We were honored to be on the invite list for chicken harvest day on our friends’ farm outside of Louisville, Kentucky. This may have been in small part due to my begging, but I’m not going to split hairs. It was reminiscent of bottling day at Green Fire, so in addition to being eager to learn about the process, I was also excited for the camaraderie that flows when people come together for a big farm task like this.
Three families came to the farm that day, and the four children fell in well together – a completely self-sufficient little mob of energy that ebbed and flowed seemingly independent of adult activity. I was only summoned when there was hunger or a serious toilet situation at hand. No hyper-parenting, no fighting, no boredom, no screens. I think the energy and space of their farm allows kids to exist as they were meant to: it’s as though their internal springs unwind; their focus is directed outward and into the open. I imagine any resentment caused by a sandbox transgression riding away on the breeze traveling under the massive shade tree overlooking them. We enjoyed an incredible potluck meal together and we brought challah and a bottle of wine from Green Fire. Last I can recall, G’s a vegetarian who occasionally eats local fish, so he scortled (scoffed + chortled) at the idea that we took his wine to such a carnivorous event.
The chickens were brought out in a wheelbarrow, and the first one was thanked and kissed goodbye gently by the eldest little girl in attendance. The adults set to the task before I realized that this might be slightly difficult for T to witness for the first time. I looked over after a few minutes and saw a stunned look on his face, not complete horror but there was a small dose of it entangled in his expression. I attempted to approach him to talk about it, but he ran off before I could get a word out and was immediately absorbed back into the youngster amoeba.
I was a bit of a ping pong ball that day, somewhere between being involved in the chicken processing, tending to M when he wasn’t being lovingly held by another mother there, and checking in with T. It was difficult for me to want so purely to just be engulfed in the experience but also on-duty with the boys. It’s a duality that I haven’t quite figured out yet; one that challenges me some days. I found a scratch in my notebook the other day I must have written during one of those moments last summer: “farming with a young one is like trying to sort bird seed with a rabid canary on your shoulder.” I don’t even know if birds can get rabies, but you catch my drift. It can be hard.
Twelve chickens were processed that day, and we got to take one home. We certainly weren’t expecting the chicken, but it was hands down the coolest party favor I’ve ever received. Really, though, just being part of that day was what I needed. And T came around on the whole idea of slaughtering, I think any angst he harbored rode away on the smell of roasting rosemary-covered chicken wafting from the oven the next week.