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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Making the best of it

turkey flock as of October, 2016
We are down to 4 turkeys now. Our second-in-line hen went missing some time back, one of the older young was Thanksgiving dinner and another is in the freezer. And today, one of the two youngest ones, both of them having been stupid of late, and taken to overnighting on the fence rail of the chicken yard, got stupid and flew into the dog yard.

Livestock Guardian Dogs are typically not naturally inclined to guard poultry. I can understand this, from the dog-psych angle. They are "flightly" by nature and dogs are inclined, by nature, to chase. To add to the issue, our turkeys love to tease the dog and mornings often feature long sessions of turkeys, near the fence, strutting and gobbling at the dog and his barked responses, which spur more strutting and gobbling. So when the bird landed in his area, he gave chase.

This has happened before, but on other occasions we did not have deep snow and less than sure human feet getting in the way of rescuing the bird. While K did get to the somewhat naked turkey in time to collect it and bring it into the house, and we were hopeful of recovery, it was not to be. When I checked it a bit after supper this evening, it seemed unusually sedate. When I checked a few minutes later, it was no longer warm, though still alive. I made the decision to dispatch it at that point and did so, in the bathtub, which we use as emergency hospital quarters for all kinds of livestock.

I do not like "harvesting unripe poultry" but I am glad that we were monitoring this one closely and were able to turn it into food. Most often, it seems, animals that die of stupid moves or the like, do so quietly, in the barnyard. In those cases, when we do not know when they died, I cannot assume they are safe for human consumption, but I do -- always -- process and cook down for the dogs.

"Thou shalt not waste" is one of my guiding mottos and that includes, with exclamation points, "Thou shalt not waste FOOD!"

I abhor the waste in our supermarkets here in the USA. Driven by folks who think that only "beautiful" food is fit to eat, pounds and pounds of food is thrown out daily. I am betting that even if you realize that, you do not realize the extent of it.

I am friends with a pig farmer, who gets produce and other discards regularly from one store of a local grocery chain. Yes, thankfully, they are WILLING to give it to farmers to feed their stock. This is not always the case. My friend and another pig farmer split the late afternoon pull from this store. This is the THIRD pull of the day! Yes, this store culls produce, bakery and other goods THREE TIMES each and EVERY DAY! Some times the culls amount to a single banana box of food. Other times the discards, in bags and boxes, could easily fill the bed of my truck two layers deep! At an average, that's a Toyota pickup bed, full to a depth of 14-18 inches, possibly three times a day. I have no idea how much is contained in the earlier pulls, only the one my friend shares with his fellow farmer.

And this is just ONE store of a chain, ONE chain of many!

Much of this food is perfectly edible, BY PEOPLE.  It is not moldy, rotten or even wilted. Maybe there is A BAD SPOT. Oh dear! A bad spot! I would like to think that if you pulled an apple or a pepper from your fridge and found that it had a bad spot, as you were preparing a meal, that you would cut around that spot and use the rest of the fruit. I do know that in the grocery trade, here, workers in stores that have services like delis and so on that produce in-house salads, packaged cut fruit, etc. are instructed that if they can cut around a bruised or broken place on a fruit or vegetable a thumb's width from the damaged part, the balance of the produce can be used for making stuff.

Some stores DO mark down and try to sell blemished produce. This one does not.  I am happy to be a friend of my friend who shares some of what they get from their every-other-day waste food run with me, for my poultry. Cluck, cluck...

I am also told that the companies that fill vending machines cannot afford to pay their employees to check expiration dates on the candy, chips, fruit, etc with which they fill their machines. It is more cost-effective for them to have employees empty the machines completely and refill from new stock. The pulled products are... you get it... often thrown away. PERFECTLY GOOD FOOD that has GOOD expiration dates!  Some of these products go to farmers and others for non-human consumption. But were you to pick one out of their barrel, it would compare with the same item from a sale shelf, safe to eat.

Here at Hex Central, under the sign of the Fussing Duck, we do our best not to waste. Leftovers get re-heated or re-purposed. If they get to the back of the fridge and accidentally overlooked, the dogs, cats or poultry are happy for our accident. None of them have ever suffered from eating our cast offs, and they all look forward to "waste food day."

We are still eating on food that I froze a summer ago. Has it, maybe lost a bit of nutrition? From what I read, maybe. But I am betting that it's still better for me than most of what I see in the supermarket! At least my most recent blood work that the doc ordered show no deficiencies and we feel fine. My storage beets and carrots are not in a cooler and are beginning to show a bit of wilt around the edges. Am I eating them? You bet! I am also processing them as time allows, in jars or for the freezer, for longer storage. Waste not, want not.

And likewise, we will eventually make a few meals from a smallish, "unripe" turkey. I don't think it's ready to be roasted, but in a slow cooker with a bit of liquid, it will yeild meals of turkey and dumplings or noodles, turkey tacos, turkey tetrazini and who knows what else!