Tag Archives: bronze turkey

NABLOPOMO – Farmer vs Artist

Sometimes Dad drops sketches onto my desk. These are usually delivered with interesting comments like, "the one on the right is thinking about the Sanctuary Knocker."

Sometimes Dad drops sketches onto my desk. These are usually delivered with interesting comments like, “the one on the right is thinking about the Sanctuary Knocker.”

So while I’m being all practical and thinking about turkey sales and recipes, Dad is busy in his studio being all artistic…  He has been doing a series of sketches and watercolours of turkeys in various stages of development. The two birds in the image above are what we call teen turkeys – young birds not quite big enough to be heading for freezer camp (you can tell they aren’t very old because their snoods are of modest proportions…).

When Dad mentioned that the one on the right was thinking about what he would do with a 37-day stay of execution I confess I returned a blank stare.

“Look it up online,” was Dad’s reply.

I know Dad is a tad obsessed with the Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral. One of his paintings featuring the knocker graces the dining room:

Dad's painting of the Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral.

Dad’s painting of the Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral.

After our little turkey-inspired exchange I looked up the details and discovered that someone in grave trouble (usually self-inflicted trouble, like, say the person had stabbed someone else…) was allowed to thump on the cathedral door with the Sanctuary Knocker and, after being admitted, could seek sanctuary inside for 37 days. According to the Durham World Heritage Site website (which is quite excellent) the perpetrator could either reconcile with his or her enemies or plan an escape.

Good thing we don’t let the turkeys into the house or they’d be lining up to peck at the painting. Not a good thing for various reasons, but if the plotters above were successful in getting that cathedral door to swing open, 37 days from now would be much too late for Christmas dinner…

For more information about the cathedral, visit the official website.

For more information about Dad (who does have an actual name – E. Colin Williams) – visit the artist’s website.

NABLOPOMO – In Praise of Heritage Birds

Ridley Bonze turkeys - just like the old-fashioned turkeys your grandmother used to cook

Ridley Bonze turkeys – just like the old-fashioned turkeys your grandmother used to cook

Every day another order or two or three comes in for one of our Ridley Bronze turkeys. As we get closer to Christmas, the frequency goes up – which is lovely. [Thank you, if you are one of those people now on the list to receive a heritage bird in a couple of weeks.] Quite often people aren’t too familiar with the heritage birds, what makes them special, or quite what to expect. So here’s a quick tutorial…

We raise Ridley Bronze turkeys, a Canadian variety of bronze turkey that very nearly disappeared altogether a few years ago. Thanks to the efforts of a handful of breeders (Margaret Thomson of Windrush Farm on Saltspring Island being one of the most active), the number of breeding hens has crept back from the brink (at one point it was estimated that fewer than a hundred breeding hens were left!), though the breed is still considered to be under threat.

Unlike the broad breasted turkeys (both bronze and white varieties), the Ridley Bronze birds are able to mate naturally. In our flock, we are selecting for good mothering ability and hardiness as well as great taste. These birds are personable, intelligent, and gentle and seem to do well foraging for food in addition to the basic diet of organic feed, hay, softened alfalfa cubes, and a mix of fruits and vegetables, as available.

They do grow more slowly than their commercially bred cousins – it can take 30-40 weeks to get the birds to a decent size, which is why we do not produce many Thanksgiving birds. Those we do have available at that time of year are the late hatch birds from the previous year. These are grown out and then processed late the following spring or early the next summer after they have had a chance to lay some eggs and raise a clutch of poults. These birds are then processed and frozen and are made available for Thanksgiving. Even with the extra growing time, the largest of my birds don’t come close to the size reached by commercial broad-breasted whites. Christmas birds are hatched and raised in the same year and as long as we can get an appropriate processing date,we are able to provide fresh birds (not frozen) to local customers.

Young turkeys on the move...

Young turkeys on the move…

The distribution of dark meat is more even and there is less breast meat, proportionally, than in the broad-breasted birds. The Ridley Bronze turkeys have longer, leaner legs (they do a lot of running around during the time they spend here on the farm) and they are quite delicious.

Preparing them is a bit different – they cook quite evenly because of the way the meat is distributed. If you are looking for recipes, you’ll have the best luck using old cookbooks or recipes your grandmother used.

If you are curious about methods of cooking, here are a couple of links to recipes that feature heritage birds.

Bucks County Courier Times

Prairie Heritage Farm

It’s not too late to place your order for one of our heritage turkeys. Just click on the For Sale tab and follow the link to our nifty online order form. I’m afraid we can’t ship birds, so we can only help you out if you live on southern Vancouver Island (or if you are prepared to travel to our place to pick up your bird…)

Day 7 – Who is the Turkey at Bedtime?

Turkeys have a terrible reputation for not being very bright. What does this say for the human who cannot win the nightly game of 'let's put the turkeys to bed'?

Turkeys have a terrible reputation for not being very bright. What does this say for the human who cannot win the nightly game of ‘let’s put the turkeys to bed’? These chumps had put themselves to bed out on the goat fence. By the time I found them it was pitch dark and herding was impossible. One by one I had to catch them, carry them off, and tuck them in. Because, you know, I have nothing better to do with my evenings.

Every evening shortly before dusk I steel myself for a series of humiliations at the hands (talons?) of my turkeys. I know I am supposed to be smarter than they are, but if this is the case, how is it possible that the score is so lopsided when it comes to me trying to put them to bed and the turkeys figuring out ways to stay up just a little longer?

They are just like unruly kids who pull out all the anti-bedtime stops with an unsuspecting babysitter! The turkey kids pretend like they are heading in the right direction only to be distracted by some very important blade of grass. One will pluck said piece of grass and, leaving enough dangling from its beak so the others can see, will sprint off across the field. The other turkeys, convinced this particular blade of grass must be the tastiest in all the land, thunder after the trouble-maker who is, no doubt, chuckling under his snood because he knows very well the human caretaker can’t possibly keep up no matter how fast she sprints.

Occasionally, the turkeys are calm and cooperative and I’m able to herd them into their overnight huts with relatively little trouble, using two long bamboo sticks to help guide them in the right direction. Even on nights like these, though, several will decide they need to scale the shelters to roost on top rather than inside. As I am persuading these birds to jump back to the ground, they protest and scrabble around on the top of the shelters, which upsets the birds already inside. The inside birds sprint out looking very indignant just as I’m rounding the corner trying to herd in their wayward companions. Do you think the roof-hoppers quietly sit inside the shelters while I retrieve the sprinters? Of course not! There’s often a series of one goes in, two come out exchanges before, finally, everyone is wrangled into place.

The worst game they play is ring around the turkey hut. In this variation of the bedtime-avoidance game, one or two wily birds will sneak around behind the hut and hide. They are experts at matching their speed to mine, always keeping just out of sight on the other side of the hut. I try to sneak after them using tricky human maneuvers like changing direction when they least expect it. Except, usually they have already changed direction so I come around the corner saying stupid things like, “Hah! Fooled you!” except, there’s no turkey there because, hah! they fooled me and have sneaked up behind me. When I turn around, there they will be staring up at me with their beady reptilian eyes as if to say, “Are you looking for someone?” When two or three birds gang up on me to play a team version of this lame game it sometimes results in me sinking to my knees and pleading with them to, “Just go to bed, already!!!” This plea is often followed by some rude words that include references to Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Sometimes the birds pretend like they have never been herded anywhere ever before and each bird will head in a different compass direction when they see me coming. At times like this they are completely oblivious to my efforts to keep them all together. The exception to this general state of chaos will be a couple of goody-two-shoes birds that head straight for the shelters when they see me. Only when I have finally gathered the rest of the flock and we are almost at the shelters do the early-to-bedders decide they have had enough of being good and sprint back out of the shelters heading for the turkey waterers because, you know, they are dying of thirst and just need to get one more drink before they can settle down for the night.

The worst part of all this is that the main turkey field is overlooked by neighbours on three sides. I see them in their windows watching the Nikki vs the Turkeys Comedy Show each evening.

Yesterday when I went down to the field ready for a lengthy battle I was greeted by a completely empty field. Not a single turkey was anywhere to be seen. I felt sick. Raccoons. Stray dogs. Eagles. A cougar. Some irresponsible jokester neighbourhood kid let them all out. A foody thief stole them all. How would I report the theft to the police? How did I know they had been stolen and not eaten? How did I know they hadn’t got a bit confused and tried to fly off with the Canada geese? I figured I’d better have my evidence in order before I called 911, so I entered the field, steeling myself in case I had to pick up turkey bits and sweep up piles of feathers. Which is when I heard the distinctive soft chatter of turkeys settling in for the night. Every last bird had put itself to bed. They had evenly distributed themselves between the three shelters. They were all on perches and, eyes half closed, were talking quietly among themselves, no doubt wondering what was taking the human so long to close and lock their doors. Or, more likely, plotting what devious trick they were going to play on me next time.

Photo of one of our turkeys taken by D. Craig, BC Min. of Agriculture

Photo of one of our turkeys taken by D. Craig, BC Min. of Agriculture

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmerto find out!

Young Turkey In a Pickle

One of the perils of letting your poultry free range is that sometimes the birds get into places where they shouldn’t be. This young fellow had been trying to get in to (or out of) the goat pen when a single feather got caught up in the piece of string that used to hold the top edge of a fine mesh intended to keep the birds out. The mesh had been taken down because the birds had been tearing big holes in it when they perched on the fence rail and I had left the string so I could replace the lighter mesh with something heavier. The good news in all this is the bird was hung up in such a way that his foot reached the ground. Add to that the fact these Ridley Bronze turkeys are very mellow (so he didn’t panic or thrash around) and I was able to lift him up and set him free. He suffered no damage, except perhaps to his pride, and is now back at work cleaning out the summer vegetable beds.