Friday, December 6, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Farm Thanksgiving: Farm to Plate

Farmer Fahler admiring his turkey and making gravy
This year's Thanksgiving felt like Christmas for us here on the farm. We had farm raised Narragansett Turkey, homegrown potatoes, shell peas, and corn we'd saved from the garden, as well as carrots and turnips from the greenhouse! For desert we had pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake pie from one of the Musquee de Provence pumpkins we grew, and tried a new pie shell pastries made with lard from the pigs and is now one of our favorite pie shell recipes. We've also been enjoying our farm-raised bacon and eggs for breakfast and zucchini bread from some frozen zucchini from the garden.  

For us, Thanksgiving was a great day filled with good, homegrown food and visiting family. It felt like all we had to buy for Thanksgiving was dairy and bread products! And soon, with Rosie the farm cow showing her pregnancy more and more each day, dairy won't be a problem!

This is our first year producing most of our own food, raising our Thanksgiving turkey from tiny chick to 15 lbs of dressed crispy meat. So we'd like to review our first year with turkeys.

We got our turkey poults at around 1 week old from the owner of a local pet store, five Narragansett poults and one Bourbon Red. We ended up with one male, who we uncreatively called Tom, and five females. 

After a few weeks in a brooder box under a heat lamp, we moved them outside to "The Turkey Hut" with branches for roosts and a small run for them to go outside. We clipped their wings for the first few months to keep them from flying over their fence, or on top of their shelter. This worked for the most part, except for the Bourbon Red who always seemed to be outside of their coop. Since we were always on the look out for this turkey, we named her Waldo. 

The turkeys quickly ate all the vegetation in their enclosure, so we let them free range sometimes on the farm. They wandered all over the farm, into the pig pasture, in the garden, and once out onto the road. When they started to jump up onto the roof of our house or try to roost in a large tree for the night, we decided to limit their free ranging. 

We raised these six turkeys for six months, May-November, feeding them greens and sunflowers from the garden, and non-medicated feed from our local feed mill. 

We were fortunate enough to have a friend who has a bucket plucker, and he let us borrow it for the processing. It made processing day go so much quicker! Farmer Fahler handled the killing cones, scalding and plucking part of processing. 

Meanwhile, Farmer Figgins was inside doing the evisceration, cleaning, quality control and bagging. Cleaning a turkey isn't much different from cleaning a chicken--take the head, neck, oil gland, and legs off, then remove the crop and internal organs. 

Narragansett turkeys are a heritage breed and at maturity typically have a live weight of 14 pounds for hens and 23 pounds for toms. Dressed weight is typically 75% of live weight, so toms should come in at about 17 lbs and hens around 10. Heritage breed turkeys are generally smaller than the typical broad breasted white you get at the supermarket. Our hens came in a little under weight than we'd have liked, with Tom at 15 lbs and our hens at 7 lbs, dressed. We also noticed that Tom had more fat around his neck and breast than the hens. 

Next year we'd like to do a few turkeys again, but we'd like to allow them more ranging area to exercise, Tom in particular had a pretty fatty neck. With more space to roam and more grass to graze, we're hoping for fatter and healthier birds next year!  

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