Essex Farm Note

Week 51, 2013


The low temperature of the week, according to our home thermometer, was -12. Barbara got frostbite on her toes while grinding grain. Andy and Peggy, in the office trailer, were bundled so thickly for their desk work I barely recognized them. On the bright side, this cold is festive, right? The ice on the skating pond has been phenomenal. And it has forced us to finish all the deep-winter preparations that can usually wait until January or February. This week, the barnyard was a mixed-up nativity scene, as we settled everyone into new quarters. The dairy heifers were in the north half of the covered barnyard with two bulls. Now they have the northwest quadrant, with one bull. The milking cows were in the south half, alone. Now they have a trapezoidal southwesterly zone, with the other bull. The young pigs have come down from the sugarbush hill, to occupy the rest of that space, and are happy to be under a roof, with lots of straw. The sheep are in the east barn and will start lambing in February. The young laying hens in the greenhouses were the warmest animals on the farm during the cold, clear weather. The old hens are on the compost pile, which generates its own heat. The horses are on pasture until the beef cattle eat their way through some of the hay stored in the second covered barnyard, but they seemed to know the cold weather was coming, and grew thick, warm coats this year.

Mary the cow calved early in the week. The next day, after afternoon milking, Scott came to the house to say that Mary was acting weird, like she was slightly drunk. Drunk cow pretty much describes the classic symptoms of milk fever, an acute and potentially fatal calcium deficiency that can happen after calving. We walked out to the barn and found Mary up and walking around but with dull eyes and a slight club-girl stagger. Scott got the halter and I got the calcium drench and we pinned her against one of the panels and got it into her. Calcium drench works fast magic. I checked her right before bedtime and she was back to her usual sober self. More than half the herd has calved now, and we are rich in milk once again. I hope the rest of the cows calve before the next cold snap.

A quick update on the other Mary, Jet’s daughter, the little black and white pup you see gamboling around the pavilion. She’s a little more than four months old now, and learning so fast. She’s got a reliable sit and lie, and a good solid stay, and a great come, except on the odd occasion when she goes selectively deaf. She has learned to wait politely instead of barging through the door into the house. Best of all she’s got an I’ll-try-anything attitude, coupled with her papa’s desire to please, and the uncanny English Shepherd intelligence.

Holiday preparations are in full swing at our house. Travis and Scott and the girls and I will be holding the fort next week, as the rest of the crew heads home for family celebrations. Mark’s going hiking in the Grand Canyon for ten days. I’m hoping there will be no farm drama while he’s gone, or if there is, that it will make for good stories. Happy holidays to each one of you. We are so grateful for your loving support on this yuletide 51st week of 2013.  -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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