With sunshine and warm weather abound now, it’s hard to find time and motivation to sit at the computer and write! As the wild world finally bursts forth with green, our first round of leafy greens in the greenhouses are already going to seed. So thinning the greens beds, drying greens, and replanting are high on the priority list. Now that the threat of frost has (theoretically) passed, i’s also time to plant squash and corn both indoors and out. The zucchini and cucumbers got an early start, but now it’s time for the summer and winter squash to shine!
The first round of beets will be ready to harvest in another two weeks- exciting! Can’t wait for pickled beets! 4 beds have already been seeded with the second round of beets and third round of radishes. All of the bolting lettuce, orach, and spinach was uprooted, and what we didn’t want to dry for ourselves went to the pigs, goats, rabbits, and guinea pigs. I want seed from all of these, but I’ll wait until the last round goes to seed so we can maximize our growing area for the season. No use letting seeding lettuces eat up grow space in June! The tomatoes are finally taking off- strangely my direct seeded tomatoes hardly cropped in, but as usual the volunteer tomatoes sprouting up randomly here there and everywhere saved the day! Every morning I find new volunteer tomatoes lurking somewhere, scoop them up, and plant them where I can keep an eye on them.
On the farm front, the bad start to the chick season has now seen 1 out of 30 chicks survive. On top of bird-brained-broodies, we had a feral cat come in and steal the rest from inside the barn, where they should otherwise be safe from predators. Highly, highly disappointing. However, broodies abound, and the turkeys are still laying, so a hundred more eggs are on their way. New precautions will be taken for the next round of peeps.
The goats are itching to get out and forage. The forest is becoming a lush oasis of tasty green delight. One of our spring priorities is setting up a new pasture to turn everyone out on. Our two retired pastures have been seeded-over with good ground cover that will feed the wildlife and the foraging chickens. We want to let those rest for a few years before grazing them again. Steep forests draws do not regenerate like irrigated crop land! They cannot hold up to constant over-browsing.
Ruma and Tisl have passed their prime milk production window. At their best we were getting nearly 4 gallons a day from the two of them! For now they seem content to give us 1 peck of milk per day. Which is funny to say, but apparently that’s the proper term for the quantity we’re getting; two dry US gallons by volume each day. Apparently a wet US gallon is 14~% smaller than a dry US gallon. A dry US gallon is a 1/2 a peck and 1/8 of a bushel. So every time I process milk to make cheese, I’m processing a bushel of milk! We wait until there are 8 dry-gallon jars full, so every 4 days we make cheese. The whey mostly goes to the cats, dogs, and pigs, but we reserve and freeze some of it alongside the cheese. If any recipe calls for water, we can replace with whey for the nutrition.
Later this spring I think we will try two new experiments with the cheese. First, I want to pressure can curds and whey. I’ve read a good bit about it and it seems entirely feasible, especially since I’ll be pressure canning curds. I might also try adding small curds to water-bath canned pickles… Pickled cheese could be a thing, we’ll find out. The second experiment is to start making pressed cheeses for long-term storage, so we don’t have to can or freeze our curds. I am excited to try! If we succeed, the root cellar can begin to fill with fine aged cheese rounds, squirreled away for a time when the girls aren’t in milk!