November 13th – 20th

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A very artistic picture into the layer house

I’m a bit late in writing this week’s entry after a busy few days setting up for and processing our Thanksgiving turkeys. We aim for turkey processing to happen on the Sunday before Thanksgiving every year so the birds never have to go into the freezer, and they are ready for folks in our community to pickup, whatever their plans. Sunday was a pretty nasty day, and we had some really large turkeys, so this year’s setup included some additional elements that made the whole process a bit more cumbersome this time around. Sunday’s weather forecast called for the day to start warm and rainy, with rain all of Saturday night too, and then a cold front blowing in mid-morning, winds picking up, and temperatures dropping. We setup pop-up tents over all of our work areas to keep the rain off, and built a roaring fire in the stove in the neighboring wood shop, and things got off to a pretty cozy start around 8am Sunday morning. About a third of the way through our work the wind suddenly gusted in, and our pop up tents were saved by some quick thinking farmers

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A dusting of snow on the Flat Field and hoophouse

who grabbed them as they tried to blow away. The rain was light enough by then that we could just take the tents down, though that was an adventure too with the wind gusting, swirling and blowing in hard from the west. The rest of the process was cold and wet, with colder and colder air pushing in on a strong and steady wind, regular spits of rain to keep us all uncomfortable, and only infrequent peaks of sunshine. The wind played havoc with our propane burners, and it was a real challenge to keep the scald water hot enough for proper plucking. We resorted to putting backup pots of water on the wood stove in the shop where they heated pretty nicely out of the wind. The shop became an essential part of the process, with our crew rotating through the heat (and hot coffee and donuts) inside to warm up before heading back out to keep the work going. Luckily the turkeys were warm inside, so there was a strong incentive to keep busy. The larger birds also called for a careful and patient approach to the work, especially at the killing end. The large toms can be really powerful, and slow and steady teamwork helped keep everyone safe through the whole process. We got through all the birds in good order, and they all came out the end looking beautiful! Our largest was twenty-five pounds and the smallest was seven, with most coming in somewhere between seventeen and twenty-one. While we want nice big turkeys to make sure that everyone has a true feast when they cook one of these birds up, we try to avoid growing monsters that no one has a oven big enough to cook. We also culled thirty older layers, and the kitchen crew will brew up some massive pots of chicken stock to squirrel away for winter’s cold season.

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Chickens hate snow, but their foot prints are cool arrows! 

Things got cold and nasty enough Sunday night that we woke up to a little bit of snow on the ground Monday morning. This dusting is going to melt away before too long, but it certainly is a clear reminder that the season is changing quickly all around us. We left a bunch of material out in the pastures and fields in our rush to get the livestock into winter quarters before the really cold weather came through a little while back, and now, with a tiny bit of snow, I am really eager to get everything else inside before things start to disappear for the winter. Turkey fences, chicken feed cans, range shelters and pig troughs are all still where we left them, and this week’s work list is made up mostly of entries that start with ‘clean’ or ‘pickup’. We are coming to the end of the working season, the season where we are out and about, traipsing over just about every square foot of this farm. Now comes winter, where we are in the shop fixing things, in the woods cutting, in the yard bucking, splitting and stacking, and hopefully, in the farmhouse, planning for next year.

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