Yesterday was just one of those days where the other side of this sort of lifestyle really gets to you. The part with the unpleasantries, insecurities and uncertainties all become glaringly obvious and almost oppressive. They are truths and, as the adage goes, sometimes they do indeed hurt.
I started off my day checking out bees in the neighborhood, hitting up Brooklyn Kitchen and Eagle St. to get shots of their apiary set ups with the photographer I’m working with for my book. Bees overall were doing well. One of the hives at Eagle St raised their own queen who has been going on on mating flights at around 2 pm each afternoon. Fingers crossed, hopes she mates sufficiently.
When I got to my house, I inspected my first year colony. Loads of brood, generally looking good. My overwintered colony was looking pretty robust, and I found many queen cups along the bottoms of the frames (mostly empty) and a few fully capped queen cells. I took the frames with the queen cells and moved them into a nuc. I knew finding the queen and moving her would be difficult under those circumstances (they are a little more testy than my other bees, though not aggressive per se) so I opted for the easier method of pulling the queen cells, putting them in a nuc with some frames of brood in different stages of development, some food and a few frames worth of worker bees shaken onto it. Put a baggie of sugar syrup in there and now I’m hoping for the best.
As an added precaution, I set up a bait nuc since the overwintered hive could still produce a queen and end up swarming. I went in and broke up the brood nest by putting foundationless frames in between some frames of brood. With luck, the house bees will begin building comb and the bees will stay at home.
If not, they’ve got a nuc nearby, annointed with lemongrass oil with some nice dirty brood comb in there to entice them. Hopefully I will not have to climb any trees to retrieve my bees. I am admittedly fearful of upsetting my neighbors, but I do not want to suppress swarming if it means the bees will be healthier.
After bee duty, came the job I had been dreading all weekend. The chicken I had taken in had been resting, eating clean food, and getting fresh air and sunshine daily. She seemed contented, but her day had come. We set up a killing cone and bucket, washing/butchering station and a pot of boiling water for de-feathering. My knife was sharpened and my glass and been filled with wine and emptied before I gently picked up the young bird, caressed her into a slumber, inverted her into the cone and cut her throat. It didn’t go as fast as I thought, it felt like an eternity but she was fairly quiet. I held her head in my hands until it was over, warm blood rushing over my gloved fingertips.
I expected the tears to come, but they did not. In that moment that no one else in the world existed except for me and the chicken whose life I just took. I touched her supple feet that just moments ago were scratching around in straw looking for bits of food to eat. I removed my hand from her face to reveal an expression identical to peaceful sleep. She was gone and now the time came to honor her sacrifice with careful and loving preparation. I scalded her, removed her feathers and eviscerated her with the same care I gave to her while she was living. Next step will be to make a beautiful meal to share with those who helped participate in what has easily been one of the most profound moments of my life.
RIP Chicken. You were a good bird. I hope that in your next life you get to be the one holding the knife. Godspeed, little friend.