Life and death
Some of the peasant skills we need to learn during the Transition are pleasanter than others. This morning it was killing chickens. On the community farm we are trying out chickens for eggs, but inevitably we end up with cockerills that have no real use. They harrass the hens and need to be killed.
I was so nervous about this that I didn't have any breakfast to stop myself being sick. But as a meat-eater I feel it is necessary to take some responsibility for the death that is involved so I arrived at the farm early on a beautiful spring day to find out how it is done.
The expert chicken-slayer arrived in full leathers on a motorbike - which made me think of Alice Cooper and helped break the tension for me. He was actually a lovely man called Adrian who works at the Camphill Community at Thornbury near Bristol. Ute, who works part-time on the farm, also had experience of killing chickens.
The killing was distressing - mainly because the birds flap after their necks are broken and this can go on for some time. I wasn't able to do this myself but could cope with gutting and plucking the birds. I now have two stiffened bodies in my fridge and am wondering whether I am going to be able to eat them. They seem quite different in the kitchen from in the farmyard.
By a strange coincidence given my various writings on their £1.99 chicken, the bird I had plucked ended up in a Tesco carrier. I passed our local branch on the way home from the farm: shoppers were streaming out with their 'bags for life' packed full of plastic-wrapped goodies. What a difference between this and the life-and-death experience I had just been through.
The most curious thing is that the smell of the chickens after they were dead was just the same as the smell of my children when they were born. It isn't a smell of blood - something deeper than that. Perhaps a smell of life? I certainly learned something about life and death this morning and I wonder whether I will need to put the technique into practice in the future.