On Saturday morning after chores we set up on the dock of the sugar house and prepared to slaughter turkeys. We started out with 20 poults this year. In April we slipped them into their pen under the deck of the milk house and watered and fed them twice a day until they were old enough and fast enough to let loose in the orchard. We lost one about three days in when it managed to get itself stuck between the heat lamp and the brooder wall, another one a couple of days later when it jumped up onto the rim of the water bucket and then fell in and drowned. The last one disappeared from the count around the middle of June and we wound up with a final count fully grown birds ready for Thanksgiving, 7 hens and 10 toms between 12 and 35 pounds. Doing the turkeys is one of my least favorite annual rites; the birds are heavy, the feathers difficult to pull even when they’ve been scalded and it’s a cold time of year to be working all day with water. This year I had plenty of people ask if they could help, but none of their schedules lined up the right way so I found myself having to do the work by myself. The air was crisp, the sky so blue that it was hard on the eyes, but you could see the first of the distant contrail lines being etched across its surface, and invisible jet cursor like the one on an etch-a-sketch, leaving a scar on the face of the day.
If you work out of doors you get to be very familiar with the weather, especially in a climate where the seasons dictate the cycles of life. Certain kinds of clouds precede specific types of weather, the way the wind comes in ahead of a front carries smells with it that tell you what kind of rain it will be, or how heavy the snow will fall. If you pay close attention to the variety of clouds, their density and the speed with which they cross the sky you can almost set your watch by the arrival of a cold front, or a break in the patterns. On some days, not all mind you, the jets that leave the trails will cross the sky repeatedly, zig-zagging back and forth across the sky, usually they begin in the south, from east to west and slowly as the day progresses they will rise up across the horizon from somewhere in Massachusetts until they are directly above us. These delicate scrimshaw drawings on the horizon will bleed into bands, whitish at first but then oily looking, like gasoline on a puddle, leaving sun dogs and attenuated curtains of wispy fog across what was only moments before crystal clear. I have watched them often enough now to know the difference between normal air traffic and these deliberate actions. Though they are more often seen in the daylight, there are times when they come out after dark. From the front of the house you can see, on a clear night, 75 miles or more. You get to recognize the normal air traffic far to the south, the back and forth at certain elevations and the direction where they originate and where they vanish. Normally you might see three in an hour, maybe four, never more, day or night. On the days when they fill the sky with their scrim of clouds from dissipated trails there are usually three or four aircraft working together, one behind the other at slightly different altitudes, back and forth, rising higher by the hour back and forth until the sky is completely obscured. One afternoon we watched as one jet made repeated loops at thirty thousand feet, leaving circular trails above us that linked into a chain before it finally headed off to the seacoast, the blurry ovals melting into each other until every last trace of clear sky was utterly gone.
Lately whenever you hear some authority figure mention the term climate change they have begun to amend their lecture long enough to repeat the refrain that it is “settled science.” Sometimes they will give the percentage of scientists who say that this is so and the number is always north of 97%. Their voices will lower, deliberately, I suspect, and they will often repeat that phrase for emphasis. “Settled science” in the way that a parent will tell a demanding child that the matter is no longer up for discussion — “it’s settled” they will say with the same gravity, as if the pronouncement itself has decided the matter rather than the merits of the argument. I find that kind of rhetorical posturing to be a kind of signal, not that the argument is definitive, but rather that the door of inquiry is no longer open. Our betters have decided, for better or worse, that the bothersome population needs to move on to other topics still open to free discussion, like favorite TV shows or which platform is superior, Samsung or I-Phone. Politically it is settled, of course, a tax is coming and we are going to pay for it through increased costs for the most fundamental services to the most obscure behaviors. There is no democracy when it comes to revenue, only compliance and anyone who points out that it looks more like a money grab than a solution had better keep their head down. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. The United Nations, one of the leading proponents of the political solution to climate change is located on an 18 acre complex that sits on the East River of Manhattan Island. Unknown to most of the members is that several blocks west of their headquarters there sits a massive stretch of exposed bedrock known as the Roches Moutonees, where ten thousand years earlier massive glaciers once scraped their surfaces under the pressure of a half mile thick body of ice. Were it not for global warming the rooftop where the elites land their luxury helicopters prior to attending their climate summit would, at just over 500 feet, still be some 1500 feet beneath the top of the glacier that once buried the entire northeastern seaboard. On that particular point, the science is settled.
Preparing a turkey for Thanksgiving is a task that most people will never undertake in a lifetime. Everyone eats turkey, but getting one from the field to the table is a process better left to others. My son, bless his heart, gave up his day to give me a hand with the birds and we set up a system to behead the turkeys, bleed them out and scald them before beginning on the plucking. A 35 pound tom turkey will not lay his head on the chopping block as dutifully as a Carmelite nun and the sounds that accompany this task create a cacophony that sets the rest of the flock into responses and calls of their own. Turkeys signal each other through a complex system of vocalizations, a chirping from the hens that always sets off in unison at the smallest sounds around them and a gobble from the toms in concert to establish their presence and availability. Once the slaughter begins the sounds change and the toms lead and the hens stay silent. Towards the end the flock grows quieter until there are no sounds whatsoever, a deafening silence. We talk while we work, stopping to warm our hands in a bucket of hot water, changing latex gloves as they tear or fill up with a pink mix of blood and water. The process takes all day, about forty minutes per bird no matter how fast you are. My wife had told me about her last trip to the grocery store and stopping to check on the prices of turkey there, “Fifty-nine cents a pound,” she told me. I tried to figure it out in my head, how you could even feed a turkey for 59 cents a pound, never mind the associated costs of labor getting it to harvest weight, the slaughter, the transportation, refrigeration, the stocking and the markups at every step along the way before it made it to the conveyor belt at the checkout. It simply isn’t possible, under any circumstances to provide that price for that commodity and not lose money. Unless there is some massive subsidy somewhere along the way where money is pumped into the system in order to suppress the price, it simply cannot be done. That of course is coming from someone who has done this often enough to have a fairly good idea of what is involved. Since turkeys are not widgets, it’s inconceivable that any kinds of shortcuts can be taken to trim the price down to that degree. To get a thirty pound tom turkey you need 100 pounds of feed. At the rock bottom prices the cost of feed exceeds the cost of the turkey by 41 cents a pound without factoring in any other cost or process. Like all things in America these days, there is a disconnect between reality and perception. The mechanisms behind this are open to debate, but the reality is what it is.
I have noticed that while the official organs of the State and its apparatchiks are unanimous when it comes to climate change, they are equally on board with debunking the aircraft I see routinely blotting out the blue sky with their vapor trails. I see what I see and I’m not the kind of person who can deny reality no matter how many scientists agree on a particular topic. If climate change is a concern I would suggest they start with the most obvious source available and that’s whatever those planes are painting the heavens with every month, every year. I understand greenhouses and how that effect has supposedly determined the temperature of other planets, notably Venus, so pretending that a cloud covered sky isn’t a contributing factor is a kind of denial you wouldn’t expect from this crowd, but deny they do. I don’t speculate on what it is that comes out of the back of these aircraft, that is for other people to determine, what I do know is that they alter the weather when they operate, if clouds are part of weather, that is. Maybe they too have been redefined and clouds no longer count in the world of meteorology, but whatever the purpose or intent, the outcome is undeniable. Man made aircraft can change the weather from a cloudless sunny day to an overcast one filled with horizon to horizon cover that blocks the sunlight and does whatever else it may.
When you’re all done with turkeys the last thing you want to do is eat one, that feeling goes away in a day or two when your hands no longer smell like feathers and feet and that’s when you start to think about how those birds were able to convert grass seeds and crickets, apples and pumpkins, corn meal and earthworms into a meat so juicy and flavorful, so packed with L-tryptophan, a precursor to seratonin, that literally tens of millions of Americans drift off to sleep before kick-off on the last Thursday of November. We like to part our bird into breast and leg quarters and brine them for a couple of days. We slow roast them at 200 degrees for about twelve hours until tender and then coat them with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and set the roasting pans under high heat until the skin blisters and browns. The finish is beautiful, each section cooked to perfection and the quality of that bird unlike anything I have ever eaten in my life, even at 59 cents a pound. My son and I finished working in the dark and above us the coverage of the sky was complete. Not a star was visible in the sky, only a blanket of hazy, milky whiteness and a rising half moon surrounded by a ring, like Saturn. When I was younger my Grandfather used to tell me that this was a sure sign of snow, but that was before the planes with aerosol dispersal systems criss-crossing the sky whenever the mood strikes. I’m not a scientist and I don’t claim to be one, but I know that CO2 isn’t a pollutant as the Settled Science Climate Change Affirmers, it’s a bi-product of living breathing creatures and I do know that whatever is coming out of the back of the airborne dispersal systems of if it is for our benefit or detriment, but I do know that it is definitely unnatural and controllable if someone is looking for a place to start that isn’t in my wallet. I don’t usually include links to other websites on the Internet because I can only vouch for my own words and don’t want to discredit or endorse someone without their tacit approval, but hey, it’s almost Thanksgiving and I’m grateful for their work in supporting what I see.