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Lischer-Goodband: Turkey Tales

(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 Dummerston.

(Lischer-Goodband)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 by.

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 sugar house 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.

My 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.

Next 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.

Diana Lischer-Goodband is a professional grant writer, published poet and writer. She lives on a working farm in Dummerston, Vermont.
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