Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turkey Day

As the sky pinks, Earle, Jaz and Mac pace our field, grateful for the chance to graze more freely after several hard frosts have helped brown the foliage and reduce its sugar content (we hope). The donkeys, adamant vegetarians, may be happy turkey day is done at Elk Cliff Farm.

I didn't notice them watching the goings-on this morning, as we fetched cold water for a couple large coolers and heated three giant pots of water on the stoves. As most of you know, Kroger is our backyard and our backyard is Kroger. We no longer buy butterballs.

Fortunately, poults are cute in May and six months later they are pests. Karen returned from milking a couple days ago with a still-bleeding finger, an omen, perhaps, that turkey day must not be postponed. If they wanted to win her sympathy, biting her wasn't the way to do it.

At 9:30, Dan and Amy arrived and we began Thanksgiving in earnest. Karen caught the first bird and carried it by its legs, upside down. As soon as the world's topsy-turvy, turkeys are quiet and docile. I held it high while she bungeed it to a clothesline pole. She applied the first killing knife and we watched the grass redden, which Lex and the chickens would clean up as soon as we moved away. I continued holding the feet while she held the head and covered its eyes, sort of like holding hands bedside I suppose, probably comforting the holders more than the held, waiting for the last energy to flow. Then came sixty seconds at 150 degrees, hand-plucking, a cold soak, and time in a freezer or refrigerator.

No photos, please, not on this knife-initiation day for me. This is not something we enjoy, nor do we wish to preserve pictures for posterity. How can we do this, many people ask. We do it because we want to know where our meat comes from, we want to watch it eat and grow, and we want to believe its life was happy until this final day. If I can't do this, I will be vegetarian (and recognize that animals live inside the vegetables and were likely killed during the growing).

"I thought turkey day was Thursday?" says Virginia.

That's meat day. Today was turkey day, a beautiful day with good friends, feathered and not.


  1. Even though the killing isn't fun, it was still an enjoyable day doing it with friends. I can say I won't miss the turkeys.

  2. mary pannabecker steinerNovember 19, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    Doesn't it remind you of Sunday dinner at Gma and Gpa Suter's? Chasing the chickens until Grandpa caught one, then watching Grandma dunk it in boiling water so she could pluck the feathers. Those were the best chickens. This year, our turkey will again come from our Luginbill cousins -- best birds in our area!