I have grossly miscalculated my ability to keep up with processing all
the birds I raised this year. Slipping an extra dozen into the
incubator, and then another, and later finding a hen sitting on eggs,
all seemed rather innocent and inconsequential this spring. One morning
my mother was letting out the birds, and as the mass spilled out from
their pen into the backyard, she declared she had not only reached her
limit, but was somehow carried far past it.
I have been harvesting a couple birds a week. We like the word harvest,
and joke about sending the birds to freezer camp. My families flippant
attitude towards my birds, and their “off with their heads,” remarks,
inspired me to start sharing my experience of saying goodbye to these
birds. I began carrying them into the house before heading down to the
Cradled in my arms, they are so quiet and still once I enter the door.
“This is a son of Bubbles the Brave, one of our original Swedish duck
hens,” I began to explain as my family looked uneasily at the first
duck I brought into the kitchen. “His father was Streaker, who we said
goodbye to this spring. Notice this young drake’s dark green beak. Just
like his dad.” I encouraged my family to pet him and my mother remarked
on how silky smooth his neck was. “Let’s thank this bird for the food
he will offer our family. He has had a good life on our little hobby
After my family declined to give him a little kiss goodbye on the head,
I sadly carried the unnamed drake out to the chopping block, telling
myself that it should be hard to take a life. A friend told me that we
have, “the most loved dinners on earth.” That sounds so strange, yet I
believe it is what I have been aiming for. Maybe I have overshot a
little and am unknowingly headed down a path towards becoming a
vegetarian. I wonder sometimes.
My bearded ladies have grown their winter coats, and are plush and fat.
Lily is the only one I am milking, and I have begun making cheese and
kefir in addition to selling our excess milk. Lyla is still nursing
3-month-old Lola, who is a giant of a doeling. These Saanen goats look
their purest white when I let them out at night to browse. They reflect
the moon beautifully, and move as glowing orbs through the black trees
as we search out the few remaining leaves on the branches. None of my
guidebooks to owning goats foretold of wandering the surreal landscape
of the woods at midnight.
It isn’t convenient owning goats. Milking in the rain and wind and mud
causes me to reflect on this lifestyle choice some days. I have decided
that I raise goats for fresh milk partly because it is hard. I am proud
that I can do it. Making cheese has turned out to be fairly easy, and
we have been enjoying ricotta and mozzarella. I continue to meet new
people who are interested in goat milk, my favorite being a wonderful
couple who come and milk on Wednesdays.
I haven’t planted any fall crops in the greenhouse this fall, and the
book on how to do so remains largely unexplored. My three siblings I
live with help with chores on occasion, but my farming endeavors remain
largely my own. I hadn’t expected this, but believe I have accepted it.
My agricultural experiments have also been social experiments, and the
results are never what I would have anticipated. Therefore, despite not
knowing where I am headed with my ventures in homegrown edibles, I find
the journey an enriching one.
Posted by Ethan
@ 03:41 PM EST