Here Comes the End

Essex Farm Note

Week 49, 2013

Calving has begun in earnest. The barn is so full of hormones I get a contact high every time I walk in there. Last Sunday at milking, Posy had that blimpy look that means it’s almost show time. It was an awfully cold day to be born. During chores, the sharp wind picked up the scant hard snow and spun it into devils in the field. At lunchtime, I went out to the barn to see what was happening. Posy was by herself, lying down, standing up, pacing, stopping now and then for a mouthful of hay. This was her first calf and her udder was so tight it looked almost translucent. Posy was a beautiful heifer, shaped like a fat triangle, and glorious in her ripeness. I left her alone for twenty minutes, and when I went back, she was lying down, with two small calf feet sticking out of her vulva, wrapped in the white caul. Kelsie had arrived, and was sitting in the hay, watching quietly, and I joined her. The feet advanced, then retreated, in nature’s maddening way. Posy stood, pawed and sniffed the straw where the birth fluids had spilled. Then she lay down and did not get up again. Her neck stretched out with effort. Her mouth opened, and her pointed tongue curled up to touch the roof of her mouth. She was no longer with us, but far away inside the mystery of birth. She let out a deep moan. The feet advanced and did not retreat. The calf was a strange, perfect package, wet and compact. There was the head, tucked between the knees. Another tremendous push, the cow open mouthed and panting, and the shoulders were born. Then a slight rest, panting, and one more effort, and the calf slid out, whole, separate and free. The cow lay unmoving, panting, panting, her tongue still pointed to the roof of her mouth. The package steamed, then wriggled and unfolded, blooming into a calf. It bleated. The cow’s awareness returned and it dawned on her that there was another being on the straw behind her. An ancient piece of knowledge snapped into place. She mooed, then stood, and the cord between them snapped. Then she turned and with surety and purpose, began to lick her baby. She licked vigorously, like that calf was the most delicious thing she’d ever tasted, like she wanted to imbibe her. It was a heifer, and Kelsie named her Penny. Members, you can meet her in the west barn.

Now the quick news. Firewood is available for members, limit 50 pieces per household this year. Christmas trees are available for members now too. You can cut your own anytime (ask for directions), or sign up today and we will cut one for you for next Friday. These are imperfect trees, mind you. Last year ours fit perfectly in a corner with just enough branches to hang our ornaments on.

The new year is fast approaching. Members can pick up the 2014 contract this week. NOTE: If you are applying for the sliding scale the applications are due next Friday, December 13th. The committee meets the morning of Tuesday the 17th; applications that are not in hand at that time cannot be considered.

Tell your friends and family, Essex Farm gift certificates are available in the office and can be used toward a share or at the farm stand. Finally, December 7th is Christmas in Essex Day. Santa & Mrs. arrive at the traffic light at 9:15, vendors open 9:30-3pm. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this earnest 49th week of 2013. Find us at 963-4613,, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball