Week 22, 2022|Kristin Kimball|June 4, 2022

June has arrived, and with it comes the peak of the light, the pinnacle of the farm year. It seems the sun shines all the time in June. What’s this thing you call sleep? I’ll let you know in December. Mark gave me the field report before he buzzed out of the house this morning, still stuck in ludicrous mode. Big news is that it’s dry out there. We’ve been in a rain shadow this spring, and while places to the north and south of us have had copious amounts of rain, we’re seeing near-drought conditions right now. It has been good for making hay, and no worries for early planted crops, which had time to root while there was still moisture in the topsoil, but some of the later planted crops, like the summer carrots, germinated and then literally dried up and blew away. Oh well. We put them in on the early side, so we will replant, and hope that some of the storms catch us soon for a good soaking. We got a half inch yesterday, and that helps. Meanwhile, gather your shortbread recipes and get the cream ready to whip. The strawberries are coming. The Early Glow variety is in white berry stage now which means we should have ripe berries in about 2 weeks. And the lettuce! It has been so good and it’s plentiful. Mark and Scott Hoffman have been busy making very good hay. It’s terrific to have a significant amount of hay made by the first week in June. The stack of bales in the barn is slowly replacing the row of lambing jugs, as the last group of lambs and ewes went to the field today. Instead of newborn lambs, we now have newborn piglets. Five of the sows had their litters this week. I lost count of the total but I think it’s around fifty. 

There is a severe shortage of broiler chicks this year. Our regular Cornish Cross day-old chick supplier was not able to fill our orders. Apparently, it was a double whammy: covid related staffing problems in the breeding houses, and then tornadoes in the south that took out some of the producers that supply fertile eggs to the hatcheries here in the northeast. We were able to get one order of 250 chicks, and they are in the brooder now. After this batch we will be trying a different breed of meat chicken, a slow grower called the Freedom Ranger. We’ve been tempted to give them a try in the past – they are less finicky to raise than the Cornish Cross, and are supposed to be better foragers – and now our hand has been forced, so we get to see how we like them. They have less breast and thigh meat but many think the flavor makes up for it. 

As an old farmer told me when we were first starting out, if you have livestock, you will have deadstock, and after a long stretch of very good outcomes, the tide turned on us this week. Miranda was nursing two adorable runt piglets, and neither of them made it, despite her excellent care. We lost a Jersey calf to a navel infection. We were treating it, and thought she was in the clear, and then she died very suddenly. We lost a fat, healthy-looking two week old lamb too, for no discernable reason. That isn’t unexpected among 304 lambs but it’s no fun. Today I’m going to get a ewe and her lambs back from the field. She has bluebag – a particularly nasty form of mastitis – and I’ll have her in the barn for intensive treatment. See what I get for bragging about my husbandry skills a few weeks ago? I take it back! Welcome to Annie and Casey who are joining us for the summer. We are so glad they are here. And thanks to the whole team for hard work in this season of light. I am amazed at what happens out there every single day, and so grateful for the food your work creates. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this bright 22nd week of 2022. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball