Friday, December 2, 2016

Thinning The Flock

Although I can't say the butchering part of butchering day is ever pleasant, we did have a fantastic, hard-working, fun crew to do the job yesterday and things could hardly have gone better.


First was to gather the geese and ducks to be butchered.  The above cage contained three geese and a couple of the Muscovy ducks.  The remainder of the ducks were in another cage. 


We've never used killing cones before but after our chicken butchering a few weeks ago, we decided we'd like to give them a try.  We gave directions for their construction to our daughter and she made two samples of them . . . a larger one for geese and a smaller one for ducks and/or chickens.  Instead of hanging the cones on a tree, inserting the bird head down, stunning the bird on the back of the head and then making slits on each side of the neck to kill and bleed them out, we decided the quicker and more humane way would be to use an ax.  The way we did it required two people but worked out really well and we still used the cones.

The bird was put into the cone, the person at the front put the head of the bird between two large nails which had been pounded into the stump, the person at the back held the bird firmly in the cone.  Our ax was very sharp, nicely weighted and did the job every time with one quick blow.

Then the cone with bird in it was hung by a grommet (put in the larger end of the cone for this purpose) on a nail in a tree until the flapping stopped.  


The bird was next extracted from the cone and hung by the feet on a rod between two trees to finish bleeding out.  The cone was then reused for the next bird.


We had a wonderful, handy-dandy scalding barrel that our Good Neighbor D contributed to the operation.  A small barrel sat on top of a gas burner and held the water at the right scalding temperature.  The only addition we need to make is some kind of a weight to keep the bird totally submerged.  Here our daughter is using a birch log to keep the bird from popping up out of the water.  She did an excellent job as chief scalder which made plucking the birds so easy.


This was the craziest thing . . . Tucker did not like this bird (waiting for its turn in the scalder) lying on the ground.  It was dead so he thought it should be buried.  He worked very diligently using his nose to push gravel up onto the body to cover it.


Our daughter starting to work the bird on our old (but so efficient) plucker.


It doesn't take long to get the majority of the feathers off of each one.


Then the detail plucking took over.  Don't know why this poor bird was getting attacked by the three guys but they made short work of it.


Until it was time for our daughter's guy to start the gutting process, he and I worked at the detail table.


Good Neighbor D with the biggest Muscovy.


We weren't knee deep in feathers but it came close to ankle deep!


After each bird was plucked clean, it was submerged in cold well water while waiting to go to the gutting table manned by the three guys.  Above Papa Pea is working on one of the geese.  Note the huge amount of goose fat in the dish.  All the birds had quite a bit of fat on them, a lot of it right under the skin.  I guess they all had put on their winter insulation.


The tally for the day.  Three geese on left, then the six male Muscovy ducks in the middle, and the three Cayugas on the right.  The Muscovies look almost as big as the geese.  Our geese are the Pilgrim variety, though, chosen for their smaller size and calm disposition.


This morning, before the kill cones were stored away until our next butchering date, our daughter suggested she take a picture of her "cone head parents."  (Picture taken in the garage, hence the decor.)  Silly thing was when she was ready to snap the picture, she said, "Smile!"  And we both did.

27 comments:

Michelle said...

My hat is off to people who raise their own meat so they know what the animals eat and how they are treated, and butcher them humanely.

Sarah said...

I love the picture of Tucker's burial process and the coneheads. Glad that the day ran smoothly.

Sue said...

Ha-loved the photo of you two--even though we can't see you, it's hilarious.

We are "in talks" with the neighbor about learning butchering. I think the worst part would be the killing. After an animal is dead, it doesn't bother me. It's the actual killing part that we're all squeemish about. So afraid of causing suffering.....

gld said...

Glad to see the details. I always thought it was hard to remove the down from ducks and geese. I didn't know they were just plucked like chickens. I have also never eaten either. They are not a common thing down here.

Mama Pea said...

Thanks, Michelle. I can say that these ducks and geese had a very good life, were fed only organic food, had clean living quarters and lots of room to roam with a pond and all the green grass they could eat. I think that all shows in how friendly they were, not aggressive at all. But we are raising them for meat and are super-concerned as to the foods we put into our bodies. We want to live a long and vigorous life, but won't be able to do that if we don't stay healthy. Thanks again for your kind words.

Mama Pea said...

Sarah - You have to wonder what was really going through Tucker's head and why he felt the carcass should be buried! The day went so much better than I thought it would.

Mama Pea said...

Sue - You are absolutely right . . . once the animal or fowl is dispatched, it changes completely for me. I even commented on that as we all were working. I thought it would bother me more than the chickens (which, of course, is never pleasant either) because the ducks and geese have been more like pets. But I think if you can manage the killing quickly and as humanely as possible, that helps a lot, too.

Mama Pea said...

Glenda - Our Good Neighbor D, who grew up on a working family farm, was truly astounded how easily the ducks and geese were to pluck after being scalded. His mother always wanted them plucked dry because she wanted the down. And D said it was VERY hard plucking that way. I was so impressed with the down on our geese! It was thick, soft, pure white and just lovely!

DFW said...

Hats .... er cones .... off to you guys for raising them well & humanely getting them ready for the freezer. I guess it's goose for Christmas dinner this year?

Sue said...

I just got done reading a memoir of a farmwife from the 30's and she said they plucked the down from the geese in the summer while they were alive. They stored the down and feathers until winter for use in quilts, etc. I bet those fowl looked "odd" being plucked clean but according to her, it came back quickly

Mama Pea said...

DFW - Yes, I'm thinking it will be a Christmas Goose on the table this year! Good Neighbor D is smoking a duck and a goose for us so we'll get to taste that first.

P.S. I was going to label that last picture of us "The Killing Cone Heads" but that didn't have a good sound to it. :o/

Mama Pea said...

Sue - Ouch! I've never heard of plucking them while alive. Dang, that must have hurt the geese a bit, don't cha think? I believe what the author said, but dang. Would you share the title of that book? Sounds like something I'd like to read.

Sue said...

Country Kitchens Remembered by Marilyn Kluger. Great memoir.
But my FAVORITE one of all is Prairie Kitchen Sampler by E. Mae Fritz. I reread that one EVERY fall. It's one of the first of my "hunkering in" books. Both are very enjoyable reads that make one long for the past. Do you realize these people could eat pie EVERY DAY?????
I'd gladly churn butter if I could do that!

Mama Pea said...

Sweet Sue - Country Kitchens has been ordered from the library, and Prairie Kitchen Sampler has been ordered from Amazon per your high recommendation. I can hardly wait to get it!!

No doubt about the fact that our ancestors on the farm burned more calories on a daily basis than we've ever thought of burning! The other thing to remember about the food they ate was that it was all natural, "organically" grown, with no additives or preservatives. I truly believe our bodies can process and use to maintain and heal that kind of food more than the stuff that is offered in grocery stores today . . . much of which probably actually harms our bodies. :o/

Thank you SO MUCH for turning me on to these books! Hugs.

Little Homestead In Boise said...

Well done! I love goose and duck...

Goatldi said...

Nice post on the ins and outs both on the how to and on the emotional side. When my two kiddo's were in 4H they had a husband/wife team as their Poultry leaders. They were amazing folks and we all learned a lot from them. The one point that came across strongly was from the husband who was helping the members process their extra meat birds from their Small Animal Auction project. Only one bird can go to the fair auction per child. As he prepped the kids with an over view of how to do and what to expect he made one point very clear " Always take the time just before the end to address your bird calmly and slowly telling them how much you appreciate their sacrifice and give them a gentle stroking on the neck area". A good lesson in keeping connected with where your food comes from and indeed respect is a good thing.

Susan said...

I'm fascinated by your plucker. (Sorry, that sounds so...weird) The only one I've had any experience with is the drum kind with the rubber fingers - it seems kind of brutal. It sure makes it more enjoyable having a great group to work with. Now you'll be set through the winter!

Mama Pea said...

Susan - Our plucker has the rubber fingers, too, but they are on a roller mounted on a stand-type affair. It works on the same principle as the drum kind, but tosses feathers all over the place where with the drum the feathers collect in the drum. Yes, the rubber fingers are "substantial" but they don't tear the skin of the bird . . . which seems strange, but good.

Goose feathers (quills) are being put in the mail to you tomorrow!

Sandy said...

Mama Pea,

Freezer Camp!!! Those are some really good looking geese, and ducks. Great post on the process of preparing these babies for freezer CAMP :-)

It looks like the cones made a big difference in keeping your feathered friends still when starting the process.

Any good duck recipes you care to share ??

Hugs,
Sandy

Leigh said...

Tucker is so funny! Loved that bit.

We hang our killing cone so I was interested in the horizontal use of it. Also interested in your plucker. We discovered that Muscovies are not as easy to pluck as chickens, but I ordered a big block of paraffin to try and wax the next batch.

Mama Pea said...

LHinB - We have several in the freezer, plus the ones our neighbor is smoking for us, so I hope we don't get tired of it!

Mama Pea said...

Goatldi - How wonderful the kids had a kind man who took the opportunity to teach them the respect and kindness that should go hand in hand with preparing food for our consumption.

Mama Pea said...

Susan - If you want a better view of our plucker, enter "chicken plucker" in the Search box way down on my right hand side column and that should take you to a post on it I did a while back.

I'd love to have the drum type, but I think they sell for something like $700!!

Mama Pea said...

Sandy - No, I am a novice at preparing ducks! This all will be new to me. And the only way I've ever prepared a goose is by roasting it which was a good way as far we I was concerned. Tasty, too!

Mama Pea said...

Leigh - You're so right, Muscovies are not as easy to pluck as chickens. Especially their wing feathers! I wonder if you wouldn't be able to locate an old plucker like ours in your area as there were probably many small, family farms there at one time? You can get a better idea of ours if you go down to the Search box on my right hand column and enter "chicken plucker." I blogged about it a little more extensively a while back. We bought ours from an old, retired farmer several years ago and I think paid only $35 for it. It's been a wonderful tool for us.

Erin said...

I'm trying to sheepishly get back in the game.... catching up on your blog first of course! Love this post and love seeing that Tucker is still going strong! Love to you all...

Mama Pea said...

Erin! How absolutely good to hear from you! I'm glad to see that YOU are still going strong! I think of you often and would love to hear more from you. Big hugs to you and your boys!