The second week of our trip to the lower mainland was fun filled with island living, good food and living with chickens. I can’t possible describe how good it feels to spend time with these friends!
We did a lot of walking this part of our trip. While somewhat inconvenient because it made visiting with more people during our short stay impossible, it was actually really wonderful to be car free. It was empowering to Lily especially because she got to see how far her legs could carry her while also contributing in carrying some of our load.
Our first ferry over to Vancouver Island was actually late which caused us to miss our bus to downtown Nanaimo to catch the next ferry. We decided we would have enough time to make it on foot if she was willing to walk at a steady pace. We were at there in no time and meeting up with our friends on the ferry made the walk up the hill to their acreage from the ferry terminal much easier.
We got a lot done during our visit. Cam was eager to do some work after being cooped up in the city the week before. He got busy with Steve doing some broom busting, burning yard waste, putting up a very long swing for the kids and talking about future plans for the property. I spent a good amount of time waddling around after the chickens and checking out the garden and how it’s progressing. My friend is doing some incredible things in her garden. I wish I could be closer by to watch and learn. Kate introduced Lily and Leif to a love for horses. She’s so into it right now. Both my kids came home wanting to know more.
This is “Dude.” Well, one of four Orpington Dudes that needed to be butchered while we were visiting. My friends had tried so hard to rehome these guys but it was a hard sell and no one wanted live roosters. See you can’t have too many roosters or they start getting aggressive and harmful to the hens.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that when you own livestock like chickens, butchering may be a necessity but to those of us who didn’t grow up in this setting, it’s a bit of an emotional hurdle. Interestingly, it was harder for the adults than it was for the children who took the whole process in stride. Lily was even eager to help where she could. Hen shared some timely thoughts on the realities and responsibilities of owning and raising livestock that touched me deeply.
It was paramount that these roosters die humanely. Cam had seen chickens be dispatched before but we googled the various methods and instructions so that we were all clear. We followed this tutorial. Cam spent some time sharpening knives the night before the decided dispatching day. After all my apron making recently, it was an easy job to whip up a few more from scrap plastic on hand.
You can click to see more pictures and descriptions of the process.
Have I mentioned before how much I love my friend’s outhouse. I wrote about building this outhouse almost two years ago. It’s open walled apart from a privacy screen on two sides. There are views of the garden, forest, random deer and other wildlife. The poop is collected in a bucket and then composted annually.
The hens were really so much fun. I loved to just watch them and treat them with handfuls of oats spread out on the ground. Lily was always eager to go check for new eggs each afternoon. I loved when the chickens would follow us around or come visit us when we were sitting on the outhouse.
Jack Freak was my favourite and why not? I swear he thought he was one of us. He’s usually always where the action is and likes to follow you around. He’d try and come in the house and even kissed Lily through the window one day. It might have just been a peck to try and keep her in line but I like to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The trip was made compete when we were able to visit with more friends before getting on the ferry back to the mainland. We saw Deirdre, my very dear friend who owns the online store The Continuum Family where she sells Babywearing, EC and natural living type products. I met Natalie for the first time in real life. We “met” in the strangest way. She was moving to the island from Prince Rupert as we were moving in the opposite direction. I got to see Krista at long last. She and my friend Barbara met us for lunch at my favourite Nanaimo lunch spot, The Thirsty Camel. Krista and kids joined us at the ferry terminal for an hour of play with my dear friend Tabitha who wrote, Parenting… a Radical, Political Act. I almost didn’t want to leave. I miss these friends more than I can describe.
Thank you for connecting me with Natalie. We used to walk together when our little ones were little. I followed her link not knowing and was so surprised to see a familiar face! I am so inspired by you and others you link in your messages. By the choices you make, and the creativity and thoughtfulness you share. Such an amazing way to unite people and ideas!
I have “parenting…a radical, political act” printed and framed and hanging in both our new house and our old house. I don’t know where exactly on the internet I found it, but I do know I can honestly say those words profoundly changed my life. What great friends you have Annie! No wonder it is hard to leave them.
The pictures of the slaughter were great, actually very informative! I totally want to try basketweaving after seeing those pictures. Did cam use vines?
So happy you had such a great trip Annie!
It is intresting to me how the kids take the “cycle of life” in stride. I can’t count how many times my kids have told me “that’s just the way it is mom… it’s nature”
Sounds amazing! And how wonderful it is that you have such treasured friends. I’m really digging that outhouse!
Thanks for your comment on my blog–that must have been so cool to be caretakers in a town like that!
When we got our Buff Orpingtons, 2 turned out to be roosters. We gave them away to a farm that had a petting zoo for kids, and they said “if you come visit, you’ll see one of them in the petting zoo.” I had a hard time with that “one of them”–I knew what would be happening to the other. But yes, that’s the reality of owning livestock.
We want to raise chickens when we have our own place, and I struggle with the slaughter part. I think it’s hypocritical to eat meat and not be willing to raise/kill your own livestock, but I’m a city girl born and raised (and definitely not a vegetarian). We try to uy mostly buy local meat where we can go and see where the animals have been raised and humanely treated, but that’s not always possible and I really hate that it’s not. It is something I hope will change when we have an acreage.
Thank you for the pictures of the slaughter and the process, and the links.
Helen- isn’t it a small world?! I was so glad that you and I got to meet irl too. Hope you are well!
“What great friends you have Annie!” That is too true- you are in that category too, Shannon.
G- I’m so glad it didn’t turn out to be too graphic. I was really worried about that! Thanks. I think he was using honeysuckle to weave with.
Thank you so much for the comments everyone! It was such a great time and I appreciate the experience with the chickens. I can’t wait to have some one day.
Okay, I’m back to put down my thoughts! I had a little absence from when I initially wanted to post this. My, oh, my, what a few (beautiful and detailed) pictures can do to stir up your memory.
First…your trip to see your old and new friends sounded so, so nourishing to you all and to your mama spirit, it really shone through your post. So good to create that time. I think there is so much synergy with-in the friendships you have. :-) And the part with your family, well I gushed on about that, so you know how awesome I thought that was, too.
When I first saw the Flickr stream of the roosters being culled, I couldn’t go there. Once I realized where my feelings were arising from I began to revisit the day in Spring when we ended the life of Moonbeam, our second roo. We’d tried to keep him (out of 6 original roosters from our unsexed chicks), as well as Roberto, because Moonbeam seemed to be harmless, and knew his secondary place to the head roo. He was a special needs rooster, with a bad leg. I tried rehoming him, no takers, and I knew if I put him up on C’List he’d be someone’s dinner and that was all. Then I’d have no control over his death at all. But he began to exibit aggressive tendancies, and I took a “wait and see” approach with him. That was a mistake, because he pecked Brendan on the cheek, but near his eye one day (oddly not in a mean way, not in a struggling way, just while Brendan carried him, he turned and delivered a peck). Well, that was WAY too close for comfort. We culled him, with lots of distress and sadness and uncertainty that same afternoon, with our friend Gramma Joyce’s help. Scott did the deed, we all watched (the boys wanted to, I, wasn’t sure, because he was such a pet). Then Matthew made a box to put him in, he painted it with Moonbeam’s portrait, and we buried him in our shelter belt near the edge of the farm where the nettle patches are.
So seeing those great photos brought back some strong feelings I had of grief, guilt, disbelief etc.
It was humbling to go back and process further, and I’m so grateful that this kind of connection to livestock and animals gives us that chance. I got to a place of peace again. It is an important process for me, because having any animals, but especially livestock animals, requires the forethought of what happens if they become sick, or are maimed by a predator and you find them suffering and beyond healing? You have to accept that you may need to kill the animal you love/care for to end it’s disease, suffering, injury, old age whatever it is. We have planned to have more animals one day, and so this is the reality I need to accept and get okay with (slowly).
I think we were reminded of this, when we ended moonbeam’s life. It was swift (could have been swifter, having a plan like you did was wise, we were flying by the seat of our overalls). But I don’t think he suffered long. And if our current roo displays anything but gentlemanly qualitiies he will be rehomed to a man I know who wants him and has no small kids.
We learn so much from each other, and I’m grateful for you and how you went through that process with your friend and her famil, and then hsared it here. :-) Truly grateful.
~Erin x o
Oh Erin! xxx
We were so concerned about having this experience be traumatising for one or all of us. I think it was a little less so, simply because we were together. I think we all knew that at the last minute we could have pulled the plug on the plan but then I think we also realised that our friends would have been stuck with birds that were becoming more aggressive as they got older. It’s so hard to rehome roosters! You are so lucky to have a potential home for your guy if you end up needing it!
I’m so relieved that in the end you were not left traumatised by my photos. It even sounds like there may have been a bit of healing and moving through any grief you still had at having this touch a nerve(?) ?
Love to you!
A couple quotes that I read today:
Walter Breugerman says that a loss grieved is a source of hope, a loss ungrieved is a source of violence.
To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness ~ Erich Fromm
We have chickens and hatch them so we also get the spare cockerel problem, but it works out well as we eat them and nothing is wasted. Like you say, it is an emotional hurdle and it’s extremely important to us too that they die humanely. Not only those cockerels but any hens that are terminally ill. There is quite a lot of dispatching to do over the years with chickens. We have a bolted on dispatcher – an arm that you pull down which breaks the neck instantly with no stress. The chicken dies immediately and there is no fuss or distress, apart from for the human – the inevitable flapping that happens. We then bleed them and prepare them for roasting or coq au vin,
depending on age. My kids have known about his all their lives and are fine with it. We love the hens and respect every one of them, respect their lives and death and take it deeply. They have a fantastic life in our large garden, free ranging and eating lots of scraps, fruit, berries and insects. It is very satisfying. Oh, and they taste amazing.