It is done.

With Mooshum by my side and Laur in tow, today I set about the business of processing meat birds.

I have inserted a jump here in case you do not wish to read any further.

Although last year I assisted with the pig, I did not directly participate in downing the animal. The chickens were different.

When we arrived, Mooshum had already set up the work space. Positioned in a small square, perfectly spaced for one or two people, was a five gallon bucket filled with cold water, a 45 gallon barrel also filled with cold water, a propane burner with a five gallon stock pot of lightly soaped water and a fifty-five gallon drum lined with a construction-grade garbage bag.  Hanging on a nail embedded in a young ash tree just above eye-level were two buckets, both with fist-sized holes in the bottom. 

Mooshum had begun to boil the water and gave us a brief explanation of the events about to take place.  He drew down the two buckets, placed them on the outdoor workbench and strode purposefully into the flock of birds.  There, he picked up a large hen, returned to the work bench and worked quickly to place her head into the aligned holes in the two buckets.

With the whole assembly cradling the chicken upside down on the ash tree, he stood - one hand on its head, the other with a knife. With one quick movement, he severed the main artery in its neck.

While Laur stood at a respectful distance, Mooshum then demonstrated the process from start to finish - dunking the headless bird in slightly soapy, near-boiling water to loosen the feathers, hanging the bird, plucking and removal of the organs.

As we plucked, we waxed philosophically about chickens, ducks, turkeys, food-birds in general.  We talked about Mooshum's teachers, those farmers in the Old Country who still lived in his habits and memory.  We talked about what would happen after plucking and what to do with the discarded bits of feather, gut and foot.  The dogs also watched with great anticipation - they, too, would receive treats as the bird was transitioned from living creature to food. 

With patience and presence, Mooshum walked me through his process on the first bird, stood by me as I took the knife on the second, then cut me loose on the third.

Most of my time spent there today is a bit of a blur.  But at some point, we had a discussion about when the bird ceases to be an animal and becomes "food".  

We ended our day with a duck - something which I've not tasted before, but which is now in our refrigerator, awaiting it's place as the guest of honor at tomorrow's table.

Take a deep breath.  
Set your jaw.
Swallow hard.
Get it done.

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