The longer I am here, the more I realize what an immense blessing it is to be here. Farming alongside my fellow enthusiastic, smiling, joy-filled interns is utterly amazing. At the end of each day, I am sweaty, dusty, bruised and scraped, but I couldn’t be happier. This realization hit me hard this week and gratitude has flooded my heart. What an amazing adventure life is! Okay, enough on that note. On to the details of the week…
Monday was a day I was half excited for and half dreading. I’ve previously mentioned that all the interns get experience working each of the poultry processing stations. Well, this week it was my turn to kill. I’ve killed birds at home before, but that’s only 15-30 birds at a time. Compared to the typical 400+ bird days here at Polyface, that’s nothing. Needless to say, I had nothing to fear. Daniel walked me through the steps of how to set the chicken into the kill cone and then slit the artery. Killing here is done with the utmost respect to the animal and in the most humane way possible. When done properly, the two knife strokes (one on each side of the neck) should kill the chicken immediately, causing a painless death. The goal is to create an effective bleed out. You don’t want to cut the chicken’s head off or sever the windpipe. This is another skill that looks simple at first (how hard can slitting a throat be?) but takes a certain amount of skill and understanding to do well.
Rolling into Tuesday felt strange. Normally we don’t process chickens on Monday, so my brain was slightly confused. After dinner, the interns gathered around the whiteboard and Joel gave us our first lecture of the summer (we get 1 a month during the internship). The topic was on cow days and how important this calculation is. A full discussion of cow days is beyond the scope of this blog post, so I won’t go into the details here (maybe I’ll delve into the topic on a later date). Engaging in some set apart learning time was wonderful and I’m looking forward to future lectures!
Wednesday was another poultry processing day. This time I was back on QC. We flew through processing (we had under 400 birds that day). Then Ashleigh approached me and said that Justin and Rebekah Rhodes were at Polyface filming the pigs and that she wanted my help. If you are not familiar with Justin and his family, I encourage you to check out their YouTube channel. Their videos have inspired many homesteaders and new farmers to jump into the world of agriculture. I had a blast helping move pigs, talking with Justin and Rebekah, and I even made it into the final cut of the video (you can watch it here. I come in around the 30 minute mark). Sharing dinner with Justin and Rebekah on Wednesday and Thursday was another highlight of the week. I loved hearing about their experience visiting a variety of farms across the country during the Great American Farm Tour. What a treat! Seriously though, they are so fun to talk to and very inspiring and encouraging!
Thursday was a great day. Us interns are starting to understand the workings of the farm a little bit better and are being entrusted with more and more responsibility. Sadie, Ryan and I spent the morning catching chicks from the brooder and moving them onto pasture. It was fun to accomplish this task together without needing any help from management. We’re learning so much! In the afternoon, I helped package some of the pieces and parts that we hadn’t finished bagging on Wednesday. I really enjoy bagging, sealing, weighing and sorting the chicken. It’s a very relaxing and satisfying job.
On Friday, I had the pleasure of going with Grace (Polyface’s delivery driver) on a buying club run. One of the main ways Polyface sells product is through buying clubs. Our customers place their orders online for pickup at one of our drop sites. On the day of delivery, they have a half hour window to swing by and grab their order. We deliver to each drop site once a month and we have a multitude of drops within a 4-hour drive from Polyface. Grace and I left around 6:00am heading to Virginia Beach. It was encouraging to see our product making its way into the hands of consumers. What a blessing to be able to provide people with nourishing, healthy food! After finishing up there, we made our way to Williamsburg before heading back to Polyface.
We rolled into the farm around 7:15ish and were able to catch the tail end of dinner. It was a special evening because Rory Feek was here for the weekend and he treated us to a little private concert after dinner. Haven’t heard of Rory Feek? I hadn’t before this weekend. He is a singer, songwriter and storyteller. He tells his story much better than I ever could, so click here to visit his website and learn more! Not only is he an extremely talented singer/songwriter, he also has one of the kindest, most genuine hearts you can find. It was a blessing to spend time listening to him sing and tell his life story.
I worked this weekend, so I headed out for chores at 6:00am and enjoyed taking care of the broilers. After breakfast, Adam (another intern) and I took a tractor and feed buggy up to the Eggmobile to fill the feed box. It was the first time I had used the feed buggy without one of the apprentices. Thankfully it went smoothly, and I even had the opportunity to back the feed buggy into the shed again! Then it was on to lots of hay work. I started by unloading hay into the barn and then headed out to the field where Joel was driving the baler. I worked on stacking the bales on the wagon with Ethan and Rory (he worked alongside us on Saturday). I finished 3 wagons before heading out with Marit to move the Feathernet, check the turkeys and feed the pigs. By the end of the day, I was covered in feed dust and hay…and I couldn’t have been happier! Dinner was delicious, and it was fun to share another meal with Rory before he left.
Today has been relaxing so far. I’m enjoying my time in town, sipping hot chocolate and reflecting on the past week. After this, I’m going to take a quick nap and then head out to chores.
Before I go, I’d like to share a final thought. When we have guests visiting for dinner, Joel normally asks them to say a few words to the team. Nothing formal, just telling us their story or offering some nugget of wisdom. Both Justin and Rory shared similar ideas. They encouraged you to ask yourself what you’re afraid of, and then do it. The hardest experiences make the most beautiful stories. Success isn’t about living a stereotypically perfect life. It’s about learning, growing character, facing challenges and jumping into the unknown. After all, you never know what adventures will come your way. It really got me thinking…what am I afraid of? Am I living life fully? Am I clinging too tightly to comfortable plans instead of opening up to new (sort of scary) ideas? I came into the internship trying to keep an open mind – open to learning, open to new ideas, open to discovering what God has in store for my future. I love to have a set plan, so it’s hard to try and keep an open mind, but this week renewed my resolve to really pray and seek God about His plans for my future. So, what are you afraid of? And what are you going to do about it?
P.S. Completely random, but too cool not to share. I got a heart shaped blister this week!