Harvest is About More Than Vegetables

With the market over and the garden harvested, you would think that there isn’t much to do on the farm. And you would be partially right. But on a farm with livestock, the fall brings a harvest of another kind.

It is usually a one-day job, with friends coming to lend a hand. The old saying, “many hands makes light work” really comes into play here. It almost becomes a social; as we work, we chat and catch up on what is going on in each other’s lives.

There is a core of volunteers that go from farm to farm, helping with the chicken- and turkey-butcher days. Usually, it is other farmers, but some of the volunteers are customers as well.

One volunteer is neither. She just likes to help out, and it is hard to say no to a very willing worker, so of course she came to our butchers, too.

But this year we did things a little differently. Normally, when October comes along, it is turkey-butchering time. And then after Thanksgiving, we butcher the pigs. But our turkeys weren’t up to butcher size, yet, so their butcher day was postponed until after Thanksgiving.

That meant the pigs were next in line. Allan usually calls on the help of a friend for this task. But this year, our friend wasn’t available to help on the day that Al wanted to butcher. So Al was faced with either waiting or doing all of the work himself.

Knowing that it might mean he would only be able to process half as many animals, Al decided to proceed anyway. Surprisingly, he was able to finish the job all in one day; although, it did take him twice as long as it usually took the two of them to do the work.

Having accomplished this, we only had the turkeys to do and we would be finished for the season – and an entire month earlier, too.

Last year, when we butchered the turkeys, they were huge. The average size was 25 to 28 pounds, much bigger than what most people wanted. Because we had gotten the turkey poults from a different hatchery than usual, we decided that the larger size may have come from the breeding stock this hatchery used.

So, this spring, when we ordered from this same hatchery, we had them arrive a month later

than we were used to. Hoping that the birds would be a smaller, more-manageable size, instead. It almost worked, but we were off by about two weeks. And that is why we waited until after Thanksgiving.

With a delayed butcher, one of the considerations is the weather. How cold would it be? How much shelter would we need? Would the colder temperatures delay some of the process? Would this become one of those nightmare days that we only laugh about years later?

As the weeks went by, we watched the weather closely. It seemed to hold not too badly, only cooling down gradually and not dropping too drastically. That is until it was time to set up for the butcher.

Then the wet snow came and the temperature dropped. I was not looking forward to butcher day if the set-up day was anything to go on.

Saturday had been forecast for rain and more wet snow; so, when the day dawned clear and sunny, I was pleasantly surprised. Instead of shivering in the cold hoping for the work to pass quickly, we enjoyed the sun and the plus-nine temperature. It was a nice end to the butcher season.

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