Friday, April 22, 2011


Our first boys are leaving the farm for their new home this afternoon! Best of luck for many happy adventures to come. You'll be missed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Goat Update

"Contrary" is thriving and more aggressive than her brothers at feeding time. She's just the right size to roost in the hanging feeder. Enjoy it while it lasts, little one!
The little kids are at a very fun age and putting weight on quickly. The older kids are beginning to be weaned off the bottle, as they are happy to gorge on grain and hay. They are plumping up and have been out to exercise in their yard nearly every day for a week, since the snow has finally melted. It's fun to watch their personalities develop and see them become more like mama goat. Inherited traits seem to overpower everything environmental at this point.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Garden Update

The weather has finally given us a beautiful weekend to work in the garden. Our snow is still melting in some areas, but now we have a decent area to play with. We planted two types of carrots, Nelson and Bolero, in a bed that we had just spread with our overwintered red wigglers and their casings. I've read that this is the best food for carrots and last year our harvest was improved by the vermicompost. The overall worm population in the garden is really remarkable. They've broken down all of last year's goat hay mulch into a rich substance I am tempted to call soil. However, they have also done some damage to our vegetables, so I made an effort to run the chickens over some older beds prior to planting.

Adjacent to the carrots, we planted two types of parsnip, Javelin and Lancer (OP), along with some burdock and radishes. I first read about burdock on a blog called "Living the Frugal Life" and I'm anxious to see if this root vegetable, similar to parsnip, will give us another spring dug treat to rely on during these starving months preceding the summer's bounty. The sandy nature of our soil should make it easy to store more root vegetables outside instead of limiting ourselves by what the refrigerator crisper can hold. The overwintered parsnips that we dug last week were gorgeous and a welcome addition to our meaty dinners.

Sugar snap and Oregon Giant snow peas went in just behind the carrots. I have a bad habit of not leaving enough space between rows because I'm always worried we'll run out of room for everything planned. This is going to catch up with me this summer when I need to weed the carrots. Whoops!

It took most of the weekend to transplant our starts of broccoli, red cabbage, kale, and chard. Immediately after planting, we installed row covers as a defense against cabbage moths. I also put in three varieties of edamame and some purple bush beans. It's much too early here for beans, but we're trying fava beans, which are very cold hardy, for the first time this year and I foolishly grouped all the "beans" together. Hopefully they will germinate before rotting in the cool wet soil.

Some blue potatoes went in a very sandy spot behind the asparagus and next to the compost pile, so I can top dress easily throughout the season. These originally came from the grocery as baby roasting potatoes, a few years back. Last year, the uneaten spuds began to sprout and I dug them in just to see what would happen. We were impressed with the yield and vigor of the plants. With such a small space to garden, it's impossible to grow all our own potatoes and I'd rather plant something with a more efficient output, but at the end of the season fresh potatoes are delicious and fun to dig. In some ways, it just wouldn't be a garden without a potato row.

This weekend among the quiet but familiar beds and sprouting raspberry canes, with so much gardening and backyard farming ahead of us, I actually began to wonder where the winter had gone so quickly. Such a break gives us a fresh and hopeful start to an improved season of eating.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring has sprung...without us.

Yesterday was mid-50s, sunny and a spring teaser considering today's snow. We're already a week behind our gardening schedule from 2010. Last year our cold-hardy transplants of kale, cabbage, broccoli, and chard were already outside and the bed preparation and seed sowing of carrots, parsnips, turnips, radishs, and peas was completed. This year snow is still covering 90% of the garden. Instead of getting impatient about it, we took advantage of the beautiful day and remaining snow by chopping down a beech tree that shades the back of our woodland garden. It's one I've been cursing for several years because in the spring we have full sun and easily forget what a menace this tree is once it has leafed out. By that point in time, the garlic is sprouting up, beds are planted and the tree cannot be felled without undoing the effort we've already invested in the garden.

So quite spontaneously and without too much prodding, my husband set out to the daunting task of dropping a large tree while sparing the house, chicken coop and goat shed. He's getting better with his aim, which increases with accuracy if I hedge my bet against him. Last year, in one afternoon, he nearly crushed our meat chickens a week from harvest and then narrowly missed our living room bay window with a second tree. Practice makes perfect fuel for the woodstove next winter.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gouda makes everything Good

I waxed our first wheel of raw goat's milk farmstead Gouda yesterday. It's a little lopsided from uneven pressing and the dribbly white wax went on a bit thick. I would take a picture but it looks just like a waxed wheel of cheese (Ostara's udder is more impressive and not lopsided). Tuesday morning at 5am, my husband and I awoke to a loud crash. Still half asleep, our responses to the noise were alarm that either someone was breaking into the house or the mice in the ceiling were getting too healthy. The gym weight that was teetering on top of my Kadova mould slid off and onto the floor. There is always room for improvement. Despite it's ragged appearance, in 60 days, after it has matured in flavor, we will cut into this first cheese and appreciate the taste as well as the effort involved in producing such a beautiful thing.

This type of cheese can age for years, if it's done properly. I'm eager to have another option on hand besides freezer chevre. We consume large amounts of Cabot cheddar, which we're hoping to replace with this homemade hard cheese. I'm also very impressed by the yield. From 2.5 gallons of Nigerian milk, we now have a ~3.5 lb round of Gouda. Our next investment will be a kitchen scale, so I can brag more accurately.