From Our Farm to Your Table

Turkey Talk

Tue, 2016-12-20 11:53 -- Carole Soule
Turkeys in our barn yard

Through the picture window in my bedroom the outline of the house is clear in the snow. North facing tree branches are white with lines of snow, shinning in the moon light. The ravine behind the house drops forty feet then rises another hundred feet on the other side. From my chair I look directly into the tops of the trees growing in the ravine, a favorite nesting site for wild turkeys.

Turkeys can fly but they don't go far or high. At dusk a flock a turkeys will stand in the pasture on the far side of the ravine. One or two tom turkeys (males) chase the younger birds until they take flight into the tree tops. From the top of the hundred foot ravine the birds don't have to fly far to reach their tree top perches. Each bird runs about ten or twenty feet flapping their wings. At the edge of the hill they lift off and flap another forty or fifty feet to the top of a tree. The tom turkeys stay on the ground chasing the others into flight.

When most of the birds are in the trees the remaining toms join them. In the past the flock nested in another field with a cemetery nearby. The cemetery in that field was fenced with a foot wide stone wall. The birds would use the cemetery wall as a runway. They would hop on the cemetery wall, run along it and then leap off flapping into the nearby trees.

Turkeys on the Cemetery Wall

During the day the turkeys hunt for food. In fresh snow they leave tracks that wander away and join up again as they meander through our pastures. With no bugs to eat they seem to do well on seeds left over from summer and some that drop from the hay we feed our cattle and horses.

The turkeys are safe from predators in the trees. The other night I heard the local coyote pack howling nearby but since the turkeys are high in the trees at night they are safe from the coyotes. At Miles Smith Farm our adult cattle are too big for the coyotes to attack but the calves aren't. A lone calf would be fair game for a pack of coyotes but our herd of sixty five cattle keep the babies safe from attack. As long as the calves stay with the herd they are safe. If a calf wanders off into the woods, well that can be bad news for the calf.

So far this year we have not lost any calves to coyotes. I don't know about the turkeys though. They are safe in the trees for now and I get to watch from the warmth of my house. If the weather is mild and the winter short they might all flap their way into the spring.

At this time of year, turkey makes a great holiday feast.  While wild turkeys are abundant but locally raised farm birds are far more tender and are available from local farms. Think about helping a New Hampshire farmer.  Unless you are a hunter, admire the wild turkeys but eat a bird from a local farm.   Gobble, gobble.

 

 

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