White Becomes Brown

Essex Farm Note

Week 11, 2015

We were away for three days this week, speaking about farm ethics from a farmer’s perspective at Hamilton College. Mark created a big show, juggling eggs on top of a 14 foot step ladder, starting a moderately out-of-control gas fire on stage, and arranging for a live Brown Swiss calf to make a surprise appearance. (Thanks to Matt and Gillian at Greyrock Farm in Cazenovia for that.) We did cover some serious ideas too, mostly about the tricky balance we must try to strike among the three parts of sustainability: environmental, economic, social. Hamilton College is creating a residential Adirondack Semester for 3rd and 4th year students this fall, and we are looking forward to having close ties with them.

We always get nervous leaving the farm because the farm knows when we are gone, and punishes us. But this time, the team kept everything running smoothly, and moved forward in great leaps. Kirsten and her crew seeded 10,000 leeks and 40,000 onions, plus a few thousand herbs. The germination chamber is stuffed. Meanwhile, Mike and his crew collected the first run of sap in the sugarbush. It was only 150 gallons, but it was great to work though the system once with a small load, in order to flush out the weak spots. The only difficulties this week were injuries – the human kind. Amy sprang her back out of order while doing the NYC delivery on Wednesday, Megan sliced her finger badly in the butcher shop, to match the finger she got stitched up last week, and then Mark, upon returning home from Hamilton, pulled his own back as far out of order as Amy did. Amy is on vacation now, Megan is wrapped up in bandages, and Mark is taking it easy, or at least what passes for easy when it comes to Mark.

It was shearing day here yesterday. Roger Hastings came down from St. Lawrence County to shear the 31 ewes, who are due to start lambing in 3 weeks. Shearing involves a lot of bending over at the waist to use a heavy tool while controlling a sometimes uncooperative 150 pound animal. Mark and I tried it ourselves once. It took us an hour to do one ewe, she looked like she had been through a blender afterward, and my back was killing me. Now I call the professionals in. Roger is in his late 60s and has been shearing for twenty years. When I asked him how he keeps his back healthy he said he simply does ten sit ups a day. (I passed that information along to Mark as he hobbled past.) Now that the wool is off, the ewes are in the barn for warmth. I am so pleased at how they have wintered on that good second cut hay.

We welcomed Joseph Blackwood to the team this week. He spent last summer as a surfing instructor. I think that job must have trained him well as far as agility is concerned. I’m told that he was helping load the heifers into the trailer for a move this week when some of them broke toward him in the chute. He cleared a five foot cattle panel in one vertical leap to get out of the way.

And that is the news from Essex Farm for this white-becomes-brown 11th week of 2015.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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