by Camille Cody
The trees are showing new buds and little buttons of color are popping up on the hillsides and along walkways — Spring has come. This also means the days are getting longer and the soil is warming up ever so gently (though getting it to hurry up and dry out is another matter, entirely.) All of these factors contribute to being able to spend more time in the garden, planting and working the soil as well as getting stir-crazy animals back out on pasture again.
At Mystery Bay Farm on Marrowstone Island, Rachael and Scott have more than doubled the head count on their herd of goats this year and as of mid-March have been milking full-on; this means vigilantly showing up at 12-hour intervals, both at 6am and 6pm everyday to milk the 12 does that gave birth this year (practicing good animal husbandry demands a regular milking schedule so that udders never become too swollen – which can lead to discomfort and disease – and because goats, like other livestock, thrive on habit and having a regular schedule.)
With all of the kidding having happened in March, Rachael and Scott allow a bonding period of about a week for new kids to suckle and spend time with their mamas before beginning to wean them onto bottle or bucket feeders and taking over mom’s milk supply. And that supply is enough to keep them plenty busy supplying fresh chevre-style cheeses to the communities of Chimacum, Nordland and Port Townsend. They spend 3-4 days a week making cheese in their home-built dairy, which includes a commercial milking room with 2 stalls, a handling and cooling room and a processing room where cheese gets cultured, curded and cut; ready to deliver to over half a dozen retail locations.
Rachael says that one of the most exciting things about Spring beginning, is that you can watch (or taste) the changing of the cheese as the season progresses. The moms are “freshening”, meaning they’re gradually coming off of their winter diet of hay (which Rachael and Scott cut and bale themselves), to begin their diet of fresh pasture and rich greens. For the goats’ health this has to be a slow process, too quick and it could shock their systems into lower milk production or ill-health, but done just right it means customers get to experience how a goat’s diet really changes the taste and texture of their cheese. And for artisan cheese makers who care about their family of goats enough to source 100% Marrowstone-grown hay, 100% organic grain and rotate the goats among different pastures to make sure they always get fresh greens during the season, tasting and defining the subtle “freshening” of the cheese itself from Spring (light and creamy) to Summer to Autumn (rich with an essence of zing) is something they’re very proud of.
Traveling back over to the mainland, and just a straight shot up the road from The Corner, is OlyCAP’s community garden. Located just beside the thrift store on Hwy-19, Ellen Sabina is this year’s garden coordinator and is working hard at improving the already well-established layout of the garden. She’s planting apple trees, amending the soil with some local “magic dirt”, landscaping new herb beds and re-working plots designated for the food bank to increase their production. Following Seattle’s Pea Patch method, this is the only community garden in town offering members their own personal plots. This is evident in the variegated creativity of the beds; some are bordered with recycled glass bottles, driftwood lines another bed, and bamboo trellises are shaped over another. Some beds are already sprouting forth the garlic planted last fall, some are waiting to be worked by their owners, and some have already been dug up, leveled and planted with spring crops (such as peas, hardy greens, radishes and herbs.)
The garden offers a great on-site composting system and boasts its own tool shed (a simple thing, but something a lot of community gardens are still hoping for.) And as of right now, OlyCAP’s garden is even boasting a few open plots, ready for new owners. Contact Ellen if you’re interested in growing some of your own produce, herbs or flowers this year. Call: 385-2571 ext. 6317 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
And speaking of planting, some of the things that are going into the ground this month include: the allium family of chives, leeks and onions, also carrots, cilantro, dill, fennel, parsnips, and lovage, as well as members of the beet family with beets, roach, spinach, Swiss chard and even quinoa being hardy enough to plant outdoors. Then there are the mustard family members like radishes, turnips, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, cress, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts. And a lot of our favorite culinary herbs like, marjoram, lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, parsley, thyme, sage and summer savory are among the hardier herbs that can take April’s weather ups and downs.
The greenhouses are aflutter with activity this month, as many of March’s starts are being ‘stepped up’ (transplanted from small planters to larger-sized ones) to allow further root development and plant growth, all the while new things are being started for the summer season. These starts include everyone’s favorite summer vegetables like tomatoes, summer and winter squash (including cucumbers and pumpkins) and basil. And with the farmers markets starting up soon (Port Townsend starts April 2nd and Chimacum follows with an opening date of May 15th) the seeds that weigh a fraction of an ounce today will be available to decorate our tables in the forms of salads, soups and even arrangements in no time!