Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Life Goes On

There is frost on the lawn this morning and a chill in the air. I step out to feed the animals. The sheep move out single-file, with the Maremmas leading the way, checking for hazards. I open the gate and watch EmmaLou and Sushi run across the back pasture bucking and playing happily, while the Maremmas race back and forth between them in a game of LGD tag. Tails are wagging furiously with joy and exuberance and I laugh at their antics.

Mister nickers at me, waiting impatiently for his morning hay. He’s alone again as Wimpy is out with the cavvy so I don’t have to hand feed him. Mister would be there too, but for his advanced age and the fact that he doesn’t get along well in a herd situation. He had his tail chewed off and was marked up pretty badly from kicks and bites when just a couple of horses were turned into the pasture with him, so it will have to be a solitary life for him, this winter again.

The veggies droop with frostbite, the last flowers hold out bravely in their fight to survive, but they too will lose the battle soon. Still I appreciate their cheerful colors and their tenacity. 

My youngest son and his family stayed another week. They bagged 2 deer and cut one up for our freezer which was a greatly appreciated gift as we forgot, once again, to put in for tags. Abby and her little sister get along famously so things went smoothly, even if Kinley wasn't too keen on me, not really knowing us as we live so far away and our time together is so short.

Abby picked the last of the flowers to put on the table for me.

They helped to cheer me up when the inevitable time came.

My little people are all gone and with them, the sounds of laughter and giggles.
While they were here, Thomas' heart began to fail him, as is the fate of turkeys of his ilk. He was a hybrid bird, who gained weight so rapidly that his legs and heart couldn't sustain him. HIs color got bad, his legs began to swell and his breathing became labored so we took the cue and humanely destroyed him. Being as how I had a relationship with him, I could not look on when the deed was initially done. My youngest son picked him up (which he was quite used to as I used to carry him under my arm so it didn't scare him at all for someone to do so). Randyman helped to turn him upside-down and he did like chickens or turkeys tend to do and sort of became dazed/dizzy/catatonic. My friend and daughter in law looked on as they dispatched him and were amazed at how 'humane' it was. They both said he never seemed fearful or in pain. I've done a lot of chickens so I know this to be true. It's just hard to dispatch an old friend, even when it is the kindest thing to do for them.

 R.I. P. Thomas. As one reader on AR hilariously stated, "In this case, it stands for "Roast In Pan".

 I know he doesn't mind. He had a great life and he's out of pain now. For those of you who think it's easy or cruel of us to raise our own meat, allow me to say, it's never easy to kill anything, but this is the purpose for which he existed and his journey through life was sweet, his death untraumatic and painless as possible, and my family is provided with healthy meat, free of all the nasties that come with commercially raised critters and we are satisfied knowing they were well cared for and loved and lived in healthy, happy, sanitary conditions.

He was too big for the enormous tub we bought to scald him in, and too big for the plucker. It dawned on me that the people I had interviewed about these things had 'heritage turkeys' which are much smaller. We finally got the job done and got him processed and put him in a large sink of ice water to chill. He didn't fit so I put a wet cloth over his breast to keep him hydrated. He weighed 46 lb. dressed out. I parted him out a couple of days later and was amazed. I got 5 1/2 qts of dark meat to can off of his legs. The thighs weighed almost 4 lb each. 

This is one thigh, which took up the entire cutting board.
A half breast was 10 lb. 

This is an 18" cutting board. Enormous, I tell you!

 I cut the breast meat into  (4) 5 lb roasts and sent one back to California with Cody and his family. They subsequently smoked it and sent us a pic. He said it was the best turkey they ever had.

The kids' other 'grammy' told me she talked to Abby by phone and was told "I rode Mister and we killed Thomas!"
I asked if she could top THAT for Camp Granma!

 It seems unnaturally quiet now, but I suppose it is best as all three of us are down with a virus. Chills, coughing, runny noses and ears that hurt. Last year it hung on for almost 3 months due to my suppressed immune system. I hope that won’t be the case this time although there is no reason to hope otherwise.

Meanwhile, I wash my hands  a LOT so I can continue canning food for the winter. I’m still getting around so this is the time. Beef dip for sandwiches and pulled pork went on the shelves this morning and 6 quarts of chili are in the canner as I write. There were 7, but Randyman got a taste and begged a jar for lunch so it was pulled back out. It was surely tasty stuff, with a little green onion, cheese and sour cream on top. I had some leftover cornbread with it and it made me a happy camper, even if I am sick.

Lamb stew, burrito meat and meatballs are still on the list for this week and I have to keep soaping for Christmas orders. There is actually quite a lot of soap on the shelves but many are ‘summer scents’ such as Fiesta, Lemongrass, and florals. There are a couple of new fragrances I will be soaping (Vanilla Bean, Jasmine and Caramel Custard) to see how they sell. 

Plans for next year’s garden are already in the works. The basil is in the greenhouse along with the rosemary as I use a LOT of both in my cooking and neither do well in this cold climate. I will have to try yet another variety of tomato to use for canning. Having extra hands here will help to gather the calendula petals for use in both soap and healing oils. One of my little people had perpetually chapped cheeks and nothing helped. Her mommy tried a little of my infused Calendula Oil and the results were nothing short of dramatic. In 1 day, her cheeks were normal, so all my petals went south with them, as she is one of my VIP ‘customers’, of course.

Big plans for the future. For now, I will settle back with a bowl of lamb stew and dumplings, hug on Potamus and relive the precious moments God gave me with my family as I await their eventual return.


  1. Thank you to Thomas for providing you and your family a beautiful dinner. WOW, you got a lot of meat outta him. I buy my meat from a local farm as often as I nasty stuff and you really can taste the difference. When I buy the big bulk bag of chicken breasts, I can taste how unhealthy it is. How is Cider?

  2. I am looking forward to trying out the meat myself. Cider is doing well. He was sent back to the house during the processing as he was a bit over enthusiastic! He didn't grieve like the Maremmas do.

  3. Just curious how the Maremmas grieve? Tucker would have been over enthusiastic as well. Gotta love Goldens.

    1. They mope around, continually search for him where he normally spent time and reject any fresh 'turkey parts' offered as food for several days. Then they man up and go on. It happens with the chickens and sheep as well. Potamus lays under the horse trailer for a few days after we sell or take lambs to butcher and Bru mopes around the pasture refusing to get up. It's really sad, but its part of life. They are always happy when a new lamb is born or a new batch of chicks come to raise. Funny dogs.

    2. That's really interesting. I would love to see your dogs in action. See, animals have emotions too. I watched a short news video about an elephant that stayed by its dead elephant friend for many hours warding off any critters that thought the elephant would be an easy meal. Then the elephant wrapped its trunk around the dead elephant's tusk as a final goodbye gesture and walked off. It was so sad.

  4. Oh My goodness Tom WAS A BIG Turkey. Lots of good eats. You are always so busy and here I sit at the computer when I have dishes to do and house to clean and many sewing projects 1/2 done! We did put up 50 quarts of tomatoes. The green beans got away from us and the heat and dry spell did them in. So we are shelling the last of them as dry beans for soups. I am still using soap from my last order. (Love it and it lasts so much longer than a bar from the store.) hugs...

    1. I am glad you are enjoying your soap! I envy you your tomatoes. I got 1. That's right. 1 ripe tomatoe. The chickens got to it before I did though and it had a big hole in it. My beans never got planted this year due to flares so I'll have to do twice as many next year. Here's hoping for bumper crops!

  5. Wow! No wonder Thomas was having so much trouble at the end - that is a lot of weight to carry around for a turkey. He certainly had a wonderful life. I am so glad that you got to spend time with your family. I have to say that your grandchildren are beautiful and seem so sweet and thoughtful. You be sure to take care of that virus - and I am glad that you have help now.

    1. Thanks Susan. He was a monster, for sure, and my kids and grandkids ARE really wonderful!

  6. Hi Petey! Sounds like you had a wonderful visit with your family and those little girls are precious. The blonde hair looks like my youngest daughter when she was small. Her hair was so blonde and I had dark brown hair. Everyone looked at her, then looked at me and asked where she came from! That funny turkey gave you lots of good eating sounds like! I can't imagine twenty lb. breast! Life on your ranch sounds like something I would have loved when I was younger and able! We had a small acreage with a huge garden, raised and milked goats, raised calves and pigs for meat. Loved that time in our lives. Love reading your blog and I am so glad you are feeling well, except for the virus! Looking forward to your next post!

  7. Family visits are never long enough, are they? The girls are so cute.
    Thomas was an amazing Turkey.
    Take care of that cold... virus thing. (Wash your hands a lot.)
    That reminds me....I need to order some of your soap.
    Take care.

  8. How wonderful to have both your sons and their families around you at the same time! So happy for you to have had a real family Thanksgiving!
    Everything here is finished by frost. It's time to cut down the perennial garden and put everything away for a long winter. I guess we can plan for next year. I'll miss those sunny hours....
    Take care of that virus. Kristi