Essex Farm Note

Week 45, 2017

We woke up on Wednesday morning to a message from our neighbor, Dale, who’d seen one of the Great Pyrenees dogs loose on Middle Road at midnight. I jumped in the car and squealed out of the driveway. I checked Mozzie first, and found him with the chickens, safe and sound. On to the sheep, where Suit and Jake were stationed. I pulled in next to their pasture and was surprised to see two smiling dog faces in the headlights, inside the fence, as they should be. I stepped into the pasture. The sheep were lying down. The frost had settled on their wool and it sparkled in the first light. As I walked through the flock they stood and stretched, leaving sheep prints on the silver grass. The entire north side of the electric net was pulled down. Something large had barged right through it. Suit! She must have been out, and then broken back in, taking the fence down with her. She was my prime suspect because the day before, when Brandon was moving the flock, he’d watched her bunch the sheep at the end of the old paddock, then use their backs as a springboard, to jump clear of the fence. She must have done something similar in the night, but had no sheep backs to help her break back in. Luckily, the sheep were sleepy, or else not tempted by the hard-grazed, frost-bitten grass on the other side of the wrecked fence. As I replaced the fence, my annoyance with Suit was overridden by respect for her crafty intelligence. I’ve moved her inside the tall woven wire fence now, with the orphan lambs and goats. Jake and the rest of the flock will be there soon. We’ll need to figure out how to reform her before next spring’s grazing season begins. 

            This is the beginning of a three day freeze. We’re shifting from water-as-liquid to water-as-solid, which changes how we manage the animals, the washing station, our own hands and feet. Despite what I said last week about being caught up with fall work, it has been a hard scramble to prepare. We pulled in all the crops that would not have faired well at 10 degrees ( cabbage, celeriac, spinach, Brussels) and moved onions and garlic from the barn lofts, and bins of squash from the farmyard, to temperature-controlled storage, to keep them from freezing. Many thanks to the whole crew plus the Shetler and Swartzentruber families, the Hamilton gang, and some key, timely volunteers: Aiden, Brigit, and Mike from the Mountain. When this cold front passes, we are hoping the weather will turn warm and dry enough to get next year’s garlic planted, along with 30 acres of rye. Then, we focus on cleanup, because anything left on the ground will be lost until spring if it snows and sticks.

            We have had loggers here this week, cutting trees east of Monument Field, to make room for a new fence to protect the watershed. The compost barn is finished, and the engineers are scheduled to do their walk-through today. We’re expecting a Jersey calf next week, from Beatrice, who is not a pretty cow, but a solid producer and a healthy gal. We sort sheep next week, and get ewes ready for breeding. Ben found a deal on a used mixer/grinder, hooray. The old one was giving everyone fits.  We are buying low-spray cranberries from our friend William McCaffrey, who raises them in Massachusetts. We’ll have them in the share next week. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this blustery 45th week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                      

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

IMG_5579.jpeg