Monday, June 22, 2015

Mondays With Mary #4

Sometimes, I just get exhausted reading Mom's entries. Work, work, work! At this time, she was in her early fifties. Aunt Ardea would have been in her sixties at the time of the following entry. They were hard working people.

Thursday, August 16, 1973

Hot & humid.- Ardea came out
& we cleaned 17 chickens- canned
3 1/2 qt of dill pickles- Vern helped Kinnan
fix fence on pasture in morning- cut
A load of silage for cows- rained about 6 p.m.
9/10 rain at 6 p.m.

My attention was caught at the cleaning of 17 chickens. This meant catching the chicken, beheading the unlucky catch, letting the chicken jump around the yard (literally flopping around like a chicken with its head cut off) so the blood drained out, picking up the chicken and holding it by the feet to dip it into scalding hot water to soften the feathers, then standing in the yard plucking off the feathers. The first few handfuls were easy, but once those were gone, the  pinfeathers were more challenging. This was when I handed over the carcass for Mom to finish up. Each chicken was singed over the flames on the gas stove and then set aside to be cut into pieces. My job was to cut off the legs and thigh unit and the wings. Usually, I was even able to separate the leg from the thigh. Then, I handed the body to Mom who processed the rest. I never learned how to cut off the breast or clean out the innards (thank goodness) or do any of the rest. As a young bride, I tended to massacre the chicken's parts except for the legs, thighs and wings. Those were skillfully cut.

Not long ago, we were discussing this process with contemporaries (retirees). One city raised friend responded that she couldn't imagine getting chicken anyway other than at the grocery store, precut and wrapped in cellophane.

My father wouldn't eat chicken from the grocery store. He never felt they were properly cleaned. They had not been bled enough. Well, on August 16, he had 17 properly cleaned chickens thanks to Mom and Aunt Ardea. Then, she canned pickles. Remember it was hot and humid and that also means no air-conditioning in the kitchen (or anywhere else in the house) where this work was taking place.

I counted the number of times she cleaned chickens that summer. Eleven entries about cleaning chickens were noted in her calendar from late July through August. Most days she cleaned three, but other days like August 16, it was more. I found references to a total of 51 chickens that summer. In her later years, her hands bothered her with arthritis. She thought it was from cleaning chickens for so many years.

Oh, the good old days or maybe they were just hard, hot and tiring.
But, the chicken was really good!

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