Talking Turkey About Raising Turkeys At Barefoot Farm

Kathy Harrison, author; Lehman's guest blogger; and human being, just like the rest of us!

Kathy Harrison, author; Lehman’s guest blogger; and human being, just like the rest of us!

We’re Not All Martha Stewart
It’s tempting, when you read a blog post, to believe that the farming life is all fun and accomplishment. Who, after all, is inclined to write about their mistakes and disappointments? Well me, for one. If I only wrote about my successes, I would run out of material in the first week.

Here’s the truth of it. A whole lot of my life is just one disaster after the other. I may write about digging parsnips but I’m not going to waste a lot of ink on how many got eaten by voles. I will tell you about making cheese but not spend a lot of time on the many times my efforts fed the pigs rather than people. And don’t get me going on the fruit. My strawberry pictures were gorgeous but I’m not posting the pictures of the joys of trying to get the row covers on in the wind.

So when I tell you all about the pleasure of canning turkey and how good it tastes and how convenient it is to have all the lovely jars filling up the shelves in my pantry please know that there is more to the story than a lovely afternoon in the canning kitchen.

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Here’s How It All Started
I did a lot of research before deciding on a heritage breed of turkey. Bourbon Reds, I learned, were hearty birds, just the right size for a small family and generally good mothers. Necessary for the last part was a willing tom.

We had two who seemed up for the job. Unfortunately, foxes like turkey as much as I do and both my selected toms met their maker in the same week this spring. The hunt was on for new toms and we found them on Craigslist.

They cost about as much as my first car but what’s a girl to do? If I didn’t get the toms then I would have no fertile eggs. No fertile eggs translates into a greatly diminished winter food supply.  So we bought the birds and brought them home.

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Everything went according to plan. Toms and hens did what toms and hens do and we had fertile eggs aplenty. The only problem was that no one told our hens that they are supposed to be good mothers. They would lay all the eggs we wanted but sitting on them was not in the cards. And you know turkeys. You can’t tell them anything.

Having been through Plan A and now Plan B, I was feeling more than a bit discouraged. Then, flipping through a Lehman’s catalog, my eye was caught by an incubator. Like the toms, it was not cheap but it was large enough to hold 24 large turkey eggs. I didn’t waste a lot of time thinking about it. I called in the order and it came, ready to hold the eggs and launch my flock.

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You can put up gorgeous produce, meat and more. Get supplies at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

And Then…Summing Up
I can do the math. I would need to add the cost of the birds including the two we lost and then add in the cost of the replacement toms and the incubator. My birds are free range but they still need feed and bedding. I would not add in the cost of the coop or the electricity for running the lights and the incubator as it’s late and I’m too lazy in any case. At the end of the day I can just tell you that it’s rounds up to….a lot more money than I expected.

Bear in mind that the turkeys that make it still roll up some expenses. I have to plan to butcher (at most) 24 turkeys, defeather and gut them, keep a few for roasting and can the rest. Yep. It’s about as much fun as it sounds. But when it’s over, I’ll post a picture of a dozen jars filled with meat, sitting on a table covered with a gingham checked table cloth and the sun streaming in the window. It will be lovely. Just lovely.

Kathy Harrison

About Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison is the author of Just in Case, Another Place at the Table, and One Small Boat. She is a national spokesperson for both foster parenting and family preparedness and has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and National Public Radio. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts.