Turkey Butts and Giant Turnips

Once per week, the whole DirtNKids clan hops in the 10-yr-old minivan for the 20 minute drive to Bubba’s farm.  During the winter, we load up on greens like mustard, turnip, beet, kale and fresh salad lettuces — my favorite time of year for food for sure.  Greens is what we eat, the mainstay of our diet, if you will, and for more than three years now, he’s our favorite place to “shop.”  If you’re new here, you can read about giant heads of cauliflower and shopping at a farm co-op to catch up. 

Chinese cabbage…wow.  Some seriously delicious stuff, stems and all.  He threw in a couple of bunches (just as a good farmer would do) and it was instantly a new favorite for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch).  Just so you know, this $20 investment of bags and bags of greens in the van means I only spend $80 at the grocery.  Let me remind you, a $100-$125 total bill is for a family of six.  I keep hearing that eating organic is expensive.  I just don’t get it.

Seriously, he’s like my pusher, only my drug is veggies.  I will always be going back for that.  I can’t even grow it in my own yard as well (though I do try).

Angie was pretty impressed with the size of this particular turnip.

It's only slightly bigger than my mouth, Mom
It’s only slightly bigger than my mouth, Mom

We ate the green tops, of course.  The bulb still sits on the kitchen counter for bragging rights.  Oh yeah?  You got one bigger than this?

Of course, if you ask the kids why we go, it’s solely to feed the poultry.  “Rush Hour,” they call it.  We always try to go in the evening ’cause it’s their favorite part of the trip to help Bubba out with his closing-up chores.  Angie was able to catch Bimbo this time, the fully grown, smallest poult in the group.  She’s pretty tricky.  The party was over, though, when the duck pooped into her shoe…a load.  (I do promise, it’s not in the video.)

See?  Dinner and a show.  Worth every penny we spend here.

Scottie is ever cautious about the turkeys.  He knows that the toms will get quite aggressive during mating season (which, thankfully, is not at the moment).  They continue to display generously as we walk through their “territory.”  Bubba jokes that the one that attacks him first becomes dinner the next day.  Hm.  If I had one of those bad boys on my neck — and it came down to him or me — I might be inclined to agree.   Gulp

We probably don’t need to tell you that we don’t eat them anymore.  Bubba’s turkeys are a heritage breed, so very different than the breed humans have “manufactured” for the Thanksgiving Day slaughter who can barely walk and grow their ginormous size in just short of a year.  These birds are the brutes of the farm yard and gang up with other breeds (guinea fowl, ducks, geese, chickens) as organic pest control for all the fresh veggies we eat.  Bubba is no vegetarian, but if I was a bird, I’d want to live here.

If you’ve not seen it on PBS, there is a documentary streaming on Netflix (or it can be watched in its entirety here) on wild turkeys:  My Life as a Turkey.  Joe Hutto, a naturalist in Florida, raised a brood of wild turkeys from hatching — from the incubating and turning, to the imprinting at hatching, all the way to the end when Turkey Boy alpha’d him.  Really, he did it twice:  once on his own, detailing in a journal (and later a book); the second time for a documentary.  It is a show well worth watching and makes us all appreciate just how intelligent this species really is, how different it is from the domestic variety humans have “honed” for their taste buds.  The ending scene keeps my Scottie leery of the toms in the yard.  

Always good to be cautious of the big birds, Little Man.

And just like my kiddos, they let me know just when they’ve had enough of me.

Well, I suppose then you're not listening to me...
Get back here!  I’m talking to you!

No respect.

* * *

What are you waiting for?  Go find a veggie co-op!
Check out LocalHarvest.org and see what’s in your area.

14 thoughts on “Turkey Butts and Giant Turnips

  1. I love the name of this post Shannon – so cute! I’m gonna check out LocalHarvest.org right now to see if they have something in my area. I’d love to do less shopping at Whole Foods!!!! Celeste 🙂

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    1. My kids all say that watching wood ducklings “sky-diving” to the ground from the nest in the trees is about the cutest thing they’ve ever seen — I must agree! You’ll enjoy it for sure. I am amazed at how each bird species has a very unique blue print. Very little must be taught by the parent, who is mostly there just for protection. Sometimes I wish I was a bird parent…

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  2. I saw My Life As A Turkey and was intrigued by it. I gotta tell ya, I have a bird in the freezer and will eat it soon. I take slight solace in knowing it is a commercial bird. So if there is any turkey revenge to be had it is that it probably has additives or whatever and may someday kill me. To make matters worse, or on the other hand, I also have a ‘fridge full of greens that will be enjoyed soon…probably with turkey broth! Conflicted? Maybe a little. Enjoying your blog.

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    1. If we could all life happy, healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we? Granted, the additives probably won’t hurt you in the long run — but they sure are killing him! No really, I don’t abstain for my health; it’s for THEIRS.

      Thanks for following…and for taking the time to comment. Always good to see you here, Steve. No doubt the cousins are a bit baffled from our stray off the beaten path. First Facebook THEN animal ethics. What’s next…homeschooling?! Oh. Right. Cheers!

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  3. Sounds like you’ve found a marvelous friend and resource! We’re still on the weekly farmer’s market circuit for as many of our greens and such as we can (and my organic tamales, and shrimp from the gulf and boar from the hills and…) but we haven’t yet figured out how to keep the grocery bill anywhere near as low as yours. I do think organic meat (and meat in general) will keep it always higher than a vegetarian diet done well (you know, as opposed to the vegetarians who don’t eat vegetables…)

    We had wild turkeys on the land growing up and our neighbor kept a bigger make domestic breed as a guard turkey. We used to play chicken with it a little more than was probably wise…

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    1. I don’t know why more people don’t reward our local farmers with our direct business. The relationship our families have with each other is priceless, never mind all the other benefits. Glad to hear that you are a market shopper. Though organic meat is much better for you (and in only some ways, for the environment), animal welfare is rarely a top priority for producers. You might be surprised to learn where your “organic” meat actually comes from.

      I tell you, Allison, I keep both eyes on the back of my head open when those big boys are around! He uses them as “guard dogs” too, for his whole flock. They’re the Guido’s of the farm yard.

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      1. We do our best to visit the sources of our produce, meat, and dairy. I’ve seen my share of poorly kept dairies, awful feed lot conditions, and atrocious chicken houses to make sure and vote with my dollars for the happy cows (that make milk just west of Waco for a nice family farm that let me romp around in the muck), the happy chickens (that lay eggs east of Austin), and the rest.

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      2. How did I already know this about you? Voting with your own dollars goes a long way toward positive change. Thanks for asking the hard questions and for seeing how it’s done with your own eyes.

        Happy chickens, I get. Happy cows — even the “nicely treated” ones — I don’t. Remember the only way to get milk from a mammal is to make a baby then take the baby away. Lactation is demand then supply, not the other way around. (http://wp.me/p2Ej3Y-6m)

        Thanks, Allison, for taking the time to comment on something that may be uncomfortable to *ahem” discuss. I prefer to keep things positive. 🙂

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      3. The farm I visited separated the calving mothers and then let them stay separated (and out of production) for months postpartum. The separation only days postpartum (more common, especially in larger facilities) I don’t agree with.

        Having grown up on a farm of sorts (small sheep flock, among other things) for part of my life and seeing the breeding that occurred naturally (and annually) I am ok with the breeding at this dairy (they wait beyond the common dairy cycle until the previous calf is months old.)

        I don’t agree with most animal husbandry practices (antibiotics to allow for overcrowding, lack of space or sky, and plenty of other things) but I feel ok with it when practices are done in such a manner as to partake of what nature does anyway (eggs) or trade food, shelter, and medical attention in emergencies for a share of the milk they’d be making anyway.

        By no means are there very many places that are in line with what feels ok, and even then if I were to do it myself, it would be less of a production and more about a trade, but if my neighborhood won’t let me have chickens, I don’t think they’d take too kindly on a cow… 😉

        The harder approach, I’ve found, is to attempt to trace back any grain or sugar product to fair conditions for the people producing them. Produce I can get from the market (and visit the farms), meat and dairy I can get from the market (and visit the farms), but grain and sugar aren’t produced locally, and my Google-fu fails when I try and see where exactly that organic evaporated cane juice (or flour, or yeast, or peanut butter) is grown and how it’s refined and how much those folks get paid.

        There is so much to look into, learn, and remember. I try and take on one additional food item at a time into my mental capacity, but until I am brave enough to embark on my own Very Small Farm (http://www.amazon.com/Very-Small-Farm-William-Winchester/dp/0806137789) adventure, I think there’s only so much balance we can find in any of our dietary and ecological decisions in the societies we find ourselves in.

        And happy to! So many conversations surrounding food and agriculture (or most anything it seems, really!) can take a devout and fiery turn quite easily. Glad to have a conversation to expand my thought process and spark more research and inspire possible further changes.

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      4. I love it! You practically take the work right out of writing another blog post.

        So…when the mother is with her calf for months, until its weaned, they’re NOT taking her milk? This is a practice I’ve not heard of.

        Food is something we all do every day so it makes sense that folks focus on THAT for making any monitary and/or habitary changes affecting the bigger picture. Everyone has a different philosophy (as many as religion, I’d say) and ethics can be argued ’til the (sorry) cows come home. I also enjoy the back-and-forth…makes me think more!

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      5. Yeah, they aren’t. It’s part of why I started drinking milk again (I didn’t for years.) Also, they do a lower pasteurization process, which makes the milk not hurt my stomach! It’s a family dairy that definitely does its own thing.

        Ha! Speaking of cow idioms, DH and I were trying to think of where “don’t have a cow” originated and you’ve reminded me to look it up.

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