Week 18, 2019 | Kristin Kimball | May 6, 2019

May 1st marks the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Gaelic people called it Beltane, a festival day to celebrate the arrival of the grazing season. People feasted, danced around bonfires, and blessed the cattle before sending them from winter confinement to summer pastures. No pagan festivities here this year, and it snowed a bit. But the dairy cattle did get their first taste of fresh grass, emerging first cautiously from the barnyard, then running when they smelled it, to spread out on the first paddock and begin ripping at it with delight. They are the most privileged animals on the farm, and we reserve the earliest and finest grass for them. The pastures are all late this year, thanks in part to this cold wet weather, and probably also to grazing too hard last fall, but soon everyone will be out and happy.

If I can’t seem to put a sentence together today, it’s because of the sheep. We have 145 lambs on the ground now, all born in the last three weeks. The barn is basically a riot of lambs. They have entered that ridiculously cute phase where they gang up with their friends, leave their mothers behind, and run races around the perimeter of the paddock. For a few days in the thick of it, there weren’t quite enough hours to sleep. That said, we only have another 25 ewes left to lamb, and have had an extraordinarily good run, with nice healthy lambs, and very few losses or complications. Full credit for that goes to Anne Brown and the rest of Animal Team for their excellent flock management all year. The ewes are in perfect condition without getting any grain, and are delivering hearty, solid newborns who pop up right away and start sucking. Aside from the yearlings, most of the ewes are having twins, which is exactly what we want. Ewes have more twins when there are flushed – that is, their nutrition is increased just before, during and after breeding – and it took hard work and excellent pasture management last fall to make that happen without grain. Thanks, Animal Team.

Plant world has been equally busy, I hear! We have had our first cultivation of row crops already. Zohar and Chris and their team are almost two weeks ahead of our usual seeding and transplanting schedule. The soil is still wet and cold so things are growing slowly, but poised to take off as soon as the weather shifts. Unlike lambing, planting will only get busier for the next few weeks. Zohar would welcome volunteers to help with field and greenhouse work. Get in touch if you’d like to join her. And also let us know how you’ve been liking the pea shoots. That’s one of Zohar’s new projects this year.

Two of the dairy cows gave birth this week, both healthy bull calves that will be raised by one of the neighboring Amish families. We lost a yearling Jersey heifer to a respiratory illness – highly unusual for us, and a disappointment. In the inanimate world, our skid steer was killed by metal shards in its hydraulic system, so Mark has spent much of the week looking for a replacement. If you have a lead on a good used machine around 65 hp with low hours, do let us know. With that tool out of commission, we hired the Barnes family to come today to turn several hundred tons of compost and move the winter bedding pack out of the beef barn. With their equipment they can do in a few hours what would take us two weeks! So much more to report, and not enough time. So that’s the news from Essex Farm for this Beltane 18th 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