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Little signs of Spring on Cape Cod

March 1, 2010

March 1, 2010

I have packets and packets of seeds burning a hole in the file box they call home until planting time. Everything is here, except for the nut trees, the fruit tree, the garlic, onions and leeks. And the new bees. And the dinner chickens. And the goat kids. And, of course, the striped bass!

March 17 is the traditional Cape Cod pea-planting date, to ensure peas with your salmon on the Fourth of July. In the past decade, I have put my peas in on St. Patty’s once or twice, but more often it’s closer to the end of March and sometimes even early April. Whenever I get too eager, I remember the famed April Fool’s Day blizzard of 1997, when somewhere around 20 inches of snow blanketed the Cape. That’s a bit too much snow, even for snow peas.

We are doubling the size of the lower vegetable garden to 2,000 square feet this year, so there will be plenty of room to sew all those seeds. I have 100 square feet of garlic in wood-sided raised beds around the property. That garlic was planted last fall and is already up and almost six inches tall. I built another 50 sq ft raised bed last fall for growing more. I will add another permanent bed this size to the yard this spring. The upper garden is 800 sq ft, and last year provided the winter squash. I think I may move all the tomatoes up there to avoid over-wintered blight – and to keep rotating the crops. The similar-sized front garden will be allowed to rest this season after years of supporting heavy feeders, usually potatoes.

Rounding out the edible landscape are apple trees, blueberry bushes, strawberry beds, hops, horseradish, rhubarb, blackberries, black raspberries, an oak-log shiitake farm down by the swamp and tons of perennial herbs. The herbs are my favorites – the thyme and sage can be picked outside all winter and the rosemary and parsley are brought indoors to flavor our food through the cold months. When the weather warms, I’ll put in as many warm-weather herbs as I possibly can, including plenty of medicinals, for preserving throughout the season.

While it is a bit early to declare spring officially ‘sprung’, we have some early arrivals. Daffodils, hostas, crocuses and snowdrops are getting started. In livestock news, the white goat, who was supposed to have been freshened a month later than the Tog, is quite obviously ready to drop. One of the bucks must have jumped from the buck pen into the doe paddock and made a go of it. (They are quite randy goers, nudge, nudge…) Not knowing when a doe is freshened is not recommended, because they tend to have their kids in the darnedest of places, during the damnedest of weather. It’s nice to know when to start watching very closely. So, we are starting now.

Camille and I sprung a surprise on the boys and, after a few hours with the circular saw and drill, put the brooder house back together and put ducks inside it! The six unsexed ducks are of unknown breed, but one is obviously a white crested and two or three are probably white Muscovy’s. Apparently the name Muscovy has nothing to do with Moscow, as the breed originated in South America, but has more to do with the heavy fragrance they emit – therefore, musk duck. I’m looking forward to that. As a tree-roosting breed, like wood ducks, they have claws. Another thing to look forward to. I will have fun building them some permanent housing with a pool in the next couple of weeks, weather permitting.

The brooder house was a little cold yesterday, so the ducklings were moved into the sunroom at the manse. I don’t usually order baby fowl this early in the year, as I’ve had some difficulty in the past controlling the temperature under the brooders when the weather is very cold. Chicks have a tendency to pile-up when they’re cold and they smother the ones on the bottom. Our dinner birds will arrive the week of April 5, and we’ll hopefully have emerged from the coldest weather by then. We have also been victims of awful heat waves at the end of June and beginning of July for the last couple of years, which can be devastating to big dinner birds nearing the butchering date, so we have to try to squeeze them in at the right time – and have all the heat bulbs, fans, and blocks of ice ready.

I shot a little footage of Luna laboriously making her way toward me in the main pen. She is normally a very ‘bucky’ doe, a fitting description, as she is the progeny of an incredibly bucky buck, Buckley Buckerson, who used to rile our neighbors by jumping the high fence and going for wild excursions through the neighborhood. She rolls her head, raises her hackles, puts her floppy Nubianesque ears out like propellors and generally head-butts a lot and runs around like a maniac. Pregnancy has finally slowed her down – and brought out her sweet side. I am crossing my fingers that she does okay with the final stage of pregnancy and the delivery. This is one of the most dangerous times for does.

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