Indoor Work

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Essex Farm Note

Week 5, 2016

Land leases, insurance. Inventory, contracts. Budgets, grant applications, orders, marketing. Taxes. It’s all work, but not the kind that makes you sweat. (Except maybe the taxes.) The weeks between the last of the harvesting and the first of the sugaring contain the highest percentage of the non-sweaty jobs. I think most of us who choose farming do so because we prefer the sweaty jobs. A younger farmer said to me recently, I wish I could just farm, and not have to make money from it. I understand the sentiment but we must take it all as a whole.

There was plenty of outdoor work this week, too. There was a crew cutting and splitting firewood, to use next spring for sugaring; another crew logged some timber from the woods just east of Monument Field, and took it down to Jonathon Pribble to be milled into lumber, which is now stacked in the barnyard and ready to use where needed. The seeds arrived, four big boxes, which Kirsten sorted and stored, ready for the greenhouse, which starts in a month.

Meanwhile, the dairy is running full tilt. Production is excellent, and the team has been doing a great job bedding the composting barnyard, so the cows come to their stanchions with beautifully clean teats, making milking a pleasure. The 2015 calves are growing so well! They have been getting whole milk twice a day, plus all the nice second cutting hay they can eat. Now it’s time to wean them off of the whole milk and onto to skim milk for the rest of the winter. On Monday, Ben and I had a meeting with our state veterinarian, Dr. Ellis, and our farm vet, Dr. Goldwasser, as part of the New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program (NYSCHAP) that we have been enrolled in for the last five years or so. This winter get-together is our annual chance to ask questions, review practices, and look over our cows’ health records together. This year, we set up a new vaccination protocol for calves and heifers, scheduled our annual tests for chronic diseases, and decided to cull the cows with the highest somatic cell counts in their milk, indicators of intractable mastitis. This last bit means we get to go cow shopping, which is exciting. It also means we’ll breed the largest of the 2014 heifers now, so that they’ll calve in the fall with the older cows instead of calving next spring with the rest of their cohort. Dr. Goldwasser will be back next Friday to preg check the cows, who have been with the bull, Dougie, since late November. Crossing our fingers for lots of bred cows.

The draft horses moved out to Paddock 4 this week, and I put the two ponies out with them. Little Trigger had never been turned out with the big horses before, and the first ten minutes were nerve-racking, as he led the herd around the field at a dead gallop, taking five strides for every one of the drafts’. They soon settled down, and now the big horses treat him as a member of the herd, though one who can easily walk underneath them.

There’s a dance party at the Grange next Saturday February 6th, to benefit Westport Central School’s parent-teacher-student organization. Info at wptso.com. We have a new Air B&B listing adjacent to the farm. See Essex Farm Guest House on the Air B& B site, and tell your friends! And that is the news from Essex Farm for this still-warm 5th week of 2016.                               –Kristin & Mark Kimball
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