The Somber Feast: Roasting My Troubles Away in 2017


The other day I let you guys know that I was no longer playing games with my game. That 2016 was finally going to end, along with the lives of my flock of guinea fowl.

[urlpreviewbox url=”https://mindyourdirt.com/2016/12/30/to-cull-a-mocking-bird/”/]

Well, I was mostly true to my word despite the shakiness of my convictions. On the last day of 2016, I was unable to sleep in at all. I knew what the day would bring and I was nervous about doing the dirty deed that needed doing.

I was up before the sunrise and began the mental preparation. I enlisted the help of my friend Kevin for the day of hunting. I needed help catching these high-flying screaming ninjas, but I also really needed emotional support. I caught one early that morning, but couldn’t bring myself to kill the little thing quite yet, so I let it go.

When Kevin showed up, the hunt was on and I was resolved as much as I could be. It wasn’t going to get any easier for me emotionally, so I had to suck it up. So we armed ourselves and headed out into the wilds of my urban backyard.

We had a few clean shots in the beginning, but the bow and arrow proved to be utterly useless for the dead-eye accuracy we needed. With a few shots off, the guinea fowl were on to us and quickly took shelter in the giant pepper tree.

This meant that I had to run around the front of the house and down the back of the dirt lot next door. Up over a cinder block wall and up into the tree. I climbed about 20 feet up to the top where I could scare the fowl down to the ground.

This time we tried to use the crossbow. But here’s the problem, you can’t take a clean shot unless the arrow will go into the ground if we missed. And missed we did! The sight was no longer calibrated properly so we had to do the best we could. We did manage to kill a shed and a metal door with the bolts, but not a single shot hit it’s true intended mark. I had about five shots that would’ve surely killed a fowl, but it was too dangerous to take them with all the houses around my yard. It just wasn’t safe enough to try the crossbow much longer.

So we improvised. We tried to catch them by hand. I would climb the tree or hop a fence to try to scare them towards my friend. After about three hours, I estimate that I had climbed the tree over eight times and hopped over about twenty five walls or fences.

It was just impossible to catch them and I was getting crazy tired and sore. It was just like watching Ninja Warrior. Except it was three hours long. The sun was beginning to get low in the sky and all four guinea fowl were about four houses away from us at this point. I couldn’t press any further for fear of getting shot myself by wandering into a strangers property.

With much weariness and frustration, we called it quits. Guinea fowl 4, humans 0.

I was saddened that I couldn’t finish this dark deed before the end of the year, but couldn’t figure out any other way to snag the beasts. So, we questioned our manliness and hunter/gatherer status and made preparations for new year eve sorrow drowning.

My resolve was tested and my promise to you readers was broken. In shame and defeat, I decided to drink heavily at a tiki-themed party in Mission Hills.


The first day of 2017 found me on the couch half undressed and nursing a large hangover. An extremely stoic vibe ruled my mind as I gave thought to my life, my decision to drink last night, and the ear-piercing cacophony taking place in my yard.

I went to the back door to see all four guinea fowl on the garage roof mocking me in my sunken eyed and dehydrated state of stoic shame. They had returned even after beign so terribly hunted. I mumbled in a raspy voice, “you little fuckers” and closed the door again.

At the front of the house, Sasha was making some racket at the front gate. I went out to find my friend and neighbor Daryl was giving Sasha a nice treat. Daryl is Sasha’s boyfriend. She’s obsessed with this guy. It’s very cute.

While Daryl and I talked smack over cedar fence posts, the noise from the back yard wafted towards us. He said, “damn! That’s loud!”. I told him about the following days events and he laughed at my attempts and extreme workout. We walked around to the back so I can show him just how hard it is to catch them.


He surveyed my weapons stash in the garage and I went over the fine points of each. He talked me into trying the BB rifle again. I said it was too weak to do any damage. But we busted it out anyways. At the very least, I could scare them away and get some hungover peace and suffer in silence.

At this point, the fowl sensed something was up again. They no longer trust me and follow me around the yard. The time for peace had long passed. Fight or flight was the only rule of law on this day my friends. As such, they had taken refuge in the giant pepper tree again.

I loaded the rifle and we made our way into the back of my property. We took a few shots, but they seemed unscathed and disinterested in the tiny air-powered bb. Then I gave ol’ Bessie a few extra pumps and decided to give it one more shot.

This time, I took a moment and just breathed as I looked down the sight at my quarry. A light breeze fluttered through my majestic mustache and the sun peeked out from a cloud as I breathed. Calm and cool, I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled while my finger gently squeezed the trigger.

*pop*

From the thick growth of the pungent pepper tree came a loud rustling of branches and the distinct sound of flapping wings. I had hit the mark. The fowl came down to the ground in my neighbors yard. It’s wing was hit at the joint and was now a ground dwelling beast.

I ran around the block and asked the neighbor if I could grab the guinea. There she was injured and afraid in the back under the tree. With a little back and forth and some ninja moves, I was on her. At that point she was surprisingly calm. Perhaps resigned to the inevitable end that was neigh. I calmly walked her back around the block.

The long grey mile.

Donning my fathers old college sweater from Buffalo State, my baggy-eyed self made the determined and stoic walk back home. I could feel her heartbeat begin to slow down as I soothed her as best I could.

I knew that she must have some wing pain as there was a little blood on her feathers. We sat together in the back yard for about ten minutes until she was peaceful and calm and her heart had slowed.

Note: While I won’t get too graphic in my explanation below, please be warned that some of the following may be disturbing to some readers.

It was now or never. A surprising calm determination came over me. Also a great gentleness. I gently lowered her upside-down and she began to go into a trance. I tied her legs so that she would be suspended in that position and did my best to sooth her with gentle words.

She gently closed her eyes and fell asleep. With my sharpest paring knife and a surprisingly steady hand, I made the cut.

The cut was true and immediately she began to bleed out. The whole time I was holding her and telling her to go gently. She slowly began to fade away and I thanked her aloud for her final sacrifice.

As hard as this moment was, the amount of reverence I felt helped the moment pass calmly. Her death would not be in vein and now there was much to do to insure that sentiment. I let her drain out as I went inside to boil the stockpot of water for the feather removal.

I’ll spare you any more graphic imagery from here on out. It seemed inappropriate to add more and you can look elsewhere if you’re curious about the process. The one that I watched was a little old lady in Southern France. She was very determined and helped give me strength.


Once the pot was boiling, I brought it outside and dipped the guinea fowl into the hot water for a moment. Then she was de-feathered over the compost bin so that nothing would go to waste. I followed along with a YouTube video for the gutting, cleaning and dressing of the carcass. Oh, and if you’re still not composting, here’s a great way to get started…

https://mindyourdirt.com/2014/10/04/composting-101-dont-overthink-it/

I was surprised how un-grossed out I was for the whole process. A curious determination was all I felt. I must finish what I started and the death must not be in vein. Once I had prepared the meat, I dressed the bird and placed it into the fridge. Off to the farmers market for supplies! For today, I am The Hunter…

I decided that I would try this recipe out as a base idea. The video was really fun to watch and this guy is clearly awesome. Plus, he made it all look so damn tasty. I decided in lieu of peas, I would make a lovely sautéed kale with shallots and minced garlic. Then top that off with sautéed portobello mushrooms.

The bird itself would be browned in butter and then quick roasted in a hot oven with whole shallots and garlic cloves. After 30 minutes, it was ready to come out. After it rested, I began carving away the legs, wings and breast. with the bones I made a lovely sauce using hard cider and chicken stock.

Here’s the final plating and the application of the delicious gravy…


This was the first time I’ve ever culled one of my animals. It’s something that I’ve always known I would have to do at some point but was always afraid to do it. Taking a life is not something that is easy for me. Nor is it something I take lightly. Knowing that myself and my girl Sasha will be well fed for the next day really helps make this whole process easier on my giant sappy heart. Sasha is now passed out as I write this from a full belly of fresh meat and raw bones. I’ll do a stock with the remains of the carcass as well which will feed me again.

As hard as this might sound to some of you, the fact is that this guinea fowl had a very happy life. She was totally free-range and was able to come and go as she pleased. She hunted happily in the tall grass of my neighbors yard (thanks Tyree!) and she drank from cool artificial streams. She flew with her siblings onto rooftops and treetops all the live-long day. Her “song” was sung with reckless abandon (unfortunately). And when it came time to leave this mortal coil, she did so peacefully and with someone who loved and cared for her (as best I could with an asshole bird) and raised her from a hatchling.

When I think of where most of my food comes from and the conditions in which it was raised, I can think of no better way to feed my little family than this. Seeing what it takes to put this on my table gives me a whole new perspective on store bought meat. Eating animals that can feel love and fear shouldn’t be as easy as dropping them into your cart. It should be as hard as today was for me. I can honestly say that I earned this meal more so than any other meal before it.


And for her final sacrifice, I am very grateful and humbled. That said, I’m still determined to continue the culling until the peace has returned to my urban farm. The error in judgement of getting these beasts in the first place makes me feel that I deserve to feel this guilt and horror at taking a life. The guinea fowl don’t deserve to pay for my mistake, but now I must do what’s right and honorable by fixing my error. No one else can take this burden from me so I’m kinda glad that nothing was hunted yesterday. Going it alone today and seeing it through all the way to the tasty gravy seems somehow more appropriate.

I hope this one hasn’t grossed you out too much or made you feel less of me. It was not an easy day and it’s hardly over still. In the interim, I’ll just have to savor the delicious and sorrowful gravy slathered yumminess that graces my humble table.

 


27 Replies to “The Somber Feast: Roasting My Troubles Away in 2017”

  1. All I can think about as I read this post is a meme of you and your friend running around the backyard looking like the Three (two) Stooges going up and down the tree and over the fence and up and down the tree and over the fence again. You should’ve had it on video and cut the whole event down to 10 seconds. It would’ve been hilarious.

    1. I thought about video for the whole affair. Then the legality of the effort crept into my mind. Urban hunting is for some reason frowned upon.

      But, my neighbors definitely got a kick out of the days events. My legs are still sore from the whole thing. AND I’m starting P90X today as well!! I’m gonna be dead by tomorrow.

        1. Oh it was the next day. all the way up until I got one in the oven. Then I was able to switch into cooking mode and put the horrors behind me. For now. There are still three more to go! *gulp*

  2. One down…. but now the rest may go easier. I have no doubt that all of them will be delicious, and none will die in vain. So, if you like annoying and horrible bird stock…there are always peacocks. (At least they’re nice looking.) Then your neighbors may actually help in the hunt.

    1. Agreed, the first big hurdle has been jumped. I put on my big farmer pants and got down to the business. The rest should prove easier.

      Oh, and I think I’m done with experimenting with new fowl! I may be getting some quail, which is what I wanted instead of guinea fowl anyways. At least their song is beautiful.

      1. And they’re small. A good choice. When I lived in California (Sonoma County) I raised emus. Mostly quiet. Big. I miss them, but I don’t think they’d fare so well in a Michigan winter.

          1. Buffalo is much colder. We have plenty of lake effect snow, but the Great Lakes also moderate the cold. For emus, we’d need special parkas with very long necks. Oh, and snow pants with special suspenders.

    1. I’m a mixed bag of feelings from having culled the poor beast. The other three were calling for her this morning. I have a long road ahead to correct this ship of sorrow and regret.

  3. Well, as you mentioned, this task should not be easy, and you accomplished it with honor and reverence. And let’s face it … she looked more attractive under gravy.

  4. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to do that, but I definitely respect the practice. I love that you are making use of all of it, including the bones and the carcass, and that you tried to ensure it had a calm and peaceful end.

    1. It’s the least I could do. And it really helped to bolster my resolve knowing that I did my best to make her passing as easy as possible.

      But you’re right, it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in a long while. My friend Larry helped talk me through it. He hunts his land and lives off of the meat all the time. It gets him through the tough winters up there. He too is very reverent and thankful for every animal he takes. I have a lot of respect for the man.

  5. Anyone troubled by killing an animal they have reared and that therefore trusts them will sympathize with your discomfort.
    Somehow it seems fairer to hunt them rather than raise them for meat. Not that I don’t eat free range meat that someone else has reared and slaughtered. . ..

    1. Thank you Judith, that does help a lot. And I guess it could be worse. I could be the type of person that doesn’t care at all. The fact that it’s this hard for me says a lot about the type of nurturer I am.

      And it’s true, the hunt made me really work for it as well. And gave them a fighting chance, of which the other three are reveling in right now as they scream to the neighborhood all through the night.

    1. Hey Steve! Well, I kinda sorta bought them and raised them from chicks (or keets in this case). So I brought this misery all on myself. Live and learn…and then kill I reckon.

      But I’ve introduced hunting as a pastime here in the inner city. So. There’s something.

  6. I killed one chicken in 1982, I am still haunted by it and have been a vegetarian ever since. Two words of advice from a biologist- catch them where they sleep. And in the case of maggot plucking mentioned in the previous post , purge with hydrogen peroxide and the maggots will remove them selves! You are a great and funny writer I laud and applaude.

    1. Oh Janella, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoy my nonsense.

      I had to dispatch a rooster three years ago and I still feel the pangs of sadness. The guinea fowl and I have never bonded though. They don’t regard me as anything but a provider of food and a potential predator. It’s helped a little to distance me from the dark task at hand. Only a little.

      As for the baby flies issue, that was years ago and the poor he passed shortly afterwards. She was unhealthy from hatching and was destined to not be long on this earth. Rest in peace Pussay.

      That said, I’m so glad to have these correspondences with you my new friend! Happy new year to you and yours!

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