Friday, September 24, 2010

not for the squeamish, chicken "processing"

First, calm yourself, then pick up the chicken. Cradle it gently in your arms and place it in the cone.
Lightly brush back the feathers and cut the carotid artery, avoid cutting through the windpipe or nerve column. The chicken will  feel nothing, get lightheaded, and lose consciousness.  It is a humane and painless method, the birds do not squawk or thrash around.
Ready for scalding
The scalder must be at the correct temperature, 145-150 degrees f. Immerse bird for a few seconds and test by tugging on a wing feather.
Dunk again.
When the feather pulls easily, they are ready to pluck.
Place them in the chicken plucker.
Rotate at slow speed and spray with water.
Just a little longer.
Five more seconds.
No more feathers. About 90 seconds.
The feathers fall out through a gap between the plastic tub and the potter's wheel head. I washed and dried these for future art projects.
I find myself calling this "harvesting" the chickens. I will have to examine this. Hmm...

Bee sculptures

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

chicken plucker

Fatty Mcfatfat
As the time to "harvest" our Freedom Ranger chickens approached,we began to look into humane methods of slaughter. We found a good video on YouTube that was pretty persuasive, so we decided to model our process on his technique.
Meanwhile, the Farmer became impatient with some roosters that were harassing the hens, so he took a couple early on his own.
He reported that it took him 5 hours to process the two chickens, the time mainly being spent on plucking. So, we got very serious about researching chicken plucking, because the Farmer was ready to send them all to a commercial processor. Nooooo.....
After checking into renting equipment (too time consuming and costly to bother), we found plans for building your own mechanical chicken plucker. Mr. Cranky got to thinking and realized that one of our potter's wheels could be converted into a chicken plucker.
The Farmer contributed a big plastic drum~
We bought plans~
 a pre-drilled plastic plate and chicken plucker fingers from Herrick Kimball~
scrounged some scrap wood, bought a few screws and such~
and viola~
It literally takes about 60 seconds to thoroughly de-feather three birds at a time, no pin feathers left, nothing at all.
Now Mr. Cranky wants to become an itinerant chicken plucker.

Gorgeous porcelain

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hector and me

plate with birds*
Mr. Cranky and the Florist both agree that I should be leaving the centers of my plate empty.  
That creates in me an urge to scribble. So that's what Hector and I did. I like the calligraphic feeling of our scribbling.
Their argument is that people expect the center of their dinner plates to be plain to better display the food. I think that may be true in restaurants where the food is plated in very specific and possibly ornamental ways, but not at a dinner in the home. I think the vision of the table set with beautiful tableware makes for an inviting, welcoming, happy-looking table. We often experience surreptitious plate-switching before everyone sits down to eat; we all have our favorites.
Hahaha, so take that Mr. Cranky and Grumpy** Florist!

*reminds me of Cinderella and the birds helping sew her ball gown in the Disney movie
**not really

Puffball for fall

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Slip trailers

bulb syringe
This is the first slip trailer I ever used. The familiar bulb syringe, also known as an ear syringe, but known to parents throughout America as a required part of the arsenal of tools to save your baby's life should he or she accidentally aspirate whatever s/he may be in danger of aspirating while asleep. Don't ask me; I just bought one because it seemed like a good idea at the time. It does not, by the way, make for a very good slip trailer.
commercially available slip trailer from a ceramic supply catalog
This has been my trusty slip trailing companion for many years. I also tried wash bottles from a chemical supply house here in Portland, they have wonderful tiny little tips, but I ultimately lost track of the source. They were pretty good though.
slip trailer, lady clairol version
This became the slip trailer d'jour for many years as I seemed to have an unlimited supply (hello blonde!).
electric, air-powered slip trailer
Hand fatigue led  me to try this high tec slip trailer. I pretty much hated this one after an brief love affair with not having to squeeze the slip out all the time. It is easier on the hand, but it makes a noise and clogs quite a bit.
Meet Hector, whom I love with a mad passion. I came across a video of this while trying to find a tutorial on making a ball mill using a potter's wheel. It is a demonstration of slip trailing by Charan Sachar where he demonstrates how to make this very nifty tool. 
parchment paper version
I though I would be extra clever and make mine out of parchment because I found the mylar difficult to work with when forming the cones. These don't work, the paper is too porous and the slip dries out too much. They would be great for drying slip though, very effective.
mylar slip decorating cones
I was having a bit of trouble with the tips fraying in use. Mr. Cranky thought they might work better if the tips were dipped in wood glue. Here is a batch, post glue dipping, drying on a hanger.
single use only
It is not practical to reuse these, which feels wasteful but which I secretly like. Nothing like a fresh clean new slip trailer ready to go.
I can't describe how much I love these. They fit right in the palm of my hand and warm up to body temperature, feeling like an extension of my fingers. It's like having a little animate being resting in my hand, alive. I dream about it.

ama~ women of the sea.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

summer vignettes

local blueberries
A plate from our new hand-built series. I like how the border frames the fruit and the center pattern emerges as you eat.
chicken bones bleaching in the sun
Saving bones for Betsy's amazing artwork. 
party lights were on sale
I can't resist party lights. We have a string of christmas lights permanently strung up in the kitchen. These will go outdoors in the Wisteria. I wish I had bought all they had, only $7.50! Gone now, of course.

I am utterly addicted to Zoe Keating.