Essex Farm Note
Week 39, 2016
Stevie calved this week, a little bull. As with her previous calvings, Stevie’s udder swelled to the size and texture of one of the large carving pumpkins that was harvested this week. She has to swing her hind legs out to the side and around the enormous thing when she walks, despite twice-a-day applications of cooling peppermint liniment. All that swelling causes small blood vessels to rupture inside the udder. Anne texted me from the barn during milking, alarmed that Stevie’s colostrum was not the yellow-orange she expected but instead, brick red. “Disconcerting,” I wrote back, “but not pathological.” Jenny milked the next day, and nearly fainted at the sight of all that blood. Next milking, she considered wearing a helmet just in case she went down. Stevie will be right in a few days, and it will be wonderful to have her milk in the share. If this lactation is like her others, she’ll give most of her year’s production in the first ninety days, and then taper to a trickle. That’s fine with us, since now is when we really need it. We have one more cow to calve in the next week or so, and then a bit of a break. Our first artificially inseminated heifers will calve in March.
Meanwhile, the three heifer calves are healthy and beautiful in their paddock in the covered barnyard. They are starting to mouth a little bit of hay, even though their rumens won’t be developed enough to make use of it for quite a while.
In other baby news, Charlotte has been getting ready for piglets. The first five sows are in their pens in the west barn. They are in good lean condition after their summer on pasture, and just beginning to bag up. Charlotte wants to try farrowing them in their stalls, then moving them to a community pasture when the piglets are about a week old.
The spring pigs have reached slaughter weight, so we are preparing for pork. Doesn’t that feel right, just as the weather turns crisp? These pigs were raised outside, on organic grain, pasture, cover crops and skim milk. They should taste as good as pork can taste. We will also have some Jersey beef in the share this week, and in the weeks to come. The Jersey breed doesn’t metabolize beta carotene the same way other breeds do, which is why their cream – and also their body fat – is golden instead of white. You might notice a streak of yellow-gold in the ground beef, stew beef or roasts. It doesn’t change the taste, and beta carotene is good for you.
All that space spent on animals, when some of the biggest news of the week comes from vegetables. The winter squash are in, a bumper crop, and gorgeous. The cauliflower is the best we’ve had – snow-white, sweet, delicious. I have been lacto-fermenting all sorts of things, but my favorite, so far, is the pastel-fleshed elongated Asian radish, sliced into rounds, and pickled in brine just the saltiness of seawater, with a little garlic, ginger and hot pepper. I have been eating them with every meal, and sometimes in between. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this suddenly-colorful 39th week of 2016.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball