Heading straight to tithing settlement, where Nathan had been all day, we spent the afternoon waiting for our turn to see the bishop. I could barely stay awake. The kids enjoyed talking to our bishop and getting to pick candy out of his candy jar. They were so proud of their tithing invoices and they were pleased when the bishop proclaimed them to be full tithe-payers.
Next stop, our friends house. We keep most of our chickens on their farm due to city restrictions for our property. It's time to slaughter some of them. The roosters are mature and the rooster we keep in our yard is a public nuisance promptly at 5:30am each morning. I don't mind his crowing, in fact I really like it. I am worried that our neighbors will hate us, so I had to chase him around the yard each morning so I could put him in a box to shut him up. If he can't stand up all the way and stretch out his neck, he can't crow. So we'd put him in a box until later in the day. That really had to stop. We planned on butchering him today, so we stopped by to pick up our other birds scheduled for butchering. That was fun, chasing around the coop catching 8 chickens. The real fun part was opening the box to add more birds without letting the other birds out. I couldn't help myself from proclaiming our boxed birds as "Dinner in a box". Perfect for any family!
Nathan and I culled the roosters together. That is a true bonding experience. :) I think everyone should do that with their sweetheart. Actually, it is a surprisingly humbling experience. I don't like taking the life of an animal, but since we eat the meat and really can't keep the roosters anyway, I can handle it. I think the commercial meat-processing system of America has hundreds of problems on ethical and health levels. I really prefer producing our own meat for many reasons. That's a whole discussion in itself for another time.
We love our chickens and respect them as creatures of God. I really appreciate the kind of man Nate is. Each time we caught a rooster, he'd hold it and stroke it, talking to it softly and thanking it for being such a good bird. Then he'd kill it so it died quickly with minimal trauma. I really respect that. I think it's a rare thing to have a man that respects an animal's life and can be so gentle in it's death.
I had never been so involved with the butchering process in the past. Usually Nathan did it with a friend. This time I was there from start to finish. Processing each bird really doesn't take long. It takes about 15 minutes per bird to go from slitting the throat to putting it in the freezer. Surprisingly, our hen Cinderella came and watched the entire process, eagerly eating the entrails that were thrown aside. She wasn't bothered at all, and even became impatient with us. She came up to the carcass we were working on and tried to take a peck of it right on the chopping block! What a lady.
I love the results of our experience...I always am humbled and increasingly thankful for our blessings. I am so thankful for our food and I am more careful with how I use meat, regardless of it's animal of origin. I think people are so often wasteful with our food in America, and I really cherish every morsel after going through this experience. I realize what a sacrifice animals make for our diets and feel compelled to eat the meat with reverence and appreciation. It's almost a spiritual experience for me to partake of the meat afterwards.
On a side note, when the feet are severed from the body, the tendons often protrude a little bit from the end. You can tug on the tendons and make the toes curl up. I took a foot inside to show the children and explain how tendons work. Nathan was sure the kids would be disgusted. Much to my surprise, they were delighted and each one wanted a turn to tug a tendon. They laughed and delighted, especially Matthew. I think they would have loved to play with it for much longer if I had let them. If you ever butcher a chicken, give it a try. It's really fun! Really.
Literally 5 minutes after finishing up the third bird, we headed off the the next activity.
We were supposed to start and maintain a pit fire all night so visitors could sit by the fire and sing carols as they passed through. Sarah and I were in charge of cocoa and cookies. We had crock pitchers to haul water in. The well was 50 yards into the woods behind the house. She was such a great help, lugging the heavy pitchers back and forth. They didn't carry much water, less than 2 quarts, so we had to make many trips throughout the night. We'd pour the water in a big dutch oven suspended above the fire so we could heat it for cocoa.As darkness fell, it was harder and harder for me to venture out to the well. The woods were extremely dark and we had no lights for me to take. The candles and gas lamps stayed with the guests to light the cabin. I wouldn't be able to carry the light anyway, since both hands carried pitchers. I was so scared that I'd only be able to force myself to stay at the well until the pitchers were half full, then I'd run as fast as I could back to the fire. I didn't care that this meant I had to go back twice as often.....I'm a real baby in the dark. Nathan can tell lots of stories about that, I'm sure.
The cabin was so fun. There were rag dolls and a cradle to play with and wooden toys for the kids to enjoy. We played in there by candlelight and had a great time. Nathan brought his harmonica, so his beautiful music filled the air, mingling with the crackling sounds from the fire. It was so adventurous and peaceful and fulfilling. Sarah really enjoyed playing hostess, arranging cookies on wooden platters for the visitors. I took Sarah and Daniel around the village on the hayride during the night to visit the other houses. The Victorian house was hosting a party for a group of Civil War-Ear historical re-enactors. The men were in military uniforms and the women had hoop skirts and beautiful ball gowns. There was a music group playing period music on a dulcimer and fiddle and everyone was dancing and chatting. It was like I stepped into a movie! It was SO beautiful and so much fun. Sarah and I went around the house peeking in all the rooms admiring all the dresses. The women all made the dresses themselves. We also let Sarah play a pump organ in the house. She really enjoyed that. We saw several shooting stars during the hay ride. It was so neat!
crawl into the feather bed in the cabin. They were so delighted to sleep on straw pillows. Matthew couldn't stop giggling about his pillow. It was such a novelty for him. They burrowed under the quilts and I told them stories until they fell asleep. They were so filthy at the end of the night! Dirt and soot covered their hands, but they had so much fun it was worth it. We had so much fun the entire night, we decided to become regular volunteers for the park. I'm really looking forward to going back, and so are the children. They've already asked me how soon we get to go back.
This is Matthew stringing popcorn for the tree in one of the homestead cabins. They had lots of fun...we do this activity at home every year, but for some reason it's more fun by candlelight.
He also tried his hand at pumping water for hot cocoa. He's not in costume in this picture because we went as visitors to the park the night before we volunteered.
Nathan played his harmonica much of the evening and I still wanted more. He really looked the part in his costume. Most of the pictures I took of him didn't turn out since the firelight didn't give enough lighting. This was a rare shot I caught with the flash when there were no visitors.