Sunday, November 29, 2015

That's some turkey!

This is a tale of Mr. Turkey.

This is our second year with turkeys. We raised two last year and were so pleased with the results that we decided to do it again this year.

We got Mr. Turkey this spring as a young chick and cared for him all summer. After I got ready to write this blog entry I realized I didn't take many pictures of the birds this summer, which is a shame because this bad boy became semi-famous this weekend.

I'll be honest, I'm not really sure what to write about raising him over the summer, except he was well-taken care of and he loved being a part of the chicken flock. We raised him with the chicks we got this spring, so as far as he knew he was just a big chicken.

Halfway through the summer he came into his own and started doing the displaying turkeys are famous for. He was extremely camera shy so it took a while before I was able to get him on video.

The video above shows how big he is next to chickens the same age.

This video shows him gobbling for all his worth.

Okay, now we get to the heart of this story.

If you haven't guessed, we raised the turkey for our Thanksgiving meal. A couple weeks ago it was decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday this year. Family was coming out of town and the more the merrier.

Thanksgiving day we set out the big pot, I snapped a picture and posted it to Facebook. This was the beginning of a story for many people on my friend list.

As soon as the photo was shared, many people knew what would be coming and were eager to hear the details, post-processing. No nitty-gritty details, cause I'm nice that way.

A lot of people on my friend's list would love to be able to live a farm-type lifestyle but are unable to, for one reason or another. So they enjoy when I write and share about all the farm-life type things.

Processing was fairly quick. From the time we set out the pot, till the the end, it took under an hour.

When he was all cleaned up we pulled out the kitchen scale weighed him. The turkey dressed out at just under 50 pounds. 

Yup, you read that right. A 50-pound, homegrown, farm-fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. He was measured and it was determined we'd need a roasting pan at least 21" by 13."

That's when I started panicking a bit. The "big" roasting pan wasn't going to cut it. It was 15" by 10" and was good for a bird not much bigger than 30 pounds. Here we are, a couple days from D-Day, and I didn't have time to order anything online.

Both of us hit the Internet and started doing research on how to cook a bird this size. If people are cooking birds this big, very few of them are actually writing about it.

Meanwhile, I was posting updates on Facebook and people were throwing out ideas on how to cook this big bird. Some people nicknamed him Turkeyzilla.

We knew we didn't want to cut the turkey up. We weren't even sure what we'd use for cutting if we decided to go that route.

I tried thinking creatively and thought a steam table pan could be used, but they aren't big enough. The disposable foil pans aren't big enough. We even thought about deep frying the turkey. Turns out the pots for deep frying turkey's aren't very big. Then, I thought I had the solution: A nesco roaster.

Nope, *still* not big enough to hold the turkey.

It was decided we would go shopping on Friday and look at what was actually in the stores. When it got right down to it, trying to find stuff on online websites wasn't working out.

Friday, we got up bright and early to go shopping for chicken feed. The Fleet Farm down in Rice Lake had a Black Friday special. We hit Walmart first thing and checked out the pots and pans.

We found some *huge* Nordic Ware cookie sheets. I think they are a three-quarter sheet. We knew we found the "base" for our roasting pan. Then we found a roasting pan a smidge bigger than our current roasting pan, and it had a roasting rack which would hold the bird up a bit higher than a typical rack. It also allowed the bird to hang over a bit so we wouldn't need to try and squish the bird into a small space.

Once we arrived back home we started setting things up. After all my reading the night before, I knew I'd need to start cooking Friday evening for a Saturday meal.

We put an over-sized piece of aluminum foil on the cookie sheet. Then put the roasting pan on the cookie sheet and loaded the bird onto the rack. I stuffed the turkey with four boxes of stuffing. I could have easily done six boxes and still had room for more.

My husband trussed up the turkey, and then he and I each grabbed a size of the cookie sheet and placed the turkey into the oven.

It just barely fit, side-to-side. The neck is touching on one side and the legs are hitting the wall on the other side. There wasn't a lot of room between the bird and the top of the oven.

I never dreamed we'd be cutting it so close.

After making sure it fit in the oven we draped the turkey in bacon, to help with basting. I read in a few places about basting with bacon during a slow cook, to keep the skin moist. The bird was covered in foil, the oven was set for 165 degrees Fahrenheit and turned on. This was about 6 p.m.

Saturday morning, at about 7 a.m. my husband turned the oven up to 200 or 250 degrees Fahrenheit, then about 10 a.m. we turned the heat up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and checked on it at noon. By this time I was able to put a second rack in the oven and get a few other things for our meal going. The turkey was in the oven about 18 hours.

At about 2 p.m. we pulled the bird out and admired it. No kidding, we all pretty much stood around it and went "Wow, that's a BIG bird." It took two men to pull the turkey out of the oven. They had to be very careful so they didn't spill any goodness or tip the turkey over.

P.S. The bacon tasted AWESOME! One person remarked about how it should be the *only* kind of turkey bacon allowed.

Then we had to figure out how to get the bird out of the pan so I could get the turkey drippings and make gravy. One person thought we could just carefully tip the pan, until they actually tried lifting just one side of the pan.

Thankfully I have two big platters and we lifted the turkey and placed it on one. The turkey just barely fit onto the platter.

Here is my husband and I with the turkey. My SIL insisted a picture should be taken of us with the bird.

After we all admired the bird we carved the turkey up and ate dinner.

The flavor of the meat is indescribable. The meat was also incredibly tender and juicy.

Once the meal was over we did the typical "here, you take leftovers for home" bit.  I might have been a little aggressive on that. Even with eight people eating their fill of turkey and me foisting leftovers one everyone ("Are you sure you don't want more?") we still had enough turkey leftover that is more than what people usually start out with.

This morning, after ignoring my kitchen for the evening I set to taking care of the leftovers.

The stockpot got filled with some of the turkey bones. There simply wasn't enough room for them all. I thought this stock pot was *SO* big. I purchased it so I could waterbath on the stove. Pulling it out of the cupboard to use I thought "This suddenly isn't so big."

My husband cleaned the carcass a bit and left me a huge slab of meat to cut up and pressure can.

Before cutting up I knew I better take a picture, with a ruler. Otherwise, no one would believe how big it was. It was 12 inches long.

The base of the meat was easily five inches wide.

At the time of my writing this I have a pot of turkey stock that still needs to be taken care of so I don't know how much stock I actually have.  

I have 10 pints of meat cooling and a mess of turkey I decided I wasn't going to process or freeze.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The gales of November are upon us ...

Last week the wind switched.  It rained, the wind blew and it was just plain icky out.

This was last Tuesday. I stopped at the grocery store after work to pick something up for supper. The weather was downright depressing.  The cold and dampness got bone-deep, thanks to the wind gusts.

On Wednesday the weather switched and the sun came out.  It was BEAUTIFUL out.  Temps were almost in the 60s F. 

I had to run around the house and take pictures of the outside. 

I threw open ALL the windows in the house and exchanged the air.  *sigh* It was so lovely.  I even took advantage of the nice weather and mucked out the coop over my lunch hour. The chickens and turkey got to stretch their legs for a bit. 

Then the wind changed and the weather turned yet again.

And now we've a bit of snow on the ground at the homsestead.  No snow in town.

I've been waking up to frost on the car. 

Goodbye 50 F degree temps.  It was nice knowing you.

Thanksgiving is in just a few days. Once again, the month is going way too fast. Tomorrow is my last day of work for the week. My son has the whole week off from school.  Lucky! He's been getting spoiled by his grandma.

Let's see, what else is going on ... Since it got "cold" out we haven't been doing much outside.

I was listening to "Crewel." The audiobook expired before I had a chance to finish it. I've got in on request again. I picked up "Westing Game" from the library today.  My son read it in school and asked me to read it too.  By the time I remembered to get it they finished the book. I also picked up "Floors" to listen in the car.  It was something I grabbed off the shelf and so far is family friendly.  I forgot how much I dislike morning radio. It was nice to have a story to listen to during the afternoon drive.

For all I read and listen too, my GoodReads TBR list isn't getting smaller. 

This week I got an urge to whip up a knit bunny.  I finished him last night.

I added a little color to his cheeks.  It's a trick I learned from another project. Rub a little color pencil onto the yarn.

And it appears I've been smitten by the sewing bug.  Honestly, I had no intention of this happening but I reckon that when you get a good machine and it's a dream to sew, you suddenly want to sew all the things.

I used a walking foot for the first time.  I felt so cool using something other than the all-purpose foot. When I got my machine my DH ordered me a set of feet to go with it. I had to look on YouTube to see how to use it.

I am a sewer. Hear me rawr!
 Last weekend I attempted to make a maxi skirt and it turned out not as expected.  It's a strictly around the house skirt. You will never see pics of it, unless I decide to rip it apart and try again. It is super comfy.  There is no doubt about it. 

So, I posted my woes about it on my Facebook account and received LOTS of encouragement to keep trying.

Earlier this week I drove to a local fabric place and picked out some patterns and fabric to work with.  I'm excited and nervous because fabric was cheaper the last time I tried making skirts and dresses. I also am a complete newbie when it comes to the different types of fabrics.

Thanks to one of my knitter friends I am slowly learning about fabrics and what is meant for what. 

When I was looking at fabrics I was completely overwhelmed by all the options available and knowing that I didn't know what some of the fabrics were used for. 

I don't typically buy willy nilly.  I must have a project in mind.  My friend told me what type of fabrics were good for each of these patterns and I tried to shop accordingly. 

My friend suggested I hold off on this pattern for now.

Here and there I've been doing reading online about sewing clothes and learning why people opt to make their own clothing.  Making your own clothes is *not* cheap. When you start really thinking about what has to happen in order for you to get the "cheap" off-the-rack clothing, it really makes you stop and think, and develop a real appreciation for what goes into it all.  It's sort of like when you raise your own livestock and grow your own produce. Doing this stuff yourself costs so much more, yet you get so much more out of it. You are also keeping certain skills alive.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

First snow of the year

Friday we got our first snow fall of the year.  It did not make for a very happy me.  I don't want snow until after Thanksgiving.  Then it can be gone by January 15.

Saturday morning we woke up to pretty white snow all around.  My coworker texted me to say there was no snow by the big lake.

Since snow fell I decided it was time to put the wreath up on the door.  It dresses up our new screen door nicely.

I spent a big chunk of Saturday working on crafty stuff and started listening to a new book, "Crewel" So far I'm really liking it.  I'm also impressed my DH has no concerns that I might possibly want a loom after all this fiber talk of spinning and weaving.

Today we woke up to some decent temps for November.  The snow melt was *pouring* off the roof.  And now there is almost no snow remaining in my yard.  The bright flash in the picture is the sun.  I was hoping the flash wouldn't' be as intense in the photo.  You can make out the drops of water coming off the roof.

I took a quick little video so people could hear the melt coming off the roof.

Since I was actually carrying my phone around with me today I took a couple more videos.

I have tried to describe the sound a hen makes when she's in the nesting box and is trying to warn you away. Oh this girl was *not* happy.  

It was not as dark as the video is making it out to be.  A few of the ladies thought I had treats because I had the phone in my hand.

And speaking of Mr. Turkey.  The countdown to Thanksgiving has started. He isn't aware of anything, of course.  He's had a good life and he's currently being pampered and told what a handsome boy he is. It really is a shame he never got a girlfriend. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Time to get cracking

This past Friday a cold bug decided I was a good person to visit for a while. Not an enjoyable way to spend what was probably the last nice weekend of the year. 

Today is the best I've felt. I'll spare the details, not that there are any gory ones.  I will say I probably should have stayed home from work but I was "functional" and my work to-do list got the best of me.  I told myself I wouldn't go in if I felt crappy but my sense of responsibility got the best of me. Time was spent in the office, with little interaction with coworkers.  When I did venture out I was sort of treated like I had the plague, despite how nice some of them were about it.

Today was my usual work at home day but there was a surprise farewell lunch for a person who is leaving for a job overseas.  So I went in and tried to touch as little as possible. It was a lovely luncheon. It was German-themed and a few of the ladies cooked a really nice variety of food.

Dashed back home as quick as I could. Weather people said our area is to get a storm starting tonite.

When I went out to do chicken chores I could tell something was up.  There was a certain *something* in the air and how it moved.

Gray clouds, just a bit of wind and the start of some sprinkles.

Seriously, this was at 4 p.m. How depressing.

Secret knitting has been put in timeout.  Not because it was bad.  A few kinks need to be worked out before I continue on.

In the meantime my attention has turned elsewhere.  I've signed up for two swaps this month.  One is with a group of knitters I've been friends with for many years.  The other one is through a FB group I've been a part of for a couple years. My work announced a crafting sale.  Last year I didn't bring anything in and some people expressed their disappointment.  So this year I am aiming to please.

Since I want everything to be a surprise I can't post anything I've made so far.  I will post a pic of some fabric for a craft that will be for sale at my work sale. Any guesses on what this will be?

So, since I can't really talk about my crafting, I thought I'd post a bit of a farm update.

All my ladies are doing good and giving us lots of gifts every day now. It's better than Christmas!

Every now and then we get what is obviously a first egg. The eggs are so wee. There are still lots of double-yolkers.

I got a pretty decent side shot of our male turkey. He is *such* a pretty boy. He's starting to have a hard time now.  It shows in his walking.  He's got a bit of a wobble now and a slight limp. He's still looking for a girlfriend. I'm a bit amazed no wild turkeys showed up in our yard.  Some were spotted about three-quarters of a mile away.

I've got some videos!

I was waiting for the turkey to gobble.  He's *so* camera shy. You do get to hear Skips crow. 

Here I got a good vid of the turkey vocalizing. When I see him I can almost hear him go "I'm a pretty boy, I'm a pretty boy." He's got such a sweet little personality.  

Whenever you open the coop door wide, the birds *pour* out of the coop.  They don't even wait for you to move out of the way.  There are at least three, maybe four, who fly from the top rung of the roost and glide out of the coop and go way into the yard. I need to duck my head and sometimes I've had to jump out of the way.  

In this video I thought one of the Americaunas was going to do it.  Then she decided to hop down and walk out. 

In other news, my son's Halloween costume was a hit. Lots of people raved about it during Trick or Treating, and he got lots of extra goodies because of his costume being homemade. 
I've started listening to "Legend" by Marie Wu. It's really helping the commute go by. I'm starting to really appreciate duo voices in novels.  Or however it's called. The audiobook readers do a nice job.

I'm slowly getting back into podcasts.  Seems a fresh crop has popped up in the last year or so. It's kind of nice to see some new faces.  Haven't decided on which might be keepers.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1 already?

Things have been awfully quiet on the blog home front.  Reasons are simple: I've been all over the place the last couple of months.  Tidying some things up, getting things ready for fall. Kind of running in all directions.  When I do manage to sit down for a bit, I'm almost embarrassed to say that I stare at the TV and try to decompress.

September was for getting back into the school routine.  My son is getting more homework so he's been adjusting to this new cog in the school wheel.  I've also been keeping on him to stay on top of coursework and whatnot. He is currently getting high marks in all his classes.  I'd like it to stay that way.

He just wrote a first draft for a mystery short story. It's due this Friday.  He asked me to read it and I thought it was cute.  Probably not the reaction he was expecting. If he will allow it, I'll post the story on the blog for posterity.

My son and I also did our first 5K.  I mostly walked the race, because of the knee injury, but I did run across the finish line. 

 My son took  second place with a time of 26 minutes, 10 seconds. My time was 43 minutes, 50 seconds. I am so proud of my boy. The lady who took third place told my DH her dog was racing to keep up with my son because he wanted to play, and that's why she got third.

In September I started knitting and crocheting up a bunch of dishcloths.  I got the dishcloth bug pretty hard, actually. I found patterns online and was trying them out, one right after the other.

Then I knit up a cowl in some stash yarn I decided it was time to use.  It is a soft bamboo/silk blend. I can't remember the name of the pattern.  It is a Lion Brand pattern.  Very simple to knit up.  I think it will work very nicely this fall.

In October I started a test knit for a friend. It's still in progress.

Another thing that happened recently is the re-homing of our adult hens and two roosters. The little girls started laying and we can't keep all the chickens.  The mother of someone we know was happy to take our mature ladies and have them as pets.   We kept Grandma P, her two daughters, and one other girl. 

The first few nights of the little girls being in the coop was a bit hard on Grandma P.  She likes to go to bed early, like 7 p.m. and the "young, whipper-snappers" like to stay out as long as they can.  Then, when they'd go into the coop, they were running all around and raising a ruckus. Everyone has all mostly settled into a familiar routine now.  Especially now with it getting dark out so early. 

Mr. Turkey is doing just fine.  He's on a permanent display. He's also gotten pretty darn heavy.  Last time he was weighed, he was 47 pounds. Yes, he's a big boy, for sure.

The hens started laying in September and we've been getting a nice bounty of gifts every day.  We are up to 2 dozen eggs every day, give or take a few. Some of their systems are still working the bugs out. 

The egg in the middle is 3 inches long.  It was a double-yolker, two full eggs inside.

October was also for making my son's Halloween costume.  This year he decided to be the Barbarian King, from Clash of Clans.  This is a game that's played on smart phones. The costume was a hit at school and during trick or treating.  Some people gave him extra candy because the costume was homemade.  People LOVE a homemade costume. Most people thought he was a knight, however.  One girl recognized the costume. 

Well, while I was sewing part of the costume my Singer Athena started acting up and finally stopped working. Fortunately I have a second vintage machine I was able to finish sewing on.  Went back and forth about getting the Athena fixed.  Found out the local sewing machine repairman is no longer in business, and decided to put the money towards the purchase of a new sewing machine.

I'm now the happy owner of a Janome 8077.  Getting a new machine has made sewing a joy.  The day it was delivered I pulled it out of the box, read the instructions, set it up, and sewed my first item that night.

The first item was a chicken apron.  Haven't had a chance to try it on one of the hens yet.

Second item was a drawstring bag.

Third item is a bucket bag. I found the pocket fabric and fell in love with it.

Next thing I'll be doing is pants hemming.  Very exciting and sexy stuff!  After that I suppose I'll be completing the little quilt I started about a year ago but set aside when I needed to start the layers bit. 

November will most likely be another busy month for me.  Getting ready for Thanksgiving and placing all my ducks in a row for Christmas gift giving. 

I've been listening to audiobooks in the car, and reading here and there, before bedtime.  I've been really bad about marking them in my Goodreads account and I can't remember them all.  

Work was busy for me the last month or so.  Our retired bishop passed away and we needed to put together a tribute issue, which I think turned out very nice. There was also a diocesan-wide event I needed to get ready for. In the back of my mind I need to remember that a new bishop could be appointed *any day now.* It's almost a year since our bishop was transferred to a new diocese. 

The weather has been not the best this past week. Lots of rain and dreariness. The wood stove has been going every evening.