Essex Farm Note
Week 18, 2016
Budbreak this week on the apples, red maples, the lindens. First weeding. Lots of seeding. And snow. White on the lilacs and on the bright green grass, between the furrows of turned earth. It snowed and kept snowing, and there are still piles of it in the shadows of the barns and the round bales. I was concerned about the newborn lambs, but they hunkered down next to their mamas, on piles of hay, and in the farrowing huts we took to the field for them, and kept themselves out of the cold north wind. The ewes who lambed this week were smart enough to do it in the snug dry barn. (Don’t let anyone tell you sheep are stupid.) The plants didn’t mind the cold snap, either. The snow was a blanket for the transplants, as the nighttime lows dipped into the low twenties. Onion snow, they call it, or, the poor man’s fertilizer. All the plants look good, and so far, no deer damage. Mark is still sleeping in the field every couple of nights, and Kirsten is going to bait the hot line with some apple scent, so the deer get a good shock and learn to stay away. The horses are out on pasture now, and so are the chickens, and Mark is putting a fence around the fall-planted rye as I type. The dairy cows are going out tomorrow for a few hours of fresh green grass.
Piper the gilt had her litter this week, a dozen small but lively black and white piglets, all alive and thriving. It was so good to see a large healthy litter after all our farrowing troubles earlier this month. Piper is a good mother, lying down carefully so as not to crush her pigs, and positioning herself just so, so that both rows of her teats are exposed for nursing. She has 16 functional teats, which is awesome. One of the big sows, Lolita, farrowed yesterday, and is nursing eight. The piglets in these litters are more uniform and much smaller than those born earlier. Still not sure what was wrong or what helped turn things around. Cornell came back with the final results on the piglet they necropsied (who died, conclusively, of a heart defect) and he was negative for all pathogens they can test for.
News from the lambing barn is mostly good. We have about 40 lambs on the ground, all happy and healthy. The firstborn lambs are in that ridiculously cute phase where they gang together away from their mothers and stot and prance all over the pasture. The small ewe with the giant lamb had a prolapse today, so she’s wearing a bright red prolapse harness, which will hopefully keep everything in place. Her lamb is thriving. A couple of the older ewes came in with humongous teats and udders, which their lambs had a hard time nursing. They got some special attention – milking out the mothers, bottle feeding the lambs until the size of things became more reasonable — but otherwise, it’s been a very easy lambing so far, relatively speaking. We have 14 ewes left to go, and much as I love this work, I’ll be glad when it’s over and I can get some more sleep. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this hurry hurry hustle crash 18th week of 2016. -Kristin & Mark Kimball