Calf, finally

Essex Farm Note

Week 40, 2015

The long dry spell has finally broken. Not just the rain, but the milk. Kite the cow calved last night, delivering a sturdy heifer that Kirsten named Kanga. I knew a calf had arrived before Mark told me, because when he walked into the kitchen at dawn, my dog Mary got that soft eager look on her face that means she smells birth. Jane, Mary and I went to the barn after breakfast to visit the newborn. Kanga was full of colostrum and taking a profound post-partum sleep, curled into a bed of hay in the barn. Her mother is doing well, back out with the rest of the milking herd. I expect the next calves will come in quick succession; many of the cows have looked ready for the last week. I’m glad they waited for the cold rain to pass. Milk will still be tight in today’s share, as Kite will produce only colostrum for a few days, but we have reached the bottom now and the upswing should be swift.

The rain! We got 2.5”, and it fell softly, over a whole day and night, so the earth had time to drink it in. The soil was so thirsty, it absorbed an entire 2” before the drainage in the old fields began to run. (Interestingly, the drainage in the new section has never stopped running, even at the end of this near-drought. Mark thinks that means there is a spring under those fields.) The drainage helps redistribute all that water, and takes off the excess, so roots can breathe. The cover crops look incredible – green and strong with perfectly even growth. Hooray for drainage, and hooray for this rain, which should give the fall pastures a little boost. We have a lot of mediocre fall pasture stockpiled for the beef cattle, but less high-quality pasture left for the dairy cows, who will need the best nutrition we can give them as they come back into milk.

It was a fun week in the farmhouse kitchen. The girls and I made tortillas out of some ears of field corn that they picked, husked and shelled themselves. We cooked the kernels in water with slaked lime, let them soak overnight, then ground the dough with a molina, pressed the tortillas, and cooked them on a comal. It wasn’t nearly as labor intensive as it sounds, partly because the girls are experts on the tortilla press. Five ears of corn made a huge stack of tortillas, enough for as many tacos as our bellies could hold, plus corn chips the next day, and two stacks for the freezer. As I fried the chips in our own lard I wondered how many people get to eat tortilla chips made entirely from one farm, by their own hands? We must be a very small (but well-fed) minority.

We came close to frost this week, but ducked it. There are still a few tomatoes in the share. With the end of them in sight I dried two flats of the small salad tomatoes in a slow oven this week, then put them in jars with olive oil and a clove of garlic. They are delicious on sandwiches, or on pasta. (You should store them in the fridge for immediate use, or freezer for longer term storage – garlic covered with oil is a botulism risk.) Thanks to Josh and Beth for apples, and to Lewis Family Farm for grapes and apples. It is wonderful to have fall fruit in the share. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this first-frost-coming 40th week of 2015.-Kristin & Mark Kimball


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