Essex Farm Note

Week 19, 2017

I think I just assisted in the last lambing of the year. (Big lamb, small dam, which was the general theme of the year.) There are still a few ewes without lambs but they are showing no signs of late pregnancy, so I suspect we are wrapped until next time. We have 90 lambs on the ground, which is fewer than I had hoped for, but they are all healthy, and gaining incredibly fast on this good spring grass. It was a big year for girls - 57 of the lambs were ewes – 63%! I attribute the somewhat disappointing overall lambing number to the fact that 44% of the breeding flock was first timers that were lambing as yearlings. They were on the small side, had singles rather than twins, and some of them did not breed at all, so all of that lowered our lambing percentage. Also, I didn’t “flush” the flock last fall by giving them extra feed at breeding time, which would have made them more likely to conceive twins. This fall, we’ll do that. The goal with the sheep for the last few years has been to build up the numbers in our ewe flock, so I have kept most of the ewe lambs for breeding. Now that we are getting to over a hundred head of ewes, we will get more selective about choosing our breeding stock, so we can start to shape the flock genetics for what we want: good mothers who raise twin lambs that gain well on grass and are resistant to parasites.

            The new flock of hens has finished laying the tiny little pullet eggs and has upgraded to a more reasonable size product. They are on the fresh May grass so the yolks are deep orange and delicious. Every year at this time, when eggs are so good and bountiful, I remember their incredible range, as I incorporate them into each meal of the day, from savory to sweet to spicy. Deviled! Scrambled! Poached! Omletted! Perhaps my favorite this year is hard boiled egg curry, which has many different regional variations in India. Google it up and try a few different ones. Most are tomato-based but the spices vary widely. It’s a fine main course, served with fresh chapatti.

            The dairy herd is grazing rye grass this week, and will move to mixed grass pasture next week. The taste of the milk changes dramatically when we move from hay to grass, less dramatically when we change types of fresh forage. You may notice the difference. The cows are so happy to be on pasture again, and their production has picked up. Mary the cow dog is extremely glad to be back in work, too, moving them from pasture to barn and back twice a day. Soon, she will remember she can do it at a walk and not a run.

            What else? The ground is still cold. Soon as the temperatures come up, the asparagus will take off, along with everything else. For now, we’re holding off on planting, so seeds don’t rot before they grow. There’s an owl plaguing the laying hens. We’ll shut them in at night and place some geese with them to try to ward off the dawn and dusk attacks. There’s a wild rush of field work today, ahead of the inch of rain expected this weekend. We could use some more hands on deck for May so let us know if you are looking for work. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this beautiful 19th 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