Willing to talk turkey

The Recorder. November 23, 2014. By David Rainville.

WENDELL — It takes a lot of work to make Thanksgiving dinner, especially when you plan to feed a few thousand people.

By Thursday, the Diemands will have pre-cooked about 30 turkeys and sold close to 3,000 more to markets, restaurants and directly to customers at the Diemand Farm Store. They’ve been taking orders since October, though they always try to keep a few unspoken-for turkeys at the farm store for walk-ins.

Thanksgiving preparations are a family affair for the Diemands. More than a dozen family members work at the farm in the holiday season, and they’ve been getting ready for turkey day since early November.

That includes dressing 3,200 turkeys, which took 14 people about eight days to do.

“We’ve had a lot of trials with the dressing this year,” Anne Diemand lamented. “It seemed like if something could break down, it did.”

Luckily for them, the process isn’t highly-mechanized and most of the dirty work is done by hand, though a mechanical plucker does one of the more tedious tasks.

Even when everything goes smoothly, there’s still a lot of work to do before Thanksgiving.

In the past week, they’ve cooked more than 60 gallons of gravy, made pounds and pounds of stuffing, baked handmade pies by the dozen and simmered soups by the gallon.

“There have been years we’ve had pies baking in ovens all over the neighborhood,” said Rich Diemand.

The rest of the year, Rich works as a computer technician at the University of Massachusetts. He takes every Thanksgiving week off, though, so he can help out in the farm store. His daughter, Mackenzie, along with other family members and farm workers, helps prepare the side dishes.

The Diemands have to work the farm kitchen’s two large ovens nearly around the clock, pre-cooking turkeys, baking pies and preparing other foods for the Thanksgiving feast.

They’ll be busy right up until Wednesday evening.

“Tuesday and Wednesday are usually are biggest days of the year,” said Anne Diemand. “At noon, it starts to get pretty crazy, and there are long lines.”

Thursday they’ll be closed, so they can get together and enjoy the holiday.

“It’s stressful, but somehow we still like each other by Thanksgiving,” said Anne Diemand.

While things are frantic in the Diemand kitchen this week, they’re quiet out on the farm. The thousands of once-gobbling turkeys have been butchered and bagged, and the Christmas birds sit safe in their coupe for now. More than a dozen cows quietly putter around the pasture, as tame chickens and wild rabbits roam free outside the electric fence and sheep and donkeys wander about their hillside enclosure. At the northern edge of the farm, a family of eagles keeps silent watch, waiting to sample the scraps thrown onto the compost pile.

Soon, it will quiet down for the Diemands as well, though not for long. They’ll be doing it all over again, on a smaller scale, next month.

Thanks to a delayed turkey shipment from the hatchery, this is the first year the Diemands will offer fresh Christmas turkeys. They’ll have 600 to 700 available, so you might want to order yours soon.

The Diemand Farm Store is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.