Week 41, 2018 | Kristin Kimball | Oct 12, 2018

The false threat of a frost last week meant we are already (mostly) prepared for what promises to be the real thing, tomorrow night. Squash is gathered and under cover, tomatoes are picked, peppers and eggplants piled high for immediate distribution. I am, as usual this time of year, regretting what I failed to preserve, but also looking forward to what frost means: a conclusive end to the fall feeling of I should. I should freeze more cilantro, basil, and parsley; dry more thyme; put up more tomatoes; can more green beans; freeze some chard. Or, says frost, quite reasonably, you can just be satisfied with what you’ve already got. And also what the farm will provide all winter, from the root cellar, the dairy, the butcher shop, the granary, and the field. We have a greenhouse full of kale and lettuce this fall, too, which should give us late season green, if we can convince the grasshoppers to leave it alone. They have taken more than their fair share this fall.

We had two sweet heifers born in the dairy herd recently. Good old Kimber gave birth to Kiss. Kimber is 10 years old and this is her fifth heifer calf in a row, so she has certainly made her mark on the milking herd, and more than earned her keep. Kimber has always been a good producer, and an uncomplicated cow. But she looked a little peaked after calving this time. When she came in for milking, she lay down in her stanchion, and didn’t want to get back up. Scott Christian was here, visiting, and pointed out a slight S curve in her neck. That’s a good sign milk fever is coming on. It’s a deadly metabolic imbalance that can occur after calving, as the milk comes in and pulls too much calcium out of the cow’s system, too fast. Calcium is necessary in order for muscles to work, so untreated milk fever results in gradual paralysis, and eventually, death. In an old Jersey cow like Kimber, it’s very common, and we had already given her an oral tube of calcium gel to prevent it, but it must not have been enough. So we gave her another tube of gel, and before we turned her out, we gave her a subcutaneous liter of 23% calcium solution. The liquid looked bulbous and strange under the thick cowskin but she would absorb it slowly, overnight, and I’d sleep better, knowing she was getting it. By the next morning, she looked bright and was eating well. Her calf is well too, except for one flaw. She was born with a significant overbite, as if she had a rabbit for a daddy. It’s a genetic trait, but we’ve never seen it in our herd before. Hopefully, she’ll grow into those teeth. Otherwise, she’s a beaut. Yesterday, she got some company in the nursery pen, after Willow had her own calf, named (by Matt) Wishful Thinking. Willow has a little shorthorn blood mixed in with the Jersey, and Wishful takes after that side of the family tree, which gives her head a blocky, pleasant look. She is a large, strong, eager nurser, and Willow had no complications.

I hear from Anne Brown that the Blockhouse Road fields are not to be missed today. The cover crops are bright green, the vegetables look abundant, and the fall colors along the road are at their perfect peak. If you have time before sunset, you might want to take a drive or walk that way. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this gorgeous 41st week of 2018. Like us on Facebook to see what we post there, or find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the Web and Instagram at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, IRL!, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball