Chicken Day at Idle Wild Farm
I spent the past Sunday morning at Idle Wild Farm. It was chicken processing day and I decided that I would lend a helping hand to my cousin Doug Overstreet. Doug, his wife Lucy, and their daughter Gillian live in our grandparents house in Thaxton area of Bedford County. My grandparents lived beside my great uncle Roy and great aunt Helen's farm. Since Roy's passing, no one was farming on the land any more. Once Doug and Lucy moved into my grandparent house, they had big plans to get the farm up and running again.
After a lot of back breaking work, they have really built a very nice farm that is providing health food to the local community. They have a large green house and garden where they grow many vegetables. They also have been raising chickens and hogs. They sell vegetables, eggs, and meat at various farmer's markets in the area. I am not an expert at their type of farming, but I do know that their animals are pature raised and do not include a lot of the "stuff" found in food from the big chain stores. Contact Doug and Lucy and they will be able to explain their exact process of raising animals and growing vegetables. You can also checkout their website for more infomation.
If anyone knows Doug, they know he can't sit still. He has been like this as long as I have known him (34 years). Before the boys came a long, I would spend time at the farm helping Doug work on his next big project. But once Anna and I started our family, my days helping Doug have dwindled down a lot. I have really missed not being able to hang out with Doug like I had in the past. But we all get older and our lives gradually pull us away. So, I talked myself into taking a little time out of my weekend to help out at the farm. This is a short description of my first chicken processing day at Idle Wild Farm.
So my chicken processing experience began late Saturday night. Doug, Chris Blair, and I were hanging out like old times. Then Doug informed us that we had to round up the chickens that needed to be processed in the morning. I have come to expect to work when I go to the farm, so I had come prepared in my old work clothes. Doug backed the tractor's trailer next to the chicken coup where the unlucky chickens where roosting for the night. Doug and I proceeded to pick up 80 chickens and place then in a number of cages on the trailer. The brave Chris held open the cage doors for us with such pride! I only came out of this chicken grabbing with one wound. One of the chickens roosting two spots over from where I was snatching the next chicken apparently like the looks of my wedding ring. He gave me a nice peck that broke the skins just a little. Insurance paper work is pending! Doug backed the tractor and trailer into the barn for the night, to keep the chicken out of the overnight rain.
Saturday morning, with coffee in hand, I showed up at Idle Wild Farm ready to process some chickens. Doug had recently built a covered structure to use during these chicken processing days. It really paid off on this day, because it rained the entire day. There were 5 people in all helping out on Sunday; Doug, Lucy, and two of Doug's usual helpers Patrick and Brent. Doug and Brent handled the first few stages of chicken processing (I will spare some of the more graphic details) and Patrick and I were on the gutting table.
Other than fish, I have never really had to process any animals before. I have hunted a few times, but I have never shot anything. My gutting job didn't bother me at all. Maybe it was my grandfather's gene's that helped. He was a butcher for years at Stevens & Update in Bedford. About after way through our processing, I was even daydreaming about the fried chicken I was missing at my parents house. Our family always gets together after church on Sundays to eat. It is one of my favorite times of the week, because I get to hang out with my parents, my brother's family, as well as my own. Anna and the boys went on to my parent's house with out me this Sunday and I stuck with my hands in chicken cavities.
We worked very steadily from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. It was a very cold and wet day. Just to prove how cold it was and to show just how desensitized you get to the processing, I was actually looking forward to starting the next chicken because of the warmth of the innards on my hands! By the end of the processing there were 80 whole chickens in the ice bath and we were all hungry. So Doug feed his workers hard boiled eggs (big surprise) and peanuts. Doug and Lucy were already having customers showing up to get fresh birds. I believe they had already sold 30 of the chickens to customers coming Sunday to pick them up. The rest were going to get prepped and bagged for the Forest Farmer's Market on Saturday 04/28.
All in all, I had a great time at the farm on processing day (don't tell Doug, he may make me do it again soon). I think the biggest emotion I felt was the sense of community. I got to help out some people that mean a lot to me and they in turn get to provide many families with health food. It is a lot of hard work, but this is how people use to live in our area. Doug, Lucy, Brent, and Patrick are just a few of the people that are trying to turn back the hands of time. By going back to when food was local, healthy, and most importantly less processed. I urge everybody to help out in their local communities. If there were just a few more farms like these operating, they could really support the food needs of many local families.
Being a single income family with small children, we are as guilty as anyone for shopping with monetary concerns first. Anna does a great job shopping a a number of stores to get us the best food at the best prices. I understand that shopping and eating locally raised food is not always easy to do financially. But when possible, I am going to start making more of an effort to buy local food and support the local farmers, not only for my family's health but our local community's health also.