Two weeks to go

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It was two weeks ago that we weighed the turkeys and put them on acorn supplements to fatten them up for the big day. Only a few days after that, our acorn diet plan hit a snag.

Squirrels.

We have a bazillion oak trees, and each oak tree produces a bazillion acorns. That means our acorn total comes to a bazillion squared, which is a lot. When we harvested our first few supplements in a matter of minutes, I was sanguine in my certainty that our plentiful supply would last us through Thanksgiving.

What I'm fighting the squirrels for

Then I learned something about squirrels, and now I understand why there are so many, and they always look so fat and glossy. They are acorn-gathering machines.

One day, you go out there and there are acorns all over the place. The next day, you go out there and it’s all caps. You scrounge around a bit and find a few uneaten nuts only to discover that they’re rotten, which is why the squirrels didn’t bother with them.

So, in one fell swoop you discover that A) you don’t have any acorns and B) squirrels are smarter than you.

It’s humiliating. But we’ve been humiliated by so many things since we started this enterprise that we’ve learned to take it in stride.

I guess that explains the scene that played out yesterday morning at PB Boulangerie.

PB Boulangerie is a new bakery and bistro in Wellfleet, about 40 miles up the Cape from us. It’s gotten a very good reputation in the months it’s been open, and we’ve been looking for an excuse to get up there and try it. We had errands that took us in that direction yesterday, and that was all the excuse we needed.

‘PB,’ I assume, stands for Pure Butter. That is what all the products at PB Boulangerie are made of. That, a little sugar, some white flour, and maybe some raisins or raspberries. All those products, needless to say, are irresistibly delicious. It’s a good thing PB Boulangerie is 40 miles away.

They have a lovely little garden with tables and chairs, and that is where Kevin and I sat, drinking our coffee and eating our breakfast goodies. And we weren’t the only ones. Despite its being a chilly morning, the garden was filled with every croissant-lover from Yarmouth to Provincetown.

There’s an oak tree in the middle of the garden. A very, very large oak tree. And, apparently, Wellfleet doesn’t have any squirrels, because there were as many nuts as caps. Kevin was the first to understand the implications.

“Honey,” he said, looking at me conspiratorially. “Look over there.” He pointed to the ground around the tree.

“You like that boat planter?” I asked, thinking that was what he was pointing to. I can be slow sometimes.

“No, not that …” he gestured with his head to the very base of the tree. “Those.”

Finally, the light dawned. Acorns! They were absolutely everywhere.

Kevin went to the car to see if we had a couple of bags in the trunk (there are advantages to never cleaning out your car), and I went in to – yes – ask permission. I didn’t imagine they were saving the acorns for anything, but I didn’t feel right about taking them without asking.

Permission was readily granted, and Kevin and I spent the next ten minutes on our hands and knees, putting acorns in bags, while every croissant-lover from Yarmouth to Orleans watched.

We collected enough acorns for fourteen days’ rations, and took them home, along with what was left of our raspberry brioche.

Where the boys are

When we mixed the acorns in with the turkey feed, we also checked the turkeys’ weight. When last we put them on the scale, Drumstick was 17 pounds, Beta and Gamma were 14.5, and Edith was 10, and I’m happy to report they’ve all grown.

Drumstick now comes in at an even 20, Beta is 18.5, Gamma is 18, and Edith is 12.5.

The turkey you put in your oven is about 70% of the turkey walking around in the pen, so If Drumstick puts on another four pounds between now and slaughter, he should come out to about 16 pounds dressed. A good-sized bird, certainly, but next year we’ll start a little earlier in the hopes of growing them a bit bigger.

Meantime, we’re planning to take our revenge on the squirrels: we’re going to shoot them. Our friend Andre says they’re delicious – better than rabbit! – and since we’re having trouble with pheasant we figure they’ll be our fall-back position next hunting day.

I can’t let a rodent have the last laugh.

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Comments

  1. I found a video online once that was about making squirrel burgers. Hey, if they can eat guinea pigs in South America, why not squirrels here? Especially since they do seem to be pretty big and plentiful. The squirrels in these parts have been getting much bolder and have been scampering across the deck and I caught one in one of the planter boxes. I can’t account for what has brought them into the yard- they usually do all their hunting and gathering at the back of the yard. I’m thinking about a slingshot or small crossbow, since firing weapons inside city limits is generally frowned upon. Either would take care of my raccoon problem, as well. Chasing them with pitch fork is getting to be hard on my wind.

    Your birds look great, although I half expected to hear them start singing a cappella. They look like they’re all dressed up and clustered around a mike. I’m glad you were able to find an alternative source for turkey vittles.

  2. So … how old will your turkeys be when it comes time for their … uh, final spa treatment ?

    With all this talk of turkeys, I was this close (holds up two fingers in a pinch) to buying a box of 1-week old poults (turkey babies) on the weekend. But we already have a backlog of eggs ordered for the incubator, with a clutch just a few days away from hatching. My wife has become a crazy chook lady. Maybe we’ll get some guinea-fowl instead, supposedly they hate snakes.

  3. On the acorn gathering in places where it’ socially unexpected: been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Your tom turkeys look magnificent, majestic, and worthy of the table. Our hen has lovely colors, but she’s still small. Oh, and by the way, Paul Bertoli has a rabbit pappardelle recipe I’m planning to make with squirrel. I use an air rifle. Doesn’t take much with a squirrel, but I’ll say this: if you miss once, you don’t get another chance any time soon. Also, they are much, *much* harder to skin than a rabbit.

  4. When raking leaves last week, had loads of acorns.

    Will be out again later this week, and if the situation is similar, will give you a jangle.

  5. On squirrels …
    Yes, they are good to eat.
    Old squirrels are MUCH tougher than young squirrels. You’ll realize this when you put them on to simmer.
    Yes, they are and absolute pain in the ass to skin – do it ASAP after the shot. It’s much easier while they’re still warm. There are some excellent tutorials on youtube. I shoot them with a shotgun, but I think an air rifle or a .22 is better. Less meat wasted and less chance of piercing the digestive system, which makes cleaning … unpleasant. Expect 1-pound boneless meat per 10 squirrels. I know this because we made a squirrel breakfast sausage log a couple of years ago. It had molasses and pine nuts and it was excellent.
    That said, rabbits are superior to my mind – higher yield, easier to cook. Happy hunting.

  6. Gorgeous birds! They lack the chickens’ folksy charm but they’re a lot more elegant. I can see why someone might want to wear the feathers.

  7. I don’t know if it was the same for you, but this year was what they call a mast year for acorns in the midwest. It was stunning how many the trees dropped much more than usual. Unfortunately it was also the worst year for black walnuts I’ve seen for a while.

    What this means for us is…more squirrels, fat happy squirrels. All it’s legal for me to shoot them with is my water gun, go get ’em!

  8. Paula — The turkeys do look like a doo-wop group, don’t they?

    For your smaller varmints, like squirrels and the raccoons I know are your personal pet peeve, may I suggest an air gun? They’re usually legal, and, as Kate points out, they can get the job done.

    Kingsley — Our turkeys will be about 23 weeks when we do the job, and that’s a couple weeks shy of what we’d like. I think 26 weeks is probably optimal. As for livestock as an impulse purchase, all I can say is that it has worked for us, so far.

    Kate — I’ll be looking up that recipe as soon as I bag me a couple of squirrels.

    Paul — Thanks! I think we’re set for this year, but I’m glad to know about a nearby supply.

    Jamie — Thanks for weighing in with your squirrel expertise! If we had an air gun or a 22, I’d go with that. In fact, I’m considering an air gun for that very reason. Right now, we’re working with either a 410 or a 20-gauge, and we’ll have to face up to those nasty digestive problems when we get them.

    Mom — I’m glad you like the look of them, because that’s what you’ll be eating in a little over 2 weeks. But they’re still charmless.

    Karen — I didn’t know it was called a mast year, but I’m pretty sure that’s what we had. It was wall-to-wall acorns around here. I’m sorry to hear it was a lousy black walnut year, though — those are WAY better than acorns.

  9. Very interesting blog

    If you had a choice, I would recommend the .22 over an air rifle. The cost of a sufficient air rifle comes close to the price of the .22 and the .22 can do much more.

    Since you currently use a shotgun, I assume the neighbors don’t get to upset to the occasional noise.
    If a .22 is in your future, look into “CB Longs”, they are a reduced velocity cartridge that when fired thru a rifle they are as quiet as a pellet gun. Sighted in properly and a good shot, they will dispatch your furry rivals quickly.

    • Hunter — Thanks for visiting, and for weighing in. A .22 isn’t in the cards — you can’t hunt with a rifle in Massachusetts. And I’m not allowed to discharge a firearm on my property, because there’s another house within 500 feet. That’s why we’re considering the air gun.

      If we leave the state, though, I’m taking your advice!

  10. My uncle, who lives in your neck of the woods, Tamar, is a fried-squirrel devotee.

  11. People will eat any rodent, including rats, if they are hungry enough, but what is the worst-tasting rodent that people eat more or less voluntarily? My father started out in the fur business buying raw furs directly from the trappers, who ate what they trapped. He couldn’t refuse an offer of dinner and sometimes ate muskrat stew, every bit as vile as it sounds.

  12. Billll’s Idle Mind blog described an ambitious “Squirrel gun” project, using compressed air, a sprinkler head for a trigger/compressed air valve, and a length of PVC for barrel and trap.

    What he ended up with was a bucket half full of water, and four foot of 4″ PVC with a smear of peanut butter about elbow deep from the top as bait, setting in the bucket and leaning up against the garden fence. I think about one squirrel a day until the population was pretty scant in his back yard.

    Luck. At least, you don’t live next to the “Oh, how cute!” folks with ears of corn tacked to trees, hoping to lure the rodents to the neighborhood.

  13. I think we already own what you need…call me…we use ours for hunting things that set off the alarm..things with wings..but don’t tell..cuz I’m sure that would upset someone somewhere..but maybe not your crowd..since they all seem ” into ” you eating squirrels (grin)