Talking turkey

Although I have posted images of turkeys before, I couldn’t resist uploading this one, for no reason other than I was fond of it. I have already mentioned that I am reworking a number of images in support of an online gallery presented at; and it happens that this was one I was working on the other day. I have discovered something about image post-processing and that is, the more you do it the easier it seems to get; the difficult thing is knowing when to stop. I hope I have not overstepped the bounds with this one. Truth-be-told I did not shift the colors of this handsome bird at all; what I did do however was to bring down the highlights, increase the clarity by adding contrast to the mid-tones and, most significantly, desaturate the background such that your attention would not be distracted by the foliage there. Although we don’t have turkeys on the farm at the moment, we did receive notice from our local supplier that poults will be available on May 21, June 11, and July 16. When would you purchase your day-olds such that they will be finished and ready for the table on Thanksgiving? First, there are 190 days (27 weeks) between 5/21 and 11/27, 169 days (24 weeks) between 6/11 and 11/27, and 134 days (19 weeks) between 7/16 and 11/27. Second, keep in mind that although we raise our birds on pasture, we supplement feed and the longer we’re feeding the higher our cost. Third, does anyone out there remember the movie The Princess Bride? If so, do you remember what Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) calls Fezzik (André the Giant, André René Roussimoff) toward the beginning of the movie? He calls him a hippopotamic land mass! What’s my point? It is that the University of Illinois Extension Service tells us that the average weight of a holiday turkey is 15 pounds. If you hold your birds too long, not only will feed costs be high but the resulting carcass may not fit in your oven. We’ve known folks who have had to cut their farm-raised birds in half because they wouldn’t fit. We’ve come close on a couple of occasions and Joanna tells me that the largest bird we’ve been able to accommodate weighed something over 40 pounds. And although it has never been the case with our pastured birds, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to tenderness and taste. Ok, so when should I order my poults … in May, June or in July? Perhaps I should tell you that it takes six or seven weeks to finish a broiler on pasture (to 5 pounds, dressed) and nearly three times that for a broad breasted bronze turkey (to approximately 20 pounds, dressed). So, it looks like I should arrange for a July pickup. Now .. how many should I order?


17 thoughts on “Talking turkey

  1. Stendhal wrote a novel called Le rouge et le noir, or The Red and the Black, which strikes me as an appropriate title for your attention-grabbing photograph. If turkeys weren’t familiar to us, we’d consider them some weirdly exotic, almost alien species.

  2. My brother and his family went through a self-sufficient phase. They bough a turkey with a view to making him oven ready for Christmas, but it didn’t work. They all got so attached to him that he was spared the table, became a pet and eventually died of natural causes. Lovely picture – we don’t always associate a turkey with all those amazing colours.

    • Yes. Getting used to the reality that the animals we raise eventually end up on someone’s table was, at first, difficult for the entire family. It is, after all, the reality of both vegetarianism and carnivory (good subject for a philosophical discussion at some point, perhaps). I have written elsewhere that in some sense our animals are like any other crop. We put rams and ewes together, for example, in the fall with the intent that they will produce lambs. In what way can that be any different than putting a seed in the ground? Both acts produce a living creature. To be sure, one product of fertilization grows into a conscious organism while the other does not. We, as humans, have domesticated animals to act as beasts of burden, work animals, and as food to fill our omnivorous stomachs. Some view this reality as harsh, perhaps, but it is what it is. We, here at the farm, are not vegetarians. The only meat that we will consume however is our own. We take great pride in only consuming meat produced from animals that were humanely raised on our own ground and NOT in confinement. Like any other crop our animals are brought into the world, fed, nurtured, and then harvested humanely. This has been important work for us which has taught us important lessons. Raising animals in this way has been something we have thought a lot about and has been a responsibility that we have never taken lightly. D

      • I think that to take self sufficiency seriously you have to approach it just as you have and view the animals as a crop – it seems it is probably the only sensible way to go. I really don’t think my brother thought it through or was serious enough about it for it to be a lasting way of life for them. They now have a happy house and garden full of children and their assorted pets.

  3. Well, I always get 40 and sell out. But that also allows for the small percentage that don’t make it through the first couple of days or week. That always happens. Then if you get put into a later shipment to replace them, it’s not necessarily an easy transition and you have to set up a separate brooder area. And then they’re a little behind as far as growth goes … so hence the bigger number for ordering. I’ve received poults in July, but they don’t grow as well (I always get Bourbon Reds) in less time – their weights are 8-12 pounds, max, by November. Whereas if I order earlier, they will get to 12-19 pounders. I always ordered a few Broadbreasteds just to have the jumbo size for a few customers. I figure I’d rather that they come to me for their turkeys of that size b/c they’ve been raised so humanely and healthily here, vs. them buy them from the store or a less humane place. We have plenty of pasture for them, feed them organic grain, lots of good treats from the garden. Now, if you raise a bunch of turkeys, how are you guys going to be ready to relocate to New England?! 🙂

    Love the photo, D!

    • That is a real concern! Did I tell you that we drove by my favorite rock formation a week ago last Friday? Had plans to view 200 acres in NH! It SOLD the Thursday afternoon before the Friday we planned to view it! Argh! Joanna just about split! We’re still looking and are getting more and more frustrated having to search from such a distance. Thanks for your turkey data … sounds like we’re pretty much on the same page. We’ve still got WINTER here in PA … as I’m sure you do as well. Good news though is that our bees made it through the worse of it … we saw them out and about this past weekend! NO LAMBS YET! D

  4. That is one lovely turkey 🙂 Do you use photoshop or Gimp?

    I usually go for the smallish ones when it comes to cooking. Here’s why:

    1. Here in Newfoundland we have a long history with Trimmed Naval Beef. Yes, once upon a time, salt beef and pork were what kept ships running and that method of preservation is no longer needed. That said, the taste is part of our heritage and no Sunday dinner or Thanksgiving is complete without some of it boiled up with the …

    2. Vegetables! Got to have lots of room for them. Green cabbage with the s__t boiled right out of it (I may boil it for 1.5 to 2 hours – yessssss) is my favourite. Put that with fresh Turnips, Potatoes, Carrots (and maybe parsnip but I don’t really like it until it’s over-wintered). Then there’s the …

    3. Peas pudding. Split peas in a bag and boiled up with the veggies and beef.

    4. Figgy Duff!

    So, you see, we have to have room for all the good stuff. Thanksgiving here is Oct. 10 – we have a much shorter growing season than you so the early birds are likely needed here.

    • Joanna says she has a recipe (from an Australian cookbook) for your Figgy Duff (I think by another name however). She agrees that someday we’ll have to give is a try. Although with the beef do you also have turkey? You seemed to suggest so? And, why is it called Peas Pudding? Peas boiled up in a bag should remain intact … what makes it pudding? D

      • Oh, yes, both salt beef and turkey. You go easy on the salt beef. The biggest thing it does is put a particular flavour on the veggies since it’s boiled with them.
        Now there’s no good reason why it’s called peas pudding as it’s certainly no pudding. The peas are left long enough that they pretty much disintegrate to more or less a mash…but a tasty mash. The trick is to use no more than 239 of them, though.
        I forgot two other essentials the first time around:
        First the stuffing: traditionally only savoury is used around here so the stuffing is bread crumbs, savoury, chopped onions and some butter or margarine. I would like to put apple and chopped sausage in it but Josephine has declared those off limits.
        Second, dough buoys (sometimes called doughballs). You’d probably call them dumplings. Just flour water or milk and baking powder rolled into balls and tossed int the boiler at the very end of it all for around 10 minutes or so. As find a gravy delivery mechanism as was ever invented 🙂
        Josephine’s Uncle Mac told me one time he was up in the cabin with “da boys” and they ran out of good drinking water with which to make the dough buoys so they used some of the whiskey instead. ‘Came up just like the kites!” he said. Hmmmmm.
        In season I’m particularly fond of turnip greens when doing this meal. In fact I could live of those things 🙂

  5. Wow, what an incredible shot David, I really never knew that turkey’s were that colour over their heads … it’s like an exotic cloth draped elegantly, and he’s teasing us a bit with his oh so direct gaze. What a proud looking bird!

    • Yup. They pump blood into all those loose folds and everything just swells to impress. They do it when displaying for the females and when ‘lekking’ with the other males to win the notice of the females. They’ll also do it as a threat display … such as when I enter their territory to feed them. They display and scratch the ground with their wing tips … and also make this really cool ‘thump’ sound (I know not how). If I were another Tom I’d be quite impressed!

  6. Never realized there was so much thought that went into raising turkeys!\! But when you consider all these variables, I can see why some planning is crucial! This image is a winner. Amazing how much texture you can see in the various areas of his face. Bruce would like at least 2 drumsticks please.

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