Homegrown Thanksgiving Success

Thanksgiving turkey, homestead raised.

Thanksgiving unlike any before.

We sat at the table, a bountiful Thanksgiving feast laid out in front of us. The amazing spread of food was more than a reason to give thanks… it was the culmination of a year’s worth of work, sacrifice and commitment. It was a meal to feed the soul as much as the belly.

The goal that really launched “Our Homestead Adventures”, was to provide our entire Thanksgiving meal by growing, raising or hunting every dish. Did we do it? Did our hard work, failures, successes, & trade-offs pay off?

More of a Thanksgiving marathon than a sprint.

It was a lot like training for a first race. We were a little out-of-shape, but were ready to work toward our goal. We had days where our energy was high and we pulled weeds like nobody’s business. We had many days that the garden slipped from view, buried in tall grass and weeds. There was a grand plan of a great pumpkin patch. Hundreds of seeds were planted. Not only would we have pumpkin pie, but we envisioned a pumpkin stand at the end of our driveway too. We dug and we dug. We watered and we watered. We strategically placed a natural pest repellent around the pumpkin seedlings. Those hard-work pumpkins never became a reality. But there were just enough pumpkins for each family member to have a gourd-type pumpkin for Halloween thanks to volunteers that popped up in last year’s patch. There were no pie pumpkins this year.

Sweet potato pie, a sweet alternative and a pleasant replacement following a disappointing pumpkin patch.

A sweet alternative.

Sweet, sweet potatoes… those vines grew and grew creating a green blanket for our scarecrow to fall over into and sleep. We had no idea if those vines were bearing any fruit, until one day the boys went out there and dug just to see. A small boxful of dirt covered sweet potatoes were just enough to make the most amazing homemade sweet potato pie that would take the place of the family’s beloved favorite pumpkin pie. Knowing I only had enough for one pie, I made the crust from scratch and did my best to make it pretty, hoping the family wouldn’t be disappointed without pumpkin pie. “Can I have more pumpkin pie??” “No, honey, that’s not pumpkin pie, that’s sweet potato pie. Yes, you can.”

Small crops that were more than enough.

Our green beans fizzled and our waxed beans gave us 11 oz. total- more than enough for our Thanksgiving table. We even had leftover beans. The sweet corn stalks blew over at least twice during storms, but we managed to get a one full gallon-sized bag blanched and into the freezer. The small amounts were actually seen as abundant. We had never tasted corn on Thanksgiving, that wasn’t from a can or from the frozen food section of a store. It was like eating fresh corn-on-the-cob. The texture and taste was like reading a rich novel- not like reading the directions of how to put something together. (Feel free to flip that analogy around if you are very excited and satisfied when reading “directions”.)

Persimmon pudding cake from our persimmon trees.

The perfect persimmon pudding cake.

The persimmon trees really grew a lot of persimmons. I had the full intention of gathering some for a variety of treats. I didn’t. I found a freezer bag from last season with just enough persimmon pulp to try a half-recipe of persimmon pudding cake. I hoped it wasn’t freezer burned. “It’s much better than I thought it would be.” Everyone had a piece. We even had left-overs and a couple of us had it for breakfast.

Appetizers we had not planned on, were a big hit.

Deviled eggs from our hens made a nice appetizer.

The hens started to slow up on egg production when the weather got cold. I had 5 eggs left in the refrigerator and was thinking how nice it would be to have one more for a tray of homestead deviled eggs. The day before Thanksgiving, I kid you not, the chickens gifted us one more egg.

Squash pickles, salsa, “cowboy candy”, pickles and fresh carrots were more than enough to fill an appetizer tray.

I didn’t have high expectations from our yellow squash plant. In fact, I only planted one. It gave and it gave. Our pantry is stocked with jars and jars of pickled summer squash and relish. The plant I didn’t believe in, gave us food for our Thanksgiving relish tray.

The one item I really aspired to have an abundance of, were cucumbers for pickling. I imagined rows of jars on a shelf for sandwiches or snacks all winter long. The cucumbers did terribly this year. They turned yellow with the most bitter taste that was best suited for our compost bin. I had ONE jar of “baby” dill pickles from our garden. I boiled and processed ONE jar of cucumbers that actually looked how they were supposed to. All of the little dill pickles were carefully placed on that Thanksgiving relish tray. I knew their worth.

A little fall, here and there, didn’t stop us from dusting off our pants and trying. Our tomatoes did fairly well, even though we still had many green tomatoes at the end of the season. A jar of homemade salsa, topped with dried cilantro was placed with the other relish tray foods. We also had candied jalapenos atop cream cheese and freshly picked garden carrots. Our “cowboy candy” was a fun unconventional Thanksgiving treat (maybe new Thanksgiving tradition).

Thanksgiving dinner, ready to serve.

Our little guy really “digs” carrots.

Those carrots! I asked our youngest son if he’d like to go out with me to dig up some carrots for our Thanksgiving meal. I gave him a trowel and showed him how to dig around the carrot. I didn’t anticipate how excited our 6 year-old would be. It was like finding a hidden treasure. After he had dug up a boxful of carrots, and I was sure we had enough to serve, he asked, “Can I dig up more? Please? Can I have some for my lunchbox?” It was at this moment that I felt like we had accomplished what we set out to do. To grow our own food. To have our family involved. To do this together. To have this process be meaningful.

Our homestead raised Thanksgiving turkey tipped the scales at 23lbs. 2oz.

The centerpiece was one big bird.

Did we have turkey on our table? We debated on whether we should hunt or raise turkeys. We raised two turkeys from early June on and we loved having them. They ate well with a variety of garden fresh food and fresh water everyday. They had freedom to move in a very large space with shelter and perches available. Our Thanksgiving turkey weighed in at 23lbs. 2oz. They gave us a new appreciation for what goes into having a big, juicy Turkey on our table… we’re grateful for the gift and will waste none of it. We didn’t serve cranberry sauce or have any dinner rolls on our table, as we always did. We didn’t even think about it because we had everything we needed. It was abundant. It was good. It was a Thanksgiving we’ll always remember.

We hope your family enjoyed its Thanksgiving as much as we enjoyed our “Turkey Day”.

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