Just In Time

Essex Farm Note

Week 14, 2015

There is nothing quite like the first day of soft weather. The children are outside without coats on and the sun feels so good nobody minds the mud. The sap buckets overflowed last night, during the first really strong run of the year – and in April, for goodness sake, when we are usually beginning to think of pulling the taps. This weather will not last long but I am thoroughly enjoying it while it does.

The ewes are dropping lambs like crazy. First twins hit the ground on Tuesday, and as of this writing we have seven on the ground and several ewes looking imminent. My clothes and hands are always blotted with something colorful these days – sheep milk, slick red afterbirth, black meconium, or the sticky orange feces that the lambs produce after they have had a good drink of colostrum. I look like a filth rainbow. Also, tired. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to check the barns for lambs and piglets, and fatigue caught up with me today. We are working out new systems and the routine isn’t simple enough yet to put on the autopilot – I’ve have to write everything down to keep a semblance of order.  Even so I had to return to the house from the barn twice this morning for forgotten supplies. After that I decided I should just put everything in a bag and attach it to myself so I can’t forget it. So far, so good.

The horses have been working hard in the sugarbush. We had a slight accident earlier in the week with Amos, one of the spotted drafts. He slipped in the mud while pulling the sap tank uphill and lost his footing. When you weigh 2000 pounds, falls are going to hurt. He got a cut on his chest and has a swollen back leg that left him lame for a day or two, but he’s in good spirits and the injuries are healing quickly. Last night I noticed he was well enough to put his head down and kick at his pasture mates with both hind hooves. I expect he’ll be ready for work again in another week or so. Today, Cub and Jake are pulling the wagon. They are brothers that we bought separately several years apart. It is so good to see them hitched together, even better to drive them. I have not yet discovered a place in the world I like better than behind a pair of good horses. They are going to be tired boys at the end of the day, as the sap wagon team will be making several trips to collect all those full buckets. On the human side, Taylor has been manning the evaporator this year, and doing a great job of it. In fact, everyone on the team is doing a great job, pulling together smoothly here at the busy cusp of spring.

Four farmers came last Sunday to help get the south greenhouse skinned with new plastic during a brief window of calm weather. Just in time. By Sunday afternoon the broccoli in the germ chamber had to come out, and the North greenhouse was stuffed full. We are really ramping up veg production this year. Hooray. Finally, I dropped the fleeces off at Michael Hampton’s mill in Vermont on Tuesday. The good news is that Michael said they were good quality and very clean; the yarn should be great for things like mittens, hats, and sweaters. The bad news is we won’t have products back for six months. But at least they will be here for fall knitting projects and holiday gifts. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this glorious 14th week of 2015.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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