Week 23, 2022|Kristin Kimball|June 12, 2022

Dr. Martha is away so Dr. DeFranco came an hour north this week to treat Phoebe, one of our trusty old Jersey cows, who injured her teat while getting on the trailer to bring her up to the barn for calving. Teat injuries are common – the location of those dangling bits makes them so darn vulnerable – but this one was bad, a near-skinning. Dr. DeFranco was awfully good to come see her. She laid out our options: amputate the teat, or trim the damaged skin and treat the wound. There was no clear right answer, so we just had to lay a bet. “You farmers are all gamblers anyway or you wouldn’t be in this business,” she said. True that! We decided to try to save the teat. Cows have an amazing ability to heal. Dr. DeFranco sedated the cow, numbed the teat, trimmed all the ugly stuff away, and bandaged her up. Phoebe was due to calve in two weeks, so we were hoping to have some time to make progress before we’d have to milk her. But, wouldn’t you know she calved early. The good news is that so far the teat is healing very well, the cow seems comfortable, and we can use a cannula to let the milk out instead of trying to put a milking machine on it. Anne and Jackie have been doing terrific work taking care of her. Did you know skin will regrow at a rate of about half a centimeter per week? If all goes well she will be back to normal in about four to six weeks. 

We are laying daily bets on the weather, too, as we continue making the first cut of hay. Scott Hoffman drives his tractor like a jockey coming down the home stretch, standing up, at full throttle. It’s something to watch. He laid down a few acres yesterday, knowing it was going to rain a little, banking on dry weather the next few days. So far it looks like it will pay off. He’s put up a lot of amazing forage for us already this spring – protein rich mixes of clover, trefoil and young grass that will feed the animals well next winter. 

What else? We had another litter of piglets yesterday, and added one little guy to Miranda’s runt collection in our yard. There are three now, all nursing well, following her like puppies. It’s truly amazing to see how fast they grow at this stage. One day they are the size of a guinea pig, and two days later they have doubled in weight and are confidently rooting up grass in the lawn. I’m looking forward to the day, a few weeks hence, when they are no longer runts and can rejoin the main herd. The lambs are growing almost as fast as the piglets, at the stage now where they lift up their mamas’ hind ends when they gallop over and dive in to nurse. For sheer joy, Miranda and I have been riding our horses in the cool of the evening, trotting out to see how the strawberries are ripening, or cantering up the sugarbush hill to cross the road and check on the sheep. This is a fringe benefit of farming that never shows up on the books. 

Every week we have 14 milking shifts to fill, and when we can’t manage it with the full time crew the Essex Farm alumni have been showing up. Thanks to Evan, Nathan, Elise, Susie T (who worked here a full decade ago!) and of course to Sofie F who manages to milk amidst a busy school schedule and final exams, and Sarah M who takes on lots of shifts.   

We have plenty of weeds to pull if anyone wants to come participate in the food system! It’s the satisfying kind of weeding, soft ground, big weeds. And finally, we’re looking for a used residential LP gas kitchen range if anyone has one that needs a new home. Thanks members for making this green world spin. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this high-rollin’ 23rd week of 2022. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.     

-Kristin & Mark Kimball