Super Summer

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Essex Farm Note

Week 28, 2016

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We had hot, dry, weather this week, perfect for haymaking. Mark, Phil, Jon, Ben, Brandon, Taylor and Cameron worked long hours mowing, raking and baling while everyone else kept the farm running. We have 1,026 round bales of first cut made and under cover now, most of it very good quality. Then, yesterday, we got a much-needed .7” of rain, which will help coax the pastures and hayfields back to life, bring the vegetables, corn and soybeans along, and plump the summer raspberries, which are just beginning to show some color. We know good weather like this doesn’t last forever but we will enjoy it while it does.

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The milking herd is shrinking fast, but only temporarily. Our heavily pregnant cows need a few weeks of rest from making milk before their calves are born in the fall. Stevie and Kite were dried off last week, and Calliope and Cori were milked for the last time this morning. Now they go into the covered barnyard, to eat the boring dry hay and moo plaintively as the rest of the herd comes in and out at milking time. Their udders will be full and uncomfortable for a few days, and then begin to soften and shrink. We have plenty of whole milk for everyone for now, but the supply is beginning to tighten up and will continue to do so until the dry cows freshen in the fall.

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We have some ripe sungold tomatoes in the field this week and our first ripe slicing tomatoes – much earlier than most years. The winter squashes have vined and their leaves are so big and heavy they make a solid bright green canopy over the ground. The strawberry season is over, but wasn’t it a good one? Mark brought me a hatful of the last fat red berries last night, some so sweet and intensely strawberry-flavored they tasted like a parody of themselves. In animal news, the pullets are laying so well we need to stop calling them pullets and call them what they are now: hens. We bought a couple dozen organic Tamworth piglets last week to round out next year’s pork supply. I like this breed’s red coat, prick ears, and alert expression. They will join our weaned piglets on the cover crop in Newfield this coming week.

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We always tell our members when we step outside the organic standard. Last week, we had a really bad strain of pinkeye making its way through the dairy heifers and calves. Pinkeye is painful, irritating and can progress to ulcerated eyeballs and blindness. We treated mild cases with topical antibiotic eye ointment, and severe ones with an injection of long-acting antibiotic. These dairy animals are a year or two from making milk so there is no chance of any residue in our food supply, but both the ointment and the injection are disallowed under the organic standard.

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Finally, I’m leading an outdoor writing workshop to benefit Champlain Area Trails this coming Tuesday from 4pm-6pm, on the Wildway Overlook Trail. The group is limited to 15 so if you’d like to join us please sign up now via the CATS web site. This is the first in a series of participatory walks that will explore a sense of place through the arts. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this super-summer 28th week of 2016.  –Kristin & Mark Kimball

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