Week 33, 2020|Kristin Kimball |August 14, 2020

Rain, at last. 2.9 inches, gracias a Isaias. It reminded me of that magic trick where you pour a glass of milk into a cone made of newspaper and it all disappears without a drip. The next morning, there were no puddles, no mud, but the soil moisture two inches below the surface had doubled. The small pond behind the house, which had shrunk to a shallow green cauldron of hot frogs, was full again. A hallelujah chorus of croaking woke me up. During the heart of the storm Mark and Jane took the last ferry to Vermont and back for the fun of it, with the ferry pitching wildly and water coming over the deck. Then when it was over, it was over. Mark says that by bedtime from his tent site in Essex Field the sky was clear and he could see stars directly overhead but the rain was still hitting him, blown horizontally from the north. In the wake of it we have had a change of air, a change of fortune. The grass is growing again and the vegetables got a good drink and we will get a second grazing from most of our fields, and might even get some second cut hay. We’ll take it.

My last three and a half weeks have been mostly taken up with caring for Miranda, who, it turns out, had mono. It hit her really hard and hung on. She’s on the mend now, and just needs to put on a few pounds and rest a lot to regain her strength and energy. Meanwhile Jane has acquired two dairy goats from Echo Farm. She’s been busy, corralling the impish goats, milking twice a day, and learning to make cheese with Barbara Kunzi. Say hi to Violet and Nova, who are currently pastured in the hedgerow east of the driveway.

You know that saying, sick sheep seldom survive? I’m changing it to sick sheep sometimes survive. We had a ewe that was lagging at the back of the flock one day last week, and then by the next day, when I moved the flock, she hung back in the old paddock, calling and listening, calling and listening, then moving tentatively toward the sound of the flock. She had gone blind. Also her head was tilted at a funny angle and her eyes were twitching back and forth. All this pointed toward polioencephalomalacia. This has nothing to do with human viral polio, but is caused by thiamine depletion. Thiamine is necessary for glucose metabolism and brains need glucose. No thiamine, and weird brain stuff starts to happen and it all goes downhill from there. Normally, a sheep’s thiamine is produced by bacteria in the rumen, so the root cause in this case was probably the abrupt change in feed when they moved from the lush oat pea forage to dry pasture, which disrupted her rumen. In any case, it’s one of the few sheep problems I’ve run across that has a neat, complete solution. She got a week’s worth of thiamine injections and by the end of the week was doing so well we couldn’t catch her.

I’m making a North Country team dinner tonight: new potato salad, Michigans, iceburg lettuce wedges, and cold beer. I’m looking forward to eating on the lawn with all the farmers, who are dusty and tired and sunkissed and yet still mostly smiling at the end of a good long week, near the end of a good long season. My kitchen game has generally been geared to easy recently. On the hot days, when I didn’t want to turn on a burner, I plugged the instant pot into an outlet outside to make spicy pulled pork which we ate over shredded cabbage and topped with kimchi, or put on tacos with fresh tomato salsa. I’m almost but not quite looking forward to frost, which we could see in just four short weeks.

We are getting close to having what we need for the winter hay supply. Thanks so much to the Edgely family in Vermontville for reaching out to let us know they had hay available. We have 300 bales coming from their farm, which was formerly in potatoes.  Members, you know we always let you know when we go outside the organic standard, and this field had some conventional fertilizer applied to it, no insecticide or fungicide. We feel good about it, especially on a year when feed is so scarce, but if you want to know more, please get in touch.

As usual, we have weeding opportunities available for anyone who wants to spend an hour or two or twelve with us. I generally hate weeding but there’s a certain kind of weeding I like, and we have a lot of it now: not too many weeds and all really nice and big, so that the end of the row gives the same satisfied feeling as vacuuming a very dirty floor. If this sounds appealing come on over.

And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this quenched 33rd week of 2020. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Insta at essexfarmcsakristinxkimball and farmerkimall, or on the farm from a distance any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball