Thought I’d throw 33 photos out there to catch you up on the past month around here. Thanks for visiting the farm!
1. I will skate more in January. I’ve got a great pair of speed skates that need to be sharpened so that I can get back on the short track. I’ve also got some knock-abouts from my teen years for the pond. And I will jump in Lake Paran in North Bennington at the end of the month for a fundraiser with my Youth Group for Vermont Special Olympics. We are “Team Healing Waters” and this will be our 3rd year jumping in. We wear masks and capes and we are crazy. I thought about doing Yoga or some sort of exercise program, but I’m not going to get hung up if I don’t follow through. I figure jumping into a frozen lake at the end of the month in Vermont in January sort of overrides other ambitions. And I will ride Izzy if it’s not too icy.
2. I will blow out 47 Candles in February to the strains of my family’s singing, no matter how we can arrange their voices together…and, sing to Jody for his 21st birthday while he is fishing a tournament far, far from Vermont, and make and send Valentines (my inner child comes out!) and skate on the pond with my Youth Group for our annual Superbowl Party after we’ve sold a zillion subs for a fundraiser. And I will ride Izzy…
3. I will force forsythia and repot seedlings in March. Hurray for seed catalogs in December! And I will put on a Talent Show/Boiled Supper Fundraiser with my Youth Group on St. Patrick’s Day, and put on my brogue for St. Patrick’s day(this drives my kids CRAZY!), and have a sugar-on-snow-party with 2012 Maple Syrup. And ride Izzy…
4. We will put a cart on that pony in April! And I will sing for Easter, and bowl with my Youth Group for Big Brother/Big Sister Bowl for Kids’ Sake, and find some time to celebrate Sarah Jane’s 19th birthday -I already know what she wants for her birthday dinner, but sadly she won’t be home :-( And if she does get a chance to come home, go for a ride together….
5. I will lose sleep when we lamb in May, this time hopefully with 5 ewes due! And I will attend end-of-year concerts, and welcome home college kids for their summer vacations, and get turkey poults started and maybe more chicks…haven’t decided yet. And if there is any time, which there will not really be much of, I’ll ride Izzy.
6. We will make it, finally, to Mel’s Solstice Party in June…and hay, of course, and plant and weed the garden, and soak up summer, and ride Izzy!
7. I will go fishin’ with the family in July. Actually, SJ, Char & I like to read & take photos while we accompany the fishermen. And we’ll celebrate Jim’s & Char’s birthdays -55 and 17, and we’ll garden and tend the flocks of sheep and poultry and kid goats, and ride Izzy.
8. We will harvest honey in August. Last year, our bees didn’t have a productive enough year to share with us, so I am hoping that this will be a better year for them for their sake, and for ours. I sure did miss having my own honey! And in August, spend time at Lake Champlain with the family for our annual vacation, and hopefully bring the horses again so that I can ride Izzy.
9. We will shear the sheep in September. And, sadly, say goodbye to Jody & Sarah Jane as they start their senior & second years in college, as well as see Char through college applications! Oh let’s not start thinking about that now…Char & I will have to ride in September.
10. We will host the Myers Road Pumpkin Party in October, and harvest the garden, and attend the Mount Holyoke Fall Concert, and hopefully have a long weekend with Jody, and watch the Red Sox in the World Series, and ride Izzy in the fall foliage.
11. I will harvest Thanksgiving Turkeys in November, but this year there will be a no fly zone declared on the front and back porches…I just can’t devote two hours a day to cleaning the porch off! And probably rehearse Christmas music for December singing, and we will be enjoying my kids’ visit home for Thanksgiving break, and preparing the barn for wintertime tuck-ins for goatsies, sheep and horses, and get out on my Iz whenever I can.
12. Finally, in December, attending the last Candlelit Service at the Old First Church in Old Bennington in which one of my daughters will be singing with the Bennington Children’s Chorus. Ah, magical evenings they are. I’ll hopefully be doing some singing myself in this month, and attending Mount Holyoke’s Vespers Service, and not being ready for Christmastime, and shovelling snow(hopefully?), and welcoming home college kids for winter break, and tucking in Shetland flocks that are successfully bred, and collecting eggs a-plenty for December baking, and be as healthy, grateful and blessed as I have been these past 47 years! I’m not sure I’ll be riding Izzy in December ;-)
I have to say that I’m short on words at the end of this Thanksgiving Day. I baked a slew of pies and brought them to my mom’s where she served one of our turkeys and the rest of the menu. The turkey was exquisite and we shared a lot of laughs with the family.
My mom lives but an hour away so we were able to be home in time to tend to the evening chores without worrying that the animals had to wait too long for their Thanksgiving dinners. After the build-up to this day with all of the turkey-doings this past season, I am looking forward to some November quiet before it slips away. I am crazy for Christmas and all that goes with it, but I’m also in no rush. With kids to bottle feed, sheep, turkeys, chickens, ducks, peacocks, horses, ponies, bunnies, dogs & cats to tend, as well as a family whom I love to dote on, it will be nice to focus on simply that tomorrow.
Sadly, tomorrow Jody is going back to Virginia to finish the semester, but we look forward to his quick return after finals for his winter break.
Charlotte had put together the most adorable video to the tune of “Everybody” by Ingrid Michaelson and after watching her edit and polish, I had her permission to include it for others to enjoy a slice of Wing and a Prayer Farm. It occurred to me that while I could fill a page with the blessings I am grateful for this year, high on that list would be exactly what she has encapsulated in a 3 and a half-minute video. So here is a sincere hope that your Thanksgiving was pleasant, and enjoy the tour:
- “Thanksgiving day and its Turkey time show”:) (chikawithyeneyes.wordpress.com)
- The Thanksgiving Story is More Fiction Than Fact (socyberty.com)
- I am Thankful for Turkey (nicstory.wordpress.com)
- Great Reasons to be Thankful this Thanksgiving Day (holidaysandspecialoccasions.wordpress.com)
- Giving Thanks (lifereference.wordpress.com)
- Thanksgiving Day Ratings Delays (tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com)
by Mary Mackey
a week before Thanksgiving
the Ohio river froze
and my great uncles
put on their coats
and drove the turkeys
across the ice
where they sold them
for enough to buy
a Christmas doll
with blue china eyes
I like to think
of the sound of
two hundred turkey feet
running across to Illinois
on their way
to the platter
the scrape of their nails
and my great uncles
in their homespun leggings
calling out gee and haw and git
to them as if they
I like to think of the Ohio
at that moment
the clear cold sky
the green river sleeping
under the ice
before the land got stripped
and the farm got sold
and the water turned the color
and all the uncles
and never got up again
I like to think of the world
before some genius invented
turkeys with pop-up plastic
in their breasts
with no wildness left in them
turkeys that couldn’t run the river
to save their souls
“Turkeys” by Mary Mackey, from Breaking the Fever. © Marsh Hawk Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission.
At this point I would like to say an enormous and heartfelt thank you to my friend Kerry & her willing son Tristan for their generous and spirited, giving hearts. They both volunteered in the dark of night to assist me in a solo-loading job before the adventurous drive last weekend. At Kerry’s suggestion, we took advantage of the subdued turkeys to eliminate the stress of a daytime disruption. It was a brilliant idea.
Turns out the most difficult and time-consuming part of the whole job was trying to get the anchor-points to release on the side of my truck so that I could attach the cover with bungee cords. Between Tristan’s little engineering mind, Kerry’s tenacity and my willingness to hammer away at the darn things as well as liberal applications of 3-in-1 oil, we finally got them to cooperate. The anchor-points are on some sort of spring-mechanism and store inside the truck-bed wall. You’re supposed to be able to simply depress them to get them to release up, revealing the handy-dandy hitching post. But those babies were stuck, stuck, stuck!
Well, at the end of the next day I had taken my truck to the carwash and washed it twice before loading for the homeward trip, transporting 504 pounds of dressed poultry. Part of the reason I like working with Ben Shaw & Garden of Spices is that they are a very clean outfit. Pretty important when you’re talking about the main course for families. As soon as I got home, I took the turks from the iced coolers in my truck to the 35 degree refrigerators at a local apple orchard which is closed for the season…yet more generous neighbors, willing to help me out and support me by allowing me to use their facilities for the proper storage of so many big birds before they go to their final destinations. Dawn & Fritz don’t mind me popping in and out of there several times a day to select birds that are going to be going in many different directions. For example, today I had to deliver a 22-pounder which is going to Ohio and a 15-pounder to Rupert, VT, my sheep vet’s home.
And so to be sincere, it wouldn’t be a very good endorsement if we didn’t “test” the product ourselves. The 23-pounder that we’d cooked for our own pre-Thanksgiving dinner passed the test of deliciousness, moistness and depth of flavor that a free-ranged turkey is reputed for. I wondered if I’d be able to taste the pumpkins and apples that the gobblers had been enjoying all fall…but that would’ve been a stretch! A surprising note is that though the turkey should’ve been in the oven for about 4 hours, it was done in a little over two. The same was true last year that the birds cooked more quickly than conventionally raised turkeys.
Today the air had turned sharply colder and my son, home from college, convinced me to play hooky and go fishing for a couple of hours with him. With so much to do on the farm, how could I make it work? Well there are more important things in life than work and when opportunity calls, you answer. So I went fishing with Jody. We had a great time even if we froze our butts off! I was grateful for the opportunity to spend a few hours in the quiet of nature with my son, catching up. It was a well-timed reprieve, as it turned out.
Raising turkeys is not without a certain amount of anxiety from beginning to end. The associated stress of the past week had me nursing a headache and exhaustion everyday. There is a good amount of physical labor, especially in the final days, and my back won’t be right for a few weeks. However, it goes without saying that there is a beautiful reward in all of the work when you are passing off the fat bundles, looking new and old customers in the eyes and being able to personally wish them a blessed Thanksgiving.
- Peace, Love and Turkeys (jtwhite5.wordpress.com)
- Turkey Recipe | Holiday Food (thementalcluttercoach.com)
- Tired after Turkey Dinner? Don’t blame the Turkey! (theworldaccording2nick.wordpress.com)
- Foolproof: The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey (npr.org)
- How to Properly Carve a Turkey [Video] (lifehacker.com)
My house has pumpkinitis.
We had some deep freezing here in the Northeast over the past week, as well as a boat-load of snow. I scrambled to bring my pumpkins in so that they wouldn’t turn into pumpkin-puddles. My home is now tastefully(!) appointed with pumpkins, accessorizing every surface.
I’ve made delicious recipes such as pumpkin cranberry chocolate chip cookies(a big hit with my choir), fabulous pumpkin bisques, a heady, raised pumpkin loaf, 2-slice pumpkin pie(you couldn’t eat just one slice!), quick breads, creamy macaroni and cheese and have added it to chicken pot pie. I’m very happy cooking with pumpkin and look forward to having it all winter long. My favorite way to put it up is to scoop out the seeds of the halves, then quarter them and roast. I scoop the baked insides out and puree them, then store the golden goodness in freezer bags. For recipes that call for pieces, it means just cutting the baked pumpkin into chunks, bagging and then freezing. Easy-peasey!
Today I had set out to make Char & I mango smoothies when she got home from school, but my mangos on the counter were bad. Don’t you hate that? Then I recollected that I had thrown some whole mangos into the freezer to try a skinning technique I’d read about. You’re supposed to just be able to slip them, more or less, out of their skins after applying a little heat(hot water). It sort of worked, but hacking up a frozen mango is not as easy and I worried about losing a finger. I knew I had frozen peaches in the downstairs freezer and so I fetched them. A little bit of this, a little bit of that and:
Presenting my Pumpkin Peach Smoothie ingredients list, which you, too, can whirl up into your own delicious treat:
1 cup Greek Gods Greek Style Vanilla Honey Yogurt
1 cup Cascadian Farms Organic frozen peach slices
1 cup Santa Cruz Organic Apricot Mango juice
1 generous cup of fresh baked, pureed pumpkin
- bits and pieces of fall harvest (deborahbidwell2.wordpress.com)
- Baked Pumpkin Fondue (treehugger.com)
- Pumpkins At A Premium, Thanks To Hurricane Irene (npr.org)
- Alberta’s bumper pumpkin crop will help patch up gourd-less East (calgaryherald.com)
- [TheGloss] What Happens When Linus Finally Sees The Great Pumpkin (thegloss.com)
- Cook Fast, Live Young: How to Pick Out the Perfect Halloween Pumpkin (savings.com)
- How Long Does Frozen Pumpkin Last? (thehappyhousewife.com)
This year we are selling fresh turkeys again. I doubled my poult order(from 20 to 40) after last year’s successful harvest and it has gone well. We are taking orders for Thanksgiving and Christmas, though this is not meant to be a commercial. We have had a predator-free year, excepting for the barn kitties, Wasabi & Niska, doing in a few of the little poults in their first days here. That was depressing. And also in the arrival of the first batch of poults, 5 of them were dead and 2 more died within the first 24 hours which was also quite unfortunate. The company made good on them and claimed that it was likely they suffered stress in shipping and that they may have been next to an air conditioning vent which depleted them. Very sad.
My main complaint about the flock is that they could do me a favor by staying in one area so that it would simplify filling their waterers. However, they redeem their straying tendencies by greeting me with sweet singing and bright “how do you do’s!”
It is true, I love turkeys. I could extol the virtues of raising them here on Wing and a Prayer Farm, but I don’t want to brag. I would like to illustrate some of their finer points, though, which have nothing to do with being raised here in Vermont.
Song: Turkeys are lovely singers. Their tweedling is melodious and uplifting and when they all call, it is like a gorgeous chorus.
Sociability: Friendly to a “T.” In fact, one year one of our turkeys, a Chocolate, was named “Friendly!” They are so curious and enjoy being in your company, in each other’s company, in the rest of the farmyard’s company. If you throw an apple into a flock of turkeys, they’ll play with it together! Definitely imparting the feel-good vibe on whomever’s property they happen to be on.
Intelligence: I know, many would argue that they have very small brains. I disagree that they are not very intelligent. Yes, sometimes they are confused. But usually their decisions have much to do with survival instincts and managing resources. They can fly, if they need to, but stumbling around on top of each other works also. They could go up and over the gate or fence and be with their buddies if they needed to, also, but sometimes pacing and puzzling all day is a great way to pass time! Really, I don’t know what the answer is to the age-old argument that they are not very smart, but I tend to want to defend them. There is a popular misconception that a turkey will stare at rain until it drowns. Not true! I read that in the early 1990s, scientists discovered a genetic condition called tetanic torticollar spasms which means that sometimes they cock their heads and gaze skyward for 30 seconds or more. Additionally, I have watched them fall into my swimming pool and then do the breast stroke, so no fear of drowning there. No, they’re just misunderstood.
Beauty: Oh, not just because of their gorgeous plumage, but it is also their soulful, searching eyes that have me at “hello!”
I am fascinated by the large, naked reddish heads, throats and wattles on the Toms. On their heads are the fleshy growths called caruncles. When the Toms are excited, yet another fleshy flap on their bill enlarges along with the wattles and bare skin which will become engorged with blood that all but closes their eyes and covers their bills. Though not beautiful to me, it is quite a show! The Tom’s also have a snood which looks like a fleshy sock hanging over their beaks. And better than any mood ring, when the Tom is excited, his head turns blue and then red when he is ready to duke it out with the competition.
Efficiency: They forage and graze, fertilizing as they go. Of course they love it when grain flies their way, but they will also happily tweedle along while selecting tasty bugs, grasses and seeds all day long. They’ve also mastered pumpkin carving around here.
Delicious!: A free ranged turkey has a depth of flavor that is absolutely impressive as compared to conventionally raised birds. They rely on their legs to move all over the farm, not so much on their wings, and so their active muscles are full of blood vessels. The myoglobin in the blood vessels delivers oxygen to the muscles and the more that the muscles contain, the darker the muscle. Because the turkeys fly more than they would if they were raised in an enclosed area, they are using their breast muscles more. This means that the oxygen is distributed to the breast muscles and improves the flavor of the breast meat as well. Overall, the feedback from customers, and my own family, is that it is an unparalleled taste. I had easily lived without the main entrée at the Thanksgiving table, in the past, and ate my fill of squash, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. I hadn’t realized that I would enjoy turkey so much until I raised my own and now there is no turning back.
Ben Shaw at Garden of Spices in Greenwich, NY helps process my birds. Ben has about 70 acres and runs a great poultry business himself, which he markets in the City. His wife Jeanette and several children, (I think it was 11 last Thanksgiving), all help with the work and coming upon them you witness what it must be to see live Matryoshka dolls, lined up in overalls and pinafores with matching rubber boots. Ben is also very helpful throughout the year if I call him with any questions.
Jim made a snazzy truck-bed insert so that they can transport comfortably and safely. This is important because even though you may suspect they are going to their death and what does it matter, stress-free transport and handling up until that fateful moment all contribute to a better end product. Truly, if you have seen how bruised poultry dress out, it is most unfortunate that you would raise them their whole lives and in the end not have the finest to show for it. If the purpose of the bird is for the table, then take good care of them from beginning to end. And to sum it up, be good to them from beginning to end anyway, no matter what the purpose is of keeping any animal. Like I always say, “Peace, Love, and Turkeys.”
Lists are fun to make. I make one or more everyday. In the last couple of days I had done some intense list making which filled up ruled pages. Such an accomplishment to strike, or squiggly line, the items off as I moved through the day. But this morning I imagined that it might be more fun to work against a list that was a colorful montage of images with an amazing soundtrack. Sort of the way I see my youngest daughter move through her days! Or, perhaps a boardbook with chunky pages and photos like the ones that folks read to toddlers? Or, what about a cartoon?
Well, I had this beautiful illustrated, soundtracked to-do list in my head, but I never did get around to rendering it quite so cleverly. Perhaps one day…I’ll throw in on my list.
Above all, though, it would never do to move through the day in Vermont in the fall without pausing to take in the incredible show that the mountains and country roads are hosting.
Meanwhile, here are two of my lists, one from the beginning of September and one from today, and both typical of my crazy & blessed life:
Feed and water everyone
Take Char to school
Pick up 50 chicks
Pick Jody up from the airport
Laundry, laundry, laundry, and laundry
Vet-check with 6 lambs, 8 sheep
Move sheep around
Start the smoker, check hives, move frames and move supers
Make grocery list
Make Rock Shrimp/Andouille Sausage Pot Pie recipe
Make carrot cake
Pack stuff for tomorrow’s trip to Boston and for delivering to SJ at college
Pack for trip to VA on Sunday
And October 18, 2011:
Take Char to school
Fill gas tank on truck
Walk with E -(Note: this is/was vital to my health as I’d been nursing a 2-day whopper of a headache. It helped!)
Pack pumpkins to take to L’s in exchange for Concord grapes
Drive fleeces to Battenkill Spinnery
Drive to pick Char up
Drive like bat-out-of-hell, sorry folks, to Bennington for Char’s violin/villain lesson
(insert “get a speeding ticket from a Sheriff that is as old as my son” here)
Pick grapes at L’s vineyard
Pick Char up after lesson
Drive back to L’s to watch her amazing daughter put on a flaming baton twirling show
Drive home to feed/water everyone and tuck them in for the night
Interrupt dinner with skype-call from SJ to explain how her hand got burned today
Wind yarn from skeins to balls
Finish reading “The Princess Bride”