Essex Farm Note
Week 18, 2018
At last, at last, the grass is growing, and all the acres of oat/pea we planted are up, turning the dull brown places on the farm a bright and cheerful green. Grass grows so fast after a few days of warm weather. Every time I walked across Solar Field this week, it seemed to have gained another inch. Impressive as that is, I like to imagine what is happening out of sight underground, where the network of white roots is grasping downward and outward, moving further and even faster than the visible green. The dairy cows went to pasture for the first time yesterday – just about par for the yearly course. They’re only grazing for the hours between morning and evening milkings right now, but you can see happiness radiating off of them as they rip into that sweet green feed, then bask, teats to the sun. All the other animals are eyeballing them jealously from their barns and paddocks. Soon, beasts!
I think we’re halfway finished with lambing now. The work has been smooth and entirely enjoyable. I check four times a day, make sure laboring ewes have two hooves and a nose presenting, shuffle new families to the jugs, give them their tags, then shuffle them out the next day to the mix pen, and otherwise just let them get on with it. We have about 65 lambs on the ground so far, more singles than I’d like, but all fat and sturdy. We lost one lamb shortly after birth, and had one ewe that needed slight assistance, but they are basically lambing themselves. I’m so glad that we started small with the sheep, and built up the flock gradually, selecting for what worked in our systems – or rather, against what decidedly didn’t. I had to explain to Jane and her friend Sofie last weekend, when they came out to help, that the first-time ewe who walked away from her newborn lamb will not get another chance next year. Nor the one whose lamb died. Neither will the older ewe with the pendulous teats, whose lambs needed help latching on to those giant things in order to nurse. We cull sheep for bad mothering, bad udders, and difficult births, as well as for lack of parasite resistance. The girls thought this was horrible, and unfair, which it is, for the individual. But it’s the fair and right thing for the flock, which is a hard thing to grasp when you’re ten.
It was another marathon stretch of transplanting during the dry days this week. You should see what it looks like on the Blockhouse Field now – lettuces and dill and kale and Brussels sprouts, all bright green against the good black dirt, well watered in and growing like crazy. The peppers and tomatoes are potted up and looking well in the greenhouse. One never knows until harvest how the year will turn out, but so far, it couldn’t be going much better.
We have a new cultivating tractor on the farm, a Case 274, bought from our friends Bruce and Beth at Maple Wind Farm. It’s small, old and runs like a clock. Mark is at an auction today, looking at larger tractors to replace our dying John Deere. With a dearth of working tractors this year, and wet weather, and with good skilled Amish help available, the draft horses have been playing a large and valuable role. It’s great see the horses fully employed after a couple of years of lighter work. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this greenup 18th week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, on the web and on insta at essexfarmcsa, or here on the farm, any day but Sunday.
–Kristin and Mark Kimball