Wednesday, May 26, 2010

April Showers Bring May Flowers

And May showers keep the pasture going! We did begin irrigating this month, but I am very grateful for the late spring showers we are continuing to receive. Every drop of water from the sky saves me a little bit on the labor, electricity and water fees used to keep the grass and clovers green and the ewes eating well.
So, time flies when you're working constantly! The last I posted was mid-lambing and now the milking season is winding down with the Spring rains. The ewes gave a total of 170 lambs this winter. All of the ewe lambs that I did not keep for my milking flock made their way north to Sebastapol to join a couple of other young sheep dairies. Twenty of the male lambs went to nearby TLC Ranch where they are mowing Jim Dunlop and Becky Thistlewaithe's front yard and growing fat to become summer BBQ. I am raising up the remaining wethers for sale as whole and half lambs in the coming months.

We have been milking about 75 ewes since the beginning of January and will be drying them off in late June in anticipation of mating for next year's winter lambs. That means that I've been busy making cheese about three times each week, in batches of 50 to 80 gallons at a time. The Schoch family has taken over making their cow cheeses in my facility twice a week and will continue to do so as they plan and construct their own creamery. In the early part of the milking season, when we were only milking part of the flock and much of the milk was going to feed the lambs, I made a few batches of Beau's Blend--a blended cheese made with my sheep milk and the Schoch's cow milk. I've begun making it again this past month as the sheep milk production slows and the milk components change subtly. The early production of Beau's has all been consumed at this point, but the later batches will be available around August.
I returned to the local Santa Cruz and Cabrillo farmers markets this April and as of last week am also selling at Monterey Peninsula College on Thursdays, Palo Alto on Saturday and Mt. View on Sundays. I am currently selling Black-Eyed Susan, Moonflower and Cosmos feta. Lamb sausage will be back in June while supplies last. I will be gradually increasing my wholesale sales this summer so keep an eye out for Garden Variety Cheese at local retail outlets and restaurants. Cafe Sparrow in Aptos, River Cafe and Cheese Shop in Santa Cruz, and the Chaminade in Santa Cruz are already loyal customers!
In other news around the farm, we've been raising five heritage breed hogs on the whey and dairy waste. They are Glouster Old Spots and will be ready for slaughter next month. They have been great entertainment for the farm staff and friends as they run and frolic around their oak-filled pen and line up like sausages to sleep late in the mornings. I will definitely miss their antics but am very eager for some home-grown pork and bacon. I also purchased two steer calves from the Schoch Dairy and they have become integrated into the pasture rotation with the ewes to help with parasite control, pasture management and to provide more homegrown meat.

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