Week 21, 2021|Kristin Kimball |May 29, 2021

After that little spring heat wave it got cold again. We narrowly missed a late frost this week, saved by a stiff wind that kept the night air moving. We have to be patient with the plants when the weather is like this. The greens have slowed down, the asparagus is on hiatus. All the plants got a bit stressed by the huge shift in weather, which made them more susceptible to pests like flea beetles. We find ourselves in a little gap now with no lettuce to harvest. But trust the sun and the health of the soil and know that more is coming soon. Meanwhile, the milk is the best of the year, because the cows are grazing the last of the spring flush of grass. I can’t help but linger when I walk past the herd these days. Their delight in the comfortable weather and abundant delectable grass is like a halo around them right now, nearly visible.
When I got word on Friday that the last ewe had lambed I did a little victory dance by myself in the kitchen. We might see just a few more lambs — 9 at the most — in July. We got 290 lambs from 200 ewes, so that gives us about a 145% lamb crop, which is a happy place for this low-input flock, especially in a year when the flush (increasing nutrition) didn’t coincide with breeding time (due to the errant ram). If we remove the yearlings, who tend to have singles, the percentage would be higher. Even though it was the longest lambing season of all time, it was also the smoothest. We had very few losses or complications. The ewes, even the first timers, showed terrific mothering instinct, and we had zero orphan lambs to raise by hand. This is a huge victory! The few lambs that needed new mothers were successfully grafted to other ewes. It was a whole team effort. Huge thanks to the crew for all their time, skill, care, and patience with me. Now Anne and the animal team focus on raising these beautiful babies, moving the flock of 500 to fresh pasture every day. We have two livestock guardian dogs with the flock: Captain the veteran and young Apollo the guard in training, who is now 10 months old and doing great. Apollo’s sister Artemis is hanging with Jane’s goats until she gets spayed (or Apollo gets neutered), and she seems to like this arrangement a lot. Lilly D’s good dog Sven is keeping the pullets safe and as soon as Stella recovers from the ruptured tendon she got from battling an owl, she’ll be back on duty too.
Has anyone else noticed a massive increase in dog (wood) ticks this year? Like, a hundredfold? I used to find one or two per season but right now it’s a daily thing. I am glad they aren’t deer ticks because they are unlikely to carry lyme disease, but still, yuck. And why?
Everyone is focused on hay making today. Yesterday was a great day, with 140 good bales brought in. We hope to have a big load coming in ahead of this afternoon’s rain. It has been a nail biter! Mark saw a ten day window of good weather and asked Brandon to cut a massive amount. Then the forecast shifted, and we’re in a race against the rain that is supposed to come this afternoon. Most of the week, Mark has been working on building six strand high tensile fence, and got all of Fireman’s Field done just as the sheep flock moved into it. It’s amazing to have hot perimeter fence. Huge thanks to Chris McConnell who contributed his time and effort to make this happen.
That’s the news from Essex Farm for this chilly but not chill 21st week of 2021. Happy birthday to Sofie our youngest milker who turns 15 today! Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball, essexfarmcsa and farmerkimball or on the farm, any day but Sunday.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball