Wow, I am just now realizing how long it has been since I’ve blogged here! I’ll try to catch you up on our farm happenings. November was a crazy month at the farm. We had to get the place ready to host Andy’s family of over two dozen, and we also butchered the meat chickens and fifteen Thanksgiving turkeys. The turkeys were done the weekend before Thanksgiving and we learned that many of our customers loved having a fresh bird to prepare. The best part of farm life is reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, while showing people how their food is raised and processed.
We also had two litters of rabbits born. A mix of New Zealand and Chinchilla.
In December we moved the chickens and rabbits into the chicken house, the sheep into the barn, and butchered the a small batch of turkeys for Christmas. Chore time is a little easier now, thankfully, because we are learning that this is going to be a snowy Ohio winter.
The new year brings new goals, ideas, and challenges for our farm. We hope to expand our operation and meet some new friends and customers by selling at local farmers markets. On-farm sales will continue as well. We feel blessed to be able to be have this opportunity and look forward to serving your local food needs in the coming years.
The birds have moved out of the brooder and onto the floor of the chicken house. They are here for a week until they move out on pasture. In the forefront is a meat chicken. To the right is a brown pullet that will become a layer. Notice the size difference? And can you spot a turkey? We have had great success raising all these birds together, no loss in this batch!
I love the late lazy days of summer the best, especially this year as we complete our first full year back on the farm. Our new batch of thanksgiving turkeys are a few weeks old and the next batch of broilers only have a few weeks left before they are processed. Andy moved them all in the same pen a few days ago, and while there is some competition over food, we love that they share space so well.
This morning I noticed that our sunflowers had bloomed, while the sheep were grazing in a fresh area of pasture next to the garden. We’ve learned that the sheep are particular on what grass they will eat…they prefer younger grass (recently mowed) and will leave the tall older grass alone.
Also this week we have finally been able to hold our new litter of bunnies, and butchered a rabbit from our first litter for Sunday dinner. It was delicious. We are still taking orders for rabbit, chicken and turkey for this fall.
What were you doing the Thursday before Christmas? Baking, shopping or prepping for your holiday meal? We were doing the latter here at Wrightway farm. We had 8 turkeys to butcher and although I would’ve rather been sleeping on that gloomy day with the forecast for rain, I sucked it up and went out to help. I will say from the start that Andy and I successfully butchered eight turkeys. It took us a while to figure out our system…which was helped by the delivery of the turkey restraining cone at 10:30 via the FedEx truck. Andy fixed it to a board and put the wheelbarrow underneath to catch the blood. We borrowed the neighbor’s turkey fryer base (which, by the way, we are looking for a great deal on our own turkey fryer) and used the metal trash can for scalding. Then we set up the processing table with the big cutting board. With the first bird, I tried to do the scalding part, but quickly learned that the birds were just too heavy for me. Also key to a good scald is just the right amount of dish soap to break the surface tension and allow the feathers to loosen.
Here are the turkeys fully grown.
Like I was saying, we started on the first bird…and then the rain came. So, thinking quickly, we moved the processing station up to the front porch where we put it on a slope so that I could wash it down easily. And after quickly reading the chapter on processing in Andy’s Christmas present, I got to work. I became the processer, and Andy did the killing, scalding and plucking. After four birds were done, two of our customers arrived to pick up their birds. One of our customers, Karen, is a photographer and took some pictures which I hope to show you here. I am quickly learning that the best part of being on a farm is sharing what we have learned and visiting with new and old friends.
After they left we went to work on the remaining four birds and finished up about 6pm. Later that night I think I had a little bit of post traumatic stress as I kept thinking about what I had done. But again, like the chickens, I saw how we had raised the birds and I saw how we killed the birds, and how little stress was truly involved in their lives.
On Christmas day we had a feast with one of our birds and some fabulous gravy (made by boiling the neck with veggies and using that as the base). We will probably raise turkeys again next year, but for Thanksgiving, as this December weather was not fun for processing.
We hope you and yours had a very Merry Christmas and we will you all the best for a great 2012!
We’re going to be processing turkeys for the holidays later this week. We probably have 5 to sell. Let me know if you’d like to buy one for your celebrations. We’re hoping to save a couple for ourselves, saving the meat in sections to make for easier prep, and learning how to make ground turkey!
Although the turkeys weren’t yet market weight, Andy decided we needed to butcher two of them to see how they would compare against the store-bought turkey that would be at the Springer family Thanksgiving. His cousin Adam was in the area on Wednesday, and since he is gullible always up for an adventure, he helped Andy and I got to watch.
Lucy was home from school, so she was able to witness her first butchering. We used our neighbor’s fryer setup and a metal trashcan for the scalding process, as we still can’t get our scalder to work.
Scalding the turkey after the kill. To kill this time, Andy cut the throat while Adam used his full body weight to hold the bird down to prevent the meat from bruising. Another reason why I’m glad he was here…wonder if we can convince him to come back in a few weeks for the remaining 9 birds…
Lucy and I were watching from the porch during the plucking process. Her only comment was that it was “gross”.
Adam and Andy processing the birds. It was amazing to see how their insides compared to the chickens…obviously much bigger. Later on I looked outside to see Lucy and Linus playing with the esophagus. Andy says that he gave it to them to play with so they will learn to not be grossed out.
In the end, to be honest, it was hard to tell much of a difference between our 13 pound bird and the other Thanksgiving turkeys. I will say that the other birds were prepared by a trained chef, and that Andy put too many some interesting spices on ours. But at the end of the day I was still thankful for the way that we had raised them, and knowing exactly what I was eating.
Today the turkeys moved to their new (and final) home. They were getting so big that they needed to come out of the tractor. Andy bought an old wagon frame from a neighbor that was just going to sell it for scrap. He devised a covered shelter with a roost and a place to hang the feeder.
We put it out in the field in one of the grass areas and surrounded it with our moveable electric fence.
Today was moving day. First, he trimmed off a few feathers so they couldn’t fly over the fence.
Then, we had to herd the turkeys across the field. Well, herding didn’t work too well. They wanted to go everywhere.
Turkeys are funny though, they tend to stick in together and bark out to each other. Andy came up with the idea of leading them while holding another turkey and pulling the wheelbarrow that he took them out in when they were little. They must’ve remembered there was food in there at one time, because they followed!
Here they are in their new home!
It is fascinating to watch them eat. They will pluck an entire strand of grass and eat the whole thing.
Sally had fun helping me, but didn’t really like walking in the tall grass. I remember being a kid and hating it too.
I’ll admit, I am not a lover of birds. I have friends with spider phobias and friends with snake phobias- neither animal has ever bothered me. But the thought of birds flying around my head almost sends me into a panic. And earlier this summer when we had a family of chimney swifts in the bottom of our chimney in the basement, I hid under a laundry basket while my fearless neighbor Janet got them out. I did show meat chickens for one (maybe two or three, I can’t remember) years in FFA at the county fair, and I learned recently it was a joke about how little I did with them. Remember, I have admitted I was a spoiled only child (at times).
With those disclaimers in mind, I have tried to be open to chickens returning to our farm. Andy has been enamored with them since day one. And I’ll admit, there is something precious about baby chickens and turkeys. I do enjoy holding them, and don’t mind feeding them, but what delights me is to see my kids learning to not fear them.
Yesterday was a beautiful fall day, and so I took a few minutes to visit our birds in the field. As I sat and watched them, I prayed for wisdom and insight on how to best appreciate and care for these birds that are going to feed our family (and hopefully some other families) in a month or two. They seemed content, eating and drinking and just being birds. I was reminded that they are raised for this purpose, and it is my job as a custodian of the earth and God’s creatures to care for them properly and make sure that when their life ends, it is done properly. I remembered a post from one of my favorite bloggers that sums this up nicely. And so I leave you with some pictures of our birds and what they do.
The turkeys were quite inquisitive and most made their way to see who I was and what I was doing.
Here is where the pen was the day before. Great fertilizer for our pasture! Andy says that it takes a year for the land to absorb the waste and then we can put birds back on it again.
After a week of work, the meat chickens and turkeys moved to their new home. Andy built them a very nice tractor using Joel Salatin’s model in Pastured Poultry Profits. One half of the top has two moveable parts, so that we can get the birds and their food and water in and out easily. He is running them along the grassy area near our field behind the house.
Here the little two help Andy put the birds into crates to transport them to the field.
Putting them into their new house. We are so thankful for the Indian Summer that will make their transition much less stressful.
The tractor is starting out near the bee hives. They are not very friendly this time of year…one of the girls almost got me as I was taking pictures. They are trying to protect their honey stores so they will have food for the winter.
Andy plans on moving the tractor daily. He will have to do some moving ahead of them to make sure the grass is at the right height because we don’t have any cattle or sheep to do the work for us yet!