Week 45, 2020|Kristin Kimball |November 6, 2020

An unsettled week here, as in the rest of our country. We’ve had snow, wild fluctuations in temperature — from a low of 18 degrees to highs in the mid-sixties — and several days of strong gusty winds. The deep freeze last Friday night left its mark on everything. Any tender plants still in the field are mush now, and the cover crops are frost-scalded. Jane’s dairy goats are pastured this week on a little strip of oats and peas just west of the raspberries, in Monument Field. This stretch has received big slugs of compost over the years, and the cover crop grew tall, thick, lush, and deepest green. After the freeze, it lay flat on the ground, the pea leaves pulpy, the oats limp and starting to rot. Elsewhere on the farm, the cover crop hadn’t been so well fed, and had grown more moderately. After the freeze, those sections are still standing. This fits into Mark’s personal philosophy of plants and of life: A bit of scarcity creates healthy resilience, overabundance is the path to lassitude and death. This is why I sometimes call him Mark Aurelius. 

We switched the kids from remote school to homeschool on Monday, so I’ve been busy with curricula, lessons and activities. The farm has become a big classroom. Miranda is hatching chicken eggs in the living room, raising Pickle, her runt pig, in the yard, and incorporating the pony into every possible aspect of her school day. We’ve appropriated the empty Amish house next to the compost barn as our schoolhouse, and Jane is studying Algebra in the tiny curtained nook in the kitchen, where Lizzie used to keep wood for her cookstove. (Lizzie and Benjamin just moved to Reber Rock Farm, where they will run the butcher shop. We wish them all the best!) I miss having a stretch of hours to work while the kids were at school but I’m grateful for this time of intense connection with the girls and the opportunity to focus on their education. 

Yet more calves arrived in the dairy herd this week. Phoebe had a heifer named Pumpkin, and Farrah had a bull calf. So far, the calving has been smooth, with all the cows doing the job on their own, in the field. This is how it usually goes around here. We’ve had to pull only two dairy calves in 17 years. This week, the herd is grazing that resilient uncoddled cover crop way out in New Field at night, a hike of almost a mile, and while it’s not ideal in terms of time management, having to walk for their feed is one reason we have so few calving problems.     

We got our new ram this week, and he’s a beauty, bred by K Bar K in Pennsylvania. He’ll go into the flock in two weeks, and I can’t wait to see his lambs next spring. Anne and I need to sort the ewes before then, to peel off the individuals who should not be bred this fall. That includes ewes with bad udders or who showed poor mothering or lack of resistance to parasites, and the ewe lambs who are not well grown enough now to lamb as yearlings. The Great Pyrenees pups, Artemis and Apollo, are doing well, and Captain has adjusted to their presence. The pups know how to slip out of their little kennel within the fence now, which is not a surprise, and allows them to explore at will but seek shelter from the big world when they need to. 

That’s the news from Essex Farm for this unsettled 45th week of 2020. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web and insta at essexfarmcsa, kristinxkimball, and farmerkimball, or on the farm from a distance, any day but Sunday. 

-Kristin & Mark Kimball