Week 49, 2020｜Kristin Kimball ｜December 4, 2020
I’ve been out with a bad back the last two weeks, so have been observing the farm from a slight remove. It’s a good thing to do every once in a while. When you’re less invested in the day-to-day, you can take in the big picture. From here, I see a terrific membership that is passionate about the food we produce and invested in our mission; an incredible team of farmers from different backgrounds, with different experiences, working hard and really well together, getting ready to shut the door on this strange unpredictable year. I see a farm well-situated for the coming winter, with hay in the barn for animals, plenty of good vegetables in storage for the humans, both things against the odds of this droughty 2020 growing season. I see a barn full of pigs; a pasture of beef cattle, including 10 new yearlings from Lewis Family Farm; and a line of gorgeous Jersey cows filling all the stanchions in the barn at milking each day, sprung from our one-cow start 17 years ago. After sorting sheep this week, I know we have a breeding flock of 170 ewes, including the nicest set of ewe lambs I could have hoped for. And I see the acres of cover crop and annual forage, still feeding the animals extremely well this late in the season. In all, it’s a nice view, and maybe one I should take more often. Thanks to the members, the team, to Mark, and extra thanks this week to Tomer, who is heading off to other adventures next week. He’s been with us since taking time off from college last spring.
You know it’s never perfect around here, right? I have rather humiliating news from the sheep sort. As you know, I’ve been really excited about the fancy ram I bought this year. I had a strategy to make sure he bred as many ewes as possible before turning out the junior varsity rams. But best laid plans are always the ones that get foiled on a farm. Turns out we have had a ram lamb in the flock we didn’t know about, breeding the ewes all fall. Tam Mrose had come with her border collie, Moses, to help sort, and as we walked around the flock before we started, we saw this very active boy with giant testicles making his way from ewe to ewe, a harem of yearlings following him like groupies. I have no idea how we missed him all year. I do, however, have a good guess as to what happened when he was a lamb. Looking at my records I can see he was a triplet, and I remember the night they were born. It was late, I was tired, and I identified all three newborns as ewes. I’d bet anything I felt one ewe lamb twice and just got mixed up. In any case, I tagged him as a ewe, he went to pasture within the week, intact, and has been enjoying his freedom ever since he hit puberty and the ewes came into season, which was probably around the middle to end of September. Which means we will probably see lambs around Valentine’s Day instead of the last week in April. I’m trying to adjust to this radical change in plan by coming up with all sorts of admittedly weak reasons it’s not so bad. Such as, he’s only a lamb so probably couldn’t have bred too many at once, or at least he’s from a good old ewe, and was a triplet, so I’m not heartbroken at the prospect of his genes getting serious play in the flock. Lots of shepherds plan for February lambing, and it certainly can be done. But the truth is, it’s going to be a big challenge.
To end on a bright note, the greenhouses are chock full of greens that will supply us in the coming weeks, just as the quality of the field greens begins to decline. The livestock guardian pups are growing well, and are tucked into the barn this week with some babysitter sheep. We just received a huge load of potting soil, for seeding that begins in February. And the 2021 membership agreement is coming your way very soon. We are excited to feed you for another year and grateful as always for your support. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this big-picture 49th week of 2020. Find us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram at kristinxkimball, essexfarmcsa and farmerkimball, at our website, essexfarmcsa, or on the farm from a distance, any day but Sunday.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball