I spent all day Saturday taking a class on backyard poultry raising. I discovered that I already knew much more about this topic than I thought, but the class was worthwhile all the same. It filled in the gaps in my knowledge and helped me to make some more firm decisions about what we should keep and how many. Not to mention all the wheres, whens and hows.
A couple of things struck me about this class. First, there was NO hands-on instruction whatsoever. We did go outside and observe some chickens, but nobody really got too close to them for any reason. Considering that this class is designed for people with no poultry experience (and indeed most of the attendees had none), it seems strange to me that they didn't teach us how to catch and hold them. Another thing I thought was odd was that when we came to the topic of processing birds, everyone in the class was very anti-plucking, including the instructor. They were all firmly in support of using a machine to pluck, or to just skip the plucking altogether and skin the birds. I won't even get into the financial and environmental arguments against using a machine. I'll just say that I think they'll be missing out on the most important part of processing. To me, plucking is your "break". It's really not nearly as hard to do as most people think. It only takes a couple of minutes to scald and pluck a chicken, and that gives you time to sit down, take a breather and chat with your accomplices. More importantly, though, it provides a couple of minutes of very mundane work to keep your hands busy and your mind focused before you have to get up and swing the ax again. It allows your jangled nerves to settle, and anyone who skips this step on purpose I think is cheating themselves.
The other big news of the week is that we spent our first night in the farm house! We just carted an air mattress and some basic supplies down there because it's a whole hour closer to my poultry class, and I wanted to be able to sleep a bit later. I can say definitively that I LOVE IT THERE. I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to come back to our little city house. I love the house, the property, the town, the people we've met so far, the stars, the frogs, the quiet. I can't imagine ever getting tired of it. Ahhh, but now the work starts. Today I start packing. For real.