Essex Farm Note

Week 17, 2017

In a list of the world’s totally opposite things, we have night and day, summer and winter, north and south, and also, English Shepherds and Great Pyrenees. I’ve grown used to living with English Shepherds, with their constant attunement to us humans and our wishes. As working partners, they are highly trainable. You could probably teach an English Shepherd how to open a bottle of wine if you had enough time – heck, you could probably train one to be a decent sommelier. Great Pyrenees, though, are very different creatures. They are bred to live in the field with the stock, be independent of people, and rely on their own instinctive judgment. This makes them good guards, but terrible at obedience. They aren’t unintelligent. They just don’t care to obey. With our three, even simple things like come, or stay, are at best taken as suggestions. Yesterday, I was tagging lambs with Mae at Bonebender when two sheep popped out of the cold fence. Mary (the English Shepherd) was waiting in my car with the windows halfway down. Mozzie (the Great Pyrenees) was in the pasture with the flock. Mae was out of earshot but the escaped sheep were so close by, I thought I could get the gate open and the sheep back in on my own before the rest of the flock even noticed. And, truly, I almost had them. But as I opened the gate, instead of the sheep going in, Mozzie ran out. And then he took off toward the road like a train: full power, no hesitation. He didn’t even glance back at me when I called, so I ran after him as fast as I could, hoping there was no traffic coming down the road, because he has no sense for cars or what they can do to a dog, even one as formidable as Mozzie. From the start, it was a race I was going to lose, and I braced for what might happen next. Just then, I saw a little black and white streak barreling toward us down the driveway. Mary had been watching the drama unfold, saw I needed help, and squeezed herself through the half-open car window. She didn’t herd him, exactly, because you can’t herd a Great Pyrenees, but she got to his head and interrupted the trajectory of his thoughts about travel just long enough for me to catch up, and get hold of his collar. Then she escorted us both back to the fence, gloating only slightly.

            Lambing has slowed down. Whew! We have 20 more ewes to go, but the main focus has already turned away from lambing, and toward getting animals from winter quarters onto pasture, and more plants in the ground. The dairy cows got their first fresh grass yesterday; you might taste it in the milk. Today, there are stinging nettles in the share, as well as overwintered scallions, and (maybe) some nice arugula from the greenhouse. Steady, abundant greens are almost within reach! The asparagus is pushing its tips above the ground now, and we are about two weeks from fresh chickens. The best improvement of the week has been the addition of 10 new rollaway nest boxes for the hens. They are angled and constructed so that the freshly laid eggs roll gently into a collection area, away from the hens, which keeps them clean, prevents cracks, and makes them easy to gather. That, along with a new automated egg washing station, has made this daily chore a lot easier and more efficient. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this summer-like 17th week of 2017. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, 518-963-4613, on Instagram daily at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday. –K&M