Friday, October 1, 2010

Nearly everybody who meets the turkeys is smitten with them.     They completely defy the turkey stereotype of being dumb, ugly and mean.  They are gentle, curious, and friendly. Okay, they maybe are more interesting-looking than classically beautiful, but certainly not ugly.
Last year we waited too long to harvest the turkeys and ended up with some dressed birds that weighed 38 pounds. That is a Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd!  And it won't fit in just any oven. So this year we knew we had to do the dreaded deed earlier.  This was the week.
On Sunday when my friend Judy learned it was the turkeys' last day she came over to say goodbye.
Early Monday morning, Rog and I loaded up the five turkeys and three guineas (all we could catch in their sleep the night before-they are so wary and fast) in the pickup and drove them to the processor.  I wept as we  transferred the turkeys into the cages. (I am such an unprofessional farmer!)
The door to the guinea crate popped open and one guinea escaped into the field, making quite a racket.  No chance of catching him!
This morning I returned with a couple large coolers to pick up the frozen birds.  The farmers had caught the escaped guinea, so we even got everybody.
Wrapped in plastic and labeled, the turkeys look pretty much like a turkey you buy in a grocery store, but I still felt sad loading them  into the coolers.
I find this aspect of farming tough. But if we did not  raise turkeys for food, we would probably not raise them at all. We would miss out on the joy they bring. (I know, the idea that turkeys bring joy probably sounds crazy --if you  don't know the turkeys.)
Driving home, a few miles from the processors' farm I passed a turkey grower with 6 or 7 long, low buildings, each probably 50 feet  x 200 feet or longer, seemingly packed shoulder-to-shoulder with a sea of white turkeys. Each building probably contained a thousand birds or more. At the open  end of one building I could see turkeys pressed up against the wire, peering out onto the pavement.  What a life.

Even though they all will end up on a dinner table, I feel a bit consoled knowing that our turkeys could not have had a more pleasurable turkey life. They got to have free run of the farm, feast on garden produce, catch butterflies, tease the dogs and chase the cats, untie our shoelaces, accompany us on walks through the woods, be admired by all visitors to our farm and be pampered by us.
Thanks, dear turks.


Mama Pea said...

So hard this aspect of raising meat for the table. I think you noticing the sheds of turkeys raised in that awful way on your way home was for a purpose.

You are so right; your turkeys had such a wonderful life and now it's done. You appreciated them in life and are thankful for the food they provide for you now. It's the way it should be.

katiegirl said...

I completely agree with everything you said. I love my turkeys, and I always get sad when it's time to process anything (less sad when it's broilers), but knowing they had a good life makes it all worth the sadness! I'd much rather know my Thanksgiving turkey lived the best life possible before it dies.