Giving Thanks for Turkeys

November 30, 2017

The turkey adventure is almost over, (we have a few frozen ones left).  I’m calling it a success, because we are getting great feedback from our customers, and we received an education.  Turkey-directed learning is underrated!

About six weeks before our processing date at Twin Cities Pack,I decided to call and make sure everything was lined up.  The owner said no, someone called and cancelled our appointment.  I was able to reschedule for the week before Thanksgiving, but this meant that the turkeys would be frozen.   

I was in shock, because I knew that many of our customers expected a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving, and may cancel if we no longer offered that option.  I was depressed for about a half hour, but then I realized that we could still offer fresh turkeys if we processed on-farm, and customers traveled to the farm to pick one up.

I checked with an Amish neighbor who had the necessary poultry processing equipment, and yes we would be able to rent it from him and he would also provide his expertise.  The last poultry I butchered myself was about 20 years ago as a character-building exercise.

So we offered two options: a frozen turkey from a state-inspected facility, or drive to the farm for a home-butchered fresh turkey.  A few people cancelled, but most stayed with each option split about equally.

I took some of the turkeys to Twin Pack and then picked up the birds the next day and delivered to a central point.  It went fine.

Then the Monday before Thanksgiving dawned, and I did my chores quickly and went and picked up Benny, my Amish neighbor, and his poultry processing equipment.  We used a propane tank to heat the water for the scalder.  The plucker ran off of hydraulics.  I used one of my tractors to run that, but had to change one of the ends of the hydraulic lines, no problem.

We set up and began with me doing the killing and scalding, Braden plucking, my Dad and my Uncle Carl doing quality control, and Benny gutting.  Braden also learned how to gut as he took a real interest in the whole process.

I’m not going to kid you, it was gruesome.  A few customers came before I had a chance to clean up.  I’m amazed they didn’t jump in their cars and drive away as I looked like something out of a horror movie, with blood spattering my face and glasses.

But after I had a chance to clean up I felt better and actually enjoyed the rest of the day as I had a chance to visit with many of our customers and even gave short tours to some of them.  It was a great way to end our turkey project, and reminded me why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.


Turkey Update, 1st Youtube Video!

October 11, 2017

 

The turkeys are a great addition.  An earlier post described my movable pen and cattle trailer which I used to lock them up at night and avoid predation.  They quickly outgrew that idea.

So I put them in our old dairy barn and left them locked in for a couple of days to acclimate them to that space as home.  Then I opened the door and watched.

 

They are avid foragers of greens and insects, roaming now at nine weeks over approximately ten acres.  Oddly, they are attracted to humans and vehicles and really anything novel.

They started a bad habit of coming up on the back porch and lounging, especially if people were sitting there.  They weren’t bothersome, except for the prodigious quantities of excrement they produce.

So I made a hillbilly decision and put a fence around my back porch.  The turkeys are free-range, but the farmer is confined!

 


Sweet Corn Summary and Links

August 27, 2014

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My go-to meal for the last three weeks.  The sweet corn was raised without herbicides or pesticides.  It’s a wonderful experience when a successful experiment results in such good eats.

I planted a rye cover crop last fall, rotovated twice in the spring, rotary hoed twice after planting, and cultivated twice, keeping the corn ahead of the weeds long enough to produce a good ear of corn, even though the weeds are thriving now.

The last time I tried to raise sweet corn without herbicides was a disaster, with the weeds getting ahead of the corn, resulting in production losses.  That time I only chisel plowed, disced, and cultivated once.

My plan for next year is to use the same protocol as this year, except possibly not using the rye cover crop.  That may prove to be a mistake as the rye has alleopathic properties.

I wonder if I should be looking at weeds differently.  Instead of a problem to overcome, maybe I should consider them as a volunteer crop.  Instead of weeding, maybe I should be harvesting.

Tama Matsuoka Wong is a businessperson who has taken her interest in wild edibles to a new level.  She partners with restaurants to put wild edibles on the menu.  Her website is  Meadows and More.  Discovering the way Ms. Wong approaches wild edibles is invigorating my thinking about weeds.

Finally, while I’ve spent the summer thinking about sweet corn, I wonder how much corn I’m getting from other sources.  “Children of the Corn” is an interesting infograph if you’ve ever wondered about the corn industry.

The one problem I have with the infograph is when they talk about water usage.  Sure, corn uses water, but it gets cycled back into the atmosphere.  It’s not like it’s being used up, never to be seen again.

Comment if you have any thoughts about these topics.


Stinging Nettle

May 27, 2014

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You know how you like adventure, but there is always discomfort in any adventure?  Stinging Nettle, (Urtica dioica), represents that for me.

When I was maybe six or seven, it occurred to my classmate and I that it would be possible for us to walk across the fields, as the crow flies, and explore.  If our Moms drove us, it was about four or five miles, but if we walked , each of us would only have to walk about a half mile to meet in the middle.

We did just that, and I can still remember the ideas we had about the caves which must be under the creek, and how we could dig to find them.  Exploring at six years old  is such a rush.  I’m sure our Moms could probably see us, but it felt like we were at the ends of the earth.

At some point we walked through a nice stand of Stinging Nettle, wearing shorts.  And then we started itching.  Which just makes it worse.  I’m not kidding you, these memories are vivid, even though I’ve probably never told this story to anyone.

Another Stinging Nettle story I remember is with my college friend, Konrad.  After graduating from college, my friend Doug and I drove down to Florida, all the way to the Keys, and I bought a surf board in Miami.  It was a short board, and I should have purchased a long board, as long boards make it easier to catch marginal waves.  I think Wisconsin would have to be the definition of marginal waves, right?

So I felt stupid when I brought the board home, but we started a sport based on a magazine article Doug read.  We called it “Streaming.”  What you do is tie a rope to a bridge where the river current is strong.  We modified the current with some logs we found to make it faster.

You grab the rope, and if the current is strong enough, and your balance is true, you stand, and you are stationary surfing!  So of course we had to share this with all our friends.  Did I mention you had to walk about a mile on the edge of a cornfield, where the weeds were over your head?  That’s just part of the fun!

My college friend Konrad came over for a visit.  I told him he may want to wear jeans, as the Stinging Nettle was bad, but he said it was never a problem for him.  Why am I such an asshole that I didn’t insist on him wearing jeans?  Of course he walked through the Stinging Nettle, and of course he itched.  I can still picture his face as he stood in the cold river water and splashed it up over his legs.  He was actually moaning.

So Stinging Nettle and I have a history.  The final chapter I guess is finding out it was edible, summoning up the courage to put it in my mouth, cooked, and enjoying it.  And then finding a woman who will cook it for me!

 


Wild Edible: Curly Dock

April 28, 2014

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Curly Dock, (Rumex crispus), is very common on our farm.  I found it was edible in Sam Thayer’s second book, “Nature’s Garden.”  I was excited to try it, because its been a long winter and this plant starts growing even earlier than Stinging Nettle.

Sam recommended cooking it, and I concur, or possibly using it raw as part of a salad.  It’s a little too bitter for me to make it my entire salad.  I eat eggs nearly every morning and it’s a welcome addition, as pictured below.

Besides wild berries, I’ve only been learning and eating wild edibles for the past eight years, inspired by Sam’s first book.  Something I’ve learned is that even though I’m an adventurous eater, I need to try something a few times to get a taste for it.  By the next year when the plant is ready for harvest, my taste buds, or brain, or something, is primed, and I’m looking forward to enjoying it for many meals.

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Election Ink or Berries?

July 21, 2013

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This is my thumb after picking and eating three different berries:  Black raspberry or Rubus occidentalis, Gooseberry or Ribes hirtellum, and Mulberry or Morus (unsure which species).  We managed to get ahead of our mouths enough to bring Mulberries home where they found their way into corn mufffins, pictured below.

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Madison Primal/Paleo Meetup

July 14, 2013

Madison Primal/Paleo Meetup

The Madison Primal/Paleo Meetup group toured our farm Sunday morning.  It’s always fun meeting new people who are engaged and interested in what we do.  Most were from the Madison area, but a few were from as far away as Michigan and Iowa.

I showed them a bred gilt who I predicted would farrow within a week.  She farrowed much sooner than that.  By 5 pm she had twelve nice piglets.  I wish the meetup could have seen it.

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