Fluffy White

Essex Farm Note

Week 6, 2014

I had my annual kitchen-table meeting with the state vet, Roger Ellis, and our own David Goldwasser this week. We’ve been enrolled in a New York State program for dairy cow health ever since we bought a cow who brought a case of Johne’s disease along with her. Johne’s is a weird one – among other quirks, cows can be asymptomatic for a long time but still shed the disease and spread it to young stock. Also, the test is infamous for yielding false negatives. Once Johne’s gets going in your herd it is a real pain to eradicate it, and the disease itself is very serious. If a cow is symptomatic, she’s a goner. The state program offers subsidized tests, and annual herd health advice. We have not had another cow test positive, nor seen any signs of the disease, for four years, so we are beginning to feel we are in the safe zone. Still, it’s good to have the opportunity to sit down with the vets to review the health of the herd. This year, the main topic of conversation was mastitis, as our somatic cell counts have been higher than usual recently. We came up with some new goals and herd protocols.

File this under bad luck/good luck. We bought some 700-lb square bales of hay from a neighbor this week, to use as bedding. When Travis was hauling them home, the tongue on the wagon broke, and the bales and the wagon careened off the road, up the ditch, and then smashed through a fence. Bad luck. The good luck part was that it happened on a deserted stretch of Middle Road, and not on Route 22 in the midst of ferry traffic or into someone’s house or car or any of the myriad anxiety-producing scenarios my mind can invent. We do have to fix the fence.

There was a flurry of cabbage chopping, salt-mixing, and stomp-packing in the farm kitchen this week. We made kraut out of a quarter of the remaining stored cabbage. There are four barrels in the germination chamber now, in the first stage of fermentation, giving off that pungent eau de skunk scent. I am very glad they are not in the house this year. Much as I love kraut I do not love the weeks of stink it brings when played as an indoor sport on a large scale.

Good old Jet is in need of some TLC this week. He was neutered on Monday. Mary will have her first heat soon, and I didn’t want to take the chance of an accidental mating. Jet is also getting older, so his days as a stud dog were coming to an end anyway. I’m sure if he’d had a vote, he would still have his undercarriage. He’s been quite miserable all week.

Now the short news. Thanks to Kirsten who was here this week as an Essex Farm Institute intern, and contributed her hard work and good company, especially at kraut making. We have maple syrup in the share today, the last of the supply we bought from Bradley French last spring. We’re still discussing this sugar season. Mark pulled the evaporator out of storage this week just in case. The kale is finally exhausted, but it’s February, so that was a great run. I have been raiding the freezer this week for the spinach, arugula and beet greens. Always grateful to have them available this time of year. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this fluffy-white 6th week of 2014.

– Kristin and Mark Kimball

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