Essex Farm Note
Week 52, 2013
Those of you who have been with us from the beginning will remember the early years, when it was just Mark and me here. There were many times back then that the weight of the farm nearly squashed us. Things have changed so much since then. We have built good systems and there are so many more hands doing the lifting now, but occasionally, something unexpectedly shifts, and we are reminded that the farm is still big and heavy and we are still small and vulnerable. This week was one of those. Mark is away, not only off farm but out of contact, on a ten day hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. The plan to cover milking, chores, and distribution this holiday week was tenuous anyway – a bare-bones crew of Travis and Scott plus me with kids. Then on Christmas Eve, Travis got sick, and the weather got very cold, and one piece of bad luck led to another until this big boulder of a farm was rocking at the precipice, threatening to break away and roll downhill. The horse water and the milking machines froze up. The beef cattle knocked apart the fence that separated them from the year’s supply of hay. The dairy heifers broke into the milking cows. A calf got sick. The farm truck was in a ditch. The washing machine and dishwasher broke. The farm roads were an inch deep in ice. Fresh cows needed to be milked. Jane came down with a fever. Things go like this sometimes, and it’s not cause for wailing or whining, but there were so many time-consuming complications, there were just not enough hours in the day for all the urgent needs to be met. But, as in the past, friends and neighbors came and helped. Even on Christmas morning. Ron helped Travis. Jori and her family took care of our kids. Racey and Nathan of Reber Rock Farm, and Steven of North Country Creamery came over to do chores. Isabelle Smith made a surprise visit. Barbara and her daughter Leah stepped in heroically and helped in the dairy. Many times it seemed Scott was carrying the whole thing on his shoulders like Atlas. Still, every time I saw him, he was smiling, and making good, clear-headed decisions. I fear I may have forgotten someone to thank but I won’t forget this Christmas, not for the presents or the dinner but for the almost slapstick pace of unexpected difficulties, and for the love and gratitude I feel for the many hands who helped hold the boulder in place.
The dairy is an exciting place these days. There are six little heifer calves in the barn now, and one little bull. He was Poppy’s, born this week. He won the yearly lottery for bull calves, in that we decided to keep him for breeding. Poppy is a good producer, and a healthy third-calf cow; her little one, now named Peter, was a fine, big, vigorous boy. We are expecting three more calves in the next few weeks.
While we’re rich in milk this week, we are poor in eggs. The hens are irritable lately. We’re working on it. The kale looks a little rough but man is it sweet. Finally, it is the last week of the year, dear members. Thank you so much for your support this year. The food was good, wasn’t it? Please remember to sign your contracts for 2014 today. The price of the share will remain the same. Happy 2014 to each of you from all of us. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this last week of 2013. -Kristin & Mark Kimball