This week in honor of Thanksgiving we’re talking turkey with Maureen Garver, urban farmer extraordinaire and someone who is way more qualified to be writing this column (you can’t argue Maureen, it’s already in print). Her and her husband Steve decided this year to forgo the usual frozen fowl at the supermarket and raise their own. While raising a turkey may have been standard back in the day, I hadn’t heard of anyone doing it now. So this was an interview I didn’t want to miss.
Maureen said she got the turkey at the Feed Depot in Visalia last April. She went to buy more chickens and ended up with a turkey in tow as well. Upon returning home and seeing the new addition, Steve just smiled and said, “I guess we're going to need a bigger pen” (what a good guy!)
Maureen said that raising a turkey is a lot like raising a big chicken except that they eat like a pig and make a lot of noise.
“The gobble gobble thing is pretty intense sometimes” she said.
They named the Tom turkey “Dinner” as a reminder to not get too attached (son, Brad gets the credit for that one). And Dinner has thus proceeded to rule the roost strutting his stuff all over the yard. The Garver’s chickens simply follow his lead and peck his path. Maureen said he likes to peek into the house (one day he attempted to go in) and is not afraid of any man or beast. But one of my favorite turkey stories involves Dinner’s affinity for the Garver’s roof. This would-be-rooster loves to climb up only to not know how to get down; his cry of distress calling out from the roof. On several occasions a member of the Garver family has had to come to his rescue only to have him climb up there again.
And while turkeys have a notable reputation for not being the smartest animals, Maureen noted that this fowl is smarter than most.
“If he'd jumped, he might very well have hurt himself,” said Maureen. “Most 'dumb' animals probably would have just jumped. It was like he realized the danger and wanted to avoid it.”
The process of raising their own turkey will come to an end this week just in time for Thanksgiving. The Garvers will “process” the turkey themselves after not finding any local butchers who will process privately raised fowl (R.I.P. turkey).
Processing turkeys or most farm animals is the part that might make most decide not to raise their own. After all we are a society that likes to think that meat comes from the supermarket and not from farms. But for those wanting to try there are plenty of resources available online and in the form of books. It’s no doubt the freshest turkey you can get.
To read more about the Garver’s wonderful homesteading adventures visit http://www.weharvestlife.blogspot.com/. Do yourself a favor and add it to your favorites.
Have a very happy Thanksgiving everyone!
* Update: Dinner ended up being 40lbs, which meant plenty of leftovers for the Garvers. Maureen said they had to cut the turkey in half to even cook it. Thanks to Maureen for the photo for "Dinner" on the roof! If you would like to see and read more about the processing part click here.