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I don’t normally write on a Wednesday, but I had to spend Thursday and Friday in Wilton to help with the turkeys. It’s something I’m competent at, but it is not my favorite moment of the year.

I am not against this harvest. It is just that it’s a lot. Hundreds of turkeys being prepared for Thanksgiving ovens.

That’s how the world is. People don’t raise their own food, they buy it.

That’s capitalism. They have their jobs, and someone else — or many someone elses — have the job of raising their food and preparing it to various degrees for consumption.

The weird thing is the farmers, at least up here, are the least specialized people left. They raise grain, vegetables, winter squashes and pumpkins, hay and livestock, including turkeys. They cut firewood, put up things, tear things down and continually fix things.

Then they have to sell their products and keep track of it all.

Sure, you can go to the supermarket and get cheap turkeys injected with who-knows-what along with something called “broth” during processing, whatever that is. Or you can buy from your local farm, where they raise the turkeys on their grains along with vegetables and pumpkins and whatever else.

Local turkeys are raised by the hundreds. Industrial turkeys are raised by the hundreds of thousands.

Sometimes the guys on the turkey crew at a local farm will get to take home turkey for their 20 hours of hard labor. But most of them aren’t working for that. They are working to keep a family and community farm in business for another year.

They grew up knowing how important a certain farm and family was to their family and community, and they want to see it keep going into the future.

That’s all well and good. But my problem is that somehow the dead of winter has arrived well ahead of time. It’s 16 degrees outside as I write this here in Hadley, and snow is on the ground and has been. Plus, another winter storm will be coming through before you read this.

Usually, this weekend before Thanksgiving is not nearly this cold. The work we do is done mostly in unheated areas.

My general rule of thumb is that the snow will not come to stay until sometime after Thanksgiving. I’m already looking to see if ice is forming on the more protected areas of my fishing spots.

My other general rule of thumb is that the roads don’t get icy before Thanksgiving.

For the past 15 years or so, the first real ice comes about the time towns and churches are lighting Christmas trees and holiday displays. That’s usually several days into December. About 15 years ago, it didn’t come until New Year’s Eve.

I guess I’ll be wearing my insulated coveralls and my matching well-worn jacket for turkey work — the same costume I wear ice fishing in February.

I guess we won’t have to worry about the ice-making machine getting overworked this year. And even if the waterline freezes and the ice maker stops working, we can always pack the turkeys in snow. Looks like we’ll have plenty of that.

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Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, where he makes sure the goats have more hay and the ducks have more straw before he visits Wilton. You can leave him a message at


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