Week 20, 2019
The last lambs of the season were born today, a pair of small-but-healthy twins to a yearling ewe. What a strong finish to a good season. The final lamb count is 168 lambs to 108 ewes, a lambing percentage of 155%. This is not quite as high as I would like, but considering 39 of the ewes were yearlings, it’s not too bad, and it might even be ideal, because pushing for the 200% that I dream of would put some stress on our low-input grass-fed system. Ninety-five of the ewes lambed within three weeks, which was tiring but exactly what I was hoping for. The final gender tally was 81 ewe lambs and 87 ram lambs. A few of the oldest gals didn’t lamb, and have joined the cull flock. A dozen yearling ewes that didn’t get bred last fall were put with the rams this spring for September lambs. All but the newborns families are out on pasture now, a smattering of white on green. The ewes are feasting on the good spring grass and making so much milk you can almost see the lambs growing before your very eyes. It’s still amazing to me that lambs go from insubstantial wet bits of life to sturdy, fleet creatures in only a few days.
Weather was the main topic of conversation in our house this week. It has been so wet and cold I had to light a fire in the wood stove several times to take the chill off. I don’t think I’ve ever used the wood stove in mid-May before. In the field, the soil is still only 52 degrees, and saturated, with more rain in the forecast. We can’t plant corn until it warms to 65, and the solstice is approaching fast. The transplants and overwintering plants are doing well, but the direct-seeded crops like carrots and peas have mostly rotted and will need to be started again. The asparagus, which is usually peaking about now, is just beginning to emerge. Today is warm and windy, which is just what we need, and no matter how cold it stays the animals are all happy on the grass. We expect a load of pullets to arrive today, and go directly to pasture. The dairy cows are in their grazing groove, moving to fresh pasture every twelve hours, and the cream has turned to gold. I love the flavor and color of the dairy in May more than any other time of year. The heifers and beef cattle grazing too, and growing quickly.
Since it’s too wet to plant, Mark has stayed busy turning compost with the new skid steer most of the week. I think he’s making friends with that new machine. I can tell which pile he’s been working on by the smell that trails him when he comes into the house. I try to remember that this year’s stink is next year’s fertility. Speaking of compost, have you been following the growing rift within organics? Industrial scale organics have successfully lobbied for big changes, and among other things the organic standard now allows hydroponically grown plants, which is nonsensical to farmers like us who believe that organic technique is based on healthy, biodiverse soil that supports healthy plants, healthy animals, and healthy humans. Check out two organizations that are shedding light on the issues: https://www.realorganicproject.org/ and https://rodaleinstitute.org/why-organic/organic-basics/regenerative-organic-agriculture/. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this sun-please 20th week of 2019. I’m posting food-centric photos on insta this week at kristinxkimball, farm images at essexfarmcsa, and Mark is doing his thing at farmerkimball. You can find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the farm, any day but Sunday. And mark your calendars for the first farm tour of the year coming up on May 25th.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball