Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Either Way, You Wind Up With Turkeys

I can't talk about politics. Not here, anyway. It's just too engaging a topic. People want to talk back, and even when they agree with me, I wind up just feeling sick and sad. I want the election to be over, and I want it to be a CLEAN one, for once. Earlier tonight, I puked out the entirety (almost) of my sheer political and emotional (Can I separate my emotions from anything? NO I CAN NOT.) exhaustion all over my mother's email, and I actually felt better after that. This is especially remarkable when you consider that my mom and I do not currently vote the same way--not even close. But honestly, when you're just terrified of the future, who do you want? You want your mommy, that's who.

Anyway, I just don't have it in me right now to engage in any political debate, and it's darn near inescapable. I can't take one more story about vote caging or push-polling or other dirty tricks. I can't bear listening to one more person holding forth with strong opinions which are built on misinformation or ignorance. I can't stand how much we, as Americans, want to hate each other--that's the most disturbing thing of all, and I don't hold out much hope for the divide to be healed anytime soon.

But I am not, by any means, ashamed of my politics, nor do I think they need to be kept secret for any reason. So what I will do here, just this once, is compromise.

I will tell you about my turkeys.

turkey bokeh

You see, these turkeys I chose, they are not your standard Butterball. We could've raised those (they're called Broad-Breasted Whites, and they're bred for huge, heavy breasts), but decided, as with our chickens, to opt for a "Heritage" breed of fowl, and chose Narragansetts. They're an actual, historically important, natural, all-American bird. If you turned these turkeys loose in the woods, not only would they be just fine, they would thrive. They can reproduce on their own. They can raise young. They can forage for food. Most importantly, for the purposes of this story, they can FLY. Oh, boy, can they ever fly. This recently presented us with a problem.

All of our birds, while locked up safe at night, are let out during the daytime to free-range. They're free to wander pretty much the entire property here, scratching around for bugs, picking grass and weeds to eat, digging shallow holes for dust-baths, and generally just getting up to whatever kinds of poultry-based silliness they'd like. And the turkeys like, among other things, getting up as high as they can. The roosts in the turkey pen that Alex built are 12 feet high. They love it up there. And we rather enjoyed watching them soar around the place, until we started having problems with turkeys winding up in places they shouldn't be, like in the yard with the dogs, and with turkeys roosting in trees or on top of buildings at night, instead of locked up inside a nice, safe, predator-proof enclosure. We were especially worried about our beautiful birds coming down on the wrong side of our fence, and winding up on the property of one of our boundary-challenged neighbors.

So we decided, unanimously and fairly quickly, that some wing-clipping was in order. Not to ground them entirely, but to keep them closer to the ground. Then followed the discussion of how best to do the clipping. It's totally painless, like clipping your fingernails--you just cut off about 2/3 of the primary flight feathers with a sharp pair of kitchen shears. Nothing to it. But I'd researched a bit, and read that, if you clip both wings, a determined turkey will still be able to get up on rooftops and over fences by sheer force of will--in other words, by merely flapping harder. So the trick is to clip only one wing, thereby putting the bird off balance, so that they can't really get terribly high up off the ground any more.

There followed a good bit of discussion as to which wing to clip. We wanted to do everyone the same way, so that we'd be able to tell at a glance who'd been clipped and who hadn't, and also so that we'd know exactly where to watch for new feather growth later. An opportunity for a delicious metaphor presented itself pretty much immediately, and we had some fun with it. I'm sure you can see where this is going.

In the end, we opted to clip all our birds' right wings, and with more than a little pleasure, calling them all pet names, like "Newt" and "Dick" and "Karl," as we cut feathers (we don't own a turkey stupid enough to be called "Dubya," unfortunately). Depending on the outcome of November's election, those nicknames might come in handy again at butchering time.* In any case, now our turkeys are safely contained on our own property, and we're able to usher them into their safe house at night, and not worry about where they are.

And yes, we realize that what we're now left with are a bunch of left-winged turkeys. But seeing as how, no matter which choice we made, we were going to be surrounded by turkeys anyway, we decided that we'd much rather they be left-wing turkeys than right-wing turkeys.

EDITED TO ADD: Turkeys with two fully functioning wings, working TOGETHER, are graceful, efficient, and a thing of beauty to behold. They can feed their ranks, roost safely, and deflect attack from would-be evildoers. On the other hand, turkeys missing part of one wing, and attempting to work with just the one, are clumsy, awkward, ineffective at tasks that should come naturally, and are significantly more vulnerable to attack from enemies. Make what you will of these observations.

And that's as much as I wanna say about that. Please vote.

in the shade

*Before anyone suggests it, no, there shall be no sarcastic naming of female turkeys or chickens, as we must live with them for the long haul. The girls, naturally, are named after bloggers. Do you want to be honored in the form of poultry? Want to know if you ALREADY ARE? Leave me a comment stating your case. You could be the next Meg Fowl or Rhiannon Hen. You just have to be prepared to have your namesake unexpectedly murdered by a fox. It happens.


  1. you are fabulous, you. I will be thinking about you and your left-wing turkeys all day

    of COURSE I want a chicken named for me. I have to have a reason? how about, "lord, I want to be in that number?" let mine be a good layer who's got some wits about her. for a chicken.


  2. You simply must have a chicken named Mir. It's a perfect name for a hen. And then if you allow her to brood, you'll have a bunch of Mirspawn, which is just plain fun to say.

    That's aside from the fact that you can refer to her as a MIR-acle or tell her that she's looking particularly MIR-aculous today. ;)

  3. In the end, we opted to clip all our birds' right wings, and with more than a little pleasure, calling them all pet names, like "Newt" and "Dick" and "Karl," as we cut feathers (we don't own a turkey stupid enough to be called "Dubya," unfortunately).

    I love you. I mean, I LOVE you for typing that. (spoken in angsty romantical movie voice)

    Also, if you wanted a Missy or Melissa turkey, that'd be kind of an excellent story to share with people so go for it. :)

  4. Ha, that is so funny. I'm going to clip our quails' wings too, so they can roam in our very small yard. As for a chicken named Sheryl? It would be nice, but Sheryl just doesn't strike me as a chicken name.

  5. "And yes, we realize that what we're now left with are a bunch of left-winged turkeys. But seeing as how, no matter which choice we made, we were going to be surrounded by turkeys anyway, we decided that we'd much rather they be left-wing turkeys than right-wing turkeys."

    I love this post. Awesome.

  6. Belinda, you are truly an amazing gift. That is a heck of a lot of turkeys. Are you going to sell some?

    jess turkey, drowning turkey???

  7. This is brilliant.

    Also, I secretly (well, not secret any more) that there is poultry named after me!

  8. The fox wouldn't dare come close to Rhiannon Hen. She's intimidating to those of the male persuasion.

  9. As much as I would love to have one named after me, it would be sort of awkward to call it radioactive girl, right? Maybe sort of funny though in my twisted mind. Will you be posting later to tell us what they are named?

    I (and my one son who wants to live on a farm with me even though no one else in our family is interested at all) am very jealous.

  10. I would LOVE a turkey in my honor but I am a terrible blogger. You could name another male chicken Jimmy Carter...

  11. When I get sad Re: dirty politics I remember it has always been so. Jefferson and Madison: almost a situation like we had in 2000. Hamilton/Burr: Hamilton wrote Burr was dead. Burr couldn't get the word out he was alive in time to be elected.

    So, the good news is 2008 is no different than 1784 or so...

    The bad news is 2008 is no different than 1784

    Hang in only 48 days to go

  12. Brilliant post! I was wondering where you were going with all the turkey talk. You really couldn't of picked a better choice of metaphor! I've avoided politics on my own blog not wanting to alienate my right wing readers. It's getting harder and harder, especially after a day like today when I got a fear mongering DVD in the mail for that anti-Muslim movie, Obsession.

    Thanks for finding a way to talk turkey without giving in to the anger and hate that is surrounding this election season.

  13. Couldja, Wouldja name one after my ex? Cause he was quite a turkey!!! hehe


  14. This post is EXACTLY what I needed today. Left-winged turkeys. I'll be thinking about that all night.

    You should name one Chicky, naturally. :)

  15. But if all the girls are good and keepers, how will you name one Barbie McPalin? Don't you have one who's slow, or somehow disabled? Please tell me that you do...

    Loved this.

  16. This may be one of my favorite posts EVER.

    I humbly petition to have one of the Marans hens named after me. My name is actually Suzanne, which in French is Suzette, which is a PERFECT name for a pretty Marans hen and is the name I submit.

    If you are going to make me fall in love with chickens (and you did), it seems only fitting to have a namesake.

  17. Lawl, you know I want in. Chair The Turkey, or (even better!) This Is Not A Turkey.

    Magritte would be proud. I think.

  18. Oooh, I want one named after me! Please, please!

  19. No I most assuredly do NOT want any poultry named after me. To paraphrase a movie/TV show: "I am not a chicken, I am a human-being!" (Thankyouverymuch!)

    Besides, I doubt you could even make my name into an appropriate chicken name...unless you went with something like "Caffeinated Library-Hen" or some such foolishness. (And if you try that then, daggnabbit, I wanna see you all film yourself saying THAT with a straight face.)

    *Harrumph!* ;-P

  20. I found your blog in the usual roundabout way, while grazing through the entries of the Backyardchickens forum and although I do not normally comment on peoples posts, this one just hit the spot. I am still chuckling. I even made my husband sit down and read it. I'll probably even wake up in the middle of the night and chant something like...right wing left wing..giggle to myself and then go right back to sleep. I'm not sure if it was the timing of the post or the similar ideals that were refreshing but I've bookmarked this blog and am looking forward to many more entries.

  21. "But if all the girls are good and keepers, how will you name one Barbie McPalin? Don't you have one who's slow, or somehow disabled?"

    Uhhhh.... *wince*

    I'm pretty sure you didn't mean that the way it came out. At least, I hope not.

  22. lauredhel--in Erin's defense, she IS a lifelong Alaskan, and is also, professionally, under the direct employ of the governor. AND she is a scientist by profession, and a TRUE feminist. I'm sure you can see from whence her frustration with the politician originates. It has nothing to do with gender/appearance/etc. I've known Erin a long time, and her feelings ran along much the same lines for the likes of Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski. Palin is a dangerous candidate, regardless of her gender, her appearance, her "uber-mom" status. We would not want to name a pretty, sweet, smart, capable, poultry-girl after her. After all, my poultry are descended from dinosaurs, and Palin believes those were around as little as 4,000 years ago. Not even a turkey is that dumb.

  23. There are only 3 turkey hens as yet unnamed, but plenty of chickens to go around. And there are a VERY limited number of roosters to be named (most wind up in the "Dumplin' Pen") and kept, and almost all of those will be Marans. I'll post a list, with pictures, of the results within the next couple of weeks. I already have some good ideas. I'm waiting on some leg-bands I ordered so that I can identify them better individually, so this could be really fun.

    Just keep in mind that the mortality rate for chickens is on the high side, so be prepared for "your" chicken succumbing to some weird poultry malady or getting snagged by an evil raccoon. We protect them as best we can, but on the farm, stuff happens.

  24. Ah. Sorry about loosing that whooshbird. Yes, I realise how comprehensively awful Palin is - I was wincing at the use of the language of disability to denote "evil" and "expendable".

  25. This entire entry cracked me up in ways that I REALLY needed!

    I used to have to clip our Banties...they'd end up flying in circles when I did one wing, which was amusing for me, frustrating for them. With a chicken, clipping both wings will keep 'em flyin' low, but chickens aren't as brimming with brute force as a turkey.

  26. Just want to recommend a great blog I think you would enjoy - it's written by 29 yr. old Brin from east TX who has a law degree, but doesn't work as a lawyer - who is restoring a 120 yr. old farmhouse alone and plans to open a bakery---Her Monday Moments are unbeliveably deep and profound ---for a 29 yr. old? She is a treat---Just wanted to share - you can find her at www.mymessythrillinglife.blogspot

  27. Woops- I had the above address wrong: it's www.messythrillinglife.blogspot -Hope you all will check her out! Vicki

  28. Ooooh. Can I get in on the party? I call my kids turkeys all the time...

  29. Ha, this is great. I'm not much of a blogger, but I'd be honored to have a turkey named after me!

    And if you ever need help with names, you could always turn to the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator:

    I sent that site to some very Republican friends of mine, who while very wary at first thought it was funny...

  30. Sorry for the late response, I've been out of town on business.

    Thanks for the defense, Belinda! I certainly didn't mean to offend. My intention with the "disabled" comment was to indicate that one of the hens could be "not-a-keeper" in order to be named after someone I find so personally repulsive. I was thinking that if there were a hen who was being selected out of the breeding pool because she had less desirable characteristics, perhaps we could name her after Palin. (Since from my reading of this post, only the toms got the nasty names, and that was because they were not being kept). That was all. No offense meant, although I can see how my comment was ambiguous. I apologize!

  31. A Left Wing Turkey!!!!


    Please, can you name a Left Winged Turkey after my Ducky Baby!?

  32. Left wing turkeys...you worked hard to reach that one! I think you need a chicken named Daisy. She'll be your best, um, egg producer, so you'll never have her for dinner. Right? right.