Monday, April 23, 2012

placentas and rooster feet

*If you are vegan or squeamish, you might prefer to skip this post, though it's not actually gory.

Our modern culture seems to shy away from the decidedly un-pretty aspects of life.  For all of the celebration of beginning a new life, birth is almost as unseen and separated from our daily existence as death.  But when we decide to hide away these unsightly aspects of life in hospitals and factories (human birth and death and animal birth and death), what connections are we missing out on?

I have been vegan (previously, for about half of my adult life) and omnivorous.  I have had home births and a hospital birth.  Life is not tidy and sterile, with a one-size-fits-all right way to live.

This weekend for the first time after nearly nine years, I don't have any placentas in my freezer.  After the births of each of my children, I had kept the placenta intending to bury it and plant a special bush or tree over it when we owned some land.  So we planted placentas this weekend.

Camille still talks about seeing Sylvia being born and how she she touched the still pulsing umbilical cord attached to her baby sister.

On the same day, we butchered our first animal ever.  I say we, but really it was Papa, bless him, while I was conveniently distracted with a phone conversation with my mom (Thanks, Ma!).  Our rooster had become increasingly aggressive about attacking the children.  He had been known to jump on their backs and peck at them, and even on occasion, draw blood.  Well, he had fertilized many eggs that we are currently incubating, but we couldn't keep him around anymore as the children were scared to go outside.

Camille and Sylvia were excited to see him go, and also fascinated by the process.  For my part, I made a stew with wild ramps and potatoes and broth and white meat from the rooster.  Eating an animal that you have known is a completely different experience than purchasing chicken from the grocery store.  The mere idea makes most people squeamish, but there is no more locally, sustainably, ecological, ethical meat than from animals that you have respectfully cared for on your own land.  Why does this freak most people out?  I'm not asking this judgmentally.  It kind of freaks me out and I'm part of it.  I just honestly wonder how we got so removed from our food sources that this seems crazy.

I grew up in the suburbs, I'm sure farm folk don't feel this way.  I'm sure I won't always feel this way.  And, well, this rooster tasted much more chicken-y than any (even free-range, organic) chicken from the store.  Camille thinks it tastes gross, Sylvia is indifferent, and Ayla eagerly asks for "more roostah".  I think it might become an acquired taste for me.
Sylvia peeling a rooster foot for the chicken stock / broth.

Now, I'm really excited to see those little chickies start hatching soon...

So, here we are, taking one tentative step closer to the source.  The messy, glorious, scary, uplifting cycle of life and death that supports us (and really all life) on this planet.

Do you have any experience with placentas or connection to your food source that you'd like to share?  Feel free to leave me a comment even if your opinions are very different from mine :)


  1. That's awesome. We couldn't bring ourselves to eating our pet drake ducks...we ended up selling them, but I think it's wonderful that you were able to put that roostah to good use. That's some fertile land...there are now 6 placentas planted there :). It really touches me deeply that a part of my family is connected and planted there with a part of your family...quite an amazing connection!

    1. Laura, I continue to be grateful for that connection and for your family!

  2. My sister's rooster was keeping them all confined to their house, too (although he somehow knew not to pester her husband!). I'll have to share your story with her in case they have this problem again. One thing I've noticed with freshly butchered chickens is that I often need to brine it (even organic chicken from the grocery store has often been brined in some kind of salt-water solution). It makes a WORLD of difference.

  3. We planted both of our kids placentas at our current house. We too were waiting for some land. They each chose their tree. T chose a sweet cherry and C a Macintosh apple. (which is funny because I craved baked apples during my pregnancy and always preferred the Macintosh.) We also planted a cherry tree with our dreads at the root. It was a beautiful day for all of us to share together.

    We also have 3 laying hens that need a new home. They are not my favorite birds and I'm giving them the boot. We have some new day old chicks arriving this summer. We're still torn about eating them. I'm not interested in the slaughtering part. I'm not really sure how well I'd do at stewing them either. I think I'd rather sell them so they can continue to lay for some one else instead. We'll see.

    Thanks for sharing. All our best to all of you :)

  4. I loved this post! So interesting and thought provoking. I had my babies in hospitals but with my last, all 3 of my other kids were able to be in the room and watch. Even though the general consensus was that it was "gross" they're all very glad they got to watch their sister come into the world and I'm so glad they got that experience.
    Also, when I was young, my father butchered a deer he killed while we watched and I could never bring myself to eat any of the venison but I do remember playing with the leg.

  5. Such a beautiful and wholesome post! My husband kills all the animals around here. I really can't handle it. I feel so blessed that he can. After reading your story, I am sad that I never saved my placentas from my boys. Good for you though! What a beautiful day of planting and fertilizing the earth you had. It makes me smile!

  6. Thank you all for sharing your experiences and perspectives here. I love this 'conversation'.

  7. Awsome post. To experiance life and death now seems to be some sort of medical issue. Though I did have my children in the hospitals I didn't feel that having children was a medical issue.
    I really respect your honesty over the rooster. I too would not want to be a part of the butcher but at the same time accept this as part of life.

    With All That I Am
    Carrie "The Handmade Homemaker"

  8. I didn't save my own placenta (had never heard of doing so at the time), but some friends of mine - a lesbian couple - made placenta soup for the non-birthing mother to drink as a way of being more a part of the process. Hmmmm.... That's great that you froze yours, and that you made your land dream a reality!

    I love that your girls get to experience butchering from such a young age. Makes me more eager to get those chickens I want. It's our next step.

  9. I still have Kyan's placenta in the freezer, I guess waiting for the "perfect" tree to plant it under;)

    We had our first experience with harvesting chickens a couple of years ago. I don't even think my husband had eaten meat at the time (we had both been vegetarian for 17 years with 7 of those in the middle being vegan). I started craving meat after Kyan was born and vowed to only purchase meat if I knew where it came from and how it was raised (we're lucky to have more than a couple local farms that humanely raise their animals). Anyway, a friend that had the space purchased 50 chickens, who free ranged on her land for 6-8 prior to the harvesting. We were involved in the entire process from start to finish, and as hard and stinky (oh my god the smell) as it was I would do it again if the chance arose. I think knowing and experiencing where food comes from is an essential part of life, and I felt that if i was going to be eating meat, then this was something that I needed to experience, and would do again if the chance arose. We also butchered one of our own chickens last year after our dog killed it. It was a bit more emotional than the first experience since we had raised this one from a chick and hadn't really intended to use it for meat at the time, but such is life on the urban homestead.

  10. I totally loved this post. We will be butchering our own animals for the first time this year, and while I'm a bit nervous, it's something I feel it's important for us to do. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

    I love thinking of the placentas giving life to your land - we have three planted here as well. Two are from the family who previously lived here, and one is Eli's, which we planted last summer under a red dogwood tree. I wasn't able to plant the placenta from Emma's birth, since I ingested the it in capsule form. It was really helpful to me postpartum. I'd had a really long, exhausting labor, and also had the flu the next day, and the placenta gave me so much strength and helped my milk to come in. I did save her umbilical cord, though, and perhaps I'll plant that here. I am glad that our property is part of a land trust, so that it will never be 'developed' and the placenta trees will always be safe to grow. :)

  11. I was glad to be your distraction, during the rooster slaughter, and was glad to get updates during the process!


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