Wednesday, October 10, 2012

10 October 2012 “Turkey Dinner or Best Friend?”

First let me say it felt wonderful to check my blog today (something I have not done for a bit as I said I was rather unplugged for awhile) and see comments. I do miss that and all of you.

A quick response to some questions: I actually still dress vintage inspired most of the time. While working, which is simply slinging coffee at a coffee house, I started wearing skirts but now do wear trousers more. When I am not working I mostly wear dresses and skirts. However, my  return to the “present” has been making me almost hungry to create new vintage inspired ways of dressing. We still do our Sunday outing at our local tea house and I often wear hat and gloves and always dresses of course. I even wear dresses to my art class, though I am thinking of running up a few simple cotton dresses that I won’t mind getting printing ink on. As the class is screen printing I plan on designing and printing some simple cotton fabric to make clothes from. And I have a wallpaper idea I may try this semester and will happily share with all of you.

Now, I am still considering my schedule for writing but I simply felt like writing a little post today so here I am.

alden1 This is Alden my turkey. He is an Heritage breed known as a Holland White. How he came into my life is rather a spur of the moment decision. In this photo you see Alden with his best friend, a Polish hen named Beatrix.

Alden is named after my hubby’s Mayflower descendant, John Alden. I felt a turkey meant for the Thanksgiving table should have a good old-stock Pilgrim name. His little friend, Beatrix, is named after Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Polish hens are actually not from Poland but from the Netherlands.

As some of you know we had our home on sale this year. Because of that I sent my lovely chicken flock to a local educational farm and they now all live happily on many acres on the ocean. When I began waffling about the sale of our house this summer I happened to be at our local grain and feed store. They had just got in a small batch of rare white Holland's. This is an Heritage breed that is on the endangered list. They are a very old breed that started in South America in the 1500’s were brought to Europe by the Spaniards and returned to North America with the colonists. They were prized for their white color for both show (originally brought to ornament lawns as do peacocks) and then for their desirable white flesh as a meat bird.

This breed was crossed with the broad-breasted bronze in the early 1900’s to create the super hybrid white broad breasted used commercially today. The modern hybridized version are such a sad tale, as they grow insanely quick often snapping their own legs due to their weight and are unable to breed naturally and thus are only breed through artificial means. That is the type of turkey one finds in the grocery store. If they are allowed to live they eventually die by being crushed by their own weight.

So, these heritage Holland White’s are quite rare and a local man wanted to start and maintain a flock (as the heritage happily breed amongst themselves and are a very tame bird). You can see in the photo how long and strong Alden’s legs are. His sad modern hybrid relatives ride so low to the ground their legs bend with their own weight. Rather a sad commentary on today’s food and how distanced we are from the humanity and reality of what food what meant to people.

Here are more shots of my handsome lad:alden2alden5


  alden4The darling little chicken looking up at the camera is Heloise. My current chicks/hens are not as friendly as my last batch but this little darling always comes up to me with Alden when I go to their pen in the morning. She is a Favorelle, a breed of chicken that has feathered legs and a big feathery neck piece that rather looks like an Edwardian ladies opera cape of feathers. They also have an extra toe that makes them look rather silly, but adorable none the less.

After deciding to get Alden (I had not chickens at that time having got rid of mine due to the house being for sale) I felt bad his being a small little downy turkey chick. All lone in a big chicken house. So, I bought him Beatrix as a friend. They were close in size as chicks and obviously now are miles apart. But, they have remained friends and Beatrix sleeps not on the roosts with the other hens, but cuddled on the floor of the coop with Alden under a heat lamp I had in their for chicks. They love it so I simply left it for them.

So, now I have 7 hens in total (they won’t begin laying for another month or so) our turkey and a fun little mini flock of miniature show chickens. I will share those with you on another post. My current hens do include two Americaunas for blue eggs and two French Cuckoo Marans for the chocolate brown eggs. I simply have to have a colorful group of eggs. They just look so good in my wire chicken holder in my kitchen. I like my farming to have a little style.

So the long and short of it is, Alden was purchased to be part of my grow at home Thanksgiving. I have a lovely large bucket of potatoes I dug that I planted this summer. Some acorn squash packed in my cellar from my garden. My big fat pumpkin is still happily on the vine at present and will make a wonderful pie and by Brussels sprouts are still fattening on the stalk as we speak. All of these will play a role on this year’s Thanksgiving table, but I fear the only way Alden may appear at the table is in tie and tails as a guest of honor. He has remained so sweet and beautiful I am not sure we can eat him. We shall see come November. I know it is hard to raise and kill your own food, but it has a dignity in it and a pure quality of life that I rather long for. But, we must take baby steps and this first attempt may simply remain to remind us to not ‘name our dinner’ as it were.

aldenheadSo, from Alden and myself, happy dreaming on Thanksgiving treats to come. And as always, Happy Homemaking.


  1. As one that raises turkeys, I would say don't eat Alden. Sweet ones are delights for years to come. We have one that we call Turk (clever not so much in naming), that chats with all of us and is about 5 now. We do eat others and it seems that nature allows us to have ones that are not so friendly or compatible that make it to the table. Eases the minds of my daughter and I a good deal.

    Crossing over to self sustaining is important though. I believe this connection with our food, and the actual kill to provide meat for us, is powerful. It has made my family far less wasteful knowing what was sacrificed for us to eat.

    I am glad you are back posting and pray no matter how you dress that you realize how much delight you have offered to so many that visit here.


  2. Oh, he is such a cutie! I, for one, could never eat him. (This coming from one who hunts wild turkeys with great delight every fall...)

  3. I like the idea of Alden as guest of honour -- at the table rather than on it! I think as your first turkey, whom you named and raised as a pet, it would be wrong to eat him. If you get him a girlfriend, and raise Hollands, then you will have turkey dinners for years to come.

    Some farm sanctuaries try to save modern hybrid turkeys and they have such problems when the birds can no longer stand. Modern industrial farming is heart-breaking & I always marvel that so many people happily buy a factory farm bird & simply don't care about the cruelty involved. I always make sure my Thanksgiving and Xmas turkeys come from humane, small farms where I can see the conditions in which they are raised & know they had a happy life.

    There is a dairy farm nearby that raises a few steers each year to sell the meat in their farm store. There is a contest to name them, and they are kept in a pasture in front of the store, where visitors pet them & hand-feed them & see that they are enjoying life. If I ate beef, I would buy it there. Most city people are horrified by the idea that I could know these animals & buy their meat but I would actually feel better about it.

    But I fully admit to being a hypocrite in the sense that, whilst I buy poultry from local small farms where I can see how the animals are living, I could not raise a bird & kill it myself. I would become too attached. I am planning to get sheep someday, so this will be tested as the lambs are always sold for meat. But selling them is different than killing them oneself. I have plenty of neighbours who slaughter their hens when they stop laying. I can't help feeling that is a poor reward for all the years of eggs they have given me, that just because they are no longer laying their life has no value. So, they live on in retirement. If I were trying to make a living from them, I wouldn't have that luxury. I have 7 hens. My goal is all heritage breeds but I was given 3 Golden Comets, a modern hybrid, as a gift. I also have 2 Silver Laced Wynadottes, 1 Barred Plymouth Rock, and 1 Black Star. The last is very mean -- I chose her for her incredible beauty, but she is not a nice chicken! She beats up on all the other girls, plucking out their feathers. It is so unnecessary as they have plenty of food & space, no competition for resources at all. She seems to be a bully.

  4. I think it is a safe bet that Alden will remain our pet and not our food. He is so gentle and beautiful that I had hopes of his being our 'yard turkey' and strutting about at leisure. But, my Italian Greyhouse, Sophie, loves to play with our chickens. She and buttons, my other hen who I regret giving away, would often play. This meant Sophie chasing her and she standing up to her and running back at Sophie. To the dog it was a fairly matched game. The other day she tried this with Alden and he took it as aggression towards his 'flock' and tried to scratch her. He could do damage to her, so he has to be happy with his enclosure. But I can go in and out as I like as can my family members and he simply runs up, chirps and looks at you with his big eyes asking for some bugs or leaves.
    Susie!-its funny you should mention hunting wild turkeys. I wish that was allowed where we live (perhaps it is and I just don't know I should find out) because we have an over abundance of the wild birds here. They are all so pretty and there are numerous wild flocks that wander about. We often have them in our yard. And I have to admit to wanting one on my table and one taxidermy in my home. That might sound horrid to others, but eating a wild animal has a quality of nature to it that seems quite appealing. The animals are often subject to other predators and we would simply be on that list. And keeping the flock from being overpopulated and then starving is also a justified argument.
    Vintage Vixen-Its funny you mentioning the mean hen. We laughed that if Alden had just turned mean we would have him for Thanksgiving dinner without any qualms. And maybe, if you choose to try one of your hens for your own pots, the mean girl would not be hard to let go. I suppose, as humans, we cannot but help anthropomorphize. But, hens are such dears and they do give us such lovely eggs.
    This year I will be ordering a bird from our local farm where Gussie (who I have mentioned on my early 50's blogs) works. She, herself, is the Barn manager and raises their flock of turkeys from chicks (or poults really.) They are more expensive than grocery store but what is interesting about that is. If they were allowed to simply kill and process their own birds they could compete with grocery store prices. But as big farm companies such as monsanto and purdue, continue to throw their billions and lobbyists at Washington, they continue to add law after law that takes all of we small people further and further from our own food source. The fact that a local farm cannot raise up and kill their own birds for sale is ridiculous. They have to ship them out in a big truck to a farm that has spent the millions on the 'clean facility' to have it done. This is simply more stress on the birds at the end, more fuel to take them there and back and simply added money to the farmers with less profit and a higher price tag for we small shoppers who are already seeing our dollars inflate. It is a vicious cycle indeed.

  5. Welcome back Donna!
    You've been greatly missed :) Glad to hear you're doing well!

    Stay Glamorous!
    xxx Lottie Lee

  6. I agree completely about the laws that agribusiness lobbyists get passed to limit competition from small farmers. That dairy store I mentioned has to send those poor, happy steers away to a USDA-approved facility for slaughter & then bring the meat back for their store. It's unnecessary stress for the steers. & the prices they have to charge are certainly not competitive with factory-farmed cruelty meat in the grocery store.

  7. I enjoyed seeing your pics of Alden and your chickens. I hope he can be a pet for years to come. He looks like he really has personality.

  8. Help, please! I was on the forum & someone spammed it, just now, & there was nothing I could do about it. It is important to nip it in the bud but there is no way for members to flag a post as spam. Would you consider empowering a few forum members as mods to clean out spam when it appears? It would encourage activity on the forum & be one less thing for you to worry about.

  9. Dear Lady,
    First--I am happy to se you back at your keyboard--you have been missed.
    Secondly, I am reminded by your tale of Alden about when I got my first pig several years ago. He was given to us since the farmer had too many. We were bringing him home, and I told my then husband, "If you are gonna eat it--you don't NAME IT!" He agreed and said, "Okay, but since he limps a bit--we'll just call him GIMPY."

  10. Donna, how are you doing out on the Cape with the risk of flooding and wind damage? Poultry all safely tucked into the coop?

  11. Hi 50's Gal! I read this post a while back and got a chuckle out of it. I wondered how you were going to serve Alden as he seemed more like part of the family!

    I have been thinking about you and wondered how you fared with Hurricane Sandy? I live ~30 NE of Philadelphia-we had trees down and lost our power for 24 hrs, but thankfully were spared damage to the house and no flooded basement. So many are still without power in our area.

  12. Are you going to keep at it or are you finished?

  13. I thought you were coming back online to post regularly? Did you get hit hard by Sandy out in Cape Cod? How are Alden & the hens? It's been nearly 2 months since you last posted so it raises some concern that you may have suffered a lot of wind or flood damage in the hurricane & maybe don't have power?

  14. Just wanted to say hi and hope you had a good Christmas. Are you still enjoying your classes and job? I hope so. I will keep checking back in case you have time to write. You are a talented writer. Sarah

  15. If you're not going to be administering the forum, would you be willing to give a member mod powers to delete the occasional spam posting? They don't happen very often but, when they do, it is nice to be able to delete them immediately.


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