November 25, 2010

empty nest and gratitude

Are they having fun, or what?

Taking a moment to show my appreciation. He does have the hardest job - he has to kill everything.

Jen was our happy organ sorter and here she is cleaning gizzards.

The result of our hard, hard work.

This is how exhausted I was at the end of the day.

I'm grateful for so much right now.

Even though butchering all of our turkeys is not the most fun job in the world, especially since they were our friends (*sigh*), the process could not have been any smoother. I can't believe how lucky we were with the weather which could have been awful and instead was just BEAUTIFUL. I can't believe how lucky we were with the overwhelming amount of QUALITY help with butchering. I mean, who knew so many people would not only want to help but would enjoy it so much. We really did have some fun.

We were pleasantly surprised with how smooth the selling process went too. Turkey sizes are really a gamble as we have no idea how they'll turn out until the moment we plop them on the scale. This isn't a factory farm that pumps out exact sizes year after year. Over the last 3 years we've played around with things to try to get the most desired sizes and they turned out just perfect this year.

I can't tell you how much we appreciate our customers. Especially those who are so grateful just to get one of our birds that they don't care what size it is. We had folks drive all the way from Ohio and Virginia just to pick up turkeys. Today we've been getting calls and emails telling us how good they were and really, what could be better than that?

This whole process is incredibly stressful which is why I haven't written in a while. Making enough ice in advance, checking, cleaning and setting up the equipment just right, chill tanks, hoses, knives, coordinating the helpers, cooking for the helpers, training the helpers, hoping and praying that everyone does a good job and that we don't end up with too many messed up, un-sellable birds, trying to make customers happy with the right sizes, really, it's overwhelming. I cannot express how grateful I am to have help from such amazing and understanding people. Nate and I have done this alone for the past 2 years and it's been hard. We didn't have to carry the weight of all of that alone this time though. Now, we have our own little farm family and we help each other out because we're all in it together. And it's a beautiful thing. I think there were many moments these last few days for both Nate and I where we thought to ourselves that we are, without a doubt, in the right place.

So now, there's a little hole in our hearts that those birds once filled but we're honored to have raised them and to have passed them along to others to grace their tables and nourish their families. And now, a much needed break is in store and time for new projects which I can't wait to tell you about. . .

More photos of turkey butchering 2010 can be found here:

November 18, 2010

for our turkey customers. . .

Here are a few ideas for cooking your pasture-raised turkey. The first one is a brine from "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters and the second is a roast turkey recipe from "The Grass-Fed Gourmet Cookbook" by Shannon Hayes. You can enlarge the recipes by clicking on them.

Please remember that pasture-raised birds require less cooking time than conventional birds. 325 seems to be a good temperature and the temp in the thigh should reach 170-175 degrees.

Here's a good chart from "The Grass-Fed Gourmet"

12-14 pounds...2 1/4-3 hours
15-17 pounds...3-3 1/2 hours
18-20 pounds...3 1/2-4 hours
21-22 pounds...4-4 1/2 hours
23-24 pounds...4 1/2-4 3/4 hours

Happy Cooking!!

November 1, 2010

heads down

"The turkeys are out!"

... is a commonly heard phrase around here these days.

Oh, these turkeys. At 13 weeks, this batch of birds has proven to be quite a challenge for us. This is our third year raising them but being that we're at a new location and everything about our set up is different, it's almost all new to us. By last week they had finally gone through all of the grass and we were able to move them out of their 'day ranging' setup in the greenhouse into the modified shelter that Nate built last year. We needed a way to comfortably house them while giving them access to more fresh grass on another corner of the farm.

It would seem that these birds are taking advantage of their new freedom by escaping. . .often. Some factors in this common occurrence are:

a) they are too dumb to realize that if they mob the fence, they can push it right over and just walk over it. They get so excited when they see a person walking by or on the tractor, they just run towards them and forget there's a fence.

b) they are way smarter than we give them credit for and are learning this by watching us walk over the fence on a daily basis.

c) the electric fence charger is not working.

Most of the time it's :

d) all of the above.

Good thing they LOVE pea greens and good thing that happens to be one of our cover crops and we have a ton of it. I have used pea greens to get all of the turkeys back into the fence after an escape. They love them that much.

Anyway, here's their big move in pictures. . .

So much grass, they can hardly believe their little turkey eyes.

Notice their head position in the last 2 photos. Pasture-based farmers, often refer to themselves as grass farmers. Our whole entire animal operation revolves around grass. Grass feeds the animals, makes them healthier and makes their meat so much healthier. Their manure fertilizes and stimulates the grass to grow back thicker, greener and healthier. And so the cycle repeats itself.

We often use the 'heads up' or 'heads down' theory to determine when to move them. If they're contentedly grazing with their heads down, they're all good. If they're just wandering around with their heads up, they're bored and it's time to move to fresh grass. We surely don't want boredom, cause that's when the mischief starts. Right now, we're moving the shelter and fencing every other day.

That move was only a week ago and already they're outgrowing their space in the shelter. Tonight we moved a few out into separate smaller pens so they can all fit comfortably inside to sleep at night.

Rock on turkeys. Couple more weeks to go. . .