We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post to bring you this important update: as of this morning, all surplus roosters have been...um, dispatched. The year-old broilers-turned-stewbirds, denizens of the Very Bad Year, pre-dawn hellish harmonizers, feathered idols of concupiscence and caprice...them birds had to go.
For the sake of more squeamish readers, there will be no pictures of the process. Suffice to say that the knife was sharp. They were dispatched most humanely with reasonable skill and speed. We thanked them and vowed that nothing would be wasted...and nothing was. What didn't end up in the freezer or the stockpot went to fertilize the garden. As the Wise Ones say, "everything is food for something else."
These birds have been a bane for so long that the final bird's death felt like more than just another unpleasant-but-needful barnyard task. It felt elemental, primal, like an offering of sorts, or some ritual banishment of bad spirits. Perhaps offering IS the correct word. We offered its soul back to the Cosmos and its blood and feathers back to the earth. We transformed its body into more nourishing forms. With these acts came a lightness, a curious sense that we have released ourselves from the taloned hold of last year's suffering.
Did our Celtic and British ancestors feel these things, when the wheel of the year turned to harvest and their hands fell to the hard work of culling and butchering? Did they offer prayers of release? Did they sense the tenuous, terrifying beauty of nature's balance? Did they speak aloud their thanks, breathe deeply, set their jaws, and bloody their hands, killing and taking only what they had to, using everything they possibly could? And were there special words or tales or tunes to honour all of this?
I found the tune of an old wassail song welling up in me as we worked. There are many wassails-- songs of seasonal blessing and honour, from ancient roots meaning "be whole." (There is one called "the Apple Tree Wassail" that I sing to my fruit trees when I plant or prune them. I am of the belief that no creature, rooted or footed or winged, can be too often blessed.) I reshaped the words to our purpose and sang them--not cavalierly, but with genuine joy, recognizing that every harvest is a time of death, but reapers need not be eternally grim. There is a time to reap. There is a time to sow and a time to gather in. It is good to move with The Great Wheel's Turning.
Goodbye, roosters. Farewell, four-thirty A.M. alarmers. Tomorrow is the sabbath. We shall celebrate by sleeping in.