Essex Farm Note
Week 45, 2016
Mark and I were away from the farm from Monday through Thursday this week, speaking at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. All the undergraduates at Babson are studying business, and they also have an MBA program. Students and faculty are deeply engaged in thinking about the intersection of business and sustainability, looking for disruptive, market-based solutions to the world’s great problems. It was an enlivening and thought-provoking atmosphere, and we learned at least as much as we imparted. It was also the longest the two of us have ever been away from the farm together. I’m happy to report that our wonderful team of farmers keep the great living machine running smoothly in our absence. Thanks, everyone, for shouldering extra work, and making good decisions.
Of course, it’s not farming without a little drama. Kimber, one of our Jersey cows, gave birth to a lovely healthy heifer calf on Monday, which Alex named Kalamazoo, in honor of her native state. Kimber seemed to be doing fine, but when Morgan brought her in for milking last night, she was unsteady on her feet, and fell down in front of her stanchion, and could not get back up. Her ears were cold and hanging down like a Brahma cow. She looked droopy and dull. Those symptoms, three days after calving, make diagnosis simple. Milk fever. Close readers of the farm note already know that milk fever is an imbalance in blood calcium levels that can happen after a cow calves. The sudden production of milk demands more calcium from the cow than she can liberate from her stored supply, so the milk steals it from the blood. Calcium is necessary for muscles to work, so milk fever causes progressive paralysis. First she looks unsteady, then she goes down, and, if untreated, her heart muscle stops and she dies. Jersey cows are prone to milk fever, and we always give our girls a preventative dose of calcium at calving, but it wasn’t enough for Kimber. Alex gave her another oral tube of calcium gel right away last night, and then Ben came over and got some IV calcium into her that would help immediately, plus some subcutaneous calcium to keep her going overnight. This morning Kimber was standing, and she should make a full recovery. Thanks to Morgan, Alex, Jon and Ben for late-night, life-saving work.
Kirsten and the vegetable crew spent part of the week threshing our dry beans. They yielded about 1,000 pounds. This variety is called King of the Early, a gorgeous spotted red heirloom bean. It’s a classic choice for traditional baked beans, but also works well in chili, or soup. I like to use them as a base for hummus, in place of garbanzo beans, and I’ve been known to use them in an Essex Farm version of cassoulet. Don’t forget to pick through them for stones, and soak them overnight for easier digestion.
And that is the news from Essex Farm for this glorious 46th week of 2016.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball