Week 23, 2021|Kristin Kimball|June 11, 2021

The bands of rain missed us, and we are feeling a little droughty, which makes our workflow easier (fewer weeds growing more slowly, and lots of hay getting made) but isn’t ideal for the growth of plants and forage. Ten inches down, there’s water, but the surface is dry. There’s a possibility of showers and thunderstorms in the forecast so this may change soon. For now, the field lettuce wants to bolt, and the asparagus spears are trying to shoot to the sky to become fronds and stems. 90% of the watermelon seedlings succumbed to drought and beetles. But! The sweet corn will emerge this week, the tomatoes are thriving, the potatoes are in, and the fields, on the balance, are gorgeous. Beth is planting another round of watermelons now, so send them your good wishes. As Mark says, this year’s team is a miracle, and so are the sun and the soil.

With all the lambs and ewes on the field, the flock numbers over 500 animals now. The earliest lambs are huge, and look like young sheep instead of babies.Thanks to Mark’s high tensile fencing marathon, we now have a perimeter on the uneven, brushy pasture northwest of the firehouse, which has rarely been grazed by sheep because it was too hard to put up a reliable temporary fence. We had pigs there a few years ago and they left behind their rich manure which made for green and abundant forage. On Thursday I waded through a fresh section of pasture thigh-deep in brush, sedge, clover, vetch, orchard grass, and trefoil, and it seemed infinite. Then the flock came in and put its collective head down and the next day the field was transformed, easily navigable, all the mature stemmy grasses trampled into the ground to store carbon and hold water, the tender leaves gone, converted to living energy: milk, meat, bone, blood, leap and baa. I love to watch sheep eat. The ewes are teaching the young ones what is good, and what to avoid. Unlike cows, who grasp forage with their tongues and draw it into their mouths, sheep nibble with their lips, and are more selective. The only thing more entertaining is watching Jane’s dairy goats graze. They are true connoisseurs of the weird things: bitter burdock the size of a banana leaf, or the spikey top third of a bull thistle. They will pirouette on their hind legs to tear off the tannic leaves of an oak seedling. Compare this to the cow’s preference for sweet tender grass and you understand why goat milk is so interesting.

First chickens in the share this week! Please enjoy them and treat them with the reverence they deserve, making good use of every bit, including the bones for stock. They are one of our highest value products, representing a big investment of your share dollars in certified organic grains, plus so much labor to care for them as chicks and then move them to fresh pasture every day. And they are so incredibly delicious. I’ve missed you, chicken.

We had to give a dairy heifer named Sweet Caroline a round of antibiotics for an infection in her hoof. As you know, when we do something outside the organic standard, we tell you about it. Foot rot in cattle is caused by a ubiquitous bacteria, fusobacterium necrophorum, that gets into a wound or irritation on the hoof. The heifers were in a hedgerow with a lot of pokey sticks during the heat wave so it makes sense. The progression can be dramatic and it’s painful, so Caroline required four days of oxytetracycline to make her comfortable and keep her safe. She’s doing well now, and not due to calve for the first time until fall, so all traces of this antibiotic will be well gone before her milk is included in the share.

Now, along with glass jars and lids, we’re getting desperate for gray delivery bins that have not returned to the farm. The cost of those bins has quintupled this year. If you have any at home please send them back and if you are a former member or know someone who is a former member with bins at home please let us know you have them and we will pick them up! Similarly, we have lost a bunch of milk crates and wooden display crates and really need them back. Sometimes members take them from the distribution area if they forget to bring something to put their share in, but they are not meant to leave the farm. Please please bring them back if you have them at home! We’re going to start saving cardboard boxes for members who forget to bring their own. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this almost-summer 22nd week of 2021. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball, farmerkimball and essexfarmcsa, or here IRL, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball