Greenpoint: The best spring ever

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PHOTOGRAPHER:

There are two new baby goats hopping around the goat yard, and we are pretty convinced they are the cutest kids ever born. And possibly the cleverest.

“Smither is such a good mother,” my husband told me. “Her kids are so advanced.”

Maybe they are the same as usual. After all these years of raising goats, it’s still amazing to us that they can stand, walk and run around not four hours after birth. They follow their mother’s nickering commands, and learn how to navigate complex things like getting in and out of the shed, after one day. They are all advanced, especially compared with baby chicks or our own human kids.

Like these little goats, everything in the spring is new — and better than ever before. Have our daffodils ever been so lovely? Has the garlic ever looked so robust so early? We’re still awaiting actual leaves on the trees, but once they come out I’m pretty sure they will be the greenest ever.

That’s spring. The colors, smells and sounds cheer us after the long winter and fill us with hope. And what is planting a garden but an act of hope? Every seed you hold could be a bowl of cherry tomatoes or a jar of pickled hot peppers, a salad or a plate of roasted squash. Our peas are barely poking out of the ground, but that doesn’t stop me from seeing a freezer full of sugar snaps to help us through next winter.

It’s not all hope and magic. There’s plenty of work that goes into it. My husband is a soil builder, turning manure, hay and kitchen waste into rich, black soil. Earlier in the month we dug into the garden we’ve been cultivating for more than 25 years, and the topsoil was more than 2 feet deep.

“I don’t think you even need to add compost this year,” I told him, but he decided to anyway. “I hate to work the soil without adding back,” he said.

He adds every year, and that rich soil pays us back — holding moisture through dry spells and creating what are undeniably the best tasting vegetables ever.

So last year’s compost pile is being spread through the garden and mixed into the soil with a harrow and tiller. This year’s pile, which grows daily as we clean the yard, the goat shed and poultry coops, is steaming as everything breaks down. It will be ready for the garden next year, replenishing the soil after this year’s vegetables mine the nutrients they need.

I’m in charge of starting the vegetables, planting seeds in the windows when it’s still winter and in the ground when it’s warm enough. My husband weeds as the plants grow; I pick the ripe vegetables and process them, for fresh food and winter storage. It takes the two of us, working together, to turn a hope and a plan into something real and abundant.

There are plenty of things that could happen to make it all fail — bad weather, bugs, rabbits, ill health. But who can see that in the spring? May is coming. The plants are moving from the window to the back roof, then to the garden. The little goats are hopping and tumbling through the goat yard. Soon there will be two more, or maybe three or four.

And once those baby goats are weaned, their mother will keep producing milk for us to make into yogurt and a variety of soft and aged cheeses. Who knows? It could be the best cheese ever.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on May 9. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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