KITCHEN TIP // elspeth

Halloooo out there. It's chilly! Happily, the chickens don't seem to mind. We've got one lady laying and we're waiting semi-patiently for the other six to start. Eggs! And they've got healthy-looking orange yolks. We'll see how long that lasts—you experienced hen-keepers out there, do you notice a change when your chickens are more cooped up over the winter? Do you keep them cooped up over the winter? The leaves are all fallen and a coyote stopped by the other day and I finally decided it's the season for the ladies to stop running around the yard and start staying in their run. We filled it with oak leaves and I'm bringing them food scraps and we're trying to keep them busy hunting around in the dirt, but I'm still wondering if it's the right thing to do. Which is to say: if you do something else, I'd love to hear about it. 

To that end, I have kind of a random tip to share with you today. It's about celery: I don't see it often at farmers markets, so whenever I do I buy a few heads. I break them down and cut off the leaves and trim the ends, and then I slice all the stalks thinly, like you would for stuffing or soup. I do the same thing when I buy the occasional head of celery at the grocery store, because I find I rarely use more than a few stalks for whatever recipe I need it for, and otherwise the rest goes to waste. I put the trimmings in mason jars to freeze for using for stocks and I put the sliced celery in wide mouth mason jars so that I always have some on hand and easily accessible for soups and stuffing and stews. I think of it as a gift to my future self. 

My mother was here recently and remarked that she'd never though of that, and she's thought of just about everything. It inspired me to share.

To that end: I hope you have plenty of turkey and pie and celery coming your way, and somewhere warm to share.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.



We killed two roosters last week. That's not a sentence I ever imagined myself typing, but there you have it. And I can't say I'm sorry. 

It was in some ways a difficult experience, and in other ways not difficult at all. It made me see how true my friend Tamar's words were when she talked with me a few years back for a radio piece I did on slaughter: Killing your own is gut wrenching, she said. Raising them is outstanding

The roosters were problematic—we never intended to have roosters, but two out of our six "hens" turned out to be male. As our two roosters matured they got more and more aggressive, threatening both their ladies and mine. When the girls became afraid to leave the house and I had to fight one off with a pitchfork, we decided the roosters needed to go. 

The processing was fascinating—the plucking and the gutting and the cutting up for a big pot of soup. But Alex did the actual killing, and it was hard to watch. Chickens don't die right away—even if you cut off their heads, well, you know the saying. They move for a few minutes still. I watched, but I wanted to look away.

We wanted the girls to be there: to understand the ceremony of the thing, and to see that this is where meat comes from—from real, live animals. Maybe they're at a good age for it, but they didn't seem perturbed. They wanted to see the heart and the liver, how the feathers pulled out. We built a big fire and boiled a giant pot of water to scald the roosters once Alex had taken off their heads; I did the plucking, he cut around the vent, and I pulled the innards out. While I was at work he and our friends Neily and Patricia from Jamaica made a real "cock soup" with squash and potatoes like we've had when we've visited them in Black River. We roasted the other bird, then served it with veggies and lentils. The girls devoured them with no qualms and asked for Rooster Soup in their lunch the next day. It was both perfectly normal and terribly strange.

The good news is there is peace again in the yard.

It is easy to take peace for granted when you have grown up in peaceful times, too easy sometimes. Today we went to a ceremony to honor the local veterans who have fought to uphold the peaceful country we live in today, the peaceful country I hope we can continue to live in. Shots were fired, not real ones but loud all the same, and just as startling as the ones that killed our birds in our yard. The girls didn't cry but they flinched and grabbed at my legs, and it was a loud reminder of all we take for granted.

So today I want to take a moment to be thankful for peace.

I am grateful to those who fought to establish it and those who fought to keep it and those who are fighting for a peaceful future now. Aggression is scary and unsettling and sometimes necessary. Peace, in most places and at most times, is a miracle. Thank you, to everyone who has helped it come to pass.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.