Friday, June 24, 2011

#40 - Farmers - The Next Generation is NOW

My mother's grandmother raised chickens. My mom would talk about how they would be having chicken for dinner and her grandmother would go outside, catch a chicken, and "ring its neck." She said that my Nanny would twirl the chicken over her head, by the chicken's neck, until it broke. Lovely. Then, she'd put the chicken back down and it would run around with a broken neck flopped over until it finally gave out. Gross.

A picnic with my Nanny, my great-grandmother. The last Farm-Girl
of my family, until now. But, we're raising more Farm-girls, on purpose.
That was the way of a chicken dinner in my family over 50 years ago.

I guess my Nanny couldn't go to the local store and buy a chicken. She had always been rather poor, but still a beautiful woman. She simply didn't require much. I remember her as being the country woman who tried to live with us in the city. I think it was hard on her. When I was growing up, she stayed with us very often. I couldn't imagine her wringing a chicken's neck. But, she had been a chicken killer...many, many times.

When I was a child, I'd stare at my Nanny and could not imagine her as a
woman who could kill a chicken! How could she be a chicken killer?
My Nanny came from a time when people knew how to do these things. My mother saw these things, but she didn't have to do it herself. And now, my generation is here and I've only heard about such things and have never, ever seen it in person. However, I want this huge generational gap in farming abilities and necessities to come to an end. Does this mean I wish to wring a chicken's neck? No, it doesn't.

My niece, Shaye, in her Mermaid costume for Halloween.
Photo by Warren Harold.
Tonight, my little four year old niece is getting to stay the night. She loves to be outside with our backyard chickens. She was here the weekend we purchased them and she got to hold them and help set up their new home in my master bathroom tub.

Through the weeks, she's been here regularly and always makes time to feed them, to touch them and to enjoy being around them. Yes, she washes her hands frequently. She's not afraid of them. Her mother came over the other day (my sister) and she is terrified of the chickens. As we all stood in the backyard, if one chicken even came within 20 feet of her, she bolted back inside the house.

This past weekend, myself, my dad and my sister...laughing about how
she can't be near a chicken. I was also terrified, until I became a backyard farmer.
Meanwhile, my sister's daughter played in the backyard with several chickens at her feet as she sang and jumped around like a regular four year old. And I say to my sister who is hiding inside the house, behind the backdoor, "Hey Missy, your little daughter is out here and not afraid!" My sister replied, "But, SHE has grown up with the chickens, I haven't."

We all laughed hysterically. Yes, my niece has grown up with the chickens. For all of these long weeks, she's grown up with the chickens! Ha Ha! We bought them in March and she's been around from their chick stage to their full-grown feathered busy-body selves. I guess this proves that it does indeed make a difference for someone to be around these creatures from the start. You become accustomed to them and chickens are no longer so foreign and scary once you're around them frequently.

Shaye standing with the chickens as her mom is running
back inside the house. Being "raised" with chickens
does make a difference with our comfort level.
I looked at my niece and felt a surge of pride. We are breaking the generational gaps that have been in place for too long with farming. Shaye comes over and gets to help in our vegetable garden; she picks herbs and smells them with delight; she gets to help hand-feed the chickens; and she is learning about things that we, as children, only read about or heard in a relative's story about the "good old days." I'm so thankful that she can say that she knows about chickens, first-hand.

My dad enjoying Howdy and the chickens. He gets a kick
out of our backyard farm.
Very soon, we'll be getting our first eggs. I can't wait. Beyond my own excitement, I am thrilled that my niece will be exposed to where an egg actually comes from instead of the egg-carton version from the grocery store. Soon, she'll be able to head out to our backyard, check the coop and gather the eggs. Then, we will make a big production about using the eggs in a meal...a meal with the egg she found. I can't wait!

My daughters, a few years ago at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.
These are times when they really got to be around farm animals.
Today, I decided to start talking with her about us making the move to the farm, full-time. I want her to be prepared for her aunt and uncle to sell their house, especially since she knows we have another "home" in the country. By the time we sell the house, she should be ready to accept the change in scenery during her visits with us.

The gap that had grown so wide between us and farming for several generations in my family is now narrowing. I want to make a difference in the children in our lives...our family, our friends...I want their children to know a farmer and to have a farm they can visit without having to pay a cover charge.

My oldest daughter, Heather, trying out her shooting skills.
Today, my niece's main concern was that the dogs not be left behind for the new family that will be moving into our house, and I assured her that the dogs would be going with us because they are part of the family. She was thrilled. I let her know that our new house will still have all of her favorite things, but that our yard will be a LOT bigger, and the chickens will have more room to run around pecking for bugs.

My oldest on a trip and getting to do one of her life-long favorite
activities, horse-back riding!
I'm so thankful that my husband and I have always been huge out of doors people; we've taken our daughters on untold trips to the country and they know all about camping, fishing and horse-back riding. But, a farmer's life is not something we understood. When I was raising my daughters, I had wanted them to live a "cultured" life dappled with experiences in the country. Well, I think they got much more than a "dappling" of exposure to country life, they pretty much were given a huge dose of it. I am thankful that we were always looking forward to our next trip out of the city.

Now that I'm wiser, I would have rather had it the other way in the country, but include a bit of the city, sporadically, here and there. At least I'm TRYING to make things right. It's never too late!

My youngest, Stefie, she's TRYING to put it all together.
God Bless Her! And no, she's not color blind, just couldn't wait
to put on these cowboy boots. This is the picture of Eagerness.


LindaG said...

My hubby has told me about 'chickens running around with their heads cut off'. I am sure the first time I see it, I will be a bit squeamish; but I agree with you. We need to get rid of these barriers between farm and food.
The people who say 'why kill a chicken when you can just buy one in the store'.....
There is something really wrong with that.

His grandmother was the chicken raiser in their family. But he helped butcher chickens and cows. I know they raised pigs, so he may have butchered them, too.

Then I need to learn how to pluck and clean a chicken.... ;-)

You all have a wonderful, blessed weekend!

Charade said...

Just lovin' Stefie's outfit. She's a real woman - no wannabe could rock oversized hat and boots like she did!

Rina ... also Chester or Daisysmum. said...

A wonderful experience for any child, I am sure your niece will love to come stay over or even visit for a holiday.

About the chichens, it's really just the first few that is "difficult" after that it gets easier. You'd go far to bet the taste of homegrown chook.

Callie said...

To have chicken dinner in the 1940's my family would cut the head off the chickens, let them run around then put them in buckets of boiling water to loosen the feathers, after pulling the feathers (some with pliers) they would gut and then singe off any remaining small feathers over the gas burner. I could do it now, but I'm too lazy... easier to buy chicken, but store bought chicken doesn't taste anywhere as good as farm chickens. Our chickens are kept for entertainment, bug chasing, and for eggs. They are a lot of fun to watch.
Stay safe!

Toni aka irishlas said...

Just wanted to pop by real quick and say thanks for stopping by my blog!

You have such a lovely family..

We were city folks - no headless chickens for me growing up! My family still can't figure out where I get this "farmer" gene..

Lana C. said...

Linda --- I can't even imagine what it will be like to "process" our first chicken. But, we won't do this until we move to our farm full-time. Regardless, I have to start learning the steps and ways to do everything from A to Z. I'm sure plucking is miserable!

Lana C. said...

Charade --- Stefie said "THANKS!" She is our fire-cracker, super tiny, but a huge blast of fun. She'll be 21 in a few days; I can't believe my baby is so grown up! Sniff, Sniff.

Lana C. said...

Rina --- I love visiting your site and am trying to learn about homegrown chooks. I'm sure the processing of chickens will be difficult at first, but hopefully it will become an organized matter that we master. For now, I'll just enjoy chickens as "producing" pets and look forward to the first egg as I build up the courage for more...

Lana C. said...

Callie --- Sounds like your family could truly take care of themselves. I believe all of these skills are lost to most of the population because we've become so dependent on the local grocery store. I do like being able to go to the meat section and rush home for dinner, but I'd also like to know how to do all that your mom did. Farmers seem to understand more about the cycle of life, have more wisdom in general, and have more reverence for life...probably because they see it all face-to-face.

Lana C. said...

Toni --- my family and my friends feel the same about me. I had a friend tell me the other day that farm animals were "nasty." I cracked up because, if that were true, she sure likes to serve "nasty" food. haha