Week 3, 2019 | Kristin Kimball | Jan 20, 2019

Snow coming this weekend, followed by deep cold. The bird feeder at the house is crazy with cardinals, jays and chickadees today. Maybe they know heavy weather is on the way. As I drove to the hardware store with Mark this afternoon, to pick up parts to repair the plow truck, he said, “I think we are pretty close to being prepared for winter.” Which is to say, it’s probably about time to start preparing for spring. Indeed, I’m clearing off a table in the house right now to make room for all our bins of seeds, which need to be weighed, inventoried, and tested for germination this week – a fine job for a couple of snow-bound kids on a holiday weekend, don’t you think? After that, we’ll crack open the seed catalogues and place our order. If you have an item you dream of seeing in the share let us know and if we can swing it we’ll include it.

I had my annual dairy herd health meeting with our veterinarian, Dr. Goldwasser, plus the state vet, Dr. Ellis, this week. We enrolled in the NY State cattle health program in 2010, after we bought in a Jersey cow with Johne’s disease. I’m happy to report that this is the third year in a row that our dairy cows each tested negative for Johne’s. We all worked very hard to get to this place, as it is a very tricky-to-control (and very common) disease. We culled all our positive cows, and implemented strict management practices to reduce transmission. This doesn’t mean Johne’s won’t crop up again at some point but for the moment we are allowing ourselves to celebrate. It’s always good to have a check-in with these two doctors anyway. We go over vaccination protocols, milking protocols, and talk about any new diseases that are showing up in the region. This time they also gave me some good pointers on my artificial insemination technique. Speaking of which, I’m making my way back on top of our dairy herd heat and breeding records this week. Things got a little loosey-goosey while I was finishing my manuscript, and with 22 cows in the barn, we definitely missed a few heats. But AI is getting a little easier for me with each breeding. I think I finally settled my first cow – good old Fanny! She’s ten years old and has a cervix you could drive a small train through so no huge points for me there, but still, the cows are happy that I seem to be getting a little better.

It’s the quiet time of year now, and we are a small crew. Chris McConnell is taking the winter to work on his house renovation. He’s still milking on Saturdays, and will be back in March for the growing season, but the farm seems very different without him. We said goodbye to Tara Swadley earlier this month. We will all miss her and hope to see her back here in the spring, too. Scott Hoffman has returned to his dairy in Vermont now. We have little hope of getting him back again but it was absolutely fantastic to have him here while we could. We did get fresh reinforcements this week in the form of two students from Swarthmore, Chelsea and Zach, who jumped right in on animal chores with Anne and Charlie. And we got the Yoder sisters, Rachel and Lizzie, who have started training as a regular milking team. They also worked with Jonas to build 15 acres of high tensile fence this week – and that is awfully cold-fingered work when the temperatures are in the single digits, so I think they probably have what it takes. Thanks to all the farmers for a great week, and thanks as always to our members for making our farm world spin. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this wintery 3rd week of 2019. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web and insta at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball