Turkey Day Camp

I have exactly one memory of day camp: canned spaghetti.

I couldn’t tell you a single activity, my age at the time, or even where the camp was. All I remember was that I was excited when I learned there was spaghetti for lunch – until I tasted it. It was vile. Mushy, bland, and disgusting. It bore no resemblance to the spaghetti I had at home, spaghetti with my mother’s tomato sauce.

I didn’t eat it. And for me to not eat something, even then, was a big deal. I ate everything.

It’s embarrassing that the only thing I remember from day camp is the food. Day camp plays an important role in socializing a child, and I should remember seminal childhood experiences like being picked last for teams, being made fun of, being ostracized by my peers. I’m sure all those things happened, and I think it says something about my psyche that what sticks in my mind is the Chef Boy-R-Dee.

I’m now having a second experience with day camp, and it’s also about food.

In the two-and-a-half weeks we’ve had them, our turkey chicks have gotten big enough that they seem a little cramped in their brooder. The pen we have planned isn’t yet set up, so Kevin decided he’d set up Turkey Day Camp in the upper garden.

The upper garden is a patch about ten feet square. Half of it is filled with potato plants, and the other half has the sad remains of our failed overwinter garlic. There’s a lone rhubarb plant and a clutch of catalognas across the back. Most importantly, though, there’s a chicken-wire fence.

Although the fence is only eighteen inches high, we thought it would be sufficient to keep four month-old turkey chicks confined. We were wrong. We had an escapee in the first hour. We solved that problem by putting a clam net – the commercial kind, used to cover clam beds on the sea floor – over the entire garden. Always useful to have a clam net lying around.

We put their food and water in a corner, and Kevin put a bedsheet over the section of net covering them so there’d be some shade.

Voila! Turkey Day Camp.

The turkeys seem to be enjoying themselves. They run around and peck at the bugs and the grass. They’ve started to practice being adults, fluffing out the their wings and raising their tails so they look like small scraggly imitations of picture-book turkeys. They chest-bump. In short, they spend the day being turkeys. At night, we put them back in their brooder in the garage, where they’re safe from predators.

The cat and the chickens have been around to investigate, but there haven’t been any fireworks yet. Since the cat and the chickens have gotten used to each other, they seem to be able to take a third species in stride.

What surprises us most about the turkeys is that they seem to enjoy human company. When they’re in the brooder in the garage, they often peep loudly and insistently, but settle down immediately when we come to visit.

At Day Camp, they tend to crowd against whichever wall is closest to where we’re working, running back and forth. We worry that they’re not eating and drinking enough, but when we go sit outside the corner with their food and water, they inevitably come over and partake.

Turkey Day Camp won’t see them through to Thanksgiving, but it’s buying us some time to get their adult pen set up. Meanwhile, they’re giving every indication of enjoying day camp a lot more than I ever did.

9 people are having a conversation about “Turkey Day Camp

  1. …and they probably will until you try to feed them canned spaghetti.

    Canned spaghetti is better than the nasty, watery, sweet-with-large-chunks-of-cooked-celery swill that my mother tried to pass off as spaghetti when I was a kid. My husband knows that if he wants spaghetti, he has to order it when we’re out. I still can’t bring myself to eat spaghetti and I’m fifty!

    Glad that everything turkey-wise is going well.

  2. The ‘A Camp Follower’ picture is great! Talk about a picture worth a thousand words…I am still laughing at that. My experience was the cats thought they could stalk chickens until they tried it. Then the chickens learned a game called ‘Stalking the Cat(s)’ Your poor tuxedo cat probably is not thinking of a poult as a meal as much as it is considering the likelihood of the poult pecking it if it gets the chance. Canned pasta is almost cruel beyond words, but large birds are mean to house cats.

  3. Paula — That is a sad story indeed! Lots of people have had dishes ruined by bad experiences (talk to my husband about liver), but I’ve never met anyone who hated spaghetti. Surely, with time, therapy, and really good marinara sauce we could bring you around …

    Greg — It was interesting seeing the relationship between the cat and the chickens develop. At first, we protected the chicks pretty carefully. As they got older, we were less vigilant because the cat didn’t seem to see them as prey. Then the balance of power shifted, and the chickens would go after the cat. Now they seemed to have reached a truce. They all ignore each other, and there is peace in the barnyard.

  4. I hope you are providing arts and crafts activities at this camp. How else will your turkeys learn to make macrame bracelets??

  5. Jen — We’re starting them on those potholders you weave out of those stretchy cloth things. I have to say, they’re slow learners.

  6. What fun! There’s something I find charming about turkeys, although I don’t think it’s their brains. 🙂 That clam net looks pretty useful. Where does one acquire a clam net?

  7. Maggie — I’m not convinced that turkeys are so dumb. Ours seem to engage with us, and are alert to what’s going on around them, and agree with you about their peculiar charm. Of course, they aren’t the broad-breasted kind bred for white meat, so they may still have vestiges of their native street-smarts. As for clam nets, we inherited ours, so I don’t know its provenance. I think you get them from the people who supply professional shellfishers.

  8. This might sound awful, but I hate when animals are the slightest bit affectionate. I tend to humanize everything at the drop of the hat. I’ve even become attatched to particular trees on occasion. So heaven forbid that I perceive a turkey enjoys my company. Presto-chango…delicious Thanksgiving meal turned instantly into useless pet with plaintive gobble.

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