One week ago today, we walked into the still dark morning of our farm to gather our turkeys for their trip to the local processors. It was a clear morning with stars still out as we began to load the turkeys onto our truck. I had not slept much. Thoughts of the importance of this day – concern for the turkeys, how they would handle the truck ride and be treated at the abattoir entered my dreams and woke me up several times.
I ensured we did everything possible to minimize the stress our turkeys faced on this day.
Firstly, it was us who had had daily interaction with our turkeys for their whole lives. They were calm when we picked them up to put on the truck. We moved slowly and lifted many sleepy turkeys right off their roost. Each of our turkeys had been reserved for a special holiday dinner by people who deeply care about farming and food. In a small flock, each bird matters. It is unacceptable for our birds to be bruised or harmed for the sake of a hasty transportation process.
Secondly, we have access to a small abattoir only 20-25 minute drive away from our farm. The abattoir had a specific processing time for our flock, so our birds did not have to be crated for hours before processing. They were carried from our truck and immediately killed. We watched the death of each of our turkeys. I found this a difficult, but important step. It is how I confirmed for myself that the entire process of raising these incredible animals was as ethical as possible. The abattoir staff were sensitive and skilled in proper handling of the birds.
Slaughter is always difficult. And that’s coming a person who worked in an abattoir. And studied animal production and slaughter in school.
Processing day went as well as it possibly could and my stress level plummeted back to normal… until I was inspecting all the packaged turkeys later that day. Most customers needed their fresh turkey within the next 2 days for Thanksgiving. I felt another wave of stressful anticipation and realized that until I heard about how everyone’s turkey dinner turned out, and tasted one for myself, this story is not yet finished.
Our Thanksgiving turkeys have all been reserved! I love those beautiful Orlopp Bronze feather colours. These two turkeys are best friends. All the turkeys were moved from one brooder into two groups in the outdoor turkey mobiles. These two were originally placed in separate living accommodations. I had to put them back together after they kept calling for one another. They seem much more content since being reunited, but are not very interested in interacting with any other turkeys.
The hay field is blooming again and it has been a relief to see so many pollinators flying around going about their business.
The previously posted pictures of yellow, fuzzy, adorable chicks are starting to look much more like chickens in the ‘birds eye’ view above.
The pigs recently had an entire posting dedicated to them, so I’ll leave you with the just the photo.
We have been witness to a couple amazing thunder storms, including one at sunset which painted the sky hazy orange.
We go out to the barn first thing in the morning and make sure the pigs have lots of feed and fresh water in their stall. We open the barn doors providing the pigs free access to both the pasture and the barn and…..we wait. They are pretty sleepy in the mornings and don’t really wake up until around 9am when they decide to venture outside to their pastured area.
Then the rooting begins.
The pigs find all kinds of vegetation and roots to eat as they push and turn over the soil. They consume less grain when they have access to the pasture. Throughout the day, they take breaks to nap inside their stall or wallow in the Mr. Turtle pool. They are very particular about the mud they create and spend time adding more soil or splashing water out of the pool to maintain the consistency they like.
The pigs are a joy to watch! Pigs are curious and playful and always looking for treats. They interacted with a group of eight of us humans on the weekend and showed no fear as they took treats out of extended hands. It is beautiful to witness others enjoying animals they don’t often have an opportunity to see.
Near the end of every day, the pigs put themselves back in their stall and rearrange the clean straw bedding the way they like it. We check their feeder and water supply and close up the barn to keep them safe for the night. They seem pretty content with the daily routine. Then again, they kind of told us what they needed and we do our best to accommodate the rooting and wallowing!
The turkeys are growing well and are enjoying life outside. There will be a few jumbo turkeys ready for Thanksgiving! The baby chicks will be moved outside onto pasture next week. The pigs….still sleep in until 9am or so and have so much fun creating mud hole masterpieces and making straw nests there will never be pictures of them looking clean.
Even though it’s summer, chicks require supplemental heat to keep their little bodies warm enough the first few weeks of life. We use heat lamps in their brooder pen and waterers which are designed to prevent chicks from falling in and getting wet. However…the chick in the picture managed to get most of his body into the small water trough and was found soaking and cold. I brought him into the house to quickly heat him up and dry him out while Quinn made jokes about premature marinading…
This chick is safely back home in his brooder with the other 99 chicks.
The new piglets are spending a significant amount of time arranging and rearranging their straw bedding into piles and nests. They are having a great time rooting and exploring their new home. Pictures will be up soon. It’s not easy to get good pictures with the piglets so curious of the camera resulting in lots of pig nostril pictures.
We have been slowly gaining their trust by offering them chopped apples, strawberries and bananas. When they are a bit bigger, they will be outside and their first task will be to use those natural rooting instincts and skills to rototill part of our garden for us. It gives them a chance to express a behaviour they have a strong instinct to perform, we benefit by having the garden prepared for us and our need for using gasoline powered garden equipment is minimized.
An example of one of our poultry mobiles shows how the birds have access to the outside while being protected from predators and still have shelter. The white electric fencing is solar powered by the energizer on the plant stand on the right hand side of the picture. On colder nights, I have placed boards on a couple of sides of the poultry mobile to stop the wind and placed hot water jugs inside for the birds to snuggle against. There has only been a couple nights where I was worried it was too cold and went out at 3am to refill the hot water jugs.
I was doing chores one morning to find a bunch of wild turkeys in close proximity to our farm turkeys. They were enjoying the barley buffet breakfast:
While we have been busy building chicken mobiles, tending to the animals and preparing for the much anticipated arrival of our pigs, we have been reminded of winter to come while harvesting hay and stacking firewood.
Looking at the stockpile of hay and firewood reminds us of just how much fuel is required to feed the animals, feed the furnace and feed ourselves.
The regular chores of wheelbarrowing the firewood to the basement hatch, stoking the furnace and watching the stockpile shrink, creates time to think about our energy requirements and how we can be more energy efficient. It’s a very different connection from city living where our energy bill would retrospectively remind us of how often we raised or lowered the thermostat on the wall. Writing a cheque to Union Gas was easy. Holding the weight of our daily heating requirements in our hands before feeding the furnace three to five times a day is not nearly as easy, but we prefer it for the mindfulness and appreciation it kindles within us all year round.
Our turkeys have recently moved to their new outdoor accommodations and are exploring the pasture as they continue to grow.
The superb deliciousness of turkeys raised on pasture is difficult to describe. You have to try one to taste the difference!
Besides the exceptional taste, there are many reported nutritional benefits of choosing pastured meats including higher levels of vitamins A, D, E and K, lower cholesterol, improved proportions of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and higher amounts of Conjugated Linoleic Acids (linked to fighting cancer).
Our turkey is also antibiotic, hormone, and GMO free.
Our customers find value in the exquisite flavour, nutritional benefits and ethics of how our animals and land are treated in our farming process. We are so thankful for the interest and initiative our customers take in sourcing our local, organic and pasture raised bronze turkeys.