Normally, we try not to name animals we raise for meat. But Grace called this bird Fluffy because it "fluffed" out all the time. If you haven't guessed by now, Fluffy is a boy, struttin' his bad self around the chicken yard all day. The kids knew when we got the turkey as a poult that we would be eating him so no surprises there. In fact, Grace was really excited about the day we would process Fluffy so she could have the feathers. She constantly harassed me if this would be the day. Go figure, right?....(The Sister is totally obsessed with feathers, always carrying one and usually flapping her little wings and running around "flying".)
Although I knew why I bought this bird, it is still hard. After taking care of him all summer and hearing his boy turkey noises all the time, it's difficult to decide which day should be processing day. I do not ever look forward to this day. And besides, I have never done a turkey before. So... Fluffy got really, really big. Like probably every bit of 50 pounds BIG. Excuses were easy to come by.. "It's too hot" was the main one. Then it was "I don't have all the tools I need because now he's too big now to fit in anything to scald". <Sigh>....
One day last week while I was feeding the birds, Fluffy wasn't trying to tear the bucket out of my hands to get the feed like normal. In fact, he wasn't around at all. Uh oh.... something's wrong. Oh Lord, please don't let me find this bird dead... Please don't let me find this bird dead... Please Lord, if I find him alive, then today is the day.... no more procrastination. Ah! There he is! Inside the chicken house.. Hmmm.. That's not normal. I dropped some feed in front of him. He acted like he wanted to eat but didn't. Alright then.. It's officially time. After all the energy and feed this bird has consumed, I'm not going to let him die on me and be dog food. He's supposed to be the Thanksgiving turkey.
I made the decision and acted quickly. It had to be done and the sooner I get it over, the better. I informed the husband and asked if he would sharpen the knives for me. (I really need to learn how to do that effectively, really sharp knives are essential for this sort of project) The sister is on my heels in anticipation of all the feathers. He's definitely too big to scald so I'm figuring I will just skin him. I didn't know what else to do. I'm in a hurry, right?? (If you don't know, you dunk them in hot water to "scald" them to release the feathers, after they are dead of course) It's about 5:00 pm and not hours of daylight left. Ok, I've got everything gathered. He's too big for me to carry so I shuffle him out of the chicken yard over to the cherry tree. Ok, the hardest part... How to dispatch him? I've never done a turkey before, remember?? ... Oh jeeeezzz.. Ok I'll use one of those sharp knives and cut his throat. He won't feel a thing.
You've heard the ole' saying about chickens running around with their head cut off?? It's true. They flop and flutter and carry on. It's terrible. I don't like it. To combat this, you use this cone thingy to put them in so they don't do that and bruise the meat. It is much less violent. Of course, I don't have anything like that for this giant turkey. I figure I'll just straddle him and lay all my weight on him to keep him from doing that. I send the Sister inside to get something in case this goes wrong.
Ready... 1...2.....3......4.....ok just gotta do it.. NOW. Oh my. Part of me wishes this was caught on video so you can see just how big he really was and what it was like to try to keep him from flopping. He was STRONG I tell ya, STRONG. But Im glad it wasn't because I really don't like reliving that. It's the worst part. In fact I don't have any pictures. Sorry.
Finally, life leaves his body. I'm thankful. Sis is back and we give thanks. She's upset at seeing him lifeless. Me too. We pray some more.
Gotta get to work. The sun is down. I managed to get him hung from the tree by a couple of ropes. I started the skinning process but the feathers were coming out fairly easily so I just started plucking. I've never plucked without scalding before so I have no experience. I just kept after it. The Brother is outside now, investigating everything. We did a fairly decent job of plucking, I thought anyway. Ok now I need to get the insides out. Hmmm.. How am I going to do that, I wondered. I need some muscle. I called on the Husband to help carry him over to the table so I could lay him flat.
I took the opportunity for a turkey anatomy lesson. The kids like seeing the insides. Me too. I find it fascinating how God put everything together and made it work. We checked each organ. Makes me miss surgery... (I was a vet assistant for years) Everything looked good. Nothing weird or any disease that I could tell. The gizzard was HUGE though! Like as big as my hand. I have no idea if that was normal. The dogs got the organs, head and feet. No sense wasting those parts, they have a lot of nutrition in them.
Packed him up and hauled him to Nana and Grandpa's because we didn't have the room in our fridge. We learned the hard way not to freeze them during rigor. It makes the meat tough and stringy. Let them rest in a fridge or cooler about 24 hours. The next day, we separated the breast because it was more than enough to feed the whole family on Thanksgiving. Packaged it up and stuck him in Nana's freezer. The rest I cut up and packaged separately for dinners. One leg would be 2, probably 3 meals. Roasted, then BBQ, then lastly soup of some sort.
After everything you go through for homegrown meat, trust me, you appreciate it more than something you picked up at the store. You know exactly what the animal ate, how it lived and how it died. It is a very gratifying experience.
So there's the story of Fluffy. Thanks for reading!
Many blessings friends,