Holiday Season preparations

Farm Forum

The Holiday Season will soon be here, that time of year when belts shrink and stretchy pants become your best friend. The Big Three of Holiday celebrations come one after another, with scant time for the waistline to recover.

Thanksgiving starts things off with a turkey that, in keeping with cherished American tradition, is approximately the size of a Volkswagen. Innumerable side dishes add mega-calories: thunderheads of mashed potatoes, rivers of gravy, foothills of sage dressing, baked sweet potatoes with melty marshmallows that droop as though they are in a Dali painting.

All of this deliciousness is followed by succulent slabs of pie which, one might argue, are actually healthful, fruit-packed snacks. Adding a generous dollop of ice cream simply means that we are getting an important daily serving of dairy.

Christmas arrives only a month after Thanksgiving. During an average Yuletide meal, the average American will consume approximately the same number of calories as are contained in an adult walrus.

A week after Christmas comes the feast to celebrate New Year’s. It’s been scientifically proven that the combination of silly hats and noisemakers causes people to overindulge in food and drink.

The way that these holidays arrive one after another explains why elastic waistbands are a critical part of our wintertime wardrobes.

Our family has a tradition of hosting potluck Holiday celebrations on a rotating basis. My wife and I had been married but a few months when we hosted our first Thanksgiving.

We were living on a tumbledown dairy farm at the time. Its farmhouse was a hodgepodge of rickety lumber and rotting shingles.

The house was cold and drafty, but my young bride was determined to make it our home. As Thanksgiving approached, she became a blur of mops and dust cloths and the house began to reek of industrial cleaning compounds. I helped the only way I knew how, namely, by staying out of her way. I also thus avoided becoming collateral damage in her relentless war on dirt. Experience had taught me that it’s difficult to get the taste of floor cleaner out of your mouth.

A loud thud jolted me awake at 4:00 on Thanksgiving morning. I rushed to the kitchen and found my wife sitting on a chair, crying.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Thanksgiving is ruined!” she blubbered through her tears. “I dropped the turkey on the floor!”

“Don’t worry,” I said, putting my arm around her. “What happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen. Besides, the turkey is still in its plastic wrapper.”

I retrieved the fugitive fowl. It was frozen solid.

“I don’t know much about cooking,” I said, “But maybe you should have let the turkey thaw for a few days.”

“I tried!” replied my wife. “But this house is so cold, the turkey still feels like it was just pulled out of a glacier! Thanksgiving is ruined!”

“Tell you what,” I consoled. “Let’s slide ol’ Tom into the oven and crank it up to Reactor Core Meltdown. Between the extremes of heat and cold, things should average out.”

It was time for me to do the morning milking. When I came in a couple hours later, the kitchen was a maze of bubbling pots and overflowing bowls.

“Looks like you have enough grub to feed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” I observed.

“Do you realize how many people are coming?” panted my wife as she rushed around the kitchen like a hyper-caffeinated chipmunk. “Here, peel some potatoes!”

I peeled about a hundredweight of spuds before it became time to go back outside and finish my morning chores. When I returned to the house, my wife was frantically mopping the kitchen ceiling.

“Aren’t you taking this housecleaning thing a bit too far?” I asked carefully.

“I’m trying to get the gravy off the ceiling!” she replied. “I made gravy, but it turned out more like dumpling soup so I put it in the blender and hit ‘frappe.’ The gravy exploded from the blender and hit the ceiling and I don’t have time to start over!”

“The turkey smells good,” I said, trying to sound upbeat.

I hauled the sizzling bird from the oven and my wife exclaimed, “Oh, no!”

“Don’t worry,” I said soothingly. “Nobody eats the skin anyway. Maybe we’re starting a new trend. Maybe the new ‘in’ color for roast turkey is carbon black.”

Despite these and other challenges, Thanksgiving turned out just fine. Nobody went hungry and the turkey was delicious. I didn’t tell anyone that I discovered a bag of frozen giblets in its body cavity.

And my wife’s first attempt at making gravy drew rave reviews. I especially enjoyed its subtle nuances of floor cleaner.

If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His new book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.