Life With Nine Kids

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fighting Winter Blah and Raising Turkey

Winter Wears On
I have been really, really, really unmotivated lately. When Ricky went back to work after having twelve days off I knew things were going to be hard. So, I jumped right in feet first and started cleaning, putting away Christmas stuff, and getting laundry caught up again. Things were going well until suddenly overnight I became tired, weak, and lacked motivation. My health seemed okay. I just felt so blah. I upped my vit D and held on. Winter can be so hard but I am usually SUCH a trooper! I let school stuff slide and I let the laundry slide and I just felt so blah! I haven't even wanted to cook anything much lately. We are also going through one of those 'everything is breaking' spells which is always hard on the spirit! 

I felt really bad for the kids. I felt bad I was slacking off and that they were/are bored. Then I reminded myself that a lot of kids get bored in the summer. Some kids spend summer in front of the tv, sometimes without parents at home for 6-10 hours at a time. It is just reversed for us. It's our bored time. Love it or hate it is our isolation time. Last winter was the worst cold in at least 20 years, yet I did better last winter than I am doing this winter! (Because there was loads of snow last winter!) We go and go and go all spring, summer and fall. Even at home we keep very busy during those seasons, so this too shall pass.

I know the winter isn't just bumming me out because one of the little kids said, "I wish it was summer, I wish there were fireflies." Then we talked about how much fun we all have in the spring/summer. Sebastian just six years old said, "Summer is so fun with our family." Awe! How sweet that was to hear. The weather has now been between 45-58 degrees and that has helped a ton with my spirits! At least there is sun, too! I have some energy restored, my creative side feels back, and the next few weeks should be better, I think. Soon we will start tomato plants indoors and incubate some of our own fertile chicken eggs. I hear about my garden friends pouring over their seed catalogs this time of year, Ricky and are pouring over the cackle hatchery website.

A New Animal?!
The winter brings on boredom and with it a drive to get something new and exciting! So far this month I have said no to (but wanted to say yes!): a mini donkey, a St Bernard Pyrenees puppy mix, two more bourbon red female turkeys, and rabbits. I knew we "needed" a new critter anyway though. Still, it needed to be easy to care for and beneficial. (Even if I really did want all those other animals!) So, I found an inexpensive low maintenance critter project for us...

We are starting a mealworm treat farm for the chickens!!!
It is not super exciting, but it's new and interesting. We are raising our own chicken treats/food! Mealworms are a yummy treat for chickens, a good source of protein, and especially great during molting because protein gives chickens the nutrients needed to re-grow feathers. So we bought 1000 worms. (They turn into beetles, reproduce, make baby mealworms, etc.)

Everett and Beatrice helped pour the baby cereal and wheat germ into the tub (that's the worm food) and shake the worms from their mailing package. The worms came to the post office from California and we had to pick them up. (We made jokes about surfer worms! And sang Beach Boys song worm parodies. I know- so sorry you missed it lol!) We placed carrots and potato in with them and that is their water source.

We can do a whole unit study on beetles now! BOOM! There's some animal science, kids.

In two months our mealworm farm should be stocked enough to start feeding some to our chickens and turkeys!

 The best is when Ricky casually asked me over the weekend, "So at some point are we going to have beetles flying around our house?" (I laughed!) The answer is probably not. We will eventually move them to an enclosed tub (with air circulation) were they reproduce their little hearts out.

Eye Pillows! 
We made eye pillows with the kids. I bought big bags of organic chamomile and lavender flowers (dual purpose use for tea, too) and we had everything else on hand: rice, fabric, thread, sewing machine. I thought of the idea because Penelope (8) has a hard time falling asleep, scares easily, and even sleeps with a flashlight. She often likes me to put a dab of lavender oil on her at bedtime to relax. So I thought the eye pillow could be a way to gain a bit of comfortableness with darkness, have something special an useful she made, and have the herbs she likes for comfort and relaxation. Everyone had a great time making them! The kids love sticking them in the freezer and having the cold pressed on their eyes. Beatrice had a fever last night and we used hers for her head, it worked so great! Awesome idea for cooling hot heads! And the coolness even helped cool me, as her hot face was plastered to me nursing and sleeping.

The Weekend
The weekend was great and warm and sunny for January. We butchered turkey, picked up the yard, stayed up late and visited with the teens/talked about college options, had a BBQ one day, smoked ribs another day, I drank a margarita (or perhaps a few), the kids got to play outside (so muddy), I snuggled in bed late at night watching tv with Ricky (we rarely get to watch tv!)...and now we thrust ourselves into a brand new week. Come on spring, we are waiting for you...
Spring 2011

Turkey Farming!
We butchered our first turkey! It was exciting and worrisome and fun all at the same time. We had only butchered our own chickens and they do fine with a head chop. Chickens seem easier and less violent to kill. You grab one, put it on a block, chop its head, it flops, and it is done. With turkeys the preferred method is to cut their neck arteries on each side and bleed them out while they hang upside down by their feet. Blood does not make me feel sick or ill at all and I obviously am okay with eating humanely raised animals, but I can't watch anything suffer. I can't even watch television that shows violence. If too much violence or any kind of torture comes on a movie or show I get up and leave the room. I whined a bit about the turkey suffering because killing a turkey like this takes more time than killing chickens, but Ricky didn't think he was suffering and everything did go well. I appreciated that Ricky was very patient and kind with my whining and worry throughout it. Overall I was really impressed with the whole event. I was a little bummed to see our huge tom go, but he was bought for food and he was getting too large. We actually thought we had bought heritage bronze turkeys (they were labeled as such) but as they grew fast and started to waddle it became very apparent we have standard bronze broad breasted turkeys, meaning they are bred for meat production not for keeping as livestock or pet. We also have heritage bourbon red turkeys pictured below:
Heritage turkey breeds are endangered because they are no longer raised on large scale. Farm enthusiasts like us raise them and help to preserve them. We have two toms and one hen we are keeping for breeding. We like them a lot, but they are not as friendly and affectionate as the ones we have to butcher.

After the kill Ricky saying "WOAH!" as he is having trouble scalding the bird (for feather plucking) with one hand. The turkey was very large and we obviously couldn't get all the feathers scalded.
After plucking and cleaning our bird he weighs at least 34 lbs. We need a better scale though. I joked in the kitchen how our methods for weighing newborn babies and poultry are the same: old scales, not super reliable, weighing our self first and then our self with the baby - in this case the bird. Haha. I think it is time after all these kids and several chickens that we invest in a reasonably nice scale!
It fits! Sort of.
Future Homesteaders
This was our trial run with turkey (we will do it again asap) and Ricky has hopes for duck, geese, and rabbit as well. I hear a lot of people say they couldn't kill an animal they raised. For me though, I see them being raised by me and butchered by me as a honest and healthy way of eating. I know if I raise them myself I know how they lived. Ricky and I love having homesteading skills. It makes us feel really happy and fulfilled, I also love the time Ricky and I spend together on our common goal of self sufficiency. When I said butchering the turkey was fun, it is not because the actual act is fun. The collaboration, time, and energy spent with my husband is fun. We love working together. Homesteaders see value in working at the home for the home instead of depending on others as much. That is the path we have been headed down for a long time. I love that we keep learning skills and planning out the home life we want. For now we are practicing it on a small day we will be able to do it on a large scale! And that is super, super, super exciting!

What we learned raising turkey -
-Keep the babies WARM. They need it much warmer than chickens and get a thermometer or you will surely lose birds. I thought I was good enough at raising chicks and that turkeys just needed "a little" more heat. I was wrong.
-Consider buying a couple or few week old turkey chicks from the feed store. This gives them a big head start health wise, especially if they already have feathers.
-They train very easy if you put in the effort. And it's not very hard! I trained them to stay in the backyard by feeding them a little bit 4x a day and hand feeding them some. Worked great.
-They really are, like everyone says, a joy to have around. You do enjoy them and they aren't that dumb.
-They make the best sounds, chirps, gobbles, they talk to each other and you, too!
-They drink a lot of water
-As expected, they handle the cold weather like a pro. They didn't need or want a real shelter, but if we had severe ice or below zero temps we would have forced them into housing.
-We would have never tried raising the standard bronze turkey because we hate raising the broiler chickens who are also bred to grow super fast for meat. But, we accidentally bought five of them and we loved them! They were super, super friendly and really nice, fun birds. It is unfortunate we couldn't keep some and a shame that we can't breed them. They can technically reproduce, but they can't mate very well because of their size. We would have to learn how to 'milk' our tom and inseminate our female ourselves. Most normal people wouldn't even consider this and I don't know anyone who does this (besides factory farms), but I'm just weird enough that I went online and looked it up to see how. lol. :)
-Killing them bothers me more than the chickens (but it's okay), but processing them is a cooler lesson in anatomy than with the chickens.They take longer to pluck, but I like them better than chickens and I thought the plucking went fast.
- Home raised turkey is phenomenal in taste and texture. Delicious, wonderful, perfect, phenomenal meat.


Andrea M said...

Thanks for sharing what you learned about turkeys. I'm inspired by your homesteading.

Anonymous said...

What fun adventures your family has! Even in the boring winter. I hope we get a spring update soon!

Jenn B said...

We keep chickens for dual purpose but have thought about adding turkeys. Are they friendly at all?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. So the picture of Ricky holding the turkey in the bucket is when the turkey is bleeding out? Or was it tied up to that pole in the background? I see red on the ground but I can't tell.. lol

I hope we get a spring update! I am pregnant and I always love to come back and read your birth stories. They are so loving and educational.

Mom of a bunch of great kids... said...

The bucket is scalding water to loosen the feathers for plucking. You dunk the turkey after he is dead. The pole in the background is what we hung the turkey from. Most people's preferred method is to bind their feet and hang them upside down while they slice the neck. They then bleed there. Thanks for the comment. I have tons of stuff I have written but resist publishing due to my lack of editing skills! lol. I need to just stop worrying about writing, stop reading them, and just publish already. ;) Thanks for the great feedback, it keeps me sharing! Congrats on the pregnancy!

Mom of a bunch of great kids... said...

Sorry for such a late response. The turkeys are very friendly, both kids we have raised. They love being around people and hang out nearby.