Week 48, 2021|Kristin Kimball|December 3, 2021

It was a wild week here, full of interesting pressures. The shift from fall to wintery weather always brings a big slug of work, and it climaxes now, when the temperatures fall into the teens for the first time. Water systems must be secured, harvests stored, the animals switched from grass to hay, all liquid supplies moved indoors, and the last roots pulled from the ground before it freezes. In the midst of it, one of our fully vaccinated farmers returned from Thanksgiving travels with Covid. We are all hoping for a speedy and complete recovery there, as we face the logistical challenge of keeping everyone else safe while also getting the necessary work done shorthanded. As so many have learned these last two years, it’s not easy. Lucky for us most of what we do is outside in the fresh clean air, and so far, nobody else has tested positive. 

The biggest victory of the week was moving 500 sheep two miles, from the lake to the top of the sugarbush. They had to cross two public roads, and lots of unfenced fields. Cheers to Anne Brown and the whole crew who managed this feat in a little over an hour without a herding dog or horses (Miranda’s pony had a minor injury and my mare still has her foal with her so they were out). It worked because our sheep flock together well, and there are a couple of old gals in there who would follow Anne to Timbuctoo, and they led the way. 

On Wednesday, we set up the sorting equipment and selected 194 ewes and ewe lambs for breeding. The goal was to make next year as easy on sheep and shepherds as possible by breeding only the best, trouble-free ewes. We checked all udders for mastitis, looked into mouths to make sure the older ewes still have functional teeth, sorted out any individuals who required any extra work this year. Best of all, we have a scale now, and it was fascinating to see weights for the first time instead of eyeballing them. Our 100% grass-fed, grass-finished lambs averaged around 100 pounds, and ranged from 62lbs for some late born twins and triplets to a whopping 140 lbs for several impressive individuals. Jane has discovered she has an innate love for creating spreadsheets (not my genes there) and is organizing all the data for us. We’ll be able to see for the first time how productive our ewes are in terms of total weight of lambs weaned, and while we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples because our lambing was so spread out last spring, it’s more information than we have ever had to work with before. I’m excited to dig into it this winter. We could sell some breeding stock this year, since we have some gorgeous, productive ewe lambs we didn’t keep for ourselves. It would be a shame to eat them. The rams are at work now, with raddle on their briskets to show their progress. We’ll be looking for lambs beginning April 26th.   

I’m making potato leek soup today, which reminds me to tell you that the leeks are all in now, thanks to a big push from the team, and the potatoes are in storage. Lots of the red potatoes have hollow heart, which comes from sudden change in the rate of growth due to stress. This growing season featured drought followed by flooding, so that’ll do it. Hollow heart is unsightly but the potatoes are fine to eat. Our butcher shop is gearing up for processing a lot of beef, pork and lamb. I’m excited for all the new cuts coming. 

Thanks as always, members, for supporting what we do. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this frosty 48th week of 2021. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on instagram at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday. 

-Kristin & Mark Kimball