Week 21, 2020｜Kristin Kimball ｜May 22, 2020
Forgive the break in farm news, all. I’ve been in the lambing vortex for the last couple weeks, while also pushing through renovations on the upstairs of our house, and getting word out about paperback publication of Good Husbandry. We’ve made great progress on all fronts, I’m happy to say, but a few things fell through the cracks.
We have 180 lambs on the ground now, with the end of the first three-week breeding period fast approaching. We had a rocky start, with a series of stillborn lambs, persistent prolapses, and big lambs stuck in small ewes. I gained a lot of experience fixing bad presentations. But just when I was thinking we were in for a very stressful lambing season, everything straightened out, and we have had a smooth if lively time of it. I forget, every year, that most problems come at the very beginning and the very end of lambing. The middle of the curve is a lot of normal, and that’s where we were this week, with lambs hitting the ground without complications, ready to pop up and start nursing.
With the grass so good, and hay in short supply, we are experimenting with lambing some of our experienced ewes on pasture rather than in the barn. I’m glad we didn’t go all in with that change because I’m finding that pasture lambing offers us a lot of challenges, primarily mis-mothering. Yesterday, we had five newborn lambs, only two mothers I could locate, and everyone all mixed up about who belonged to whom. We tried to sort them out but this morning one of them was starving, with no mother claiming him, and he had to be brought up to the barnyard for fostering. I suspect our stocking density is too high, which is great for grazing quality and for the pastures, but too chaotic and confusing for newborns and their mothers. We have gotten so good at lambing in the barn because we have honed our systems there as the flock has grown. I am sure we can dial in pasture lambing too but apparently not without a learning curve.
Meanwhile, the rest of the farm is just as busy as the lambing barn. The new greenhouse is fully functional now, with an overhead irrigation system. In the field, so much planting has happened these last two weeks, I don’t have room to list it all. Trust me when I say the plants are in the ground and growing like mad. The big news is the tomatoes are going from the greenhouse to the field today. There are big beefy slicers, weird heirlooms, paste tomatoes, and all sorts of cherry tomatoes, and they all look terrific. Isabelle Smith, who is back here with us after graduating from college (huge cheer for that!), led the asparagus harvest this morning. The asparagus is finally producing heavily, after coming back from a late killing frost. The girls and I had pasta with asparagus and cream sauce for dinner last night, and I know Beth is preparing a ham and asparagus quiche for team lunch. On my morning farm walk today, I noticed the strawberries are in bloom. Can’t wait for the first berries.
The new flock of certified organic laying pullets arrived this morning, and got their wing feathers trimmed before hitting the pasture. They should start laying very soon. We got a new boar, Lardo Calrissian. He joins Ham Solo in fathering the fall litters of piglets. And I got three dog-broke sheep to use while training Quill in the art of herding. More on that as we make progress!
The paperback edition of Good Husbandry is out now, available wherever books are sold, and will be in the farm store as soon as I get some copies. Since all live publicity events are cancelled I’ve been connecting with readers virtually, which is not the same but much better than not connecting at all. Mark and I did two fun Instagram Live talks this week, for Food52 and for my publisher, Scribner, and I met with some book clubs via Zoom. I’m happy to do more events like this and would be grateful for your help in spreading the word.
We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy as we begin loosening the lockdown a bit here in the north country. The guidelines at the farm remain the same. Local members, you know the drill. Please come at your designated pickup time, send only one member of your household (leaving kids at home), wash your hands and wear a mask. The farm store is stocked and open but the rest of the farm is closed to visitors for the time being. We have seasonal shares and full year shares available, both locally and delivered.
And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this very summerish 21st week of 2020. Please send get-well wishes to one of our long time farmers, Brandon Jaquish, who had a bad accident with his son on a four wheeler a couple weeks ago. He’s healing, and Brody is totally fine thanks to his dad’s quick reflexes. Happy Memorial Day weekend to everyone! Leave us a message in the office at 518-963-4613, text or call Mark’s cell at 518-570-6399, email us at email@example.com, or find us on the web and Insta where we post as essexfarmcsa, farmerkimall, and kristinxkimball.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball