A Day No Chickens Would Die

Everyone knows that farmers are at the mercy of the weather, the markets, and the bugs. But before yesterday I don’t think I would have told you that we’re at the mercy of the power company as well!  We rose at 5:30, as per the usual–Andrew heading up the hill to move his chicken shelters, I making my morning cup of coffee and stretching for the day.  We had a big day ahead of us: chicken butchering with two volunteers, and we wanted everything to go smoothly.  I was just sitting down to breakfast when the lights flickered for the first time.  I looked out the window–breezy, but nothing terribly extreme.  Everything seemed fine.  Then the power died, and Andrew came in the front door.

When we lose power, we lose everything.  We have water until the pressure tank on the well pump runs out of pressure, then nothing.  No stove in the kitchen, no light, no power to the cooler, and most saliently yesterday, no scalder or plucker for the mobile processing unit, where we butcher the chickens.

We called the power company, which promised we’d have power back by 8:30.  That seemed fine.  We’d push the chickens back a bit, and I would weed in the interim.  Our first volunteer showed up, and we attacked an overgrown couple of beds of beets.  I really didn’t mind the delay.

8:30 came and went.  Andrew called the power company back, and they admitted that the outage was more serious than they had expected.  A pole had come down and the cable had caught fire, so they were having to do a larger repair than anticipated.  Ok.  10:30 at the latest.

At this point, we wavered; was it still worth starting so late?  We decided yes, and I moved from weeding to hoeing my u-pick tomatoes.  At this point I became nervous about my greenhouse, which had not been watered all morning.  I used the last of the water to lightly spritz everything, and crossed my fingers that I’d have water again before noon.

11 AM arrived, and Andrew called for an update.  “We’re sorry,” the power company professed, “but it looks like it might be 2:30 before we get your lights back on.”

Immediately, we shifted gears–I threw some buckets in the truck and drove down to the spring-fed water tank along our driveway.  Time to water the greenhouse the old fashioned way!  Then Andrew drove feed up to the now very hungry chickens (we don’t feed them the night before butchering) and we decided to break for lunch.  And of course, as soon as we walked in the door, the radio clicked back on and the fridge began to hum.  We were back in the 21st century.

So we lost our volunteer help, bumped chickens to Friday, and made plans to do everything ourselves.  And the day was as smooth as butter–by the time I finished harvesting for Saturday’s distribution, Andrew had already started on the chickens.  We ran through all 98 (and cleaned the MPU) before noon, then had all the birds in the freezer by 2:30.  We might be getting the hang of this life after all!

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