One-Block Feast: Spring Garden Plan
(Page 4 of 14)
Ron Garthwaite and his partner, Collette Cassidy, let us pick out a young, good-looking, chocolate brown Jersey, No. 64. We named her Holly, after Hollister, the nearest big town, and arranged to buy her (she would continue to live at Claravale, though.). We got to milk her by hand, which is much harder than you might think: milk shoots sideways, down your sleeve, or refuses to come out at all. It is, however, extremely relaxing to put your shoulder against a big warm animal and (once you get the hang of it) rhythmically squirt milk from soft, stretchy teats into a bucket. Mainly, though, we used an individual milking machine, with tubes that attach to each teat and pipe the milk straight into an enclosed container. This is more efficient (the cow is milked in ten minutes, versus up to forty-five), more comfortable for the cow, and more sanitary, since the milk is never exposed to the air, flies, or whatever might happen to fall into an open bucket.
And Holly’s milk was a revelation. It tasted sweet and pure, with an indescribable lightness of texture and the slightest hint of grass. “It hasn’t been homogenized, pasteurized, standardized, or fortified,” said Ron. He’d just described the milk we’d all taken for granted as the real thing—until now.
After each visit, we took Holly’s milk home in one-gallon canning jars that we buried in a giant cooler full of ice. At Sunset, we drank it as it was, from the jars. If we felt we hadn’t kept the milk cold enough, or if anyone at Sunset requested it, we gently pasteurized some. So far, we’ve used the milk to make rich, delicious, sweet-tasting ricotta with a much higher yield than from store-bought milk—doubtless because Jersey milk has more butterfat and proteins than the milk of any other breed. We’ll be trying out all kinds of other cheeses, too, in the months ahead—and yogurt, butter, and ice cream.
Our Spring Garden Plan
By March, our spring garden had sprouted in a neat rectangle of green leaves of various hues and textures. Johanna had broadcast the herb seeds—meaning she scattered them the way nature would—and sowed the other crops in rows, so we had a combination of soft masses and orderly lines. The carrots had been heavily seeded in case some refused to germinate, but most of them had sprouted, forming a dense patch. Johanna carefully pulled out more than half to make some growing space for the rest. The thinnings were delicious in salad.
While out in the garden one day, we noticed that Alana, layer of pretty green eggs, was not her perky self. Her tail was drooping and she had a sad, lethargic look in her eyes, as though something very bad were going on internally. Elizabeth read up on droopiness and lethargy. She concluded that it was most likely egg binding, which is when an egg gets stuck in the oviduct; it can be fatal if not fixed.
The home remedy involves helping the chicken relax. So, following the standard advice, we massaged Alana’s vent with mineral oil (not as bad as it sounds) and gave her a warm bath. We also massaged her stomach in the direction of the vent to coax the egg out, but felt nothing.
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