Thanksgiving Week on the Farm

Outside the kitchen window at Goose Hill is a blur of whites and grays, ending on the far side of the pond in near-black due to the shade of the pine trees reflected in already dark water. The first morning, looking out at the snowy hill down to the pond, we drank apple cider from the apple trees that grow in the fields closest to the house. Tomorrow morning, we will use the farm’s applies to bake a Thanksgiving pie.

We trudged through the snowy woods to investigate the year-old maple project, lines of light blue tubing crossing down the hill connecting the maples that we helped mark and count while the decision to launch this new business was being considered. The beech trees have been felled since we were here last, opening the path to the sky, the trunks and logs on the forest floor setting the agenda for next summer’s trip here.

We toured the maple shack where it gets processed and bought a case of real maple syrup made from the farm’s own trees. Good Christmas gifts for our friends and teachers back home who will nevermore be content with Aunt Jemima.

Yesterday, we moved a pile of rocks dumped at the edge of the road to build a Cotswald-ish wall along the shed, where tractors and ATVs sleep. Then together, the seven of us gathered – and counted – more than 5,000 black walnuts scattered across the path between the house and the barn. Grandpa promised 5 cents for every 20 walnuts, and a quick online search informed us that 100 pounds of hulled walnuts get you $15, maybe enough to pay the gas to the hulling station. So, the kids made trips back and forth in the ATV to dump them in the ravine, where they will fatten happy squirrels.

The boys have gone sledding, played football in the snow, used trees and the big red barn’s roof as targets for their snowballs.

And yet, the week feels sleepy. Nourishing in some way even before we carve the Thanksgiving bird, knowing that the comical turkeys peering in the window while we feasted last year have gone wild in the woods.

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The Little Things

I Am Thankful For…

The time I spend with my kids

Date nights

The fact that…

…Jackson dives in with his all, his killer smile

…Finn’s creative streak, a wild ride

…Max is soulful and funny and eager to share

Date nights

The fact that…

…my sisters are my friends

…I learned to parent from my parents

…I can still help with math

The time I spend with my kids

Hugs that linger

Afternoon sun through the trees

The first glimpse of the beach

Catching up around the fire

Date nights

And the time I spend with my kids.

The Turkeys Grew Up

This summer, when we visited Grandma and Grandpa at Goose Hill Farm, you could hold the baby turkeys in your hands. The boys took charge of feeding them and locking them up for the night to protect them from the hawks and other wild animals prowling for meat in the dark.

Now visiting for Thanksgiving, the turkeys have grown waist-high. They are cautious, but curious. The male leads the females up to the kitchen windows, and they peer in at us from so close you can see the short hair on their heads. There are shades of pinks and light blue in the male turkey’s face. He struts and fluffs his tail feathers, a hundred different browns.

Abandoning her flock hiding from the snow, the only white chicken comes adventuring with the turkeys. We are told she prefers them and follows them around like a little sister. “Hey, wait for me!” Shorter legs racing to keep up.

But with “Turkey Day” only two days away, we expected this crew to be gone. Isn’t that the turkey’s sad story in all the picture books? In fact, for third graders at our sons’ school, the Thanksgiving homework is to take a cut-out paper turkey and “disguise” it so that it does not become part of the feast. Using any mix of materials and creativity, the kids dress their turkeys as football players, clowns, pilgrims, lions, mermaids and more.

Our youngest disguised his as a tomato plant. Very unusual and sneaky.

But the three Goose Hill turkeys don’t need a disguise. They are members of the family this Thanksgiving: the crazy uncle with warts on his nose, the cousin wobbling around the table after too much wine, and the vegetarian sister who every year, loudly mourns the poor bird.

Santa, the Pope and the Birds and the Bees

My six year old niece asked my sister why the Virgin Mary is a saint. As is often the case, talk of Mary led to the question of how babies normally get in the mommy’s tummy. My sister explained in six year old terms – the dad plants a seed in the mommy.

Perfect. Conversation done. Six year old seemingly content.

But my niece was still noodling over the facts, and with the last crumb of Thanksgiving pie just eaten, she couldn’t help but think of Santa.

“What about Santa? Since he’s magic, is he a saint too?”

“Yes,” replied my sister, thinking she was still on safe ground, “St. Nicholas!”

Hmmm.

“But did the Pope guy say he was a saint?” Or was he “born” with no seed?

When Boys Cook the Turkey

A few days before Thanksgiving, there was a proclamation made at our house that the guys would be in charge of the turkey. So my husband and our twelve year old prepared it for brining.

“Get the liver and stuff out,” father said to son.

“Where are they?”

“Just reach into the hole at the end.”

“Wait, that’s his butt! I am not reaching into the turkey’s butt!”

We all looked up from whatever newspaper article, book or teacup we’d been focused on. Grandpop’s eyebrow arced in amusement.

“No really? It’s in his butt?!”

“Yep,” said my grinning husband.

“That’s disgusting!” But like any respectable twelve year old, he reached inside.

“Ewwww! I can’t believe I’m doing this!” giggling as he pulled out the neck. “What’s this?”

“His neck.”

“Oh my God, is this his heart?” he asked, triumphantly holding up a purplish blob.

“Yep.”

“Ewwwww!” as he pulled out the kidneys, then liver.

“I can’t believe I just pulled them out of his butt!”

As my husband washed out the now hollow turkey, our son played with its innards – squishing them, poking at them, sliding them along the countertop. “What does its heart look like inside?”

“Cut it open and see.”

The readers and tea drinkers paused. More eyebrows raised.

“No,” said his grossed out grandmother.

Our ten year old showed up suddenly at his brother’s side, and he did it anyway. He dissected the heart. Then the kidneys, which were much harder to cut. “Not that interesting.”

Solid purple.

Then the slimy liver. Not much for a boy to celebrate there either. “But I can’t believe you made stick my hand in the turkey’s butt!”

Then the turkey was brining, and the guys left the kitchen, content with their work – red-purple turkey juices still oozing across the counter for respectable ladies to clean up.

And I wondered why, after 47 years of turkeys, it had never dawned on me to look inside their hearts.