Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thank You, Turkeys!

This fantasy of raising a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner started in a feed store in 1988.  My mom fell in love with a baby turkey and promised my dad we would raise her and eat her for Thanksgiving.  Dixie Drumsticks became an instant member of the family.  We raised her like one of our dogs and she barked happily with them in the dog run.  It would be our first of many vegetarian Thanksgivings.

Tragically, Dixie's life was cut short by an eagle.  Dixie liked to roost on the fence surrounding the chicken coop.  One day an eagle swooped down and picked her up with his massive talons.  The eagle made it about ten feet before he realized she was too large to carry.  Dixie lived the rest of her life in the kitchen, being feed antibiotics with a syringe.  

I lived a contented, turkey-free life for over twenty years, but I married a man with a deep love of Thanksgiving turkey.  Over the years I have shamed him into eating squash when a humanely-raised turkey could not be found.  Because it has been so hard for us to find meat that meets all of our humane standards, Glenn talked me into raising heritage turkeys this year.  They arrived in May; the sweetest little poults we had seen.

Really, we are going to have these things beheaded?!  Glenn built them a shelter in the back yard and our lives began as turkey farmers.  With that, I give you:

The Top Seven Things I Have Learned About Turkey Farming!

7.  Turkeys eat A LOT!  The garden?  Demolished.  The weeds? Gone.  Carved Pumpkins?  Mutilated.  On top of all of the foraging, they still manage to eat one giant bag of food a week. 

6.  Turkeys have this fascinating thing that hangs over their beaks.  They also have the ability to move it around and pull it in.  I found out it is called a snood.  I'm pretty sure the turkey with the longest snood gets the most ladies.

5.  Turkeys get along with most everyone.  I have seen them sleeping next to our dog, chickens and guinea fowl.  They love humans and follow us around the yard.  Bob Marley would be proud.

4.  Keeping turkeys alive is a huge time commitment.  Turkeys like to roost in trees and we have a serious fox problem.  Every night at dusk, we have to collect the turkeys and lock them up for the night.  Oliver climbs on top of the chicken coop and pushes all of the turkeys to the ground.  The rest of the family uses arms or oars to guide the turkeys down to their house.  If you haven't seen much of us recently, it's because our lives have been taken over by turkey security measures.  The children are great little turkey wranglers!

3.  Who needs television when you have male turkeys on display on the back deck?  Gobbling provides hours of entertainment for the kids.
2.  Turkeys are lovable.  They are too quick now for the kids, but in their youth they received dozens of hugs and kisses from Oliver and Pearl.

1.  Turkeys are intelligent and regal creatures.  I'm going to be very sad to say "goodbye" to ten of these guys in a few weeks.  I am comforted in the fact that our turkeys have had wonderful lives, and will go to thoughtful families who decided not to support factory farming.