We've been joined by a few new critters on the farm in the past couple of weeks. Fifty new critters to be precise. The "meat birds" are here, and already growing, growing, growing right before our eyes.
After a lot of wintertime research and household debate, we ultimately decided upon the Cornish X birds (ordered from Mt Healthy Hatcheries). The birds are currently living in the brooder in the barn, but we hope to move them out this week once a portable coop is built for them (we're still finalizing our plans, but I think it might be a slightly glorified Polyface/Salatin-style structure with moveable fencing). The plan is to rotate them through the pastures during their short stay here. At the end of their growing, we will do the processing here ourselves, and then enjoy the fresh home-raised meat through the coming year.
This is all (the chickens, the hens, the pigs, the pasture we're trying to clear, the garden I'm growing, etc, etc) - "new" to us. And like anything new, that one wants to do well and thoughtfully, it comes full of research and debate and wondering....about the best way to go about it all - for the sake of the earth, our time, our health, our meal, and our collective - and individual - family spirits.
Daunting, sometimes? Yes.
In the newness, though, I'm grateful for the wisdom and experience shared by friends who have traveled this path before us. And for those who share their knowledge so graciously online (Throwback at Trapper Creek, posting on Simple, Green, Frugal Co-Op, has a wonderful series of posts on raising meat chickens). Or the plethora of books that have for years graced our bookshelves as we dreamt and planned.
I'm grateful, too - and perhaps most especially - for those who appear in our dooryard with an opinion or two. Those who always seem to make the very things we research, fret and talk about to bits, suddenly seem as simple as can be. Below, you see the man who bore witness to our month-long, exhaustive efforts to turn little miss Annabel from her breech position, and repeated to us each day, "She'll turn when she's good 'n' ready."
Simple and wise. And of course, true.
As we moved these birds from their arrival box to the brooder, with such a dooryard visitor having just stopped by, I found myself beginning to explain a whole lot. Why we got the birds we did, what we plan on doing with them, how we'll do that, the children's involvement, the food we'll blend for them, the structure to build...and on and on (and on).
In response, I got a quizzical look - from both the older gentleman stopping by, and the young girl who knows (more than most believe) precisely what we're doing. A few simple words from our friend, and I was stopped in my tracks. What are we really doing? We're feeding our family in a way that feels right to us.
That kind of simple truth comforts me, quiets me, and eases my wondering mind. Hearing the words make me feel as though my grandfathers are both nearby, despite their passing long before I was on this path (oh, how I miss them!). My grandfathers who 'knew' this kind of living in a way that books never taught them. They knew it because they had always lived it, and those before them had too. Their knowing came not from the books on their shelves, but from the bones in their body.
As I find with parenting and so many other things in life, there's a place for all that reading and research, discussion and community - the value is immeasurable, and I am ever so grateful for it. But eventually, we reach the time when we simply must put one foot in front of the other, quiet our minds, take a deep breath, and have a little faith in our instincts. Somewhere, deep in our bones, is the knowledge we need to keep on the path we're on. Whether we're talking about parenting, farming or feeding our family (or the perfect combination of the three), what's "new" to us is hardly new at all. There's comfort in that.