Sunday, November 19, 2006

Turkey time

Friday we took the turkeys to Arthur for processing. We got up at 3 a.m. and were on the road shortly after 4:00. Two hours of driving in the dark is tough when you've had only six hours of sleep. Shortly before sunrise I started getting really sleepy, but Katherine was doing a good job of talking about anything and everything to keep me awake.

We arrived at the processing facility at 6:45 and were able to unload the turkeys right away. Then we went to breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants in the area, Yoder's Kitchen, which has Amish-sized portions of everything. The Amish eat lots of hearty food, but obesity is only 10% in their community (compared to 60% of overweight Americans) because they do so much manual labor. Shortly after 8:00 we left the restaurant and started visiting all our favorite Amish stores. Their grocery stores have the best bargains imaginable -- cheaper than any store I've seen including Wal-Mart and other discount stores. Also, they have things that you just don't see in other stores! They have half-gallon canning jars and salt petre, which I think is used for curing meats.

At the end of the day when we picked up the turkeys, I was shocked beyond description when I learned that we had a 37 pound and a 43 pound turkey! I knew the broad-breasted bronze turkeys were getting big, but that is just ridiculous. Someone asked me how we (the all-natural farmers) could grow something that big, and I replied that it's just genetics. Broad-breasted were raised to get big, although I was under the impression that they did not ever get THAT big! That's why I chose them rather than the broad-breasted whites, which are the modern commercial strain. I know the white ones can grow to 50-60 pounds. We've never had a bronze get that big before, but we've always bought them from other hatcheries. It is possible that Privett has a strain that gets bigger than normal.

You might recall that I decided to grow only slate turkeys as our heritage breed this year. That's because they're my favorite heritage breed, and they are still critically endangered. The bourbon reds have become quite popular, and there are a few thousand of them now. Slates are still virtually unknown. We kept a gobbler and two hens, and we're keeping them in a poultry tractor, which is a movable pen. (I know I'll need to post a picture.) This way, they will be safe from predators, and they can have fresh grass every day. When the hens hatch their babies, they'll also be safe from predators. Our free-range turkeys this year were not able to raise any of their babies to maturity, and I really want to raise our own turkeys! I don't like buying from the hatcheries because I'm not really increasing the population, although I am at least helping create a demand for the birds. It is also NOT sustainable to keep buying poults every year -- and we want to be sustainable.

Here's an interesting story ... when we were waiting for our turkeys at the processor, we met a couple who was also waiting for their turkeys. They had raised broad-breasted turkeys for many years, always buying them from hatcheries and butchering them every year. They were probably in their 60s, and the man said that he thought about keeping a pair or a trio this year so he could raise his own, but then at the last minute he decided to just butcher all of them again. I made a comment about how he'd have had to do artificial insemination to raise them -- he didn't know that. I find it amazing how little today's modern farmer knows about the simplest things -- like the fact that broad-breasted turkeys can't mate naturally. They have swallowed the factory farm lifestyle with all its associated craziness, and they don't know anything else. Do they not think about the fact that their information comes from big corporations who (like drug dealers) want to keep you buying from them year after year? Big Ag wants you to grow animals and crops that can't reproduce, from turkeys to corn and soybeans, so that every year you buy new baby turkeys or more corn to plant. And it seems that no one questions the idea that we should even try to develop a turkey or a plant that can't reproduce without human intervention. Of course, they just hear how much money they're going to make by growing these genetically modified lifeforms. There are farms that are sustainable and profitable, and I hope that more of them will move in that direction.

Falling off my soapbox now ...

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