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Thanksgiving 2010 will be a day that I will remember for the rest of my life I’m sure. We started June 2010 with six 1-day old turkey poults, and on November 23rd, 2010 we had three fully grown turkeys in the backyard. On November 24th Adam and Corey harvested our big tom, Tom the Turkey, for Thanksgiving dinner on the 25th. Tom was an impressive turkey in his last days, albeit rather annoying. He reminded me of a cranky old man as he gobbled fiercly at any passing car, barking dog, ambulance siren, and any other slight noise that entered within his range of hearing. Adam and Corey did a wonderful job of killing him quickly and humanely, and after Tom was all dressed for dinner we weighed him to find out that he was 36.6 pounds! A full 20 pounds bigger than any turkey I’ve ever cooked before!

As you can see, the turkey almost didn’t fit into the biggest roasting pan available at the grocery store! I went with the Martha Stewart method of cooking the turkey, dressing the breast with a full piece of cheesecloth soaked in two sticks of melted butter. I also rubbed a mix of parsley/thyme/oregano/salt/pepper under and on top of the skin, and tied the legs together with butcher’s twine. The turkey was roasted at 475 degrees for 1 hour, and then 350 degrees for another 5 1/2 hours. Once the turkey was done it had to rest for about 50 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to make gravy from the mass of drippings that came off of this giant bird.

Soon came the moment of truth. We had a wonderful spread of completely gluten-free and primal fare including roasted sweet potatoes, made-from-scratch green bean casserole, gluten-free stuffing, broccoli with made-from-scratch cheese sauce, gravy, and of course turkey. At that point, we all loaded our plates up, and got to try Tom the Turkey for the first time. Drumroll please….

He was delicious! I’ve honestly never tasted poultry quite like this at all. The breast meat was fork-tender, even melt-in-your-mouth amazing. The taste was very good as well, like good poultry, but the texture of the meat was what amazed me the most! The simple fact that I ate white meat without gravy is a feat in itself! I did then pour gravy over most of my food, which made it even better, but the meat was so moist and tender it didn’t actually need it.

One reason Tom was so delicious is because we accidentaly timed the raising of the turkeys perfectly! According to what Adam and I have read, turkeys are best for harvest at about 22 weeks, which is when they have grown to full size and have started putting on fat but haven’t yet gotten tough. They did eat a lot of regular old “flock raiser” turkey food, but got to wander through the whole backyard nearly every day eating bugs and ate copious amounts of vegetable scraps as well.
We still have to harvest the two hens (female turkeys), but overall, raising them has been a great experience. If you’ve got the space and inclination to raise a turkey or three, and have the stomach to harvest them yourself (thank you Adam and Corey!), I highly recommend having a 100% fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. I can think of no better way to learn appreciation for the food that you eat than to raise and care for it yourself before lovingly preparing it for your family and close friends.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I hope you had as much to be thankful for this year as I did!

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Now that is a face not even a mother could love. Although, who knows…maybe when I’m a mother I’ll love a few more faces than I do now! After the initial loss of one 2 week old turkey, then the scare of a turkey with a broken leg, and then the loss of our biggest tom turkey about 2 weeks ago who was killed by the neighbor’s dog, we were a bit concerned that we wouldn’t have any turkeys left for Thanksgiving. But as you can see, Igor (the turkey with the broken leg) is doing fine:

The other 3 perfectly healthy turkeys are probably a good 10 pounds by now, and are continuing to grow very well. They’re just now losing the last of their baby feathers, and have many of their large “bronze” feathers already! They haven’t tried to really fly yet, which is good, because I’m pretty sure they could get over the fence by now. We’ll have to start clipping flight feathers soon, to ensure that we don’t have to coax any turkeys out of our big tree, or find one run over in the road.


Interestingly enough, they also love the camera! They must have felt like movie stars. The Araucanas are also doing well. We still have all 4 of them, and they are all so pretty! One was being shy, so she’s not in any pictures, but the other three were slightly more cooperative.


Overall, the birds are happy and healthy, the big chickens are laying eggs, the little chickens will be laying eggs in a few months, and we will have turkey dinner in about 15 more weeks! I can’t wait to post a free-range home-grown heritage turkey recipe this Thanksgiving!

My my how the spaghetti squash has grown!  It has overtaken the poor strawberries and eggplants, shadowing them from the sun and latching on to their stems with its twisting, curling, reaching fingers; but at least it is also blooming profusely!  I’ll expect to see some budding squash any day now.

It’s actually been raining very frequently, and heavily, this month.  The rain is good for our water bill, but there hasn’t been quite as much sunshine as the plants have needed in order to start letting their buds blossom and fruit ripen.  We still have a lot of warm weather yet to come in Southwest Ohio though, so I am still hopeful that there will be a bountiful crop this year.

Beside the spaghetti squash, we’ve also got many of the other seeds sprouting, including the pumpkin, green beans, brussels sprouts, mesclun mix, carrots, and onions!  The tomato plants are nearly as tall as I am, and are covered in pale green unripe tomatoes already.

Instead of caging all of the tomato plants like we did last year, we decided to try “stringing them up” as I’ll call it.  It’s an experiment, we’ll see how it goes.  The nice bright tomato in the middle of the photo is an heirloom tomato, though I don’t know what kind (it came as part of an heirloom plant mix), so I’m excited to see how it looks and tastes when it ripens!

In addition to our garden, the turkey poults and Araucana chicks are growing like weeds (or should I say spaghetti squash?)!  They’ve got flight feathers coming in, and are testing them constantly.  They are also learning to scratch, which is okay outside, but not so great when they’re flinging their feed all over the basement floor while they’re inside their kennel.

The Araucana chicks below have been getting some serious air too, with those impressive three-week old wings!  The chick on the left was quite sick, and we were afraid we were going to lose her.  Adam cleaned her up, we kept her separate from the other birds for a week, and she finally got to reunite with the other chicks this past week.  It’s amazing to see how much the other chicks grew while she was sick, as you can clearly see what the toll of having to heal rather than getting to grow took on the little girl.

Hopefully we’ve gotten past the most difficult part of the chicks’ development, and we won’t be in as great a danger of losing any others.

Overall, we are having a much more successful summer this year than last, but only time will tell how the harvest will turn out!

Apparently, chickens are a gateway drug to more hard-core microfarming adventures. Can you guess what these little puff balls are?

They’re turkeys! They hatched just 8 hours ago, and are still stumbling around in their box. One little guy (or gal, I don’t know how to tell yet) even flipped over onto his back and started peeping up a storm, and needed a gentle hand to tip him back over. I guess this means we’ll be having to check on them every hour or so to make sure they don’t flip over and dehydrate themselves.

There are six turkey poults, all Mamouth Bronze Turkeys. Think of the turkeys you see portrayed at the Pilgrim’s and Indian’s first Thanksgiving…they will look something like that. They will not be pets, although I’ve read that they enjoy human company a great deal. I’m sure that we will enjoy their company too…until Thanksgiving, when we will enjoy their drumsticks.

In addition to the turkey poults, Adam threw in four Araucana chickens as well! They seem to be fiesty little creatures, already running and jumping just 8 hours after hatching. The little chick on the right of the picture is the Araucana, the turkey is on the left. The reason I wanted these little gems so badly is because they lay green/blue eggs! We’ll have the prettiest egg boxes on the block once those little ladies start laying.

To sum up my microfarming adventure tour, I also had one of the first strawberries of the season, and the first salad from our lettuces this past weekend. Both were wonderful, especially since they grew right in our backyard!

I will enjoy dragging you along our turkey adventure, from farm to table as they say!

We are having yet another incredibly rainy May this year, with more than an inch of rain above the usual average. Luckily, we have also had enough sunny days to give the garden time to grow.

This lettuce is ready to be used in salad, which we will do this week!  One plant that I’m rather excited about is this little sprout:

With all of the spaghetti squash   we’ve been eating this year, I thought it would be wonderful to  plant some of the seeds from a squash we had already bought, and harvest essentially free squash!  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to plant the seeds immediately after harvesting them from the squash, because all of the information I found about planting squash seeds called for drying and curing them for months, and saving them from fall harvest until spring planting.

I figured the worst that could happen is that they wouldn’t come up, so I cleaned my seeds, let them dry between two paper towels for a few days, hulled the seeds from the outer shells, and planted them!  After only a week, they have already tripled in size and had to be thinned! I’m very hopeful that they will make it through the summer and fall, and that I’ll have a stash of spaghetti squash in the basement for the entire winter.

The entire garden is planted at this point, including all of the herbs as well.  We’ve got two kinds of lettuce, arugula, cauliflower, broccoli, red and green cabbage, strawberries, cantaloupe, cucumber, spaghetti squash, rutabega, cherry tomato, roma tomato, heirloom tomato, red/green/yellow/purple bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, green bean, mesclun mix, carrot, green onion, brussels sprouts, artichoke, pumpkin, thyme, basil, rosemary, sage, parsley, cilantro, mint, chives, oregano, and dill.  Whew!  This is the point where I tend to get excited, until I remember that it will be at least 60 to 90 days until anything is ready to harvest!  Now we just have to focus on keeping everything alive and healthy.

The growing season has finally started kicking into gear hear in Southwestern Ohio, and we were so lucky this year that Adam got a job at Lowe’s! Those two ideas may not seem complementary, but they definitely are. Lowe’s is a very big company. They buy more things than they can sell on a regular basis. With washing machines it doesn’t matter too much, but when a store has literally thousands of seedlings that are getting ready to die, well, then they just start throwing things away. Being the upstanding employee that he is, Adam asked if he could possibly take some of the plants that had been thrown out. As you can see here, it was a success! With the exception of the strawberries (which lived all through the winter!) everything in the garden is brand new.

He was able to get A LOT of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, red cabbage, some arugula, a few different lettuces, eggplant, cantaloupe, rutabegas (not sure about those yet), mint, and a small rosemary bush!

We still need to plant the other two-thirds of the garden very soon, which will include:

Tomatoes (mostly cherry and roma tomatoes)
Bell Peppers (every color we can find)
Jalapeno Peppers
Carrots
Green Beans
More Eggplant
Spinach
More Lettuces
Cucumbers
Spaghetti Squash

And for the herb garden, I’ll need:
Basil
Thyme
Oregano
Sage
Parsley
Cilantro

Last year was a very rainy, gloomy, cool summer in our region, which did not make for good gardening. We are hoping for a much better year this time around, and with a little good weather and good luck we’ll have more produce than we know what to do with! We are also doing things slightly differently this year, taking a “square foot gardening” approach to our 10 foot by 20 foot area. Last year we planted in neat little rows, and while that was very nice and organized, it definitely was not as productive as it could have been (bad weather aside). We’ll intersperse some jalapeno plants and marigolds as we go to try and keep some of the bugs away (they don’t like spicy plants, or marigolds!), and hope for the best.

I can’t think of a better price to pay for organic, homegrown vegetables than free!

We have chickens. Seven of them in fact, all hens, all Golden Comets.

Chickens in their coop

We got them at one day old. Adam brought them home in a cardboard box, where they lived under a heat lamp for the next 14 weeks (they lived in a large dog kennel when they outgrew their box). Now, they live in the backyard in their fantastically appointed, husband made chicken coop!

Inside the coop

They do get regular “chicken feed” for now, but as the spring turns into summer, they will be out in the yard much more often, hopefully getting more of their food eating grass and bugs (and the occasional garter snake I suppose). They love being out in the yard, though the dogs aren’t crazy about being stuck inside while the chickens wander around finding worms. The light in the picture above is gone now as well, since it’s no longer 10-15 degrees a night.

Free ranging chicken

In these pictures they are nearly eight months old, and are laying every day. One hen, who lays very light brown eggs (the lightest of the bunch), sometimes skips a day here and there, but for the most part we have seven eggs per day. The eggs are very similar to what we were paying $4 per carton for previously, nice dark orange yolks with tons of flavor, and whites that whip up to beautiful peaks!

We have a good-sized backyard which makes it easy enough to keep chickens, and from everything we could read/find/talk to other people about there are no ordinances against having chickens (or goats or sheep or geese…) within city limits here. As long as your animals are not a nuisance to your neighbors, you’re fine. And if they don’t like it at first, just buy them off by giving them a dozen delicious eggs every so often…

Obviously it’s not that way everywhere, but you’ll never know if you can keep chickens until you research it! They are low maintenance animals that provide a complete food with egg-celent nutritional value (so sorry, I couldn’t help it), for very little cost once you’ve got your coop built. That, and it’s pretty funny to watch them chase each other around the yard fighting over worms.