Warm again

Essex Farm Note

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Week 51, 2015

I realize I have led every recent farm note with a paragraph on the weather, but I’m going to excuse myself for the repetition because a) we are farmers and b) it is truly remarkable. The air temperature is 40 degrees as I type; the soil temperature is 43 degrees two inches down, 44 degrees ten inches down, and 45 degrees twenty inches down. I walked out to the new field to see the garlic this week, and found it still growing, with good strong roots now and a little bit of a shoot. The cover crops are still gaining too; from the top of the sugar bush hill they make vibrant green patches in the dull and leafless landscape. On the downside, I pulled a big fat tick off of Mary this morning. A tick! On December 18th! The forecast calls for a little freeze tonight and tomorrow night, but highs right back up in the forties. If this goes on too much longer, we’re going to get soft.

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We have a large team on the farm right now and their extra hands, plus the fine weather, have allowed us to catch up on tasks that had been shouldered to the bottom of the to-do list. We got fecal egg counts on all the draft horses, treated the horses who had a heavy worm burden, and Dr. Goldwasser came to float their teeth. He was speedy and efficient, as always, and made dental work on 2,000 lb patients look fairly effortless. We were surprised to find that Jack, our ribby senior draft, did not have any major problems with his teeth, nor with worms. He is in his mid- to late twenties now, and has been thin since summer. In the field, Kirsten and her crew hand-weeded all the strawberries, and pruned the summer raspberry canes back from an unruly state to something more artful and productive. Taylor and Scott hitched Jake and Abby to mow down the asparagus fronds and the fall raspberry canes. Today, they will hook to the manure spreader to put a heavy load of bark mulch over the asparagus, rhubarb and raspberries. That should help keep the annual weeds down, and make the perennial weeds a little easier to pull. With two weeks left in 2015, we have hitched the horses 132 times.

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The two young rams we bought from Betsy Hodge in Canton have been hard at work. We were a little nervous that they were too small to breed our big ewes, but as usual, they managed to figured it out. Matt and Jon caught them and switched from red raddle to green raddle on their chests last week, and only four girls turned up with green butts. They were all first year ewes, the smallest of the bunch, so I am betting the rest of the flock is covered. We have some lamb in the share today, a holiday treat, thanks to Megan, Matt, Scott, Connor and Sam, who got a lot of butchering done. Our Amish friends came for two nights this week and we sent them home with the lamb skins, which they will cure and use to keep the seats warm on their buggies and implements. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this warm winter solstice 51st week of 2015. Happy holidays, everyone. -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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It’s getting very colorful in the sheep flock.

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It took us a while to figure out that this UFO looking thing is the rain gauge on the new weather station.

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