BY ROSANNA BAUMAN
A very exciting thing has happened! I just moved the last of the chickens from our old walk-in freezer into the new freezer. Now, before you think I am making much ado about nothing, let me tell you, this is truly Something. It is an event that I have hoped and dreamed and drooled over for four years. You might think that my life is dull if I get so excited over something as silly as a walk-in freezer, but the opposite is true. Life is never dull when you can find excitement in the little, everyday occurrences.
The reason I was so excited about this new freezer is because, in the meat business, cold storage is one of the most important assets. We have been using a 9’X12’ walk-in freezer, but we seriously outgrew that thing four years ago. We planned to build a new freezer, but because of the economy, we waited. And suffered. Late last year, we were finally able to start corn ruction on the new walk-in, a much more efficient unit that measured a massive 11’x38’. If possible, having that new freezer under construction made matters even worse. I had to learn patience. When you want something, need something so desperately that you can hardly continue your work without it, and there it sits, not yet completed, taunting you daily with its possibilities, you really get an exercise in patient waiting.
So many times it looked like we were going to have that thing officially running. In May, the busiest month for us, the freezer gave us multiple false hopes. There were a couple of times when my day was highlighted by the thought of “Tomorrow I’ll have my freeze, in one day I’ll have my freezer!” I would even plan freezer cerebrations. But it was not to be. My hopes would be dashed again and my chant would change to: “Someday i’ll have my freezer. One day I’ll have that freezerl” And I would return to my old nemesis, the too-tiny walk-in freezer.
I received countless bruises from working in that freezer. Vertical space was the only thing left, so we had to make tall stacks of chicken tubs and boxes. Try lifting a forty pound tub of meat over your head in a confined space. Several times the tubs were fifty, eighty and ninety pounds that had to be hefted overhead. There wasn’t room for a second person, so one had to use their knees and elbows for leverage. After a day of chicken dressing I would count my bruises. They averaged between three and five. While It was necessary to cram all that meat in there, it brought about yet another hurdle: accessibility. The meat that was most in demand was typically what you had stored behind a stack of three hundred chickens. Many times I had to wiggle between an eight inch opening to get a product, and then return through that same gap holding a forty pound box of meat over my head. When you are in a negative 10 degree environment, you really don’t want to be performing athletic feats.
One other thing I learned from this crazy freezer experience is that the impossible is possible at times. The freezer would appear to be at capacity, and then we would have a processing day where we needed to stick six hundred more chickens into the freezer. I don’t know if you have a clue just how much space 600 chickens take up, but at an average of four pounds each, that is 2,400 pounds of just meat. That’s over a ton But as impossible as it looked to fit even a hundred more birds into the freezer, Dad would go in the freezer and work a miracle. Lo and behold, with strategic re-arranging and creative
placement every bird found a place in that frigid environment. But that left absolutely no room in the freezer. It became a walk-in freezer that you could hardly stick your nose in, let alone step a foot inside. In that little nine foot by twelve foot space we crammed 12,000 pounds of meat I concluded that we must have an elastic freezer. Perhaps those walls were stretching. And what do you know; we never did get to where we simply could not squeeze another bird in that freezer. More likely, it was a miracle, like the widow’s cruse of oil that never ran out When you think of miracles, you don’t expect them to be performed in a walk-in freezer, but there’s no reason why not!
Finally, in September, a year after we had built the freezer, the compressors roared to life. Unlike the other times, they actually stayed running. I moved just a few things in (about 600 pounds of meat), but it took another full month to get the rest of the kinks out before I could shut off the old freezer. I felt like giving it a hug for all its years of service, then follow with a kick so I didn’t have to see it any more. We were now faced with the uncomfortable, yet joyful task of relocating four tons of meat. That’s a lot of time spent in freezing temperatures! Typically, I work in the freezer in my short sleeves, with bare hands and feet. But this meat moving marathon had me in the rare get-up of not only socks, but a coat and gloves as well. Cleaning out a freezer is a lot like cleaning out a closet. After all the big stuff has been carted off, you have a resulting pile of stuff that is too good to throw away, yet doesn’t really need to be hidden again in a freezer. I am now happily utilizing the new freezer. This project, like most, ended up costing more than we’d planned, but I didn’t expect the toll it would exact on my character traits. Life lessons from a freezer; who would have thought?