Week 19, 2021｜Kristin Kimball ｜May 15, 2021
We’ve hit the balance point of the growing season, weighing the risk of a late killing frost against the benefit of moving plants to the field. The average last frost here in Zone 4 ranges from May 1 to May 31. The downside of betting wrong is steep so we tend to be conservative. To be honest, I am on Team Animal, and my knowledge of what’s happening on Team Plant comes from my peripheral vision, while trotting by (literally) on my way to sheep or dairy heifers. Having a saddle horse here to ride has been the joy of the year. She came with Lilly D who moved over from Vermont to work at the Hub, brought two Morgans with her, and is boarding them here. I love this intelligent, versatile breed, the same breed as the horse I had growing up. One of the mares is bred to a welsh pony stallion and due to have a foal in July, but the other, Beau, is available for me to ride, and ride I do. The feeling of a good run across a green field is the same as when I was fifteen except better, because I get to share it with my girls. Often, it’s Miranda and her pony Abby Belle, and occasionally Jane, who likes to ride Jake, the giant Belgian gelding. These are perks that come with farm life and they are substantial.
Speaking of Lilly D, I have a good dog story for you. Lilly also brought her two livestock guardian dogs, Sven and Stella, who are trained to guard poultry. They needed a job so we put them to work adjacent to our egg laying flock. On Tuesday night, on my way back from the final lamb check, I heard a commotion in the dark distance, coming from that area. It’s normal for guard dogs to bark to ward off predators, especially at night, and while I noted it sounded more intense than their usual evening stakeout, I didn’t investigate any further. The next morning at chores, Jackie found Stella outside the fence, limping, and protecting a beheaded chicken. The perpetrator — an owl — was tangled in the fence. Decapitation is the owl’s trademark, and owls are the worst because they are so persistent, taking a chicken or two every single night and making the flock a nervous wreck. The only solution without a good guard dog is to close the chickens into the barn at dusk, which means staying up late (for us) in the summer, a job we’d rather not add to the list if we can help it. Here’s to Stella, who not only got out of her fence to help, but sustained a bad puncture wound in her lower leg joint from the owl’s talon. She’s at Lilly’s house, healing, and we hope she’ll be back on the job soon. Jackie untangled the owl, managed not to get a talon in her hand, and the owl flew off, a little bloody and hopefully a lot more wary about hunting chickens.
Lots of birth announcements this week. The last two dozen sheep are lambing now, and I see light at the end of the long lambing tunnel. We had an extraordinary number of piglets born over the last few days. One sow had 17. She’s with another sow who had her litter the same night and they are sharing nursing duty, which is good because they all have a better chance of surviving with two mothers. We have 49 little squirmers on the ground now. Jane’s three dairy goats have all kidded, and there are three female and two male kids, cute as buttons. She’ll be looking to sell the kids so get in touch if you are interested. Some are purebred Alpine, some have a touch of Nubian, all sired by an Alpine buck with excellent dairy credentials. The boys are still intact but won’t be for long so if you’re looking for a breeding prospect text Mark today at 518-570-6399.
At the end of June we will be saying goodbye to Kathleen, who coordinates all the delivered shares. It’s for a great reason – she’s going on an extended hike through Europe — but we’ll miss her tremendously, and are looking for someone to fill her shoes. Please help us spread the word. I’m attaching the job description below. We welcome Isaac from NYC for a short stint this month, and Ben along with his partner Alice until fall, and Nick for the long haul. We are quite desperately looking for housing for farmers as it has become suddenly scarce. Please let us know if you can help. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this greenest green 19th week of 2021. Find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram at kristinxkimball, farmerkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, where we are (almost) all fully vaccinated, any day but Sunday.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball