Packing geese and Merry Christmas...

Emma Heseltine - 23 December 2012

We are plucking and dressing the geese this week. It’s a several stage process and it starts with removing the tail and wing feathers. Geese are water birds so have several layers of feathers to remove, not as easy as chicken or even duck. We are collecting these big feathers as some beekeepers in the area have asked for them as they are very useful. I'll admit I didn’t find out what for, most likely some kind of brushing and not for bee tickling (which isn’t a thing).

Hadrian's Organic farm landscapeNext they get to the plucking machine, which I had a little go with last year and have now been let loose with. It’s a series of disks and blades that spin and pull out the feathers. It’s horribly noisy and hard on the arms as you spin the bird all about to get as many feathers as possible. Geese are not flat you see, lots of nooks and crannies. After this it’s back to the hand plucking to get the stubborn feathers out and get the fluff out of the armpits and such. I look like I’ve been tarred and feathered by the end of the day. I’ll be coughing up feathers for weeks.

Once they are plucked its time to dress them and we have a butcher that comes to do this. The feet, head and wings are chopped and the innards are pulled out. We make up little bags of giblets which are then put back in the carcass for people to make their gravy with. We also pull out some of the fat, people do want goose fat, it makes the most wonderful roast potatoes, but they don’t want to be swimming in it (or paying £13.50/kg for it!) We render it and jar some up in case anyone wants to buy some extra (which someone always does).

On Friday people are coming to collect their geese and a steady stream of people come throughout the day. It feels like we are much more organised this year and we are far more relaxed for having got them finished two days earlier than usual. It's nice to be able to just take our time – it feels almost like we are winding down for the Christmas holidays. Of course there are no ‘free days’ on the farm, there are always creatures to feed and water, but we are taking it in turns this year. I’m doing Christmas and Boxing Day and Susan is going to London, then I’m off to see my family on the 27th. And yes I am still having my goose!

A very merry Christmas to all, eat drink and be merry and don’t forget to thank all the farmers all over the country who have worked hard to provide the feasts we will enjoy! We do love our jobs, what’s more important than providing great food for people? Cheers!

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.

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