How it Feels to Kill an Organic Chicken.

by Nyamka Bayanmunkh in


ABM_1417150310Remember when I said that I might be killing a chicken? Well,  I did it.

As you know I was quite nervous about it in July, when I first mentioned it to you, and when Saturday 15th of November, 2014  arrived I was still quite nervous.

As instructed by Madelaine, the day before I prepared everything I needed for the day of killing. I got an eski to bring home the chickens in, I brought my apron (because, you know, for the blood), packed a few towels ( I guess for more blood?), sharpened my knife (Was this the knife I was going to kill the chickens? Was it sharp enough? How do I know if its sharp enough to kill a chicken? Should I test it on an orange?), and cooked a plate of omelette (the eggs were from Madelaine's hens)  for lunch to share with the 16 other people who were also coming to the farm to learn how to slaughter chickens.

Prepared.

I took my first V/Line train at 9:36 am at Southern Cross Station. On the way I tried to get in the right mindset for the day, whatever that meant I still don't know. I arrived at Clarkefield  Station at 10:18 am where Madelaine's mum picked me up.

As soon as I got off the train, I realised how much I missed being in the country. It was so quiet, the air was fresher, and the absence of city traffic was incredibly comforting. I needed some comforting.

From Clarkefield station we drove up to Hollyburton Park, where Madelaine and her family live and farm. Madelaine raises organic chickens, eggs, and veggies, her younger sister Hailey has guinea pigs and sheep, and her younger brother Arthur raises turkeys.

The farm was beautiful. I can't emphasise how beautiful it was. There were chickens and cows, and they had plenty of space to roam about and just be.

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After getting acquainted with Madelaine and her family more people started arriving. Some from the country, some from the city. Some people came alone, like me, others came with a friend or with their family. All anxious on different scales. Some had never seen  anything be slaughtered in real life never mind a kill a chicken, whilst some had their own chickens and had killed a few but they weren't sure if they were doing it in the best possible way. We were all there to learn more.

Madelaine demonstrating the whole process.

Theoretically, I was not worried about killing the chicken. I had seen sheep get slaughtered many times, and I have come to terms with eating meat a long time ago.  However, that doesn't mean I was calm, cool, or relaxed about killing a chicken. I was extremely worried about doing it wrong and hurting the chicken beyond what was necessary. And, I was also worried what would happen in real life when I am actually faced with a chicken to kill. Just because I was okay with idea theoretically didn't mean I could pull through with it in practice.

So, I made a deal with myself. I told myself if I really couldn't do it or didn't want to do it, I could opt out. But, then I would have to become a vegetarian. I knew that I couldn't respect myself if I kept on eating meat when I didn't have the guts to kill the animal I was going to eat.

I paid close attention as Madelaine proceeded to demonstrate the process.

When it was our time to kill the chickens, I let many people go before me so I could watch and really get the technique right because I was not going to allow the chicken to be hurt more than it was necessary just because I was inadequate at killing a chicken.

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We could choose between three different kinds of tools. A knife, pair of secateurs or an axe.

Madelaine showed us how to slaughter with the secateurs. She said for first timers the secateurs were the better choice, because you could cut off the whole head in one go, which meant you would know that the chicken was dead. Whereas, with a knife it would be much harder to know for sure. Why? Because even after cutting main veins the chicken would still be moving due to nerves and it would still have its head on and it look like its alive and suffering. The axe was just there for demonstrative purposes, because with an axe it could be real messy.

There was a man who went before me. He chose a knife. I am glad I went after him because I saw what not to do. He accidentally nicked the chicken before he cut the main veins. The chicken was in pain  before it was supposed to be and so it knew it was going to die a while before. it suffered more than necessary and it was hard to watch. I didn't want that to happen to me or my chicken, so I went for the secateurs when it was my turn.

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Rob, Madelaine's dad, told us that before they slaughtered their chickens they prayed to thank the animal, so they could  express their gratitude for the animal.  I did the same. I picked up my chicken and I ended up hugging it and praying for it for five minutes. I was grateful for this chicken that was soon to become my food. I made my thanks, and I promised that nothing was going to be wasted of this chicken.

Me and the organic chicken.

Then I asked Colita, Madelaine's mum, to hold the chicken. We put her in the cone, I got the neck out, then put the secateurs around its neck, prayed once more and gripped the handle hard. My my eyes closed automatically, and before I knew it I was holding a chicken head in my head. For a moment I forgot what I was supposed to with the head, so I had to ask again. Someone told me it was to go in the 'head bucket'. The headless chicken, even though it is dead, still moves because the nerves are still moving. Which meant after putting the head in the 'head bucket' I had to hold the legs for a minute so, all whilst the blood drained into the bucket below.

(Don't scroll down if you are not ready to see a dead chicken head!)

'Head bucket'

I was just coming to terms with taking a life until all the other chickens  started coming towards the bucket.  And, oh gosh, I was not ready for what was to happen next.

They started eating the blood of the dead chicken!

First there was one cannibal

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Then, there were five cannibals.

I was ready to come to terms with death that day, but I was not ready for chicken cannibalism. I guess you learn something new and strange everyday.

I know chickens are smart, and I know these chickens knew exactly what they were doing because they know what other chickens look like enough to live with them, and mate with them. So, being the inexperienced city girl I am, I was very shocked. Fortunately or unfortunately, as shocked as I was, there was more work to be done so I couldn't just stand there looking stupid and shocked because the chicken wasn't going to pluck and gut itself.

Chicken bathing.

What happens next after you kill a chicken is more work than killing the chicken. You have to bathe the headless chicken in hot water  for about 30 seconds. This is done because the  hot water makes it easier to pluck the chicken.

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It took Madelaine approximately three minutes to pluck the chicken. It took me about 10 minutes. The plucking was relatively easy. The next part proved troublesome, though.

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After plucking comes gutting. Gutting was/is difficult. You have to put your arm into a chicken's butt. And, its warm, which shocked me. It shouldn't have, because it was alive like 20 minutes ago.

It was alive, then I killed it, and now my hands were inside it.(SO MUCH confrontation of death in one day).

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Then you have take out the heart, liver, lungs alongside some other organs that I had no idea what they were.

Chicken organs.

Once the gutting is done, the chicken needs to be washed and put into a cold brine for a day. For us it was until it was time to take it home with us.

The final step.

That was it. No one fainted. No one vomited. All of us had seen where our food came from and most of us slaughtered a chicken or a two. For some it was easier, for some it was more difficult. Everyone is different.

All of us came from the experience with more awareness and more respect for the animals that die for us meat eaters.  Oh, and we learnt that chickens, if the opportunity arises, are cannibals. Overall, I felt okay with the whole process. I didn't faint, and I didn't have to become a vegetarian. However, I don't know how I feel about chicken cannibalism though.

Those cannibalistic chickens, again! This time on the table.

We then shared the plate of foods that each one of us brought from home. Amongst all the wonderful dishes, what caught my attention most were the homemade cheeses, and home churned butter that Madelaine's family made for us. They were delicious!

So much delicious food.

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As a meat eating omnivore I feel at peace with my decision to kill an organic chicken. When and if I decide to raise chickens, I now know how to kill one without making a mess out of the whole experience. I think it is a good skill to have.

What about you, would you ever kill your own food? Are you shocked as I am about cannibalism in chickens? Let me know!

With love and simplicity,

Nyamka

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Organic T-shirts and Slow Fashion

by Nyamka Bayanmunkh in


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As a result of  dressing with less I have  started paying attention to the quality of my clothes. My standards have changed. I know more about the materials that irritate me. Synthetics. I know more about the clothing and textile industry. Scarier than I previously thought. Now that I know more I have to act differently to adjust to the new information.

My current project 333  winter closet mostly consists of old clothes. Nothing was new except two pairs of tights. While  there were few things I wanted, I refrained from getting anything new because I couldn't find something that was  comfortable, long-lasting, andethical. So I had 30 items for a bit.

I knew if bought something I wasn't happy with I wouldn't wear it. So I waited, I looked, and finally I found  exactly what I was looking for. People Tree. And I got three shirts from them to complete my 33 items for the winter.

Slow Fashion means standing up against exploitation, family separation, slum cities and pollution – all the things that make fast fashion so successful"-People Tree

This quote sums up People Trees mission. They want to give customers an alternative to fast fashion.  I like that. Our demand for fast fashion has a negative effect on people, and the environment in the form of sweatshops, child labour, and global warming. So People Tree embraces the Fair Trade philosophy at all production stages.

That's why they want to be organic and fair trade at the same time.  The negative environmental impact of conventionally grown genetically modified (GM) cotton is high and they didn't want to be just Fair Trade. For them that wasn't enough.

GM cotton is vulnerable to new diseases and yields less cotton. They also need more water, and nutrients so farmers need to rely on synthetic insecticides and pesticides which they need to purchase for the GM cotton to survive. This whole process depletes the soil. This is sad because GM cotton seeds were brought to India, where a lot of the world's cotton is grown,  promising higher yields. In reality GM cotton hasn't reached its expected results.

Furthermore, farmers borrowed money to buy expensive GM seeds, plus the necessary insecticides and pesticides. But the GM cotton provided less yields at a higher cost so a  lot of farmers ended up with high amounts of debt. As a result critics blame the introduction of  GM seeds for significantly contributing to the recent high numbers of farmer suicides in India. This is why I have been searching for organic cotton clothing.

The objective of Fair Trade is not profit at any cost, but to help people in the world's most marginalised communities escape poverty, strengthen their communities and promote environmental sustainability.

Another pro of using organic cotton is that it provides more jobs fue to its labour intensive requirements. Not only jobs provide income for prosperity but they are also important to people's sense of wellbeing.

Plus, organic procures protect the farmer's health in the long-term. Working with synthetic chemicals such as conventional pesticides and herbicides without proper gear and equipment is dangerous. Often poor farmers in developing countries don't have access to or can't afford to get the necessary protection to be safe. This is important to notice and change for me because I don't want people putting their lives in dangers just so I can have tons of clothes and someone in the middle can make  an unhealthy profit from someone else's suffering .

Another thing that People Tree prefers to use  is hand crafting to preserve traditional skills such as weaving and embroidery so artisans in rural areas don't have to travel to cities and leave their families. A lot of conventional fashion companies have factories in cities far away from their homes which are located rurally . Often in conventional factories women and children work for 16 hours a day, day after day with only one day off in the week. Hand crafted items, also, take longer and this means they can provide more artisans with jobs. It is also carbon neutral. By using a hand loom rather than a machine saves one tonne of CO2 per loom, per year ( Loom is an apparatus that is used making fabric by weaving yarn or thread).

Due to their thoughtful design procedures and preference for hand crafting the People Tree design process starts more than a year (four more months longer than conventional fashion companies) before their products become available to the customers, giving  their producers enough time to create their products. Overall I am impressed by People Tree, and I am glad I found them.

Here are my final 3 items for my Project 333:

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Blah print draped tee
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Here's me with my not so blah shirt and my favourite (only) coat.

These three shirts are all 100% organic cotton and they are so soft. They also don't have annoying labels on the inside that itch and scratch. I have had plenty of  shirts that were made from nice materials but had terribly uncomfortable materials for their inner label and inner stitching. I can tell People Tree had thought about that. These three shirts are comfortable, long-lasting, and ethical. Triple check!

Once you know who makes your clothes, how the fabric is grown, and how it affects you it's hard not to care. Once you know more it's easier to start being more selective with your choices  in the future and start taking care of what you already have.

Now back to you. What do you think of People Tree? Do you think they are doing the right thing? Any other ethical and environmentally friendly brands I should be aware of? Let me know below in the comments section.

With love & simplicity,

Nyamka

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Recipe Review: Paleo Banana Bread

by Nyamka Bayanmunkh in


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I am not really a sweet tooth, and after quitting sugar my taste for sweet things just went away. However, just because I have stopped eating sweet things doesn't mean others around me have to do the same. Last week a friend came back from the Commonwealth games  and to celebrate his achievement we decided to make him a cake, but a healthy one.

Athletes have the tendency to eat whatever they want because they don't put on weight due to all the exercise they do. However, the optimal nutrition can help them recover faster, improve their performance, and reduce inflammation. Also, being fit on the outside doesn't mean you are healthy on the inside.

I knew an athlete who was incredibly fit. Unfortunately he had a terrible diet and had to have a triple bypass surgery because his arteries were clogged from eating lots of unhealthy food. With that on my mind I wanted to make a cake that didn't have processed sugars or trans fats. Sugar and trans are bad news for people who want to reduce their inflammation. So I made a paleo banana bread and it was pretty good. It had just the right amount of sweetness, not too sweet but sweet enough to curb a sweet craving.

The recipe is from The Merrymaker Sisters who are famous for their paleo cake recipes. I saw them when I went to the IIN conference earlier this year in Sydney and  since then I have been following them on Instagram. I encourage you to check out their site for more sweet and healthy recipes.

Without further ado here is the recipe for their banana bread.

P.S. I switched a few of the ingredients like the banana flour with an even mix of coconut flour and buckwheat flour because I didn't have banana flour. Coconut flour by itself can suck a lot of moisture so I used buckwheat flour to keep it a bit fluffy. I used walnuts because I didn't have pecans.

Also, remember to use really soft and ripe bananas as they are sweeter and more nutritious than their less ripe counterparts. The bananas are ripe to eat or cook with when they start getting black spots on it.

Paleo Banana Bread

(recipe via the merrymaker sisters)

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Ingredients:

  • 4 bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 a cup of coconut oil melted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 a cup of coconut flour
  • 1/2 a cup buckwheat flour
  • one cup of walnuts

Directions:

  1. Heat your oven to 180 degree celsius.
  2. Blend the bananas until they become a puree.
  3. Add the eggs, honey, vanilla and coconut oil. Continue to blend until combined.
  4. Stir through baking powder and cinnamon.
  5. Sift flour into the mixture, add the nuts and stir.
  6. Pour the mixture into a loaf tin
  7. Sprinkle with cinnamon and place some nuts on the top of the bread.
  8. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Then take it out and cover it with foil because of the coconut flour and buckwheat flour can get burnt quickly.
  9. Then bake with foil on top for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  10. Let cool and turn onto a wire rack.

Eat it by itself or slathered with almond butter, butter,  or coconut oil, with a side of berries. You can also slice them and store it in the fridge  for later, and toast them when you want a warm, sweet, and nutritious snack.

With love & simplicity,

Nyamka

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