Week 22, 2019 | Kristin Kimball | Jun 11, 2019

I had to open my big mouth in the last note and brag about not having any orphan lambs to raise this year. You know what happens when you do that? You get five orphans in a week. Sigh. Two of the ewes raising twins got really severe mastitis, which resulted in blue bag, which is basically gangrene of the udder. This is unusual for us, and I’m pretty sure that the wet, cold weather was the biggest factor. Both ewes were at peak lactation, raising strong lambs who were demanding a lot of milk, and the pastures were very muddy, a combination ripe for infection that gave us four orphans within a few of days of each other. The fifth lamb simply has an innovative mother who doesn’t want to stay inside of a fence. The first time she tore down the electric net and let the whole flock out, we forgave her. The third time? When the whole flock ran across Route 22, stopping traffic, and requiring assistance from innocent bystanders to prevent accidents as the ferry traffic streamed by during the runup to the holiday weekend? Not so forgivable. She’ll be going to the great freezer in the sky. So it is. Innovation is not a trait we can reward in sheep. Otherwise, the flock looks good, the lambs are growing fast. Mozzie the Great Pyrenees is keeping them safe from coyotes as they rotate through the far pastures.

The rain and cold weather are becoming problematic, not only for us, and for all the farms in the region. There aren’t many living things that enjoy cold, saturated soil. This year is beginning to remind me of 2011, when Lake Champlain flooded over the ferry dock and the fields were puddled for most of the growing season. The difference is that this year, we have a lot more land with drainage under it. That gives us hope! And it gives us options. We shifted the field plan around a bit this week, to maximize usage of the driest fields. And we started thinking creatively about what to feed the hogs and the broiler chickens this year in case we can’t get corn in at all. One option is to plant grains and legumes late, once the soil warms to optimal temperatures, knowing these crops will not mature before frost, and let the hogs harvest it themselves, green, in the field. We’ve done that before, with pretty good results. The downside is that pigs are hard on the soil, and need to be rotated frequently to stop them from compacting the life out of it.

When we do get a good dry day, this crew knows how to hustle and take advantage of it. Mark pulled some midnight shifts to get compost turned and spread. We got all the tomatoes and peppers planted in a single go this week. Today, everyone is working furiously to transplant leeks, eggplant, summer squash, celery, melons, cucumbers, herbs, chard and lettuce before rain starts again tomorrow. And by the grace of agricultural diversity, there are a lot of bright spots out there! The first field lettuce is almost ready to harvest, neat little green heads that I can’t wait to eat. Escarole is looking especially delicious. The early varieties of strawberries are in full bloom now, a carpet of white flowers that hold promise for a good harvest in a couple weeks. The forage is green and growing fast for all the grazing animals. We had a new heifer calf, born to Crayfish the Jersey cow. Andy named her Candy, and she’s a sweet little brown eyed beauty. We expect piglets in a couple weeks.

And that is the news from Essex Farm for this do-I-really-need-a-fire-in-the-woodstove-for-crying-out-loud-it’s-almost-June 22nd week of 2019. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web and insta at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

Good Husbandry