Winter Wonder

Essex Farm Note

Week 3, 2014

The old year had to be shoved out and the new one dragged in with great effort this year. Sorry to be out of touch these last few weeks. We are so glad to welcome 2014 with you, and are looking forward to the year with enthusiasm. The wonderful thing about farming is that each growing season is new in the same way that each day is new. Whatever mistakes were made last year are gone now, wiped clean by snow and cold. Seed catalogues arrived this week, their bright color pages full of promise. Soon we’ll start thinking about chicks, and sugaring, and getting the greenhouse ready for the first seeds. For now, though, we’ll enjoy the dark, the cold and the snow.

We got an inch of soft, fluffy snow this week, after several days of above-freezing temperatures. Incredibly, the warm weather was not enough to melt the thick ice on the farm roads, which has been causing pratfalls since Christmas. It did, however, warm the ice enough to make the snow stick to it and become much less slippery. That convinced me, yesterday, that it was time for a long morning’s farm walk, with Mary, who is now in that teenage half-pup, half-dog phase. She is turning into such a great dog. We saw all the animals and each sleeping field.

During the extreme cold weather, we brought the whole herd of horses into the west barn, to get them out of the cruel wind and also to warm the barn by a few degrees, to make milking a little easier. Then the ice came, and the horses had to stay in like it or not, because walking was too dangerous. They spent two whole weeks inside, with a couple hours per day of relative freedom, running around the covered barnyard while the cows were getting milked. They are finally out again, this time in the remote covered barnyard, sharing space with the beef herd. They look good and healthy. Only Abby Belle the pony is at home, where she is handy for the kids and me to ride and drive when the conditions allow. The sheep are in the east barn, growing broader and broader with their lambs. The first are due the second week in February. More pregnant mamas are in the east barn shed: eight sows, also due mid February.

We had a tricky run with the dairy cows in the last few weeks. Making milk is such a liquid business, and in the extreme cold, everything wanted to freeze. Kelsie, Scott, Aubrey and Barbara deserve lots of love for dealing with the frustrations of balky pulsators and frozen lines. Fern, one of our old gals, got milk fever when she calved just after Christmas, and when we treated her with calcium drench, she aspirated it, and came down with pneumonia. We had to put her down this week. It was a rookie mistake, for which I take full blame. She was not strong enough to swallow, and I was not confident enough in my ability to give her the IV calcium she needed. On the positive side, the calves are all doing marvelously. There’s been a lot of what’s called ‘cross-sucking’ this year, where the calves try to nurse on each other, which can cause injury. We keep them tied for a while after feeding, to try to cut down on it, and this week we’ve added some pacifier nipples to the calf pen, to give them something to do with their mouths. Will let you know how that works. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this winter-wonder 3rd week of 2014.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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