Walking beans, cultivating, getting that first cutting of hay up in the hay mow, moving cows to pasture are all things most farmers want to accomplish by the Fourth of July. Our goal is to always have the garden weeded by the Fourth of July. An impossible task it seems some days; especially when it begins to produce and we are kept busy, picking and selling. But we know if we don’t get those weeds out by then, we will pay the consequences later when they reproduce by the zillions.

Another task we want to complete is butchering chickens. It is a yucky, dirty, smelly job no matter the weather.

The baby chicks were so cute when we picked them up from the post office one Saturday night in April. We wished we could have ordered more, but our little shed only holds so many. Because of the colder spring, the chicks spent more time in their starter pen waiting for warmer weather. As they grew, the smellier and dirtier the pen got. We finally  moved them to their outdoor shed and grass, only to have a couple ‘surprise’ snowy days in May, forcing us to move them to yet another shed until tamer weather returned. Each morning, they ran out to eat their feed, enjoying the sunshine and grass. They thrived, growing to their mature size.

With the boys home from baling because of rain, we had just enough time to get the butchering done. We got to work finding our tools of the trade and setting up the work areas. Everyone found the knife they liked, according to hand size and blade size. Each knife got sharpened, and the job began. We skin ours out by hand, so by the time they get to the house, our birds are rinsed and ready for cutting up.

And that’s where I get busy. My job is to cut the chicken in pieces ready for frying, giving them their final washing times, three rinses for sure. Then bag before freezing. But with five people out there doing their job, my pleas for help soon went out. When the girls came to my rescue we quickly caught up on our part of the work. Concentrating on that one task, we got the chickens done.

It’s hard to imagine many a farm wife made a little extra money doing this in the past. I know the previous farm wife on this farm did. Her brooder house was still here when we took over. We used it for the first years of raising chickens. Often, they did this for grocery money, or little extras around the house. We didn’t add up the feed bills yet, so I don’t know what we would have had to charge per pound if we wanted to make a dollar or two. Feeding ourselves was enough work so I don’t think we will be expanding into the chicken raising business.

At the ends of the day, the kitchen and outside stainless table were bleached and sterilized by the time the pizzas arrive for supper.


Modern day farm life is good!


Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]