Bluebird Blue

Essex Farm Note

Week 12, 2016

Reber Rock Farm is recovering from their barn fire. Last Wednesday, the Essex Farm crew joined Racey, Nathan, Gwen and Chad for an afternoon of cleanup. It was the first pass over the ruins, and the goal was to separate what could be saved from what must be thrown away. At first glance, it seemed like more appropriate categories would be what must be thrown away, and what was vaporized. But close up, under ashes, it was fascinating to see what had come through intact: a box of files; a heap of nails with their bucket melted away; gears to something, still arranged in logical order but without the casing that would have made their function clear. Hay burns slowly and there was a pile of it left, perfectly insulating the ground underneath it. Grain burns slowly too but only a remnant remained, toasted black. Along the barn’s perimeter there were exploded carcasses of some summarily evicted rats. But Piggles the livestock guardian dog, who was injured in the fire, is making a good comeback, with a new look, which Racey describes as toasted marshmallow, his thick, white fur singed down to a minimal dun-colored covering. There is a gofundme page if you would like to help out. The barn and its contents were insured, but a setback like this, so early in the life of a new farm and a young family, is still very difficult to handle. All the energy that should be going toward spring planting, toward short and long term planning, must be diverted to emergency mitigation. These are resilient people, and they will come back stronger than ever, but they could use a collective hand. www.gofundme.com/reberrockfarm

The bluebirds are back, scouting spring accommodations. Is there any color as optimistic as the flash of bluebird blue against a dull and muddy landscape? Oh, mud. The barnyard is so thick in it, it could swallow a tractor. All horses are in the metal barn with the beef cattle, to try to minimize damage to the pasture. The greenhouse is filling up quickly now. Taylor has been busy at the evaporator, feeding it a steady diet of wood. The forecast looks promising for another good run of sap this week.

The ewes will be sheared on Thursday, and are due to start lambing in a month. One of them aborted a couple weeks ago. Jon noticed her bloody behind at chores, and found the fetus on the ground. I peeled back the frozen caul to look. It was about a hundred days along, its naked pink head the size of a golf ball, its hooves perfect miniatures. An abortion in the flock raises fears that others might follow, which can happen if it was caused by a contagious disease. The worst case scenario is a so-called abortion storm, when most or all of the ewes lose their fetuses in quick succession. So far, everyone else is fine. A single loss could be due to just about anything, and is nothing to worry about. Which is a good reminder not to dwell on worst-case scenarios.

Today is Scott Hoffman’s last day. He and Aubrey are taking over a grass-fed raw milk dairy with a farmstand and delivery service, just across the lake in Hinesburg, Vermont. Check them out here: www.familycowfarmstand.com. Thank you, Scott, for your good work. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this bluebird 12th week of 2016. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                                -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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