I spent a lot of today wrestling a very large bird with the help of my gallant chef friend Matt. As I write I’m watching it’s epic, rounded back browning in my oven like a very suntanned whale, barely contained in its baking dish. Soon I have to get up and steam some broccoli and make salad so we can eat this thing like civilized people.
But Gowan, you might ask. Why are you roasting a turkey in February?
The answer, my friends, is because a drunk man crashed his car into a telephone pole, and my chickens are jerks.
….Some clarification might be needed.
On Saturday, an intoxicated man ran into a power pole, causing outages all over the coast, including my farm. Thankfully he didn’t kill anyone. We have a back-up generator, and when I got to work for a work day with an Americorps team, (after buying my first paper cup in months- containing hot water to which I added honey and citrus) the lights were on in the barn and everything seemed fine. With ten people digging strawberry beds and many many moving parts to attend to, I didn’t think anymore of it.
Until this morning. When my butt-face chickens came into the equation.
You might remember that a few blog posts back I mentioned that I got a handful of rare breed hens in an assortment that had proven to be difficult? That is, determined to make my life hell by flying like homing pigeons into my hoop house despite multiple wing tip cutting, bribing with treats, threats and tears? Yeah. I still catch them by the feet every morning, put them in a covered run, and let them out at dusk every night. They were reported to be good layers, which is the only reason this has gone on for so long.
This morning, one of them laid her first egg.
Of course, this resulted in me trying to get into the low tractor coop to get it out without letting them escape. Nope.
Cursing at the fluffy little terrorists I took the egg to put in the refrigerator in the barn. I opened the door, and the light didn’t come on. I wondered if the bulb was out, it still felt cold… and then with dawning horror I opened the freezer.
The hulking huge turkey donated by my farmer friend and market manager Julie was almost totally thawed. Still perfectly cold, but not able to be re-frozen. My plans for the day had just changed.
I called Sarah and left a message: “We have an emergency and have to cook the bigass 30lb turkey Julie gave us, today. Call me.”
I still had to harvest produce for the Bistro. As I was walking back to the garden my friend Jonah arrived. He brought me milk, I gave him veggies and kefir grains. Seeing him was steadying, and as I worked finishing my chores as quickly as possible, I thought about the kefir grains, and how everything we do in our farmer world multiplies. Life begets life, goats beget goats, kefir grains beget kefir grains, seeds beget seeds, chickens beget chickens. Unless they’re jerks in which case their eggs will not be selected for the incubator. Abundance is our way of life. With proper tending everything regenerates, there is no zero sum. But sometimes, you have to drop everything and cook a big ass turkey and roll with the slapstick sense of humor the gods seem to have.
I called my mom, then called my chef friend. Both had very sweet, warm hearted advice. And then Matt, bless his heart and may his knives never dull, actually packed up his knives and came over. I ran around the farm, thinned my baby carrots, dug Jerusalem artichokes, cut herbs, harvested broccoli, and talked with Matt on my cell about how we were going to do this. I had one last acorn squash I grew last year. He had a few local chestnuts. Neither of us had apples, or celery. My onions were tiny- I harvested some scallions, and he brought wild onions foraged from a creek. In his usual calm, cheerful, totally unruffled manner, we made it happen.
This kind of magic is Matt’s specialty, he’s our chef for the Farm to Table dinner series Sarah created. He can bring together fresh ingredients on the fly and create something magical. He has none of the ego or stress of the stereotypical chef, he moves slowly, has a great time, and makes amazing food. And he’s wonderful enough to drop everything and come to my house to cook me a feast.
We steamed the Jerusalem artichokes, minced the herbs and garlic, chopped the squash, chopped chestnuts, crumbled dried mushrooms, and beat duck eggs to make stuffing.
In the middle of this process I got a call from work. The jerk chickens were over the fence. A volunteer was kind enough to follow my directions about how to lure them back in, even though my voice was muffled by my shoulder since I had butter hands.
Browning the stuffing made the house smell amazing.
….And of course I didn’t have twine. Never fazed, Matt sharpened some of what I did have- a burly old rosemary bush full of sharp branches. He skewered the wings down and we stitched the bird together with the twigs.
Mr. Tom went in.
And like the magical wood elf he is, Matt departed as quickly and cheerfully as he had arrived.
And so I’m sitting here. Kate Wolf is on the radio, I have work emails to answer, some stuffing prep dishes to wash, and broccoli to cut up and steam. The Kid just walked in the door. My butt-face chickens really saved us today. Funny how life works.
I’ll let you know how it went tomorrow.