A Wild Turkey Thanksgiving

Wild turkey roadside new zealand
Run away! Run away! You’re not safe in late November!

If you know me, you know my plight every year when Thanksgiving rolls around. Scrounging up money to buy a turkey that’s about the size of a large chicken at 4 or 5 times the cost. To a turkey lover, such as myself, it’s a necessary evil. All year round, I think about Thanksgiving…waiting for it to arrive. THAT’S how much I love turkey and the great memories it brings of being with family and friends. I stock up on the jellied cranberry sauce from the American store in Auckland and look forward to turkey sandwiches for a couple of days after the shindig.

We drove to the beach one day, which is a good 35 minute trek through gorgeous rolling hillsides with happy, grass munching sheep and I spotted a flock (or rafter) of turkeys in a field! Our mouths started to water and I kidded how I was going to make a mental note of where they were when November rolled around. As we drove a bit further and rounded a bend, a huge black turkey was perched on a fence post. I’d never wanted to have an animal jump in front of the car as badly as I did right then. I would have gladly taken that piece of roadkill home and saved us $65.

A few days later, I was with a couple of friends and asked if they knew of any turkey farmers in the area so I could get a cheap one for Thanksgiving. Liz said there were wild ones all over the place and to just go out and kill one. HAH! I didn’t actually realize they were wild…I had heard of farmers who had them so it never occurred to me that these were free roamers. I blew off the idea because I couldn’t actually kill an animal and clean it. I recall getting ill in biology class when we had to dissect a worm. I was promptly dismissed from my duties when the teacher saw how white my face had turned.

No more than two days later, there was a knock at my door and Liz stood there, looking quite sporty in her hat and gumboots. She proudly proclaimed that she had a turkey for me! I was like, “Huh?” Her son and husband had shot four of them and asked if I wanted one. I went to the truck and they opened the back of it…lying dead as door nails were four big, black turkeys.

Now I felt guilty. There was no way I could bring myself to plucking and gutting the thing and so I offered to pay them if they did it for me. They were kind enough to oblige and once the shock wore off an hour or two later, I asked her to get pictures for me so I could blog about it.

wild turkey new zealand

plucked wild turkey new zealand

Not for the squeamish, right? Liz’s husband works for the meat packing plant so this is just another day at the office for him. I’m still feeling slightly bad about it, though.

Liz cooked up her turkey soon thereafter and gave me some white and dark meat to try. As an interesting aside, she said that you shouldn’t hunt turkeys in the late spring or summer. Apparently, they eat crickets and that changes the taste of their meat. She let me know that there were no crickets in the gizzards so that was good to hear. I will say that the dark meat was not like the turkey I was used to tasting. It was very ‘gamey,’ as they say (even though I don’t eat wild game, I can see what they mean now). I wouldn’t have thought there to be a difference, but I was wrong! As one local told me, “Keep the breast, toss the rest!”

I took the turkey from them after a week or so…they had kept it in their large freezer for me. It now fits snugly in the bottom section of our freezer and takes up the entire space, unlike any turkey I’ve ever had in New Zealand (and I struggle to remember the last time I cooked one this large in the States). I’ll defrost it a few days in advance and hope it fits ok in the oven. Yes, everything is smaller here…refrigerators AND ovens, alike.

wild turkey new zealand
Wild turkey hiding in the grass.

We’re now spotting turkeys everywhere we go, it seems. The other weekend we took a drive to see a small man-made lake just 10 minutes away. On the way out, there was a turkey on the side of the road looking like he wanted to get on the other side of the fence. We slowed down and stopped…waiting for him to run out in front of us! Hah…ok, not really. He stayed in the grass, possibly noting my American accent and tried to blend in. We laughed it off and kept driving…still feeling badly having one of his relatives in our freezer. This one was safe…from US, at least.

So the day has finally arrived and even after 4 days in the fridge, the turkey was still frozen the night before Thanksgiving. I woke up early today and took it out to unwrap and thaw some more and to test the size in the oven. Uh oh…

turkey doesn't fit in the oven

I tried to bend the legs back, to no avail. The neck was pretty much still on there (covered by foil). I stood there at 6:30 a.m. wondering if I should try to hack it off and said, “Nahhhh.” I couldn’t stomach it, regardless of the time. I’m not entirely sure how to shove the butter under the skin but I’ll tackle that later.

wild turkey thanksgiving
Looking mighty uncomfortable in its own skin

Heck, I even made a butter pie crust for the first time in ages last night!

butter pie crust

chocolate pudding pie

As the time grew closer to stuffing this bird in the oven, I figured I’d better hack off the neck. Two knives later (and fingers still intact), it was off! I moved it to a sturdier roasting pan and then tried to put it in the oven. Didn’t work. I tried tying the legs together and pushing them in but this was the best I could do. Tin foil will be my friend today.

wild turkey in the oven
I hate small ovens.

Thanks to the small oven, it cooked in about half the time it should have and the legs were a bit, shall we say, overdone. However, the breast was still semi-juicy and only slightly tougher than the plastic wrapped counterpart I’m used to. It wasn’t the most attractive turkey I’ve come across, but hey…whatever works, right?

Didn’t like the dark meat, anyway!

The turkey was too big to fit on the table, plus I had nothing to even put it on. The breast was smaller than I would have expected for such a large turkey, but there was still plenty leftover. Liz brought over a pumpkin cake and a bottle of bubbles and she cleaned her plate on her very first Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for the turkey, Liz and hope to do it next year too!

 

 

 

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Ducks, Eels & a Parade

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We took a ride outside of our bubble to Norsewood one weekend. I was told they had some sort of wool outlet store with good sales, so that was enough of a reason for me! The shop was ok, certainly no bargains to be had…where I really scored was around the corner! If I’ve learned anything, it’s when there’s an eel on a sign, that means they’re close by! It sounded like it was a paid entry to a park, but as we approached, it was free to walk around.

IMG_3456Nicely landscaped and a small stream running through it, Andy spotted eels right away…..BIG ONES! They all huddled in a deep area before a small waterfall, somehow managing not to get swept over it.

The longest one was at least 4 1/2 feet and they appeared to be wanting food. A sign said ‘no unauthorized feeding’ and besides, I didn’t have anything with me to be tempted.

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We walked around Norsewood for a bit, finding the old jail the most interesting thing there.

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The jail cells were like large, dark saunas. I’m not sure which would have been worse…being in the cell or sitting in that chair all day!

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Captivating reading

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We headed back through Waipuk to Waipawa for the duck races! Yep, this is what I get excited about now. Let me tell ya, it was hoppin’ in that little town! Lots of stalls and I even picked up more duck eggs. If you ever have the chance to buy these, do it. I had them once in Texas and they were great! Cook up nice and fluffy and they have more protein than chicken eggs. There are quite a few duck egg “dealers” around here so I’m happy about that. I paid $3.50 for half a dozen.

duck eggs
Duck egg on the left, chicken egg on the right

We headed down to the river to watch the duck race. People were able to buy a ticket for their duck but unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you what the prize was. Proceeds went to the Ronald McDonald House which was about $1200.

A tractor had dug out the area for the ducks and a man stood behind the finishing line, waiting for them to arrive.

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Two ducks were head and tails above the rest and once the others arrived, the mad rush to net and stuff them in bags was on!

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Last weekend was the Waipukurau parade, celebrating 150 years on the map. I’d never seen so many people here! It consisted of vintage fire trucks, cars and dress. Even a tiny (fat) pony!

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Over the same long weekend, we visited a winery nearby which is on a property that was originally a retreat for WWI soldiers, then became a sanitorium and then in the 50’s, a care facility. It was abandoned in 1998. Pukeora estate is now up for sale after being occupied by a couple for the past 17 years if anyone’s interested!

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We were able to walk through one of the buildings which was a bit creepy. A bird was trapped in one of the rooms so I opened the windows and door and he eventually flew out…PHEW!

The wine was very good and we left with a couple of bottles. Another couple who lives on site has an art gallery which was terrific. The vineyard is perched on limestone and we saw some small fossils in the hills leading up to the place. Kinda reminded me of home.

Finally, we went back to a memorial park for a longer walk to see what was blooming.

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This interesting park is full of plaques memorializing family members. They planted flowers, trees and bushes around each one. Each area is different and there’s a small stream running through the park as well.

IMG_3658Some of these folks were close to or over 100. Although some were younger than us, which made us feel lucky to be alive.

I found out that these hard, bumpy fruits were from the strawberry tree! You can eat them when they turn red and I haven’t figured out if they’re delicious or otherwise, as I picked a couple that were yellow. I’m giving it another couple of days before opening them up.

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Thanksgiving is around the corner and it’s going to be a little different this year! You won’t believe the story.

Tonight, the clouds were in rare form and I’m waiting for something to happen!

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Lambs and Dragons

meanee new zealand lambs

Ohhhh yeah…it’s Spring finally. Daffodils and lambs, what’s not to love!? The place we lived when we arrived on the North Island had a herd of sheep and almost all of them had lambs on the way. It seemed to take forever, but after we moved from there, the lambs finally came into the world and I made sure to go cuddle some.

meanee new zealand lambs
Following their mom!

Sandra had to hand rear a few of them and asked if I wanted to give them a small early feed. Of course I jumped on that and she warned me that they would probably mob me and that made me even more excited! Mobbed by lambs…who wouldn’t want that?

They were busy in the corner of the paddock and when Sandra hollered for them, three bottles in hand, they came running! My voice raised a few octaves as I greeted them and fed two of them while Sandra took a video of it. She held a bottle between her knees for one of the lambs…a pretty funny sight. After a couple of minutes, the milk was gone and they were looking for more. They followed Sandra around the yard for a while and then finally went off to do whatever lambs do all day!

I went for a drive closer to home a week or so later to see some other lambs and found a lot of twins playing together during one of the warmer days of the season.

waipukurau new zealand lambs

waipukurau lambs

waipukurau new zealand lambs

This wee one had gotten separated from its mom and tried to get a feed off of a different one. It was pushed away and both looked on as the baby bleated for its family.

We took a drive to Blackhead beach and saw some llamas (actually probably alpacas) along the way. I figured babies would be super adorable, but only saw what appeared to be adolescent ones.

new zealand llamas
That one looks a bit old to be feeding (and where’s the head exactly?)!

new zealand llamas

The beach was pretty and I was able to catch some rays before some clouds came and made it too chilly to stay.

blackhead beach new zealand

Blackhead beach new zealand

baby mussels

baby mussels new zealand

I noticed these baby mussels stuck to a rock. I can’t imagine these are the same kind as the really large ones I’d find on the beaches like the green lipped mussels.

If you’ve grown tired of hearing about lambs, you’d better stop reading here. My friend has a small lifestyle block and one of her sheep had twins, so I went over as soon as humanly possible to see the babies.

waipukurau new zealand lambs

These precious girls were only a few days old and were very patient with me. One had been pretty weak after she was born and Liz took care of her for a day or two, but was glad to see she was doing better. I’ll go back in a week to check in on them and see if we can catch them for a couple more hugs.

My aunt dug up a photo of my grandmother holding some lambs too, so here we are side by side.

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waipukurau new zealand lambs
Wee girl going back to fat mama after being accosted by me

waipukurau new zealand lamb

I’m betting the adults even think they’re adorable. I often see sheep staring at the babies…I wonder what goes through their minds?

Liz found out I was a reptile nut and told me she had some friends with a bearded dragon. Of course I wanted to see him so we went over to meet Boz and his humans.

bearded dragon new zealand
Boz the dragon

He was a beauty, sporting a lovely orange colour and calm as could be. Christine showed us how she raises some of his food. I had no idea that meal worms were anything other than just worms! She showed us the top drawer of the container which had black beetles in it, then the second that had the meal worms and the third which had the larvae. Boz looked on without diving in, remaining cool and collected.

mealworms new zealand

mealworms new zealand

mealworms new zealand

Boz also eats greens and is super healthy and happy since he also has a playpen outside! Complete with some stacked rocks warmed by the sun and a concrete turtle, he can soak up vitamin D and get some fresh air.

bearded dragon new zealand

bearded dragon new zealand

bearded dragon new zealand

It’s pretty rare to see lizards here and now you must have a license to own one. I also didn’t realize that bearded dragons hail from Oz! I offered up my pet sitting services if they ever needed someone, so I hope to meet up with them again soon.

Finally, a some closing shots of a Tui which visited the patio briefly and the ranges. Still loving the views here and my veggie seeds are sprouting, with some strawberries, garlic, celery and rhubarb already in the garden. I think it’s going to be a good season!

waipukurau new zealand tui bird

waipukurau tb hospital Ruahine Range

 

Exploring Hawke’s Bay

cornwall park hastings

It’s nice being in a new place and a bit farther from the South Pole. It feels warmer than it did in Blenheim, even though we’re heading into the worst of winter. A few days after my 47th birthday, we happened upon Cornwall Park in Hastings with more of my favourite old, creepy trees. This one though, had something I hadn’t seen before…an unmanned atrium loaded with orchids, lilies, hibiscus and other tropical plants. There were cameras in operation, though.

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

It also had an Asian flair to it.

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

I always have to get a shot of those trees!

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

cornwall park hastings

We took another drive out to Cape Kidnappers and walked farther this time, along the beach. I love looking for things along the beach and since most coastlines are deserted, you can often see some interesting stuff.
cape kidnappers

cape kidnappers

I had always thought the term ‘hairy muscle’ was just some kind of weird Kiwi humour. Nope…it’s for real! This was one of many that were scattered along the beach. A green lipped mussel with…well…hair…kind of.

cape kidnappers

This sign is meant to catch your eye…at first all I read was ‘dead children’. There’s that Kiwi humour!

The cliffs were stunning and I wished I could remember back to my geology class what these different striations meant.

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Waterfall carved into the hill
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Looks like a violent move here

cape kidnappers

At the bottom of this cliff was a dead sheep. It’s not unusual to see, actually. We pondered if another one of her sheep ‘buddies’ pushed her over. This was about the time we turned back.

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Sheep not getting too close to the edge

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There’s a gannet colony at the end of that point. The only way to get there is to walk the beach (and check the tide chart!) or by tractor tours.

This was one interesting thing I saw, thinking it might have been ambergris which could have been a great find. With all of the whales in New Zealand, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. I did not take it home though for some reason. When I researched it, this was probably a sponge, as can be seen by the small holes next to that rock. It didn’t look like a normal ‘sponge’ I’m used to seeing but it may have been fresh. Of course, I’ll never really know.

cape kidnappers

Walking back to the car was this lovely old character home with a small windbreak to protect it from the constant breeze off the ocean.

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A gum tree caught my eye as well. I love how the bark is different colours and as others have mentioned, looks like a tattoo.

cape kidnappers gum tree

cape kidnappers gum tree

A week later, we headed to the Hasting’s farmer’s market where I grabbed a huge bag of habanero’s for $6 and some lemons. This bunch of silver beets caught my eye with their gorgeous rainbow colours. At first I thought it was rhubarb.

hastings farmer's market

I also found a persimmon tree down the street from where we were staying!

persimmon tree new zealand

You know I’m a sucker for fog and I took advantage of the photo ops one morning around the farm.

A pukeko looked for breakfast and squawked to his buddies while the teenage cows minded their own business.

pukeko in the mist

Fast forward slightly to my now current home of Waipukurau (Waipuk for short). We drove up to a lookout and I was finally able to get a photo of the Oreo cow (Belted Galloway) next to a spotted pig. I see a lot of these cows around New Zealand. I’m waiting to find one with multiple black and white stripes one day!

We went to a sandy beach about 25 minutes from here which was deserted. But on the way there were some interesting sights and fantastic scenery. There are things in New Zealand I’ve never seen elsewhere, like these pink ponds which are actually algae.

pink algae pond new zealand

pink algae pond new zealand

pink algae pond new zealand

pink algae pond new zealand

Then we were stopped by a mob of sheep hogging up the entire road (not to mention on a 100km/h stretch of it!). Andy was patiently driving behind them as I urged him to just push on past and they’d get out of the way. We knew the farmer was around the bend waiting for them. A local drove up behind us and waited for a bit, before doing what I had suggested. Moving far over to the left and driving slowly, the sheep scattered out of the way and we could then pass.

A few minutes later, for a fleeting moment I saw giraffes on the top of a hill! Obviously fake, but pretty realistic from a distance, I told him he had to try and stop somewhere on the way back for a picture.

metal giraffes new zealand

Once we made it to Pourerere Beach, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared briefly. We walked along the beach and I found a lot of cool shells.

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A lot of kelp (seaweed?) littered the beach. The waves were pretty rough and the feet of the kelp looked like they had been ripped out quite forcibly.

pourerere beach

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We’ll be seeing more of the upper North Island in December for a mini-road trip. It’ll be great getting out to the sandy beaches in the summer and may finally change my mind about the weather in New Zealand. At least I hope it will!pourerere beach