Outside of the Zone

This past week, both Oscar and I took a walked outside of our comfort zones.

Thursday evening a pipe burst at the house. Without being coached, Oscar turned off the well and checked out what had happened. After making his assessment, he called his dad who told him what supplies he needed and the next steps to take. By the time he returned from the store, it was dark out so we got some lights to work by, he crawled under the house, and fixed the pipe.

Now, if you don’t know, under the house is where all the creepy crawlies live. ShUddEr. Oscar is just as creeped out by walking through spider webs and having bugs crawling on him as the next person, so this was not a place he would normally visit. Nevertheless, after sitting for a full five minutes in front of that hole going under the house saying “I don’t want to go in there,” he took a deep breath and did it!

What a big, brave Chicken he was!

He fixed the pipe and saved the day!

I didn’t tell him until a few days later that I would have peed in a bucket before crawling in there. Just speaking the truth here.

I decided next year’s big project on the homestead will be to raise meat chickens. We’ll convert the hoop house we’ll be using as a greenhouse (for the fall/winter and spring garden) to house them. They would have eight weeks of daily fresh grass at which point they would be sent to freezer camp. Twenty-four chickens in the freezer = a good place to start this next endeavor.

That meant, of course, I would have to learn how to transition them from grass to freezer. I had watched several videos but knew I needed hands-on experience. So, Saturday, I took a chicken processing class!

I went to Moore Generation Farm, about two hours away, and learned how to do every aspect of the process – dispatch, pluck, disembowel, chill, part, and package chickens.

I learned a lot more from the experience, too.

I learned not to process 105 chickens in one day. Yes, they were experienced and fast but, oh my goodness, that was a lot of chickens! They were still at it after I finally gave up and went home.

I learned I need some different friends. Besides her husband and young daughters, Sabrina had friends and neighbors helping. I loved the sense of community and that they enveloped me, a stranger, into the group. Of the people with whom I currently socialize, only the folks at Wilding Acres Farm would consider helping me process chickens. Everyone else, including my family, would look at me with horror if I invited them over for a freezer camp party.

I learned at what points in the process I can break the job into more manageable sections to work within my abilities. I function best with short spurts of physical activity, but, Saturday, I managed to help for nearly 9 hours! Toward the end, I was taking more and more frequent breaks to try to ease the spasms in my back, but hey, I hung in there for a lot longer than I expected. I’m sure some of it was because of the sense of community – gotta get back in there and help the team – but, overall, I was pretty pleased with myself.

I learned I need to plan my chicken processing for spring and/or fall. Their set-up was really nice. We were in a covered area, open on the sides, with fans blowing. We weren’t having to work with the sun beating down on us and it was a pleasant, not hot, fall day. They told me about their last processing day, in the middle of the 100 degree days we had this summer. Nope, don’t want to do that!

I learned that they borrowed the processing equipment from their county’s Cooperative Extension Office. I need to see if Alamance County does that, too. The equipment is very pricey, into the thousands of dollars. Even the smallest setups can top a thousand dollars. Spending that much would make the price per chicken beyond reason. Yes, there are cheaper alternatives, like hand plucking, but my hand-strength is not sufficient to do that. If I can borrow or rent the equipment from the County Extension Office, that would remove another barrier to progress on the homestead.

One of my favorite sayings is “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Well, that’s where growth is, too.

We did some growing this week. I’m pretty proud of both of us Chickens!

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