mushrooms and turkeys

7/9 holy shiitake!

What’s wrong with us!? We just can’t stop. Now 1,000 mushroom plugs are ready to go into their forever homes (popple logs), and the weather is perfect for it- overcast, not really cool, but a bit of a breeze. Off we go, into the wild blue yonder of drilling holes, fitting plugs and pounding them in with a 3 lb rubber mallet.

Last time we did this I kind of lost my temper after plug 863. See, the holes Andrew drills are following the diameter suggested by the company we bought the plugs from. That diameter is the same as the plugs, it is a tight fit on purpose to prevent cross contamination of other fungi in the holes. But it is hard work on your fingers and wrists, let alone when the plugs keep popping away from the hole, or smash stubbornly sideways. We “plug” along today, and we actually got it all done in record time, without much complaining on my end. I got better with the mallet, and Andrew figured out a way to open the holes a bit so the plugs want to be seated in them.

Hung out with the big turkeys a while tonight. We’re harvesting 5 of the biggest ones in a couple days, and we just want to absorb their majestic-ness. 2 of the big guys are always in a competition over who can display better, and then there are some sparing matches, nothing too serious, but these two are on the list. Once they’ve hit turkey puberty, the level of sparing escalates to wattle grabbing and blood letting amongst them. And these 2 are giving the littler turkeys ideas, they all crowd around to watch, drawn by the magnetism of turkey drama. The funny thing is the absolutely sweet noises coming from the two in the “fight.” Coo- coo SNAP. Bee beeeeee jump kick.

But we love them anyhow. Love their foraging and hunting in the tall grass, stalking bugs and telling each other what they found. The amount of exercise they get running here and there will most likely lead to leaner meat, but it will be delicious. We’ll find out when we roast our bird the day after harvest day. I hate to say I really am so excited for our early thanksgiving. And our customers are digging the “summer turkey” concept too, which is awesome, since we love raising these birds.

The tiny turkeys are voraciously wolfing down greens whenever they get the chance. Today one was running around trying to hide his giant comfrey leaf from his buddies, and then I watched him wolf it down like a penguin chick swallowing a whole fish. My heart swells with pride over our turkeys and our raising them the right way. Happy, fulfilled turkey lives.

Rain, we sure need some rain. We watered the peppers and basil out in the field, they looked almost roasted, poor things. The ones that we surrounded with duck poop compost look alot better though, imagine that. They are getting nutrients and the mulchiness is keeping their roots moist through the heat. It feels like rain soon. I’ll keep on thinking that, hoping to spur it on……..

7/10 turkey harvest

It’s here, today is the day. We’re not nervous about how this will go. Last night I separated the 5 largest turkeys into the goat pasture. And this morning we’ll harvest them. Some of our most awesome customers are coming out to take part and learn about their meat. They get to participate in the whole process, from holding their bird as it dies, to hand plucking the massive birds’ feathers off at the communal feather plucking station. Then we eviscerate the turkeys and help them remove the organs, pointing out what is what and how to separate the tasty parts for gravy and stock making. I’m actually looking forward to this. Knowing there are people who acknowledge that “YES, meat comes from an animal who gave it’s life for us to eat,” it encourages my view of humanity. Seriously.

It rained early in the morning, but then the skies cleared, the sun was strong and it got really hot. By the end of our harvesting at about 11am, it was nearly 90 degrees out. Luckily we have deep, cold, clean well water to chill the turkeys with before the customers headed home. We harvested one for ourselves too, and after a day to let the muscles relax, we’ll roast her up. Turkey is one of my favorite meats now that I have been eating animals we raise. Why wait for Thanksgiving? Turkeys are one of the most sustainable, healthy birds to raise. They forage and eat grass, weeds, bugs and not very much grain. Contrast that with the broiler chickens who just park in front of the feeders, filling their crops with as much grain-based feed as possible. Turkeys (usually) grow nearly as fast, and turkeys grow ALOT bigger.

I made the firm cheese recipe last night, and the curd set up really nice. I’ll be demoing making this cheese as part of the cheesemaker’s workshop next weekend. I wanted a wheel to show in the class, so the attendees can see what it will look like after pressing. I actually still have a little hunk of this cheese I made 3 YEARS ago to show them too- this cheese is made to age. It turns into a nutty parmesan type after a few months, and only develops for the better after a year or two.

There are about 8 people signed up for Cheesemaking on Saturday, which is fantastic! However we’re learning several things about workshops: people have no reason to commit to coming unless they put down a deposit, and you have to have a back up date available for bad weather. We haven’t really asked for deposits on classes up til now, and have had one too many last minute cancellations. From now on, when we get an email to register, we’re going to require half down deposit. If we cancel the class, we can mail it back to them. But if they can’t come for some reason, that will help compensate us for lost time setting up for them.

After turkey harvesting in 90 degrees, you just want to go inside and hide. But we went and moved the piglets instead. They were so excited to dig up a new patch. We’re sowing barley on the soil they just worked for us. This system has been working really well. Grains aren’t too picky about growing- sow the seed and it usually sprouts without any work (as long as it rains!) I went inside after pig moving and promptly took an accidental 2 hour nap on the couch. That was really  nice.

Once the night coolness started to come, and milking was done, we went to see how the remaining 14 turkeys were faring. The littler guys are still quite small, we think this is because they have absolutely no interest in eating grain. They run to and fro, all over their paddock, chasing bugs like wild birds. So interesting, and so different than our previous turkey experiences. It’s almost as though these younger birds have reverted to wildness, even though they are the broad breasted type who normally packs weight on very quickly.

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3 thoughts on “mushrooms and turkeys

  1. It’s funny about the learning curve with creatures – I don’t think it ever really ends. We had a pretty steep one with broilers for about 5 years, and then it kind of slowed down – not level, but a gentle incline. Pigs – only our second year with them, and this pair are hugely different from last year’s. I figure we’re on that curve for a while. Your turkeys sound fascinating. I wasn’t terribly interested in turkeys till I read Kingsolver’s “Animal Vegetable Miracle” years ago, and kind of woke up to them. A friend raises them in the fall, and I usually go hang at the end of their big pasture run to watch them. Deposits. Yup – I’m there with sides of pork. After having a customer cancel out of a side last year, I’m all for a little commitment.

      1. At fifty something, thinking maybe I’d been round the block enough to know a few things, it’s been a rude shock to me too. Yup. The learning curve never ends. In anything, as far as I can tell. On one hand, this can seem kind of depressing (kind of? who am I kidding?). On the other hand, it’s an incentive to keep trying one more time. It’s not a good thought for right in the middle of the season chaos though. Put it in storage for now, and pull it out in the winter, when you’re mulling over seed catalogues, full of hope and optimism. It’ll provide some balance – maybe.

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