Teats Out

Essex Farm Note

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Week 20, 2016

The kids and I are rushing to get on the road to see my parents and sister and pick up our seed potatoes, so please forgive the brevity this week, along with any typos.

The vegetable team has worked to get the new greenhouse staged and ready for raising, lots of transplants and seeds in the ground, and, already, hours of the never-finished work of weeding. The very first asparagus has emerged, the long-awaited taste of spring. I’m hoping they will come on fast now. The lettuce is coming along in the field, and the tomatoes, which are hardening off outside the greenhouse, are pushing the limits of their four-inch pots. They are lovely, stocky, healthy looking plants. We had a scare this week, when Anya and Kirsten found a couple of plants with bad-looking damage, but the lab analysis shows it’s nothing more than a fungus and not the dreaded late blight that we all know and fear.

The dairy cows gave us a rough time these last few days. On Monday, Kelsie, who milks four mornings a week, told me that they had been particularly kicky, but I was distracted, and told her it was probably because their udders were so full on this nice spring grass. Then, that evening, I milked, and realized what she’d meant. My meditative gentle hour in the barn turned into a full-on two hour rodeo. Cows who have never raised a hoof during milking were trying to take my head off, and the touchiest cow managed to kick the milking machine apart. I couldn’t figure it out. Their teats were tender and red, as though they’d been… burned. That was it! Of course. They had been bathing in the sweet May sun, teats out, like a bunch of tourists on the beach in Ibiza, with the same pink, hot, sunburned results. We slathered them with aloe, but it was still difficult going. Finally, today, they have started to settle down, their teat skin peeling off in sheets.

Lambing is finished, hurray, hurray. The grand total for the year is 62 lambs. I should know better than to crow about no difficulties before the lambing is over, as I did last week. On Tuesday, the ewe who had triplets was standing in the field looking off. I got closer, and half of her bag was blue with bad mastitis. She’s in the barn with her lambs, getting a course of antibiotics, and the lambs are being supplemented with cows’ milk and some grain. The rest of the flock is combined now, and will begin pasture rotation on Monday.

Heifers are finally on pasture, as of five minutes ago. They have had to watch their elders walk back and forth between the pasture and the milking barn since May 1st, and have been increasingly expressive about the injustice.

That is all the news I have time for on this blooming 20th week of 2016.

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-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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