Monday, January 28, 2013

Now We're REALLY Farmers

......a tale that is not for the faint of heart

After years of dreaming of farming, we planted our first fruit orchard (on leased land) in 2004 and harvested our first crop in 2007. We sold the fruit at the Napa Farmers' Market and to local restaurants. In the same year, we moved to our current home vineyard/farm and bought a tractor and some other farming equipment. It was at that moment we started to think we were farmers....until this week....
one day old chicks
Last summer we acquired a few new chickens from some friends who had too many. One of the chickens kept getting out of the fence and then one day we didn't see her anymore, so we assumed the coyotes got her. About three weeks later we were sitting in our yard and here comes the missing chicken with ten newly hatched chicks in tow! We knew the babies wouldn't survive the coyotes for very long, so we brought them into the garage and put them under lights to raise them. 
the proud Papa
When they were old enough, we put them outside to roam around and at night they would go inside an old dog crate that we set up inside the garden fence. They seemed very safe until one morning when a raccoon (we think) got into the garden and stuck it's nose through the dog crate and killed five of the chickens. In was an awful sight to see.

After that we couldn't get the remaining young chickens to go into the crate at night. They would hide and we couldn't find them. We lost two more that way. We were left with three chickens when they were big enough to put with the rest of the flock - two hens and a rooster.
the lone surviving rooster
Since we already had a rooster, we knew we would have to "get rid of" the new rooster at some point. When the baby rooster started going through puberty, the Papa rooster started pushing the new guy out; their little world wasn't big enough for both of them and it was clear that one of them would have to go.

So finally, one morning, we slaughtered the now almost full-sized rooster and cooked him for dinner. Chicken and dumplings to be precise.

When we ate the rooster that was the progeny of our own chickens, the rooster that we had raised, the rooster whose whole life had been lived on our farm, that's when we REALLY felt like farmers. It was very different than eating vegetables from our garden or fruit from our trees or drinking wine from our vineyard (although that is always pretty cool); this animal had been alive and walking around our yard.

So we say Thank You to the spirit of that rooster and all animals that we eat.

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