Lischer-Goodband: Turkey Tales

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(Host) Today is Thanksgiving, and whether you’re a vegetarian or an
omnivore, chances are good that you’re about to gather with family and
friends for this annual Harvest celebration. It’s also a day when writer
and commentator Diana Lischer-Goodband will be thinking about the wild
adventures she’s had while living with turkeys on her family farm in

We raised our own turkeys again this year.  Last year, I needed a break
from the drama of raising turkeys, so we feasted on a leg of lamb from
our own flock of sheep. The meat was succulent, but it just wasn’t the
same as turkey: No leftovers for turkey sandwiches or turkey noodle
soup. So, for months now I’ve lived with six turkeys – five heirloom red
bourbons and one Naragansett.

Naragansetts can be easily
mistaken for wild turkeys – with their beautiful copper feathers flecked
with white, sky-blue heads and rose-red wattles. Our Naragansett
displayed his feathers for the other turkeys, and for neighbors walking

Sometimes, we had wild turkeys visit our turkeys, who liked
to greet their wild brethren, by flying out of their fenced area, and up
to the sugarhouse roof, then dropping down into my garden, where they
nibbled on my kale. From there, they would jump down from the garden
fence, and escape to freedom.

My free-ranging turkeys gathered
and gobbled together with the wild turkeys, like long-lost relatives.
Then, our turkeys would really go on the lam and gleefully follow any
neighbors, walking by. When the neighbors tried to shoo them away, the
turkeys thought the neighbors were playing a game, and we had to run
down the road after them to gather them home.

Then, our turkeys
decided that our big porch was the perfect place to roost during the
day. So the porch had to be swept and cleaned each day, as turkeys are
even messier than chickens! At night, they roosted on my clothesline,
which really made my laundry more challenging the next day.

desire for turkey, raised on our own farm, grazing on grass, feasting on
bugs is strong – but living with turkeys and dealing with their antics
is really one – big – farm – chore: chasing them, cleaning up after
them, putting them back in their corral.

A turkey weighs a lot
more than a chicken; and catching them is a wild adventure: the gobbling
they make, the frantic kicking of their powerful legs. It’s like
lifting a mini-dinosaur. They have such prehistoric bodies, and ways of
running. There’s new scientific evidence that many dinosaurs, including,
the great, tyrannosauras rex, were birdlike creatures with feathers.
Raising turkeys, I believe it!

And now that it’s actually Thanksgiving, I realize I’m tired of turkey duty.

year, I think I’ll buy a locally raised turkey. And I’ll make sure to
thank the farmer for handling all the challenging details involved in
raising it. But today, I’ll give thanks for our own home-grown turkey –
as well as all its free-range brethren, gobbling through their happy
lives on farms throughout Vermont.

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