clarity. If I can't participate in the slaughter of my food, I shouldn't be eating it. It just clicked. It took us 7 hours to butcher 141 chickens. When it was all over, I was hot, sweaty, disgustingly dirty, and quite satisfied. I drove home with 21 freshly processed broilers in my van. As I loaded them into my freezer at home, I was so glad that I didn't chicken out (sorry, couldn't resist). It was hard work, but we had an awful lot of fun. I remembered that my kids love the Frank Meyer song about Mike the Headless Chicken (you gotta hear it). I still have it stuck in my head. Best of all, I learned something new. Sometime ago I got the idea in my head that there were things in life that I couldn't or wouldn't ever do. As an unschooling mom, observing my kids challenge that theory on a regular basis, I'm slowly learning that I can do all kinds of things. Who knows what I'll tackle tomorrow.
Becky is the unschooling mother of three (Janey, 11, Macy, 9 and Charley, 6) attempting to raise her children with compassion and respect. She taught elementary school for 9 years before discovering unschooling when it was time for her oldest to go to Kindergarten. She credits Sandra Dodd, Mary Griffith, Jan Hunt, and just about every other person she interacted with at her first HSC Home=Education conference 6 years ago, as her inspiration to find a more natural way of living and learning with children. She is a Homeschooling Consultant, offering support and guidance to families looking to clarify their vision as a family of learners. You can read more of what Becky has to say at http://lifewithoutschool.blogspot.com She can be reached at homeschoolconsultant@gmailcom.