March 9, 2012


A founding principle of our approach to creating sustainable food systems involves using animals to convert things we don't want to eat (grass and bugs, for example) into things we do want to eat. In return for their efforts, our animals get protection, and a regular and augmented food supply. Since in the wild, only about one out of very four newborns survives to see its first birthday, that can be an attractive proposition.

lone turkey slinking around checking things out

This domestic partnership with various animals could have evolved over time as some wild animal's hunger gradually overcame their fear of humans. By learning that they could come close and not be attacked, they would gradually edge ever closer in their search for a bit more food. More food translates into more offspring who learn early on that humans can be an easy touch compared to other creatures.

We're seeing a possible example of that process as a lone turkey seems to be contemplating the advantages of becoming one of Windward's partners in sustainable practices.

A decade ago, wild turkeys were re-introduced into the Klickitat River Valley, and they've gone on to establish themselves. It's become common to pass by a flock of fifty turkeys hanging out along the river on our way to the county seat. That's a reminder of the adage that you know you're living in "deep country" when you head towards town to go hunting.

One reason the wild turkeys are doing well is that current law makes it very difficult to hunt them successfully. The hunting rules were established in regards to deer which have only two types of color receptors in their eyes. That's why hunters can wear orange clothing that will allow them to stand out in the eyes of their fellow hunters (who have three types of color receptors) but remain invisible to the deer. The problem with turkeys is that they have four types of color receptors and have no problem at all seeing those bright orange outfits a long way off.

heading up to check
out the goat pen

It's amusing to conjecture what sort of sibling squabble has convinced this one bird that it would be better off throwing its lot in with our ducks, guineas and chickens. All we know is that for the past couple of weeks, it's been repeatedly spotted hanging around on the margins checking us out.

We'd welcome the interest, as a chance to learn if nothing else, but it's not to be. State law forbids the domestication of game animals, so while the turkey flock will probably continue to wander through when its hunger exceeds its caution, it's not something we can encourage. While this lone turkey is welcome to visit, moving in is not in the cards.