Week 51, 2012

I’m traveling today, so am sending news from afar, and it may be a little stale, as I haven’t had news from the farm since yesterday morning. Clara had her calf this week, a little heifer named Corey. She is tall and brown, and looks more like her father Spenser than her black, high-strung mother. At two days old she caught the winter dysentery that has been going around the dairy herd. In the adults the disease has, as the vet books say, low mortality but high morbidity – the cows feel and look perky, but they lose condition rapidly, due to dramatic, explosive diarrhea. This condition is common in warm winter weather, and there is no treatment for it; it must run its course, which it will do in a week or two. We have been through this before and know how it goes in the adult cows, but we’ve never had it in such a vulnerable little baby. When Jenny saw she wasn’t taking her bottle, she moved the calf to one of the horse stalls, and got out the little plastic bag with an esophageal tube attached, used for feeding calves too weak to suck. She filled the bag with milk, pushed the tube past the calf’s tongue, and got some good warm nutrition in her belly. The next day, when her guts were worse, we switched to an electrolyte solution – homemade, of salt, baking soda, and karo corn syrup. We got it into her the same way as the milk, then covered her up with one of those shiny foil space blankets, which I pulled out of our human emergency kit, and attached to her with bungee cords. She looked like she was ready for the Halloween parade, a sleepy little space calf. By the time I left town she was looking much better, but the rest of the calves were coming down with it. We have a particularly hale batch of calves this year, so I have hope it won’t set them back too far.

The whole Essex Farm crew came over on Wednesday for our annual holiday caroling party. Mark hitched Jake and Jay to the wagon and set up some bales for seats, and Jane grabbed the beautiful set of hame bells that belonged to my great grandparents. Then we rode to town, and inflicted the Twelve Days of Christmas on Essex’s unsuspecting citizenry. Back home, we ate chili and drank glogg and told stories about the year that is ending. I was reminded, again, what a good life we have here, surrounded by a wonderful group of people, and dedicated to the never-dull art of nurturing living things. Mark, who is not known as a present-giver, has been searching the internet for the last couple months, looking for the type of balaclava that he finds indispensible in cold winter weather. He had some extremely specific requirements, and the one he has used and loved for the last 15 years has been discontinued. We finally found a similar model, black only, at an army surplus store, and all the farmers got one, and everyone wore theirs for a picture at the end of the night, so our holiday party is thus captured for posterity: a gang of banditos with good biceps, aligned on the farmhouse couch, with twinkle lights and poinsettias in the background. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this very merry 51st week of 2012.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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