Week 17, 2021|Kristin Kimball |April 27, 2021

Hello spring, hello new life. There has been so much happening here I fell behind on farm notes, so here’s a catchup note along with a promise to deliver more regularly in the future. 

That little teenage ram lamb that I mismarked as a ewe last fall managed to sire 201 lambs. He was so good at his job, I wish I hadn’t sent him to the freezer. We still have about fifty ewes to lamb, and they at least will be from the ram I intended to use. Will be interesting to see how they differ as they grow. The established families are on pasture with their mothers now, doing well, despite the crazy weather, including 3” of snow and ice last week, and highs in the high 60s soon after. 

There are a million stories from lambing this year, as there always are, but this one is probably the most dramatic. We had a ewe called Zeusetta who had been a bottle lamb when she was born, and like most bottle lambs remained very friendly all her life. As she got older she acquired a noble ovine wisdom, and she loved children, running up to them whenever they came to the field. Everyone on the farm was fond of Zeusetta, and because of that, we kept her on as a semi-pet, even though her best days as a productive ewe were far behind her. We didn’t intend to breed her this year, because her udder was shot, but the ram lamb got to her like he did the rest of them before we sorted her out. So, she was heavily pregnant when she turned up with a badly broken leg a couple weeks ago. She must have gotten it caught in a feeder somehow and snapped it. With that leg, there was no saving her, but she was quite pregnant. 

I was out of town that day, and so Anne, Jackie and Devin got the job of putting Zeusetta out of her misery. Jackie performed a fast, improvised postmortem cesarean and found twin ewe lambs. One lamb died right away, the other survived the birth — small, too weak to stand, but with a strong spirit. Anne, who has a huge heart and dedication to match, took her home and tube fed her around the clock for a week, then planted her in her truck for another few days, to ride along on chore rounds. When she was strong enough to stay on her feet and take a bottle, she brought her to the barn. 

For a few days I fed her, and she did well, but bottle feeding is a poor second choice to having a family of your own species. It’s often possible to graft a newborn lamb who needs a new mother to a ewe that has just given birth, and convince the ewe to claim the lamb as her own, but a ten day old lamb was something else. Still, it couldn’t hurt to try. The next time a ewe lambed, I used all the tricks I knew, smearing Baby Z with the mother’s birth fluids and colostrum, and trying to hide her under the ewe’s real, birth-stunned newborn before it had gotten to its feet. But when Baby Z popped up out of the slimy pile and ran around vigorously, the ewe — a battle hardened old thing, strong as an ox — knew exactly what I was trying to pull. It’s awful to see the fierceness with which a ewe will kick away a lamb not her own. I gathered Baby Z up, dried her off and gave her another bottle, resigned to having an orphan to raise. Then, the next day, a yearling ewe lambed — a first timer. She acted promisingly maternal, and also very naive. I didn’t have a lot of hope, but there was nothing to lose. Skipping all the messy stagecraft, I plopped Z into the pen along with the newborn, and crossed my fingers. 

Amazingly, the young mother, flooded as she was with oxytocin, welcomed Z with a sweet nicker. She had her suspicions, but after a couple days of coaxing and distraction, she fully committed, and Z got a mother, and a sister too. By the time they went to pasture together, Z had caught up to her adopted sister in growth, and was the liveliest lamb in the group. You can see pictures of her on my Instagram account, kristinxkimball. 

We’re feeling a lot of Earth Day love this week. Thanks to Adirondack Council for a grant to support our biofuel project. The money will be used to pay Echo Farm to turn our excess fats into biodiesel. Dillon tells us this is a 400% reduction in our diesel carbon footprint. 

As the growing season gets rolling we are asking you all to help us by talking up the share with your friends and neighbors. Because your share dollars go to producing this food, and not to sales and marketing, we lean on your love for the share to bring in more people who would also love it. If you need some talking points for Earth Day, here are some things:

  • We use our own on-farm compost and cover crops to build soil health and fertility on these 1500 acres. We apply no petrochemicals, herbicides or conventional pesticides, and our yields are going up every year. 
  • We grow most of the feed our livestock eat
  • We use returnable reusable packaging. Every glass jar we fill gets used an average of 30 times, rather than a single use plastic container 
  • Our rotationally grazed grass-fed animals help sequester carbon and build soil 
  • We use livestock guardian dogs to deter our wild predator neighbors, rather than relying on lethal controls 
  • We provide a chance for young farmers to learn the craft of sustainable diversified farming
  • Our members eat a whole food diet year round, grown on chemical free healthy soil

We have local shares available and we deliver weekly around the Adirondacks, the Capital Region, and New York City. Please have any potential members get in touch with Mark at 518-570-6399 and thank you so much for your support. 

That’s the news from Essex Farm for this 17th week of 2021. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at essexfarmcsa (and kristinxkimball and farmerkimball), or on the farm, any day but Sunday. 

-Kristin & Mark Kimball