Calves, Frost

Essex Farm Note

Week 41, 2015

It doesn’t get much better than this at harvest time. Soft warm days, cool nights, some color in the trees, and the dairy calves coming steadily, easily, almost one per day. Three heifers calved during the day this week, instead of the typical midnight-to-dawn shift. Daytime calves make management a little bit easier, but the best part is that if we’re lucky, we get to witness the event. Cori went into labor on Wednesday morning. She took her time through the early part, pacing the field, hormones rushing, occasionally pausing to lick me from my zipper to my chin as I sat on a fallen cedar tree and watched. Cori was a first-timer, and she mooed with alarm at the tide rising inside of her, this strange force beyond her control.

Lindsey joined me in the field, and when Cori lay down for the last strenuous part we both felt a strong desire to help, though of course, the best help in an uncomplicated calving is to give the cow her space. Cori mustered one last mighty push and when she had recovered her breath and looked behind her she gave a startled MOO! then immediately jumped to her feet to lick the biggest surprise of her life. She licked so vigorously and insistently the stunned wet calf flipped and rolled and flipped and rolled, traveling a few yards down the field, which is how Lindsey and I got a glimpse of her undercarriage, and discovered she was a heifer, the most precious of farm babies. Lindsey and I had naming rights, for having seen her first. We solicited suggestions for C names, and got Coco, Cookie, Cher, and Caroline, but Miranda’s contribution – Crayfish – won. Crayfish has sweet white spots on reddish-brown fur, and she has joined Kanga (Kite’s daughter) and Brooklyn (Beatrix’s daughter) in the nursery section of the west barn. Members, you are welcome to go visit them, but please don’t get too close to the rail, and don’t go in with them; for biosecurity reasons, we must keep the newborns away from any traces of adult bovine manure. While you are in there, check out the nice new litter of ten piglets across the aisle. They were born yesterday.

For the last several years, first frost has come at the beginning of October, so the one we got this week arrived right on time. It froze hard enough to skim the water tanks in Long Pasture with ice, and to take the last tomatoes, but not quite hard enough to finish off the eggplants or the peppers. I collected an armload of cilantro for processing, because it won’t be long now before it is gone.

The team spent a sunny afternoon at Lewis Farm, picking apples and grapes. I feel so rich in fruit this fall. Thanks, Lewis Farm. I have a dozen jars of applesauce in the pantry and seven jars of concord grape jam. Applesauce is a good project for beginning canners and the canning averse (like me) because it’s hard to screw up and you get a lot of healthy appealing food for the time invested.

This week’s collective attaboy goes to Scott, Ben, Brandon and Ed for keeping the old manure spreader alive until the whole pile of 2-year-old compost was distributed across Fireman Field and the newly drained field. It was a heroic (and frustrating) effort. Finally, please join us for our farm tour tomorrow at 10. See the events page for details.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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