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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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.

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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.

megrandmalambs

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

 

What the Heck is a Persimmon?

new zealand persimmons
Just a quick post about persimmons as it’s been awhile since I’ve talked about food here. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a persimmon before. It was one of those fruits that didn’t scream out ‘Eat Me!’ and I didn’t want to pay too much to take the chance on it. I was in an op shop the other day and they had a couple of baskets full marked 3 for $1, so I figured now was the time.

I asked one of the ladies what they tasted like and even she wasn’t too sure. Another woman wandered into earshot so we asked her. She said they were sort of sweet and you could eat them skin and all. She claimed some people liked them soft, while she liked them a bit harder, with a crunch. I purchased them and they’ve been sitting on my counter ever since.

They look like a tomato, with a lighter orange colour and they feel a bit dense. I see that they’re grown in the U.S. but even there, they somehow evaded my grocery basket. Feeling a bit peckish, with nothing much to eat here, I decided the time has come to find out what these persimmons were all about.

new zealand persimmons

I cut into it vertically (not knowing the correct way) and was a bit disappointed to see that looked like a tomato, minus the seeds and pulp. I cut a sliver off like you do an apple and took a bite. Meh…nothing spectacular. I had expected it to be sweeter and have a more distinct flavour. What I got out of it was a softer crunch than an apple and then tried to pinpoint what it tasted like. I’m getting mild cantaloupe and maybe a tiny bit of carrot with a hint of that dryness in your mouth you’d get if you bit into a banana peel. new zealand persimmons

This was about the time I went to Google to see where these things were grown and that’s when I realized I cut into it the wrong way! Slicing it horizontally yielded a cool design, but still no seeds. They must be in there somewhere. Google again. Turns out some have big black seeds and some don’t! There is even a way to predict winter weather according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

Cut open a persimmon seed. (Find persimmon fruit in your supermarket. It should be locally-grown to reflect your weather.)

Look at the shape of the kernel inside.

  • If the kernel is spoon-shaped, lots of heavy, wet snow will fall. Spoon = shovel!
  • If it is fork-shaped, you can expect powdery, light snow and a mild winter.
  • If the kernel is knife-shaped, expect to be “cut” by icy, cutting winds.

Well, winter just started here yesterday so I guess there’s no chance in predicting what will happen by looking at my persimmons. Maybe a lack of any seeds means it’ll be warm. Hah…probably not a chance of that happening!

new zealand persimmons no seeds

Another Summer Christmas

new zealand christmas lily
Christmas Lilies

It’s been an interesting month since the earthquake. We had thousands of aftershocks and when it finally started calming down, there were about 5 noticeable shakes yesterday registering 5.5 or lower and one on Christmas morning. A few days after the big quake in November, I finally gained residency! It was a huge relief without much of a plan B in place for what I’d do had I not gotten it. I can officially call New Zealand “home” now and am happy to be here.

I can’t say that I’ve gotten used to being warm on Christmas or having the flowers and veggies starting to grow. My neighbour gave me a couple of stems from her Christmas lilies and img_0425proclaimed, “Now your house will smell like Christmas!” Well who would’ve thought anyone would associate lilies with Christmas instead of pine trees? I love the smell of lilies so I proudly displayed them as Andy sneezed and complained they stunk. She also gifted me at least a pound of fresh, large strawberries from her garden…the best I’ve ever had. The woman has a talent when it comes to growing.

My strawberries are now going through a growth spurt and are getting bigger leaves and flowers. They’re sweet and juicy and I love picking them while perusing the garden, still warm from the sun. The raspberries are also taking off and I’ve put baby mantises on them as well as on top of the flowering celery where flying bugs go wild. I hope to give the babies a head start on life and find them flourishing in the yard by the end of summer. I estimate that there were well over 800 babies born in this yard alone!

Baby mantis on the raspberry bush
Baby mantis on the raspberry bush

The tomatoes I started growing over a month ago have gotten huge and one is finally turning orange. I’ll have a bumper crop, ending up giving most of them away. The strawberries near them are also getting large.

Tomatoes and strawberries

The first bell pepper (or capsicum as they call it here) of the season is doing great! I have used seeds from one I bought at the store to make more. I’ve also got a red chili plant and am starting to grow jalapenos which are very expensive and rare here.

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As an interesting aside about the  major quake, I read that all non-fruiting vegetables immediately went to seed. Thinking they were under attack from the violent shaking, it was their way of making sure the next generation survived. Plants are so amazing!

My freaky cauliflower bloomed and I harvested it the other day. To me, it tasted nothing like cauliflower but it wasn’t bad. I grew it because I wanted to have something different. The first time I saw one was in California and was amazed there were actually plants in the nursery here, so I grabbed some.

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The red grapes are slowly making their way to maturity and I also found that we have some cherry plum trees across the street! I’d never noticed or heard of them before. A mix between, you guessed it, a cherry and a plum produces a large cherry looking fruit that tastes like a plum. The pit and flesh is just like a plum with a slightly sour skin. They’re a bit mushy when red, but hey…they’re free!!New Zealand cherry plum

My other neighbour enlightened me to loganberries…a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. They often have a banana taste to them which blows my mind. They’re great in cereal! She had a huge crop and is more than happy to share those along with the lemons on her hundred year old tree.

New Zealand cherry plum loganberries
Cherry plums & loganberries

The feijoa tree has been blooming with gorgeous little flowers that remind me a lot of the pohutukawa tree blossoms, popular along the coastlines during summer. Lots of yummy feijoas on the way!

feijoa blooms

In other news around the yard, the calla lilies I also didn’t know about last year made an appearance….the most beautiful colour ever! A light purple mixed with cream and light green. I’m so fortunate to have them!

new zealand calla lily

purple calla lily

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was lucky enough to find an Angel Trumpet at the garden center too! These remind me of Central America, as they’re all over the place there. So majestic and beautiful, their aroma is strongest at night.

angel trumpet

For a very brief few weeks, a beautiful bunch of flowers appeared from out of nowhere with the most intricate petals. It reminded me of a swan.

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Another unexpected surprise was the appearance of a hedgehog living under the house! The dog alerted us to it one night by scratching and barking at the back step. I shined a flashlight in there and saw a bunch of quills so that was exciting! Apparently the hog was out before dark in the yard and the dog had a go at it. I have no idea how he manages to keep it in his mouth. The quills are very sharp and I came out to find him or her in the typical ball, waiting for things to calm down. I waited patiently and it finally uncurled and crawled back to the safety of the house. They are a great addition to the garden, eating slugs, creepy crawlies, grubs and other pests. As my mother said, “Your garden is magical!”

hedgehog

My garden where I find hedgehog digging spots
My garden where I find hedgehog digging spots

Another trip to Pollard Park found the roses in full bloom (over 800 different bushes!) and some wild blue flowers that looked fake coming off of a large succulent.

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Gigantic roses

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Tequila Sunrise roses
Tequila Sunrise roses

I have no idea where they come up with rose names but a lot had to do with drinks like Hot Chocolate, Raspberry Ice and this Tequila Sunrise.

 

 

 

pollard park roses

These zinnias and lilies were happy in the sun!

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It’s amazing the work that goes into making these huge flower beds in the park. This time it was for The Lions Club.

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It’s been nice to have over 15 hours of daylight but the weather continues to be unpredictable. We actually had to start the fire yesterday afternoon! It’s time to get in some exercise after many, MANY months of hibernation! I hope everyone has a great new year and that America’s new leader will make a change for the better.