Week 3, 2021|Kristin Kimball |January 23, 2021

How could the new year be three weeks old already, with no farm note to mark what has happened? Sometimes it feels like we live in a constant stream of stories here, and if I stop catching them, they zip past and get lost. Fear not, there are always more coming. This week, the big news is the cold. Until now it has been unusually mild. Now we’re back to normal, with lows around zero, and a stiff wind. I read a study once that said wind is more of a challenge to the comfort of horses than deep cold or rain, and their behavior confirms it. The sun is strong today, and they will find a place in the lee of the wind to catch those warm rays broadside on their fur. They also eat more to fuel their internal furnaces. Last night, when we checked them, they had what would normally be a couple day’s worth of hay left in their feeder. This morning, it was entirely empty and they are at work on a fresh bale now. As long as they have plenty of feed they do better outside than in the barn, and I think they are more content this time of year than they are in the summer, when the flies are a nuisance and the sun is strong. 

Or maybe I’m projecting. I love being out in these cold clear sunny days. I spent today in the field trying to figure out a new situation for Captain, our adult livestock guardian dog. He began jumping out of the sheep fence last fall and turning up at the barn, which is not a great way to protect the flock. It’s impossible to be mad at him, because he’s a thoroughly affable guy. For the last few weeks he has been in the East Barn with Jane’s goats, the Great Pyrenees pups and the mini flock of sheep that we are using to train the pups. These are steady older ewes that I intend to keep in the flock for a long time. The theory is that Captain and the pups will bond with these individuals and be more likely to stay with them despite the temptation to patrol all the way to the horizon. Captain is helping with training too, penned with Artemis, the female. He gives her daily lessons on not being too bouncy or rough with the sheep. Jane says he reminds her of a character in a movie that is expert at his job and very grouchy that he has to train up the annoying young whippersnapper, but then it turns into a buddy movie and they become best friends. 

I know 2020 was a lot of big things but here at the farm we have dubbed it the Year of the Errant Testicle. As I’ve written already, the majority of the ewe flock was bred by a ram lamb that I mistakenly marked as a ewe at birth. He went to work as soon as he was mature enough and the ewes started to cycle. I’m going to bet we will start seeing lambs on Valentine’s Day. As if that were not enough, we are calving right now in our beef herd, thanks to a scrubby little bull who came as a freebie on a load of feeder cattle. We have seven calves on the ground now. There really is no worse time of year to have babies coming, and yet most of them are managing alright. Pretty amazing that a calf can emerge from a 100 degree womb soaking wet into a winter world and make it. We’ve already dubbed 2021 the Year of Gonad Triple Checks. 

I spent too much time with the news this month, but in doing so ran across some stories that you all might be interested in. There’s this one from the Washington Post, about the complexities of subsidizing environmentally friendly farm practices, this one on Bill Gates becoming the largest owner of farmland in America, and this from the NYT on why eating whole food leads to better health. (Hint: it’s the microbes again.) 

I am sending a huge wave of thanks to the 2021 members both new and returning who are supporting the farm so beautifully. I can’t imagine a better life than growing food for you all. Please help us keep the farm’s economy healthy by connecting us with new members. Mark is always happy to talk with prospective members and give them all the details and he can be reached by phone or text at 518-570-6399. A second welling of gratitude goes to our farm team this week. We have some farmers departing for other worthy work and a big bunch that is staying on for the 2021 season and we are so thankful to both groups. We are lucky to be walking into a new year with some seasoned, smart, hardworking, and entertaining agrarian lunatics. 

We’re looking for a used gas kitchen stove for the farm office, if anyone has one that needs a new home. And speaking of spreading good things around, we have been talking at our house about how to help people who are struggling with stress these days, economic and otherwise, due to the COVID winter. We want to encourage our members to take extra food to cook for friends and neighbors who might be experiencing food insecurity or isolation. Food is a warm hug when warm hugs aren’t safe. 

And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this bright cold 3rd week of 2021. Find us on Instagram at essexfarmcsa, kristinxkimball, and farmerkimball, or on the farm at essexfarm@gmail.com or 518-963-4613. 

-Kristin & Mark Kimball