KW Homestead

Emma & Jason's pasture raised poultry, homesteading thoughts, and wild adventures.

Tag: turkeys (page 1 of 3)

Why Every Day is Turkey Day!

For most folks, Thanksgiving is a fantastic family holiday, a long relaxing weekend, and the beginning of the holiday shopping season. For us, it’s the grand, climactic finale to a year-long quest to make your Thanksgiving a great one.

We spend the entire year thinking about turkeys. No, really, we do. Our year begins and ends with Thanksgiving, so it’s actually our New Year. Let’s just call it the Turkey New Year, why don’t we?

turkeys

Happy turkeys!

In the beginning of our Turkey New Year, we spend the first few days celebrating (and eating delicious turkey and duck) and after that we sit down and ask ourselves a few New Year’s resolution questions. Things like:

  • What went well this year with raising our turkeys?
  • What do we wish we had done differently?
  • How many turkeys do we want to raise next year?
  • When do we plan to start incubating and hatching eggs next year?

Once we’ve figured out what we hope for next year, we whip out the calendars and get everything lined up. You’d be surprised at how much scheduling managing a farm requires.

We spend the winter months brainstorming new infrastructure ideas and implementing some of these. Spring always kicks us in the pants and as the poults hatch and arrive we care for them amidst dealing with new chicks, ducklings, and piglets, not to mention caring for the regular crowd of parent turkeys, cows, pigs, layer ducks, and geese that we already have hanging around. Luckily bird babies are always much easier to deal with when they’re little and they eat less (read: cost less $) and spend their time closer to home base (read: safe).

turkeys

Where are the turkeys? Standing by me, of course!

When the poults leave the brooder the real (and not so cute) work begins… Moving their pasture space, erecting moveable shelters, feeding them and then feeding them some more, keeping our ears open for predators, clipping wings, and on many, many occasions herding around a crowd of escaped turkeys who (if last year is any indication) might just decide to cross the street in a big, slow mass and go visit the neighbors (read: get back here you #%*&$@!!!!).

This is always the time of year, around September and October, when we wonder if they’ll ever be big enough for Thanksgiving since every time we see them they’re jogging about at full speed for no good reason! And yet, they grow and grow, gathering pasture-raised nutrients and healthy greenery along the way.

And then the grand finale comes… The turkey harvest. By this time all of our turkeys have been spoken for and we know what size and how may birds each customer prefers. This one or two day, epic affair is akin to the intense lead up to High Point’s Furniture Market. A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of making sure everything is “just right,” and a whole lot of adrenaline carries us through.

Then we finally get to breathe, meet with our customers, wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, and send warm thoughts their way. After each customer has their turkey we can excitedly get on with our own Thanksgiving feast. We make our Thanksgiving (Turkey New Year) feast with wild abandon, cooking entirely too much and making the most decadent and creative dishes imaginable. One year we consumed heritage turkey, duck, a venison roast, and a squirrel pot pie as our main protein dishes, and that doesn’t even include the 15+ other sides we cooked. It’s the ultimate feeling of celebration, relaxation, and starting fresh.

turkey

A delicious, roasted turkey!

After the holiday we get emails and pictures from some customers showing us their turkey, or testimonials about how yummy it was. This is the greatest feeling! And then we start all over again… Brainstorming and planning for next year. So if you ever wonder why we seem like busy lunatics in October and November, and like calm and relaxed folks in December, now you know. Every day is Turkey Day!

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Video Tour: Checking In On the Chicks, Turkeys, Ducks, and Piglets!

We have a lot of exciting things happening here at the homestead, with babies being born and gardens growing!

Check out this brief video tour to see what’s happening:

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A Turkey Nest for Every Turkey Butt…

Our first broody turkey is still sitting on her eggs, and while we wait to see if any of her eggs hatch, we’ve given two more hens their own nests. These hens were likely the ones who wanted to share Mama Hen’s nest because they are so committed to sitting on their own nests!

We decided to turn a small, gated area inside of the turkey house into a brooding area. Originally we built this area to use as the access point to utilizing the upstairs and for storage of grains and food. Up until the other day, we hadn’t actually ever used the little area for anything, so it sat empty and sad.

Until now! The space is small and cozy but still has enough room for 5 turkey nest boxes, their own food and water, and a little foot path.
The two hens that we’ve put in there were picked based on the same requirements that I mentioned in my last post about our broody hen. In each of the 5 nests we put some decoy eggs and marked them so we would know they weren’t freshly laid. Then we caught the hens and put them inside the space, letting them choose which nest they liked best. The first hen to pick chose very quickly, and within minutes settled down on a nest in a corner made even cozier with cardboard walls. The other hen took longer to settle down. At first she seemed concerned to be away from the rest of the flock, but once we left she chose a nest in the middle of a few others nest options. She stole all the other eggs that were not under the other hen, and gathered them together in her spot.

When we returned and saw her devotion/thievery, we traded all of the decoy eggs under each hen for fresher, probably-fertile eggs. Now they each sit on 15 eggs. The eggs in each nest are marked differently so we will know if one hen tries to steal from another.

Turkeys

Can you see the hens? One sits so low to the ground that she is hard to see, and the other is only visible because her tail is sticking out from behind the cardboard corner. Go mamas, go!

And… Now we wait. We check on them everyday, making sure that they have enough food and water and that they continue to be committed to the cause. Sometimes when we look in their space, the hens are so low to the ground that you can’t even see them. They huddle over their future babies, already feeling protective!
It’s going to be an exciting year for baby turkeys!

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Our First Turkey Nest!

We started this winter off with 15 turkeys as our breeding stock, all Bourbon Reds. They are nicely set up in their large and spacious converted shed and they have nice-sized fence that opens up into the greater woods beyond, for free ranging.

We only have 13 turkeys now–two we lost during early winter to predators in the night. The turkeys who return to their house at night are super safe (almost as safe as if they came inside to sleep with us) but two hens decided to hide and sleep deep out in the woods. Those two hens were eaten by raccoons (we think). We found them the next morning by following the feather trail. Not a pretty picture.

We are left with 3 toms and 10 hens. And we are expecting babies any day now!

They started laying eggs a few months ago, and we get about 7 eggs a day. We’ve been collecting some and saving them for incubating, which we should begin in a few days. But… For the past few weeks, one of the committed hens has been incubating some herself! She is our broody star!

Turkey

Over a month ago, we noticed that she wouldn’t leave the house and she was moving around and sitting on any laid eggs she could find. After finally settling down to one corner–only leaving each day to eat and drinks–we decided to test her resolve. We went over to her and collected her eggs and she didn’t run away. We reached under her to grab the eggs and she didn’t budge. We had to pick her up and scoot her over to get the eggs!

This meant she was ready to sit on her own clutch of eggs. It seems that turkeys don’t fight you over eggs like broody chickens do, but they display the other symptoms of broodiness:

  • Commitment to one location
  • Commitment to one group of eggs
  • Turning the eggs periodically
  • Protection of eggs
    • It didn’t seem to be in her nature to worry about us, but another hen literally rolled some of her eggs to another nest, trying to steal them, and she went over and stole them back!

Eggs

Currently she is sitting on 16 eggs. There were two more but they busted over the course of incubation–this is not abnormal. There are a lot of variables at play that must be in alignment in order for the eggs to hatch:

  • They have to be fertilized (let’s hope the toms are doing their job).
  • They have to have been turned properly.
  • They must have stayed warm enough.
    • While their mom’s body heat is usually enough, we have had some pretty cold nights!
  • They have to be viable.
    • Sometimes eggs won’t hatch or poults won’t live even though the other variables are in alignment. You never really know. Life is tricky!

If all goes well, a few other hens will soon prove to be broody enough to start sitting on eggs! Some of the other hens are preparing–often when we look in the house there are 3 other hens piled in next to Mama Hen, trying to help!

With luck, all of the Free-Range, Heritage Turkeys we offer this year will be born and raised of our breeding stock!

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Happy Turkey Day to All!

What a year it has been! It seems like just the other day that we sat around the kitchen table during a snow day and decided to raise a batch of heritage turkeys for Thanksgiving.

It’s hard to believe that the free range turkeys that we raised on our small farmstead are going to be at the centerpiece of so many family gatherings this Thanksgiving. It is a huge honor to be a part of so many Thanksgiving meals, and to know that our free range turkeys went to families that care about their food, how it’s raised, and where it comes from.

So, we decided to shoot a quick video thank you for all of our customers this year.

We hope that you have a great Thanksgiving, and that you share some of our turkey posts and videos with your guests this holiday to show them exactly where your turkey came from.

A few interesting ones are:

Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks again! And don’t forget to save those bones and make soup!

~Emma and Jason

*Don’t forget, you can reserve your turkey for Thanksgiving/Christmas 2016 right now! So even if you missed out this year, you can guarantee that next year you will sit down to a delicious, non-GMO heritage turkey. Just email us at ourochreway@gmail.com.

 

 

How to Cook Your Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey

Now that you’ve purchased your free range, non-GMO Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey, you’re probably wondering how to cook it! You may have noticed that your heritage bird looks very different than the average grocery store turkey. You are right to think that there is a different technique needed in cooking your heritage bird, but never fear! We have some recipe resources for you and your family to try this holiday season.

Heritage birds are smaller than an average grocery store turkey and they tend to cook more quickly. They have more dark meat, which is great for roasting the whole bird because it is less likely to dry out.

Heritage turkeys also taste different than your average Butterball turkey. They aren’t bland and actually taste like turkey. That’s because, well, they are turkeys. Heritage birds are closer to their wild ancestors and spend their free ranging days running around the land, building muscle for your Thanksgiving enjoyment. The flavor of the meat tends to pair well with earthy, aromatic spices like sage, rosemary, and thyme. This means you can get creative with recipes this holiday season!

turkey

A delicious, roasted turkey!

Here are a few recipes that your family might enjoy this Thanksgiving:

Here are a few of our tips for cooking your Heritage Turkey:

  • Make sure your bird is fully thawed before you cook it.
  • Take it out of the refrigerator and let it come up to room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before you begin cooking it.
  • Don’t overcook your bird!
  • These birds have not been injected with whatever gross flavor concoction the conventional grocery store birds have been, so be sure to season appropriately (salt, pepper, garlic, whatever floats your gravy boat).
  • The USDA recommends cooking your bird until the internal temperature (the meat in the inner thigh) reaches 165 degrees. However, many chefs recommend cooking your Heritage Turkey until it reaches 140-150 degrees.
  • When you take your bird out of the oven, let it rest for at least 15-20 minutes before you carve it. This allows for all of the moisture and juices to seep back into the meat instead of being released as steam.
  • Don’t cook the stuffing inside the bird. Because heritage birds cook quicker, the stuffing might make the bird cook unevenly. You can still add aromatics like part of an onion, apple, or carrot to the cavity to add moisture and flavor.
  • If you are cooking it at a higher temperature, you might want to skip basting the bird. This is because constantly opening the oven door lowers the temperature and might make the bird cook unevenly.
  • Heritage Turkeys do not need to be brined (they have their own delicious flavor). Some chefs say that brining enhances the flavor and others say that it is unnecessary and simply extra work.
  • Don’t forget to save your bones! Simmer them in a crock pot with water for hours to make a stock or broth. These birds were raised naturally on pasture and their bones, tendons, and joints will make a delicious and nutritious broth!

For more information and tips about cooking your Heritage Turkey, check out these articles from Rodale’s Organic Life about How to Cook the Tastiest Bird Ever This Thanksgiving and The Magic of Fire: Traditional Foodways by William Rubel.

We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, from our Family Homestead to your Family Table! If you are interested in sharing your Heritage Turkey recipes or pictures from this year’s Thanksgiving, send us an email at ourochreway@gmail.com so we can add it to our website!

Also, it’s not too early too early or too late to reserve your free range, non-GMO Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey for Thanksgiving 2016. Check out our Heritage Turkeys page for more information!

turkeys

Happy turkeys!

3 Weeks Till Thanksgiving: Why Do Turkeys Make That Sneezing Sound?

It’s almost Thanksgiving!!!

Perhaps you are wondering more about tom turkeys and how exactly they show off for the ladies… This video explains it!

Also, don’t forget to order your heritage Thanksgiving bird today!

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What Do Free Range Turkeys Eat?

Our flock of heritage turkeys are getting bigger everyday and will be nice and plump when Thanksgiving rolls around. They spend their days free ranging and foraging the fields, pastures and woods of our farm, but what do they actually eat?

heritage turkeys greensboro

Free range turkeys enjoying the sun.

First off, we supplement them with the highest quality non-GMO feed available. They get a small amount in the morning, and a bigger ration when the sun starts to set to entice them back to the safety of their coop. Because we raise the slower growing, heritage Bourbon Reds, they aren’t as interested in the feed as a modern factory raised bird. They seem to prefer to forage for their food.

Our turkeys graze on green grass, clover, and other broad leaved plants. I have seen them devour a thick stand of pasture, and jump up to grab a midair bite out of 6 foot tall amaranth plants. They eat anything green, from chicory to plantain, and this helps to produce that wonderful rich flavor and the amazing health benefits of pastured poultry.

heritage turkey winston salem

Because our heritage turkeys are out on pasture for their entire life, they develop flavor that can’t be found in a supermarket.

In addition to the green portions of plants, they also eat a fair amount of seeds. Some they pick off the ground, and others the harvest directly from the plant. We have stands of lambsquarter, grain amaranth, sorghum, and chia, and I have seen the turkeys eat them all.

One thing they love are surplus vegetables from our organic garden. They seem to favor heirloom tomatoes above all else.

thanksgiving turkey triad

Searching for seeds and bugs.

But they don’t eat just plants while out on pasture. They also hunt and chase all sorts of insects and bugs. Grasshoppers are a rare sight on our farm now that the turkeys roam the fields.

And boy do they roam. While they spend a lot of time in the open pastures, they also range the wooded acreage too. Mature oak and hickory trees provide a hearty mast crop of acorns and nuts that the turkeys strong beaks and gizzards make short work of. This is another important aspect of their flavor development, and contributes to the terroir of all the animals raised on our property.

piedmont heritage turkeys

Reserve your free range bird today!

As you can see, your heritage thanksgiving turkey has been busy free ranging for both its food and it’s flavor. There’s still time to reserve your bird this year and lock in the special $7/lb. price. Please check out our heritage turkey page for more information on how to order.

 

Thanksgiving Turkey Update: 4 Weeks Till Thanksgiving!

With only 4 weeks to go until Thanksgiving, we sure hope you’ve started thinking about your turkey plans!

We shot this video with you in mind, hoping that this funny call-and-response “Turkey Talk” might remind you to start preparing for the upcoming holiday meal!

If you’re interested in reserving your Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey from us, click here!

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Thanksgiving Turkey Update: 6 Weeks Till Thanksgiving!

With only 6 weeks left until Thanksgiving, we thought we would leave you with a video of our free ranging Heritage Turkeys enjoying their afternoon walk…

Feeding time!

.:.

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