Essex Farm Note
Week 7, 2015
I thought I was finished writing about Pancake, but he’s back in the news today. He got a dramatic hematoma on his ear a couple weeks ago, probably bitten by another pig. Sometimes hematomas go away if you just leave them alone, but he looked uncomfortable, and it wasn’t getting better. Luckily, we have Dr. Ed here three mornings a week. He is a man of many skills: a very handy shop mechanic, and also, veterinarian emeritus. He studied the problem and then took Pancake back to the greenhouse to drain the ear. Pancake now has his head wrapped in bandages that make him look like a porcine Civil War veteran. Mary and I made a get-well visit yesterday. Surgery has not dimmed Pancake’s appetite nor his friendliness.
We brought Jake and Abby up from pasture this week and hitched to the wagon for a ride around the farm, with the entire crew (13 strong this week!) on board. I love watching new farmers encounter the draft horses for the first time. It reminds me of the first time I drove a team, and the amazement I felt at holding so much living power in the palms of my hands. Mark and I have been talking often this winter about how best to use the horses so that they are relevant, affordable, and safe. One idea is to use more large hitches of horses (4, 6 or 8 horses) with bigger machinery. The problem with that strategy is that learning how to drive a large hitch safely takes a good deal of training; most of our farmers are here for two or three seasons, so there is the rub.
Another tactic is to embrace the idea of a dual power farm, use the tractors for the work that is most time-sensitive or difficult with horses, and use horses for everything else. That is more or less where we have been for the last couple of seasons. We use tractors for baling and a lot of the plowing. We use horses for some secondary tillage, raking and tedding, and for all of the cultivating. That is where we are, but we are eager to move closer to where we want to be. Our goal is still fossil fuel free farming, and we were dismayed to see how much diesel we used for the skid steer this year. It is a seductive machine! We use it for everything from clearing snow to feeding hay.
Speaking of hay, we bought eight used J&L hay feeders from Lewis Family Farm last week.
They are sturdy and super efficient. We have three in with the beef herd, one with the horses, and two with the dairy cows. They are cleverly designed to minimize wasted hay, which, in our previous systems, accounted for 10% to 25% of what we fed out. We had to modify them to accommodate the long Highland horns, but even in one week we have seen a big reduction in hay usage, so they should quickly pay for themselves. Hooray for that. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this I-Heart-Essex 7th week of 2015.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball