After a long pregnant winter our farm is showing the first signs of spring. Among our new farm friends are six baby goats (kids), a flock of lambs, and three growing calves. All of our animals are happily grazing in the vineyards, eating fresh green, biodynamic spring grasses. Cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and horses are all delighted to go to pasture on the spring bounty before the grape buds break open. The draft horses have been in training to work the land for the hay season to come, and the chickens we raised from our own eggs are now beginning to enter their first laying season. Additionally, on the homestead, we've added some angora rabbits and piglets to our family.
If you would like to visit our farm, we are hosting a farm day once a month, (geared to the interests of young children, especially). This month we'll be making our rounds on the property, visiting all the animals on March 13th. We will meet at the Winery at 2pm, and explore the ranch life, rain or shine. Come join us!
In the garden, we're so pleased that Redwood Valley is getting such an abundance of rain this year. The gardens are lush with fava bean cover crops, and we've sown our first spring crop seeds in the greenhouse in flats (brassicas and greens mostly). On sunny days the bees come out to sip sweet nectars from the flowering manzanitas, and from the dandelions that have just begun their season here. We're off to a fine start of the year, and are looking forward to the grape season to come!
In the last several years we have grazed sheep in the vineyards to give back to the soil, and to help create a biodynamic farm, replete with animals. This October our new flock of sheep await the end of the grape harvest to explore the tastes of the Mendocino terroir.
Also, two draft horses joined our family farm this past season. Ready to pull a plow, they are enjoying eating home-made biodynamic hay, baled on our property. Fueled by a sustainable source of Horsepower, they also hope to graze in the vineyards after the harvest.
Late last night, after all the ranch had gone to sleep, we heard a bellowing coming from the barn. The much anticipated births from our cows had come, and the mother, Gracie, was announcing her first calf. This morning we celebrated the calf's first day!
Katrina grew up in Michigan, enjoying the blooms of her mother’s flower gardens. She spent summers working with her grandfather at his perennial flower nursery in Vermont, and came to appreciate her family’s floral heritage. When Katrina first came to California in the 1970s, her impetus for the adventure West was to learn organic gardening with the eccentric green thumb, Alan Chadwick. Her love of flowers blossomed there in the cultivating of perennial borders, as well as her love for her future husband, Jonathan Frey, who was also working in the nascent organics movement. Together they moved to the Frey Ranch in Redwood Valley, married, and began to grow their kinder garden of organic California children. In those formative days the winery was forged out of their mutual adoration of organics, and Katrina partnered with another Chadwick gardener, Charlotte Tonge, to give birth to a perennial flower nursery on the winery land in Redwood Valley. At the height of their propagation glory, the ladies had over 100 varieties of flowers producing, and they continued to bloom for 6 years. When the winery and its organic fruits needed more tending than there was staff, the flower women became the backbone of the Frey Vineyards office.
Today, Katrina plants colors on the canvas of her garden landscape, sticking to the tradition of her Eastern relatives, while incorporating organic gardening into the heart of her mission on the Frey Ranch. Additionally, she’s become one of the ranch’s Melissa, forming an intimate bond with the honey bee Bien (the being of the bee hive, including all the flowers that they take pollen from, the environment where they fly, and of course the bees themselves). You can see Katrina in her garden throughout the year, tending her hives and painting with the palette of possibilities as she plants out her garden. She recommends to aspiring perennial borderist the following suggestions:
When arranging your motif, consider the overall appearance of your border as it will look over the course of the seasons. Your aim is to create the illusion that there are always flowers in bloom. To do so, stagger plantings so that each area will have something to show at any given time. Consider placing the shorter blooms in the front of the border, and the taller behind. Besides probable heights, imagine the bloom itself, and mingle different textures together, i.e. plant side by side the umbel heads of valerian with a bush, showcasing the softness of rose petals. Planting in clumps gives a rich thickness that helps create the physicality of the border and intensifies the floral drama of a particular color or form.
In the last few years Katrina has added to her repertoire of flower wisdom, a love for the bees, and the plants that they seek out. For instance, since Katrina started to keep bees, she has included‘Gaillardia’ in her border, and looks out for flowers to especially please her wee friends. Interviewing Katrina in her late Spring garden is a delight, seeing her revel in the crescendo of culminating blossoms, cheering with the bees (native pollinators and honey bees alike) for the fertile florescence of a sunny day in May.
"Laughing, laughing, laughing, laughing,
comes the summer over the hills.
Over the hills comes the summer,
hahaha, laughing, over the hills."
The sun cometh as we enter the longest days of the year with the approach of the summer solstice. To celebrate the return of the glorious heat, our farmers and gardeners have readied their summer scenes with eggplants, tomatoes, basil, squash, corn. We got out our shovels, prepped beds, and planted our annuals – and had some perennial fun as well! In the weeks ahead, the Frey Farm and Garden Blog will chronicle the gardeners and what they're growing on the Frey ranch. Stay tuned for Frey folk interviews, delicious recipes, and beautiful shots of our spring and summer landscapes to help you get a feel for the Redwood Valley terroire, where the grapes for your organic wine and biodynamic wine are grown.
LIttle Osiris Frey learning to drive the wheelbarrow.
Rain or shine, the gardens of the Frey Vineyards ranch are thriving as warm Spring weather helps the starts take off. The greenhouse is filled with shoots and sprouts of veggies, flowers, greens, and herbs. As soon as the frosts end the greenhouse flats will be planted to yield homegrown organic food for the community over the Summer months. Already our gardens are holding the promise of future roots with carrot, turnip, parsnip, beet, and radish seeds. The cover crop of fava beans that we planted for the winter is flourishing; they help fix nitrogen into the soil, and we'll be able to use some for green mulch, some for delicious food stuffs, and some of the seed we'll save to make this our 5th year with this particular strain of fava bean on the ranch!
Our small herd of ranch goats are lamenting the loss of their vineyard foraging days since the grape buds opened. Now starts the season of creative goat walks as we shuffle them to different pastures while avoiding the tempting vineyards with their succulent new grape shoots. Fed on wilder fields until the grape harvest next Fall, our ladies are milking twice a day, helping us to experiment with new cheeses (a feta, a goat cheddar, and of course our signature chèvre). On the homestead, the cows are expected to calf soon, and the chickens are lavishing in the Spring sun and producing eggs with a fervor that is unparalleled to other seasons.
After a winter of curing, we have our first batch of homegrown, home-brewed olives, just in time for the Spring Equinox!
We harvested these olives last fall. The trees were planted several years ago along the edge of our biodynamic Cabernet vineyard. Most of the fruit hung in shades of green, some with accents of red and black. The olives filled two large 5-gallon glass carboys, along with an assortment of tenacious stems and leaves.
To leech out the bitterness, we rinsed the olives in fresh spring water from last October until the new year. Then we cured the batches by adding garlic, lemons, and salt. Several brines later, we bottled the olives and delivered them to the community. They made great table olives. The year before last we pressed our olives and had our first run of homemade olive oil, which we’ll talk about in a future post.
Since my last post we've welcomed two sets of triplets and one set of twin kids to the goat barnyard. Over three days our three does took their turns birthing and tripled our population of four into twelve! Their Nubian billy-papa has endowed them all with long, floppy ears, and when they run, they look like they're flying with wings sprouted from their heads.
First "Rosemary," our pacifist Nubian momma, gave birth. Her babies have the longest ears, and are fully Nubian. Next, the Oberhasli "Sequoia" spent a long, stormy night laboring with her babies. After some help rearranging the presenting triplets from Lily and Luke Frey, she happily delivered triplets with shorter, floppy ears. Lastly, "Rosemary's" daughter, "Jasmine,” who is part Nubian and part Alpine, squirted out twins almost unbeknownst to us (we were still recovering from the late night midwifery with "Sequoia"). She did start hollering a little louder than usual though, and finally we realized that she'd just given birth to mid-sized floppy eared twins. All the pregnant goats have their babies now, and we're looking forward to making our first batch of goat cheese since we dried up the herd (or stopped milking them because they were pregnant and ready to deliver soon).
My own child, Osiris, who will turn two in May, delights in playing with the baby goat herd. He fancies himself an honorary goat-human liaison, since he witnessed the births and has established an intimate connection with the kids. If we allowed it, I think Osiris would move in with the goats!
Welcome to our Farm and Garden Blog! We hope you will join us through the seasons as we share with you the joys and pleasures of our biodynamic farm and family gardens – along with our methods and techniques of sustainability.
This spring we are enthusiastic that we'll soon receive a loving bundle of kids and calves. Our goats are due to kid as early as this week! The cows are more mysterious about exactly when they conceived (they were with a bull for a long courtship). Since the births are on the way, we wanted to add information about the herbal indications for new mothers.
As a general uterine tonic during the pregnancy, and especially near the end, it’s recommended to give them whole raspberry leaf to help prepare the mothers-to-be for their successful births.
Once the babies are born, it’s nice to give the mother a restorative tonic: a handful of fresh ivy (a bigger handful for bigger animals) along with a bowl of warmed water mixed with molasses. This helps the new mother by keeping up her energy levels while she cares for the newborns and lets her milk come in.
Being sure that the calves and kids get enough colostrum from their mothers in their first days, it’s also likely that the dairy animals with have extra for humans; this rich "first milk" is full of essential nutrients for man and animal alike.
May the spring be fertile and full of life for one and all, as the sunlight returns to greet the blossoms of red clover in the vineyards.
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