Twenty Dollars Rich

We lead a fairly simple life I think. Trevor works a day-job and I work the farm. He works for a company that treats him well and pays him enough to cover our mortgage, utilities, and food and gas. Even so, some weeks we need to splurge on one thing or another. This week we needed to buy a Girl Scouts uniform which, admittedly, could probably have waited– so we have a measly twenty dollars to our name for the next week. It is no big deal really because we have food in the pantry, the animal feed is stocked up, and all the bills are paid. The twenty bucks could go to gas and that would be okay. Thursday will be here soon enough and we’ve made it through just fine before with the only complaint being that we couldn’t drop ten dollars at the donut shop on a Saturday morning.

Even with holes in our pockets we are living like kings this week!

I have calculated that we have about $1,600 in livestock on the farm. It sounds really crazy until you think about all the animals we have here currently: 7 angora rabbits, 4 dairy goats, 8 chickens, 1 beehive, and 4 turkeys. Really, that is quite the larder in itself! That means that at any given time we most likely have milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, meat, and honey. Um.. yeah, it’s awesome.

Friday afternoon, Trevor called me and asked what we wanted for dinner. I told him he might as well pick up a bag of chicken thighs at the market. He came up with the idea of doing a “test run” on butchering one of the smaller turkey hens. Brilliant! Duh! We have meat sitting right out there in the yard. Why didn’t I think of that! And unlike rabbit, poultry only needs to rest for 24 hours before baking. Sorry supermarket chickens, you’ll have to move aside for some home-raised bird.

Trevor starts work early in the morning and so he also gets home early in the afternoon. By 2:30 we were out at the turkey pen scouting out our weekend meal. We had two Bronze hens, one Bronze tom, and the one White tom that we are saving for our family Thanksgiving meal in November. Trevor picked out what seemed to be the smallest hen (they were pretty close in size) and I zip-tied her feet together. I have a friend who recommended using zip ties to keep their feet together instead of just rope after her own first experience butchering turkeys. Something about it literally running off down the drive without a head.

The turkey hen was surprisingly calm during the capture, zip, and walk over to the “processing station”, but her three friends turned bright red and purple as we walked off with an upside-down turkey. Worry worts.

I reminded Cami that when we started, she may not like it and that I was happy to go inside with her while Trevor worked. She insisted on staying to watch and so I let my little farm girl stay. One quick whack with my awesomely sharp cleaver and the turkey flailed for a few minutes in the big bin we had ready nearby (less mess). Cami was calm and curious even after admitting to a little shock that the turkey flapped so much even without a head. Two things I am always thankful for is the moment I have to say “thank you” to my animal for its sacrifice and that it is always a quick death. Those two things always bring me peace with home-raised meat.

Trevor cleaned up our turkey while I prepared the ice bath and brine. Turkey Lurkey sat in a nice cold ice bath for four hours and then made her way to the refrigerator to “rest” in her sea salt brine for 24-hours. I was sure to weigh her for you all too. Our smallest turkey weighed in at……….

11 pounds!!!

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Our gorgeous first turkey was baked with garden basil, farm onions, butter, and pepper. This photo may be a bit deceiving because the turkey was bigger than my head! Huge! She had to go on the second to last rack setting. By the time Thanksgiving does roll around and it is that white tom’s turn, he will definitely be a bottom rack-er. We also decided to skin the turkey because let’s face it– who likes to pluck poultry?

It turned out to be DELICIOUS! Super moist, perfectly cooked, flaked off the bone, yummy. Trevor wants to raise turkeys year-round now.

So even in the poor house, we still have a turkey feast complete with farm green beans and gravy in the fridge, home baked bread on the counter, and from-scratch cinnamon rolls with hand picked and dried raisins hot from the oven. Twenty dollars rich indeed.

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9 thoughts on “Twenty Dollars Rich

  1. Maybe you could adapt the following idea for butchering chickens to turkeys? Use a gallon jug like one of the round Clorox jugs (maybe a 5 gallon plastic water jug would work for a bigger bird like a turkey). Just barely cut the bottom off. Cut enough of the pour spout off so you can place a chicken in from the open bottom of the jug and the head will stick out the other end. Fasten the jug so it is open bottom up to something sturdy, such as a wooden post that has been planted in the ground (do you have any fencing that uses wooden posts somewhere? Do this a fair distance from the hen house so you don’t unnecessarily upset the other chickens with the smell of blood – just a thought. By grasping the chicken’s feet/legs with one hand you can then guide the head into the inverted jug then grasp the head as it comes out the neck of the jug with the other hand, pull on the head just enough to stretch the neck a little so you can use your sharp knife to quickly and cleanly cut the chicken’s head off. The jug will prevent the dying reflexes of the chicken from flailing around and you can put a bucket below to catch the blood to help keep this area clean if you are going to use it much at all. Hope this helps to make this job easier for you, and more humane for the chicken or turkey.

    • My dad taught me to make a funnel from metal. We always take the bird by the feet and place it’s head between two nails that have been nailed into the top of a large wooden saw horse or other sturdy wooden surface. Then with one quick chop of a sharp cleaver the bird is ready to be placed in the metal funnel to bleed out. The meat will be free of any bruises and is also free of dirt that may have otherwise stuck to it.

      I do have a question Sarah. I am attempting to start a fodder system, but I’m having a very difficult time finding the appropriate barley seed. I’m finding bulked or parked barley. Can you help? Point me in the right direction. Thanks and God Bless.
      ~Amy

  2. Congrats on your first turkey! There is nothing more satisfying than eating your hard earned labor. It will always taste doubly sweet. Have you calculated the savings/expense per pound of that bird?

  3. Very well put! Thanks for the inspiration, we have 3 horses, chickens, a dog & 2 cats. If we spend extra in one area and get behind, it takes a while to get caught up. Horses sure aren’t cheap. Theres always grain, hay, hoofs to have done by the farrier or riding equipment to buy. We have two girls ages 10 & 12 and I keep telling my husband any hobby or extra curricular activity will cost to do too so might as well have the horses that we enjoy and love so much. I had seen your DIY instructions to grow fodder about a year ago and have really enjoyed your posts. I still have to buckle down to get everything needed together for trying out the fodder. Finding the food grade seed is definitely the challenge besides daily things that will have to be done to maintain it. We both work outside the home so time is much scarce for additional projects.

    Sincerely
    Shannon

  4. We too home kill our hens. We also use a killing cone, a 5L water bottle with the neck cut off large enough to allow a fat rooster comb to fit through and the bottom cut off and facing up. I stretch the neck out, open the mouth and insert a knife into the brain and twist before cutting the throat to bleed out. We did some research and felt this to be the most efficient manner of ensuring the least suffering. The head comes off soon after. With the bird contained in the cone, runaways aren’t possible but they do kick a lot so last time when I did the kill myself I just held the feet. I didn’t expect to feel the hearbeat slowing and stopping which I found distressing but hey, that’s the reality of home kill. Still, the process worked well for me.
    Our kids are a little younger than Cami but they too have seen what happens. They came out once just after we’d done the kill and saw the death throes, gut, pluck and then refrigeration. No hiding where their food comes from and indeed they have had a meal served up with a name. We all have and that’s ok. It helps us with respect.

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