Essex Farm Note
Week 22, 2018
It’s the first week of June, the beginning of a uniquely busy month in the always-busy year. June is like standing under a waterfall of work. It feels best if you don’t resist it, just let it wash over you, and catch what you can, knowing some of it will get away. You understand the urgency of June when you think about what farming essentially is: the art of capturing sunlight, converting it to matter, and using it to meet human need. We have sunlight in abundance now, but it peaks in three short weeks, then recedes until the tide turns again at the end of December. At our latitude, we need to not only capture the light, but also securely store it for use in the dark half of the year. We can store it in corn, or beets, or meat, or butter, but here, we store the majority of it in grasses (plus clovers, trefoil, dandelions, and other forbs). At this point in the year these plants are young, succulent, and full of nutrients. The animals are harvesting their own at this moment, moving from paddock to fresh paddock each week, or day or, in the case of the dairy cows, every twelve hours. But this state of youthful plant energy is transient, and storing it is the key. That was what we focused hard on this week. Luckily, the weather cooperated, breakdowns were minimal, and we hired enough people and machines to get the first cut completely finished. This is great news because the quality is excellent, and there is plenty of light left for the plants to grow again, to be made into good second and maybe third cuttings. Some of the first cut was made into large round bales of dry hay, and some of it was wrapped to ferment into baleage (which is essentially pickled grass, delicious to ruminants), and all of it is safely home, so much sunlight captured. It’s a good feeling, especially as we talk and read more and more about the benefits of grasses over grains, for the soil, for animals, for humans, and for the planet. Members, we are steering the farm steadily away from grain, even for pigs and hens, and I’ll write more about that another time.
What else? Weeding is in full swing, and there’s more transplanting happening today. We have the first lovely lettuces, kale and herbs in the share today. There’s a new Jersey heifer in the dairy nursery, daughter of Crayfish, named Crawdad. And lambing is finished, as of a week ago today. The tail end was trickier than the rest of the season combined, with some poor mothers and one very tough delivery. We ended up with two bottle lambs on the very last day, having gotten through the whole season without one. But what would spring be without some lambs in the front yard? Here are the final stats: Out of 115 ewes (104 of whom lambed) we got 128 lambs. That’s a rather disappointing 111% lambing percentage; even with 40% yearling mothers, as we had this year, we would hope for 1.5 lambs per ewe. On the bright side, we had few problems, and should have very large fat lambs come fall. It’s also easier on the ewes to raise one instead of two, which will give them a boost for next year. I think the biggest factor was failing to get the ewes on high-quality forage at breeding season last year, which lowered conception rates. Also, profligacy is partly genetic, so I’ll focus on it in our ram selection in the future. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this waterfalling 22nd week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, email@example.com, online and on insta at essexfarmcsa, or here on the farm, any day but Sunday.
–Kristin & Mark Kimball