Day 11 12/23/04
I woke up earlier today than usual, around 6:00am. It was sprinkling and the sun had not come up yet. Once we started milking, it started raining a lot harder.
We ate breakfast and I started helping Marie make ice cream. I was going to go over to Homer Adams’s house to slaughter turkeys and they needed ice cream made so I was going to bring it over there to do it. I got into the buggy with Barbie (Amos’s sister) and she drove me in the rain to Homer’s house.
Homer is the Amish version of an attractive man. About 6’0-6’1, handsome, strong, hearty disposition. He welcomed me and took me to the back where they were slaughtering turkeys. He introduced me to Richard, a friendly co-worker. Richard took me to the Turkey pen. He showed me how to catch them, “Grab both of their wings.” I had never slaughtered or killed anything more than a bug before so I was nervous(1). I didn’t want to hurt them when I caught them so I tried to be gentle(2). It made it more difficult to hold on to them. I felt like it didn’t make sense that I was trying to be gentle because they were going to be dead and I was going to kill them soon.
We took four and put them upside down in buckets with holes in the bottom for the heads to come through. Richard showed me how to do it. He said you need to pull on their necks and then cut the veins on either side of their throat. He said that you don’t want to cut their wind pipe because then they won’t pump out a much blood and that will make the meat bloody. He did it to one, the bird didn’t even struggle that much. Blood started spurting out on his hand. It felt really weird. He let me do the next one. This was going to be the first time that I’d ever intentionally killed something with my hands. I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t want to do it too hard because I didn’t want to hurt it and that only made it hurt more. Warm blood spurted on my hand. It felt really warm. He finished it off for me because I couldn’t do it right. The bird was struggling. I tried to do the next one. I cut a vein and I accidentally cut the windpipe. I heard it start gasping for air as its neck pulled up and down. I think I did the next one, I can’t remember. We finished and we went to the room where the birds were being cleaned. It was inside, it was rainy, windy and grey outside. They showed me how to eviscerate and clean it.
1. Cut off the butt hole
2. Slice open the abdomen
3. Remove the gizzard (save it)
4. Remove the intestines.
5. Remove the liver carefully and take off the green gallbladder, making sure not to puncture or it will make everything bitter.
6. Take out the heart (save it).
7. Remove the lungs and anything else.
8. Turn it over and remove the oil sack on the butt.
9. Cut out the soaking sack in the neck area without dislodging the grain in it onto the meat.
10. Wash it, put it in water.
It felt really weird to do all this. The birds were alive 15 minutes ago. As I was pulling out the intestines, poop would come out the butt and get on my hands and the bird. It felt gross at first, and then didn’t feel gross after awhile. My work area smelt like turkey and turkey shit. I was feeling really weird. Richard and Homer were used to it.
We finished up the turkeys and went to go get the chickens. Homer had two big yellow crates. He said most of the chickens were small, so try to get the biggest ones. The chickens had a chicken area and they were running all over the barn in the cow stalls, horse pens, etc. I was chasing one. I stood up and I felt and heard a crack. I opened my eyes and looked around. I had hit my head on a low hanging ceiling something or other (hay bin). Homer had heard it or seen it and asked how I was doing. I said I didn’t know, something was dangling in my eye. It was a piece of skin with some eye brow attached to it. He asked me if I was bleeding, I said I didn’t know. I started feeling warm drops fall past my face. He came and looked at me and said to follow him and we’d get a band aid. I followed him into a side room and he got me some supplies. His wife Lisa came in and said that I’ll probably have that scar for the rest of my life. I bandaged myself haphazardly up and walked back to start slaughtering the chickens.
Before I had hit my head and after we had finished the turkey’s we had supper which means lunch to the Amish. It was great, Homer is a farmer and a dairy man so he had his milk products and vegetables there. His butter was so bright orange that I though it was cheddar cheese. He said it was that way because all of his cows are Jerseys. We talked about Sally Fallon and Weston Price. He mentioned they started getting into this lifestyle because his wife was sick and was on a bunch of different medications. He mentioned that she had “chronic fatigue, hypoglycemia and her whole endocrine system was shut down.” He talked about his wife being sick and being on drugs a lot. I don’t know if that bothered her or not. They talked about their kids and the major difference in them in the ones conceived before they changed their eating habits, and the ones afterwards. They said the ones conceived after they started eating better were fatter, seemed healthier and didn’t cry as much. They said they didn’t talk about this much around the one who was conceived before this lifestyle change.
We walked back to the slaughter room and put the chickens in the buckets. I was getting good and was able to do it without too much trouble. I was feeling weird and I didn’t know if it was because I was killing or because of the cut in my head. Homer walked away and I tasted some of the chicken blood. I’ve heard it has health benefits. It tasted like my blood, but with a slight chicken taste. I felt okay on it, I noticed an alert feeling, but I didn’t eat enough to get a full blown effect. They defeathered the chickens and I started cutting them up. I was getting good and faster. I ended doing them all but one. The most interesting part was the soak sack. A sack that poultry have where they soak the grains they eat before they digest them. I guess this shows why it might be good for humans to soak their grains too. I felt slightly nauseous and happy, and weird the whole time.
We finished. I wiped off all the blood as best I could and I went to go make ice cream. For an hour and a half we tried to get the machine started. We couldn’t so we gave up. I helped him out a little bit then George (Albert’s brother) picked me up. We were talking about Christmas and girls. He joked and said that if I married one I might be able to live with them. We both laughed.
I got home, it was rainy and windy, I was tired and wet and I had to milk the cows with Peter and Marie, Albert was busy packing. I really did not enjoy doing it. Homer’s farm feels different. He raises Jerseys. All the animals hang out and co-mingle in the barn and he seems genuinely happy and satisfied about what he’s doing. Albert and the whole family are really busy now with so many orders. Albert can’t worry about packing and milking at the same time so he is always busy and stressed which makes Marie and the kids stressed. I felt like I didn’t want to be there. I feel like Albert is doing as good of a job as he should.
For breakfast I had an egg with cheese, sauerkraut, bacon and apple butter. Supper (lunch), Jersey butter, crisp lettuce, fresh turkey, meat and vegetable stew. Dinner some cultured buttermilk, snack: cream, whey, and apple.
2. It was ironic that in order to kill the chickens quickly and more painlessly, I had to be firm and grab them hard. I wanted to be gentle, but that made them hurt more. This is where I learned how to be firm and loving at the same time.
3. I didn’t know if this was coincidence or not. This was the first time in my life that I had ever intentionally killed something. On that same day, I got a permanent scar on my face that will remind me of that day everytime I look in the mirror. Maybe, this was God’s way of saying, “Hey, respect life!” Or maybe God was saying, “Now you look like a badass!”