“Many hands make light work,” said my mother-in-law, and I didn’t need to hear it twice.
I got the jars ready and set her and my mother up at the table, peeling pears, while I made the honey syrup and continued chopping green peppers.
It all comes in at once: that cumulative harvest that must be boxed and hauled just before that first elusive frost which could come any moment. Provided it’s not a hard frost (and here in the hills we haven’t seen one yet this year), the picking continues and so does the processing.
She made my week with that offer. And it was supposed to be her day: annual birthday celebration with her favorite (chicken), along with sweet corn on the cob, potatoes, coleslaw and I can’t remember what. Princess decided on carrot cake with cream cheese icing and we were all digesting birthday food, with dishes put away, when Grandma made her offer.
It made me think of my Grandma Mary, and how much I miss her. She could peel anything thinner than anyone with never a wasted bit.
I thought more of her as the week wore on, and as I processed some 38 fryers, pressure canned gizzards, cut up meat into meals and pressure cooked the backs, ribs and necks for stock. Tonight this stock is in the canner, too.
How Grandma’s hands moved so quickly through the birds, pin feathering just as fast as I could gut and wash them.
“I getting lazy here...” she’d call in her broken English and I’d bring her another bird from the plucker. Now I do it alone, except Princess is learning to help.
Demand for farm-raised birds is increasing, so I’m saying no often. Without help processing, I can’t possibly raise chickens for other people. This will be my birthday gift to myself: to say no to next year’s customers. I’ll gladly teach people how to raise their own, how to pluck and process even, but I cannot do it for them anymore.
Teach a man to fish...
Let’s try again: if you teach a person to pluck and gut, s/he too can enjoy an entire winter of glorious farm fattened, GMO and anti-biotic free poultry. Whole families once shared this glorious work. Even if I could, why should I have all the fun?
Many hands really do make light work; I only have two.