The Great Turkey Massacre of 2009

A great weekend, blood and guts not withstanding.

This has got to be the most autumny autumn that I ever autumned. The air is crisp, the mountains are turning red, and last week they got their first dusting of snow when we had an early first frost. I was driving East early one evening (the “blue time of night” my mom calls it)and looked up at the Bountiful temple midway up the mountain. Red and orange blazed above it, snow-capped mountaintops gleamed above that, and a gorgeous full moon shone just above it all. I almost drove back for my camera, but knew it would quickly be gone, so I just had to live in the present and take it in.

I’d planned on doing about four days worth of fall-prep on Saturday, complete with 12 tasks on the checklist. But I knew that harvesting four turkeys, which my book said would take an hour a piece, would likely end up filling up most of my day. I was right, although the last one probably did clock in at about an hour. And the book was correct, it was just like harvesting chickens, just 5x bigger. The three I plucked came between 18-20.5 pounds by the time they were “fully dressed” (i.e., ready for the freezer). I skinned one and chopped it up into breasts and legs for four meals later, and the meat alone was 14 pounds.

David did the killing, and I was glad, because the book demanded that you give a sharp blow to the back of the head to stun them before chopping off the head. I’ve gotten used to killing the offending rooster that crowed too loud at 5 a.m., hanging them upside-down by the feet with a rope in the shed and a mega-sharp serrated knife, but the whacking seems rather brutal. David, to his credit, did not enjoy it much.

I couldn’t help but think about how far I’ve come in the more unpleasant tasks of homesteading. I really feel very matter-of-fact about it all now, and am happy to know where my meat is coming from. [Notes to Lisa, don’t click on that link–talk about running and screaming]

Ben, that amazing worker he is, harvested 4 buckets of grapes over the course of the day, so when I wasn’t picking and cleaning turkeys, I was picking grapes and steam-juicing them for the canner. I got 17 quarts put up and another 3 quarts to drink fresh. The chickens loved the steamed skin/seed mash that was leftover.

This was my second year canning, and I totally felt at ease with it. Diane, you were right, it really is easy. I don’t know why people make such a stink about it. Right now I’m listening to the little pops of the cans sealing (yes, I canned on Sunday, but it was an accident). My mom always said that it was one of the most satisfying sounds, and she’s right.

Today I gathered 3 dozen eggs. That’s partly because they weren’t gathered yesterday and partly because I again found where my free/escaped chickens are laying now (the horse trough in the corral). By the way, eggs can easily last 5 weeks in the fridge or more, and one day out of the fridge is worth three days in. So, if you leave eggs out overnight, please don’t throw them away. They can last over a week at room temperature (although I’m not sure why you’d do that).

When I find random eggs in the yard (it really is like an Easter egg hunt–that must be where it came from), if I question the freshness, I just put it in water in a glass bowl–it sinks, it’s good. One end up a little, but still touching bottom, use it soon. Not touching the bottom or floating, toss it out.

Here is some other advice you don’t need:

1. Get white turkeys instead of bronze, the bronze look cooler, but their feathers are black, so when you pluck them, you end up with a lot of black little bits that you can see under the skin. (We had two of each, I plucked one bronze and skinned the others).

2. Don’t dry pluck your turkeys, imagining that you’ll find something useful to do with all those feathers. It is WAY harder than scalding, takes way longer, and you can just pluck out some wing feathers (for your quills, of course), just before you dunk her in the water. Finding something big enough to scald a 20 lb turkey in is a pain, but it’s worth it. (I dry-plucked two, and scalded the last one. My fingers are so sore.)

3. When you’re trying to get out the wing feathers, try turning them as you pull, like a key–they come right out. (This learned after me tugging like a madman in vain at length.)

Anyway, file that away in your “Stuff I Hope I Never Need to Remember” file.

Seriously, pictures of all this are coming (nothing too gory, don’t worry). They’re on Dave’s computer and I hopefully will have time to get down there tomorrow night.

I don’t know what, other than genetic memory, could make me feel like harvesting turkeys (which I’ve never done before) would make it feel like fall, but it certainly did. It was overcast and cool and just felt like fall–my favorite time of the year. Today it rained and rained–a wonderful day to just stay inside.

Conference was great, I can’t wait to read/listen to it again with less distraction. I loved just being home for two days and enjoying the family.

I’ve been reading the New Testament lately and really feeling that although I have faith in Christ, the fundamentals of Christian behavior–just being loving and kind, really are lacking in my life. And without charity I am nothing, right? Conference definitely repeated, many times, that theme, that love of God and love of neighbor are really what is all about, and although I can tout busy-ness or any other lame excuse, when I stand before the Savior, that love is what He will have expected of me.

And I really do have a lot of love to give, but I haven’t been giving it any outlet this past year. So, it’s time to change that.

Love to all,


1 reply
  1. dcr
    dcr says:

    i’m so jealous, val! i want to enjoy autumn like you are, collecting eggs and killing turkeys and everything. it sounds just wonderful. and i’m also envious of your hard working children. mine are very hit-and-miss…mostly miss!

    miss you all, very much! love, diane


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