Essex Farm Note
Week 15, 2016
The poor little peepers got refrozen into their pond this week. Good thing we haven’t taken the snow tires off yet, nor cleared the hall closet of mittens and parkas. Mark and the team installed two new heaters in the greenhouses, which kept the tender starts safe and warm. And despite the cold, the first flats of lettuce and onions are out of the greenhouse, hardening off, and the garlic in the new field is three inches tall. The animals are all eager for grass. I see a little more green every day, and I’m eyeballing the fall-planted rye in Superjoy; if we have dry weather, we could graze the dairy cows on it the last week in April, which would get them outside a week or two earlier than our usual on-grass date. There is nothing better for the health of a cow than a decoction of green grass and sunshine.
The farrowing report is a little dark. Good news first. T-Bone is alive and getting better, sharing her pen with another gilt, Happy, who is due to farrow any day. I saw them spooning last night, Happy’s front foot over T-Bone’s shoulder. In the next pen is Rizzo, another gilt who got into the same trouble as T-Bone this week. She had two healthy piglets on Sunday night, and then got stuck. Next day, I could feel the head of an enormous piglet corked in her birth canal. Ben and Charlotte and I got out the lube and warm water, Alex ran to Westport for oxytocin, and we found the lamb puller, a sturdy noose-like gadget with plastic-covered cables. After a minute, we got the noose around the back of the piglet’s head in a perfect position. Rizzo stood up and pulled hard against us. The piglet came slowly, and then all at once with a giant wet pop. That was perhaps the most satisfying five seconds of my life. The piglet was dead, of course, and the satisfaction did not last, because she had more dead piglets in her, and despite my efforts and those of a vet, we could not get them out. Rizzo got a shot of long-acting antibiotics and was left to rest. By the next day, she’d managed to get two dead piglets out, and two days later, two more. It was not pretty, and she is not feeling well, but she’s still mothering her two live pigs like a champ. We’ve never had this trouble before, and two in a row bodes ill for the three gilts left to farrow. We are not sure if the problem is the size of the gilts (which seems average for us), or nutrition, or the boar, who may just throw large babies.
Taylor had Jake and Abby hitched yesterday for a full day of work. They cultivated the strawberries, aspaeragus and rhubarb, dragged pastures, and collected all the 400 buckets and spiles from the sugarbush. Taylor and Conor got the evaporator washed up and stored last weekend, so this is the official end of the 2016 sugaring season.
There are some nice potted hardy perennial plants in the share this week, members. Plant them out in the sunshine as soon as you can. Many thanks to our lean mean crew of farmers, who worked hard and well this week, checking innumerable things off the lengthening spring to-do list. We’re still looking for a full time weekday milker, so please get in touch if you know someone. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this raw 15th week of 2016.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball