I spent some time this morning trying to find a local turkey farm, but the closest farm had a bad year, with an assortment of rats, coyotes, and illness laying ravage to their turkey population, till they were left with a paltry 16 out of their usual hundreds. They weren’t even answering the phone.
I put away the laptop search. I’ve been off my feet all week with a sprained ankle, but there are woods and it’s fall. Instead of hiking a mountain with Zachary as I ought to do on a beguiling autumn day, we chose a hike that Lilah and my ankle could handle—maybe a mile and a half around on flat ground. No matter—the leaves crunch just as well.
This particular trail has a turnoff onto private land. If you follow just the right series of little paths, you find a tree with wire mesh covering a hole. You have to unlatch the mesh to take out the plastic jar, filled with candy. The selection process was lengthy, but the children negotiated, and in the end it was Benjamin who got the mini Snickers while his brother scored the rainbow sherbet lollipop.
I reached into a pile of leaves and threw them in the air, and then Benjamin followed suit. My husband and the other two children kept getting farther ahead as we tossed leaves and let them fall around us. “You know what’s even better?” I said. I lay down on the ground, and he lay beside me. We gazed up at the high, yellow trees, smelling the leaves beneath us and watching the spiral each breeze brought down. A hawk circled; I briefly wondered if it was considering us. Benjamin reached over and took my hand.
We rejoined the others, but then Lilah and Benjamin stopped to play in a patch of mud and my husband was gone with Zachary and that caused Benjamin untold distress.
When we returned to the car, we went to the goat farm because they only sell their goat cheese from noon to four. Lilah was telling some story in the car and her brother interrupted us to tell us there was a sign for an art show up ahead and I ignored him because that’s what we do when you interrupt your sister. Naturally, he and his brother continued to tell us there was a sign for an art show, ignoring our ignoring.
The art show was just across the street from the goat farm, in a renovated barn next to a restored farmhouse. Sheep roamed an enclosure behind the house, and as we pulled up, I saw the turkeys. A dozen or two of them behind a fence. Strutting about as though November weren’t hanging over their heads.
“Are those your turkeys?” I asked the lady running the art show.
“Yes. Do you need one for Thanksgiving?”
“Yes, yes we do.”
So the deal went down, with a good deal of rummaging about for order forms. “Now, you need to call the butcher and arrange for him to do the butchering here, because legally we can’t do it. They pluck them by hand, so the skin is very tender.” She handed me the butcher’s number, then we walked over to where Benjamin and Lilah were already making the turkeys’ acquaintance. “They’ve been free range till recently, but we’ve had some coyotes. They’d just follow us around; they’re very good natured.”
The kids and I fed them some pears off the ground. “The ones with the big tails fluffed out, they’re the males?” Lilah asked, as Benjamin conked a turkey on the head with an enthusiastically lobbed pear. We stayed a few minutes, getting to know our turkey, then said our farewells, making off with our goat cheese and the butcher’s phone number.
Come Thanksgiving, we’ll be eating a locally raised, free-range, freshly slaughtered, hand-plucked, good-natured turkey.