It’s that time again. Up at Heather Ridge Farm in Preston Hollow, Icelandic Ewe ‘April’ expects twin lambs any day now. Carol Clement estimates her 38 ewes will birth 70-90 lambs in the next few weeks. “We have a great birth rate, over 200 per cent,” she said. “Most will arrive as twins, some as triplets or singles. Occasionally, quadruplets. We’ve just moved the yearling lambs, goat kids, llamas, alpaca and our donkey up on the hillside so that the pregnant sheep and goats have their areas all to themselves. Lambing and kidding should start later this week.”
Farming season is in full swing. As the seasons change and the days get longer, the chores change too. “The sheep got sheared on Saturday, and shed their heavy coats,” said Clement, who grew up in Saugerties. “On Sunday, the laying hens were moved out of their winter quarters and now live in huts on the hill. We’re expecting the first batch of meat chicks to arrive this week. They will be the Memorial Day Weekend barbecue birds!”
For the upcoming holidays, Heather Ridge Farm will be selling all-natural fresh leg of lamb and hams, fresh or smoked, at the Saugerties Farmers Market on Sunday, April 17. Eggs are in great supply for decorating, and a wide range of holiday recipes and brisket are available for Passover.
The earth is bursting too. Natural cracking and heaving of farmland is key to the process of “frost sowing.” Jacob Diaz of Slow Roots Farm in Lamontville (formerly known as Esopus Creek Farm) explains:
“During maple syrup time, when the nights are below freezing and the days get warm and above freezing, that’s when the earth is heaving. In the early morning, when the frost is still on the ground, I walk the fallow part of my garden and frost sow White Clover. The clover is broadcast sown right over the winter wheat planted in the fall. The wheat will grow quickly, once the ground warms and spring rains bring moisture. Meantime, the clover starts more slower and loves the shade provided by the wheat. One plant aids another plus clover is a legume and fixes the nitrogen in the soil for 2012. ”
For Diaz, this marks his third season growing organic, certified-natural vegetables along the Esopus in Lamontville and selling at the Saugerties and Rosendale farmers markets. He grows vegetables from A to Z: arugula to zucchini and everything in-between, about 150 varieties of 50 different crops, including bok choi, tatsoi, senposai and Chinese cabbage. Last week, he tractor-tilled and direct-seeded carrots, peas and spinach.
“This is the first big wave of work,” said Diaz. “The season is just cranking up, with the unpredictable rhythms of sunshine and rain. It’s a race to prepare the sod before the first heavy rains. With luck, good sunshine, enough rain but not too much, my first vegetables will be harvested in mid-May.”
Chicks, bunnies, eggs and a menagerie of critters created by artisan Sharon LaFera will be at the holiday market on Sunday. Hand-spun, carded, dyed, woven, pressed, knitted or crocheted from natural fibers, including wool and angora, these locally-made crafts are unique and perfect for Easter and your favorite children.
Also this week, folk legend Billy Faier brings his banjo to market, a rare opportunity to hear traditional favorites along with his original songs and unique playing style.
The Saugerties Farmers Market will be held indoors on Sunday, April 17, noon to 4 pm at the Senior Center, 207 Market Street. The final holiday market will be the Plant Sale on Mother’s Day, May 8. The outdoor market returns to the Main Street location on consecutive Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., opening May 28 to October 8, Columbus Day weekend. For information, 246-6491 or www.SaugertiesFarmersMarket.com.