The blow up mattress is missing some air, not really a problem for me as Olof’s weight elevates me from the floor, so I had a great nights sleep.
Not sure if it was my phone alarm or the cockerel who alerted me to the light of the day but either way its feels good to be awake, which is a rare statement for someone who would never describe themselves as a morning person. If truth be told it was my bladder that urged me to get up and this time I did mange to find the “pee” toilet which was on the other side of the farm and I have to confess I’m not a fan of the “pee” toilet mainly for two reasons; one, there are gaps in the door and two, the window in the toilet over looks the outside kitchen. Am I providing this mornings entertainment?
Olof is already in the kitchen making banana chocolate pancakes and the whistle kettle is on the boil. The morning is fresh and the farm is stirring just in time for the first batch of pancakes which are guzzled in seconds (I’m assuming by the kids) and Chris arrives just in time for the second batch.
“So what would you like us to do today” we ask.
“You know, we’ve got too many chickens and some aren’t producing eggs, I think it’s time for a couple to go?”
Not quite the first task we were expecting to be assigned, but we’ll have to learn this at some point right?
The plan soon becomes thwarted as Chris can’t find the big pot that we would need to dunk the chickens in.
“Are you looking for the large pan that Alma had on her head yesterday”. I asked, I remember as it was the first thing we saw when we arrived on the farm, a large up turned stainless steel pot moving on two tiny legs, with Chris banding lightly on top. How Alma had even managed to lift it on her head let alone stay stood up whilst she was underneath it was beyond me.
“Ah yeah, that is the one, where did she put it?”
We locate the pot in the outside kitchen, fill it with water and put it to boil on the open fire inside “The Pit”
To the chicken coup we go and the hens sound so happy, they are not disturbed in the slightest by our presence. It’s not long before Chris spots the two chickens that need to go, hanging out in one of the vegetable tunnels, so we quickly corner them into the greenhouse. Chris grabs one of them and Olof rambles until he has the other in his grip.
Tentatively we carry the chickens back towards the pit, stopping to try and find the machete on the way, but to no avail.
“OK so we’ll have to revert to ringing the chickens neck, not the preferred option” Chris says whilst looking back towards Olof and myself.
“Er, we’ve never done this before so not sure what to do?”
So Chris takes the chickens neck and breaks it, only the break isn’t clean and the chicken is still alive so he quickly has to revert to slicing the neck. For the next chicken the preference is to go straight for the chop of the head, whilst this was over much quicker perhaps for the chicken, this procedure was messier, lots of blood squirts and jerks from the dismembered body and head for several minutes after the beheading.
Thankfully the whole ordeal is over pretty quickly, it is not nice to watch and I’m sure it will be even harder to have to physically carry out, I sensed also how uncomfortable Chris was, perhaps Olof and I should question if we really want to raise animals on our farm, but unless we turn vegetarian then I guess we’ll just need to get on with it.
We dunk the chickens in the pot of warm water and leave for a couple of minutes before starting to pluck off the feathers.
It doesn’t take long before the skin is bare, revealing one grey and one pink chicken.
Chris demonstrates how to cut open the chicken and take out the innards.
First he takes the male and demonstrates how to cut open the chicken, by cutting gently around it’s “behind” and down the sides of it’s inner thighs. Basically we are learning how to remove the innards without bursting the intestine and also learning which organs are good for keeping/eating.
Olof takes the Hen and starts to carry out the same procedure at first he is doing really well but and accidental slice to the intestine starts to make a bit of a mess and we hand back over to Chris. We are hoping that the Hen was one of the poor/none egg providers, but unfortunately we soon find a fully formed egg, then a yolk followed by a couple of tiny yolks. Whilst the job at hand is fairly unpleasant it is interesting to understand the parts of the body and we start to ask questions about how the body of the chicken works, especially the formation of the eggs.
We chat and ponder over our questions for some time leaving us with the urge to follow up with some reading on our questions.
The chickens will be cooked for dinner tonight and we’ll all bring along some dishes for a communal feast.
We take refuge in the teepee for a little while, listening to the children playing in the fantastic, magical wooden playground outside. The kids here are so free, swinging from any object within their reach, turning natural objects into their toys and having bloody good fun, and although they all speak different languages they manage to communicate.
We’ve been on the farm now for over 24 hours and I just can’t bring myself to use the compost toilet, I don’t know why, maybe it it has something to do with the open window on the door, I don’t know, but whilst we have downtime my stomach is telling me we should go out and explore, plus I had remembered a nice little restaurant on the drive in, just before we reached Aljezur.
Not returning my waste to nature, going out to by lunch when we have food already and unnecessarily consuming petrol all go against our quest, I know. I have no justifications for our actions.
It’s not long before we reach the Gastro Pub, Bistrot Gulli, with solid Wi-fi and a nice toilet.
We spend several hours here, catching up on mails and filling our stomachs. Olof ordered better than I, perhaps because I was conscious of our budget!
On the way back to Várzea de Goncala we pick up some organic veg for the communal evening feast. Back in the outside kitchen, Olof starts to roast peppers and aubergine whilst I mush up chickpeas. We have become little connoisseurs in our Humus, Baba ganoush and pepper dip of late. Served up with organic bread our starters went down a treat. “Belgium Man” had made a yummy ratatouille from his crop of the day, not to mention that he had managed to preserve a years supply in jars. Kris (Chris’ wife) made the most delicious roasted potatoes and Chris had cooked up the chicken. The evenings setting and company made for the perfect excuse to crack open a couple of bottles of Rioja that we had had in the car since the leaving party. We were also joined that evening by a neighbour in the valley who seemed to be an expert on trees, seeds and anything in general to do with plants.
We had lengthy discussions about the Eucalyptus plantations that are popping up all over Portugal, not something I’ll go into detail on now as this issue alone deserves more than a blog…..
All in all a lovely evening, with some lovely folk in a lovely valley.
FACT OF THE DAY:
Interesting diagram to show how the chicken egg is produced:
Also if you would like to read more about how Chicken eggs are made, what causes a double, triple, no yolk or an egg in an egg phenomenon, then take a quick look at this ladies blog