Today, we will be eating our first farm-raised turkey. My sister-in-law is roasting it today, and I’m excited to bring this experience full-circle.
In May, we received a batch of 15 Holland White heritage turkeys. By the time that we had them slaughtered, we were down to 11, and now we have four. One tom and three hens make up our breeding flock.
Anyone who has visited the farm in the last few months has inevitably been followed around by a flock of gobbling turkeys. There were a lot of toms in the bunch, so they were loud, loud, loud! Now that there’s only one male left, the gobbles don’t sound so powerful.
At least one of the hens has taken to sitting on eggs, both chicken and turkey. Turkeys are not the most graceful birds, so a few typically are cracked by the time that we gather them. I’ll be anxious to see how well the birds sit in Spring.
There’s always something to anticipate on the farm. I’m thankful for that.
Posted by blacksheepfarms on November 26, 2009
Having the turkeys processed last week was far from the end of our turkey journey. Now we are left with 4, one tom and 3 hens. If you read the popular book, ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’, you may recall that turkeys bred for commercial productions have had the natural mating ability bred out of them in favor of things like bigger breasts and faster growth. For this reason, we chose a heritage breed which grows more slowly, (Much more slowly, in fact. Our birds ended up being underweight when we brought them in to be processed!) but can still mate and raise little ones without human interference.
Thus, we have 4 remaining turkeys that we hope will mate and hatch young turkeys. A couple of the hens seem to be exploring motherhood. They will come across an egg one of the chickens has laid and claim it as her own. Just today, I witnessed one push an egg out of a nest and onto the coop floor. I was surprised it didn’t break. I watched her roll it all around and try to find a comfortable spot. Well, maybe she couldn’t get comfortable or maybe she didn’t enjoy me gawking at her, because she eventually abandoned the egg. When I walked over to pick it up, I noticed that it was cracked. On other occasions, I have gathered eggs that a turkey was sitting on and found them to be cracked as well. So, with all this clumsiness, I wonder how they’ll ever hatch a turkey? And since the hens seem to sit on whatever egg they find, will they adopt whatever hatches as their own? It’s an experiment I can’t wait to try!
And on a related note, we donated a dozen eggs to a local Montessori to incubate in their classroom. I can’t wait to find out if they were successful! We’ll keep you posted.
Posted by blacksheepfarms on November 20, 2009
We got the turkeys processed this morning. Since they were so much bigger than the chickens and we are not equipped with things like killing cones, we decided to pay someone else to do it. They’re in the freezer right now.
I can’t wait to eat one. Before we started on our “organic trip,” I loved getting whole turkeys. It gave me a great excuse to cook multiple meals. While we transitioned, I had a difficult time adjusting to the price of chemical-free food. Buying a turkey meant $60+ instead of the artificially-low $0.69/lb around the holidays.
Now, after we spent $7.50 per chick, fed them, watered them, protected (most of) them from our dogs, shooed them into the coop every night and listened to their constant gobble-gobble, the price seems more accurate. We get no government subsidies. We don’t have 10,000 square foot buildings. We put our own labor into producing food that has had a chance to live life.
One tom and three hens were spared. They will be our breeding stock for next year. Our hope is that we can develop more self reliance by growing from what we produced the year before. Just like saving seeds, we would like our animals to increase our stock naturally instead of buying from a hatchery or breeder every year.
Plus, who wouldn’t love to see them hatch in Spring?
Posted by blacksheepfarms on November 14, 2009
Things are finally settling down on Black Sheep Farms. We’ve gotten some time to recover from a busy year, relax and think about 2010. The Village Pointe Farmers Market ended in early October, and Kelly and I took a trip to San Francisco to see some friends. It was our first “kidless” vacation in over 10 years. We went to the Berkeley Farmers Market, Botanical Gardens, Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers. What else would you expect from a couple of farmers?
We’re assembling a poll for our 2009 CSA members. Although we kept track of our experience, we hope to get some valuable feedback so we can make 2010 even better. Our waiting list is up to 76 families, but since we’re using a lottery system, everyone has an even chance. Sign up now!
Kelly just got done planting garlic, and we still have a few hundred tulip bulbs to get into the ground before Winter moves in. I spent this Sunday with the chainsaw and log splitter, but we’ll still have to buy a couple of cords of firewood to get us through the winter. We love the wood furnace!
Even though I call this the “off-season,” we’re busy with the business of farming. We’ve been planning an expansion of our gardens, researching hog breeds, thinking about adding more laying hens and wondering what types of vegetables to plant in Spring. We are also working on our labor and bookkeeping strategies.
Hopefully, this will be enough to keep us busy until it’s time to start seeds in a few months. I’m already tired just thinking about it all.
Posted by blacksheepfarms on November 3, 2009