Thanksgiving

Essex Farm Note

Week 46, 2017

Thanksgiving, and time to celebrate the harvest that is safely home. Every year right about now I feel a deep connection between us and every other person in the last 10,000 years who has labored with hands in the dirt or among animals to foster the growth of living things. They all knew, as we know, the nameless harvest-home feeling of gratitude and security that comes with that labor’s fruition – food safely stored in abundance – just as the days grow short and the nights grow cold. Farmer or not, there is no better way to celebrate this season and the year’s accomplishments than with people you love, over food that was thoughtfully grown, joyfully prepared, and peacefully enjoyed. I’m thankful, as I am every year, for the astounding generosity of soil, sun and rain, and for the hard work and magic that transforms those things into food. And I’m thankful for each of our farmers, supporters, and members, for making this farm possible.

            It seems very quiet in front of the house now, without the chirp and gobble of 150 large, charismatic birds. When I say large, I mean large. The biggest tom dressed at 35 pounds, and the flock averaged 19-20 pounds. They finished so beautifully! As Mark said today, we got supermarket-quality presentation with organic-farm quality, processed by our own team, who had never processed turkeys before. Special thanks to Ben Christian, who suggested this project, and had a lot of turkey experience. We are really proud to offer these birds to you, members, with our thanks for your support this year. Some of you may be getting turkeys that are larger than you asked for. Please, enjoy the abundance, and use every precious part, including the bones for soup. They were pasture-raised on 100% organic feed. We also have some beautiful heirloom-variety cranberries for you, from our friend and Essex Farm alumnus William McCaffrey, who grows them on his family bog in East Taunton, Massachusetts.

            What else? We harvested some of our bumper crop of parsnips this week, to trade for organic potatoes from the Intervale, and some future organic greens from Fledging Crow’s greenhouse. That’s how surplus and deficit works, farmer style. We’re beginning to look for a clear cold window to harvest the field corn. Garlic will go in today, I hope, ahead of this weekend’s rain. Suit the Great Pyrenees stayed in her fence this week. She and Jake are guarding the whole flock in the permanent pasture on Middle Road now. The lambs grew bright and fat this year, on grass, grass, and nothing more than grass. I’m so proud of our team for rotating the flock to fresh pasture every 3 to 5 days without fail since they went out as lambs in May, which meant they grew well and stayed relatively clear of debilitating internal parasites (truly, the bane of organic sheep production) without anthelmintics. Moving those electric nets for a flock of this size is hard work, and it’s especially difficult to stay on top of it when the season is cranking. Lambs will head to the butcher shop in December. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this thanks-giving 46th week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or here on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                                       

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Smart Bitch

Essex Farm Note

Week 45, 2017

We woke up on Wednesday morning to a message from our neighbor, Dale, who’d seen one of the Great Pyrenees dogs loose on Middle Road at midnight. I jumped in the car and squealed out of the driveway. I checked Mozzie first, and found him with the chickens, safe and sound. On to the sheep, where Suit and Jake were stationed. I pulled in next to their pasture and was surprised to see two smiling dog faces in the headlights, inside the fence, as they should be. I stepped into the pasture. The sheep were lying down. The frost had settled on their wool and it sparkled in the first light. As I walked through the flock they stood and stretched, leaving sheep prints on the silver grass. The entire north side of the electric net was pulled down. Something large had barged right through it. Suit! She must have been out, and then broken back in, taking the fence down with her. She was my prime suspect because the day before, when Brandon was moving the flock, he’d watched her bunch the sheep at the end of the old paddock, then use their backs as a springboard, to jump clear of the fence. She must have done something similar in the night, but had no sheep backs to help her break back in. Luckily, the sheep were sleepy, or else not tempted by the hard-grazed, frost-bitten grass on the other side of the wrecked fence. As I replaced the fence, my annoyance with Suit was overridden by respect for her crafty intelligence. I’ve moved her inside the tall woven wire fence now, with the orphan lambs and goats. Jake and the rest of the flock will be there soon. We’ll need to figure out how to reform her before next spring’s grazing season begins. 

            This is the beginning of a three day freeze. We’re shifting from water-as-liquid to water-as-solid, which changes how we manage the animals, the washing station, our own hands and feet. Despite what I said last week about being caught up with fall work, it has been a hard scramble to prepare. We pulled in all the crops that would not have faired well at 10 degrees ( cabbage, celeriac, spinach, Brussels) and moved onions and garlic from the barn lofts, and bins of squash from the farmyard, to temperature-controlled storage, to keep them from freezing. Many thanks to the whole crew plus the Shetler and Swartzentruber families, the Hamilton gang, and some key, timely volunteers: Aiden, Brigit, and Mike from the Mountain. When this cold front passes, we are hoping the weather will turn warm and dry enough to get next year’s garlic planted, along with 30 acres of rye. Then, we focus on cleanup, because anything left on the ground will be lost until spring if it snows and sticks.

            We have had loggers here this week, cutting trees east of Monument Field, to make room for a new fence to protect the watershed. The compost barn is finished, and the engineers are scheduled to do their walk-through today. We’re expecting a Jersey calf next week, from Beatrice, who is not a pretty cow, but a solid producer and a healthy gal. We sort sheep next week, and get ewes ready for breeding. Ben found a deal on a used mixer/grinder, hooray. The old one was giving everyone fits.  We are buying low-spray cranberries from our friend William McCaffrey, who raises them in Massachusetts. We’ll have them in the share next week. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this blustery 45th week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                      

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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November

Essex Farm Note

Week 44, 2017

November, and yet we have green grass, and a few tomatoes in the hoophouse, herbs in the garden, fresh greens coming in. Things are still growing. The paddock that the sheep grazed three weeks ago has three inches of new grass in it. “It’s September weather in November,” Mark said this morning. This falls into the category of weird, but good. Our work is mostly caught up right now. We still have leeks in the field, but the other big harvests are home and stored. We still need to plant the garlic. And if the rain stops and the fields dry out, we have rye cover crop to plant, most urgently on the new Blockhouse Field, which has been well spread with compost, but could really use some carbon.

            The potatoes came in on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was a disappointing yield, especially when compared to the bountiful carrots and the beets that grew next door. Apparently the potatoes didn’t like the wet summer, and suffered from some blights, which kept production down. But every year we have some crops that thrive and some that don’t produce well; if we run out of potatoes, it should be possible to trade for more, given what we have in abundance. (We only trade with local farms whose standard for quality and avoidance of pesticides, herbicides, etc. meet our own.) Kennebec, our white storage potato, did better than the blues and reds. They are nicely sized, with no hollow heart and a very good taste.

            We got behind on the late season weeding in the herb garden, and the chickweed went nuts, forming a lush green carpet over the ground. Weeds! If you can’t beat ‘em, you can eat ‘em. We have chickweed in the share this week. The name comes from the fact hens love it so – and hens are smarter than they look. It’s highly nutritious, and it’s delicious. It can be eaten raw as a salad green or cooked like spinach. It’s got a bit of a crunch to it, and a mild, pleasing flavor.

            The Thanksgiving share comes in just two weeks. Let us know if you would like a particularly large harvest of anything for your feast. We test-slaughtered two of the larger turkeys yesterday, and found they’re bigger than we thought they’d be, coming in at over 20 lbs. We’re on track to have fresh Thanksgiving turkeys for all the members who have ordered them. The Christmas turkeys will probably be frozen, since the birds will get too monstrously big if we let them keep growing.

                        We had a mixed week in the dairy herd. One of the cows, Kimber, bagged up last weekend and looked ready to give birth, though according to my records she wasn’t due until December. When I double checked, I found we’d bred her twice. She must have settled on the first shot, and shown a false heat later. In any case, she had a pretty, healthy heifer calf, which Anne named Keen. A few days later, though, one of the first-timers, Kiwi, gave birth on a wet day, and didn’t claim her calf, who stumbled outside the fence and into a puddle. The calf was only a few hours old when we found her, but unfortunately too chilled to survive. Kiwi, though, is doing fine, and with all these fresh cows in the barn, we are making a lot of good milk. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this win some, lose some 44th week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, on insta at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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