Essex Farm Note

Week 24, 2017

I think we’ve turned the corner now from the wild spring whirl of plant! and weed! to the merely extremely busy summer rhythm of make hay and harvest crops. We brought in our first 160 round bales of first cut hay yesterday. I spent yesterday morning on a tractor in the beautiful field on Middle Road, spearing 600 pound bales with a spike like a diesel powered narwhal. Now, as the rain falls, they are safe in the barn and should test high for nutrition. Meanwhile, Ben planted 3 acres (!) of sweet corn, Joseph killed weeds with the horses, Chris with the tractor, and Anya and her whole strong-armed crew attacked them with hand tools, while also getting fall carrots planted and several crops fertilized. Every year is different, and there are no safe bets, but I’ve noticed that when we enter the second half of June with weeds under control, as they are today, it bodes well for the rest of the summer.

            A few births to report this week. Ewe 1901 had a late ram lamb on pasture. She was so big and wide I would have thought she was carrying triplets, but alas just had the one little boy. I didn’t get a chance to catch him for tagging and castrating until he was 4 days old, which meant he was already fast, and I got to test my sprinting skills. If he had been just a tiny bit faster he would have won the prize of keeping his testicles, but I got lucky with my crook and nabbed him. Every year I contemplate lambing a bit later in the year and doing it on pasture instead of the barn, and the sight of him with his pink newborn ears, so happy with his dam on the grass, was a good argument in that direction. We also had two litters of pigs born this week. One litter of 10 to Hyena Face (whose name makes sense if you see her) this morning and a litter of 11 to Pop Tart Martha (I don’t know about that one). And yesterday, the dairy heifer, Willow, had a perfect-looking heifer calf, but unfortunately, the calf died. We suspect that Willow (who was too fat) had a hard calving, and the calf was a bit weak. The calf was born with the membranes over her face, and while an experienced mother would have licked them off, Willow didn’t know any better. That was a bad note in an otherwise beautiful and productive day. We’re looking forward to California Raisin’s calf who is due in another week.

            First taste of strawberries in the share today. Beautiful lettuce. Some broccoli, which is a rare and delicious treat because it’s hard to grow in the spring. There’s chard, and herbs, and some lovely spring onions. Thanks to our neighbors Laura and Scott and Jay and Sarah for lending their tractors to us this week. And to our intrepid crew for getting it all done. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this busy 24th 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


Essex Farm Note

Week 23, 2017

Another 1.27” of rain this week, on saturated ground. We knew we were going to get hit with a long, wet storm on Tuesday, so Monday was a marathon of urgency. Donald came over to till 30 acres for seeding, while the vegetable team planted all the leeks and most of the winter squash. Meanwhile, Joseph hitched Abby and Jake to the cultivator and trotted his way through all the vegetables, knocking back the weeds. Everyone else worked fast and hard to get the regular work and the milking done. The last squash went in the ground close to sunset. On Tuesday, in the rain, we caught up with what we’d put off on Monday, and on Wednesday we had our biggest chicken slaughter of the year. And so the week went, to the end. As usual when things are really rolling, a few emergencies punctuated the general busyness, e.g., the sows broke their waterer to create a gusher, and the horses escaped their overgrazed paddock just as we were getting ready for bed, and had to be caught and put into a hastily erected new pasture. Now, we’re all tired, and those of us with older joints are a little bit sore, but it felt good to work hard as a team and then, afterward, look back and feel rather amazed at what we managed to accomplish. In fact, when I consider the last 14 years here, the days that stand out to me as brightest are days like last Monday, when everyone comes together to make something beautiful happen against long odds.

            We have some fresh troops on the farm this week. Ali from Vermont has joined us for three key weeks, and Liv from Swarthmore for 2 big months. And Coleen Butler is back! She’s finished at UVM, and heading to Washington State in the fall, but we (mostly, the dairy cows) get her good company and hard work until then. On the other side of the equation, we are saying an early goodbye to Aidan, who got an opportunity to go on a canoe trip. I know our local members will miss seeing her in the butcher shop. Her last day is next Friday. And we’re also saying an unexpected farewell to Jon Christian, who got busy with his own hay business. Thanks to both of you for your time here, and best of luck. This leaves a couple big surprise holes in our labor force at a busy time so please, members and readers, get in touch if you are looking for some good hard rewarding work this summer.

            There is so much gorgeous food in the field this week. Plentiful chard, and some crazy-good lettuce, harvested at its prime. Lots of first-quality herbs. Radishes! They have been scarce in past springs, due to flea beetle pressure, but we got lucky this year, and the variety – cherriette – is one of my favorites for both taste and looks. The strawberries are just beginning to color, and there are lots and lots of them. I look at the fruit-laden row and am exactly half thrilled, half terrified at the prospect of picking them. In animal world, the lambs are growing fast and so well, and are eating more grass and less milk every day. Mary the dog is working on her herding skills, and keeping the corn fields clear of crows and seagulls. Another sow farrowed this week, a lovely litter of 13. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this saturated 23rd week of 2017. Find us on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, by email at essexfarm@gmail.com, or at 518-963-4613, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                      

-Kristin & Mark Kimball


Essex Farm Note

Week 22, 2017

We let the girls skip school to go to the Shetler’s barn raising this week. It was a busy morning on our own farm and by the time we arrived the scary part was over: the bone-crushing skeleton of timber already hauled up by many hands and pinned, complete, against the sky. Over and around the tall frame scrambled seventy-five men and boys. They’d arrived in buses from up the Shetler’s old community up north, and in buggies from the other two new farms in our area. As the girls and I stood staring, the roof was forming, sheet by metal sheet, the walls appearing, board by board, before our eyes. Everything moved steadily on and on, without rush, without rest, like a slow dance with well-known steps, set to the muted thud of hammers on new wood. (The wood itself cut tree by tree from that land, by three teams of two strong boys with a long saw between them.) Meanwhile, in the side yard, women and girls worked on a new quilt set on a wood frame, eight stitches to the inch. When it was almost noon they all got up from the quilt to help with the meal. Inside, Dennis and Mary’s new house had been transformed into a restaurant – one that functioned smoothly without running water, powered by a wood cook stove. There were new pegged wooden benches, set around long tables laid with crisp, ironed cloths, and 75 sets of plates, silverware and glasses. The men stopped work and lined up at a wash basin, then came in, eldest first, and took seats, elbow to elbow. Silence washed over the long tables as they said a silent grace. Then they ate. There were plates of stewed chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy. Bowls of peaches and green salad, slices of bread and saucers of bright-yellow homemade butter. Coffee, in delicate china cups. Platters of cake and platters of pie. The girls and I stood to one side with some of the women and their babies, watching and chatting. At the very end of the meal, they passed around big bowls of candy. “That’s the treat,” Dennis’s mother told me. “On days like this, there’s always a treat.” Then there was another wave of silence that spread from one table to the next, a prayerful pause in the day-long dance of work. By dark, despite an afternoon storm that loosed lightning, wind and hail, the last nail in the last board had been hammered home, and the new roof was tight against the stars.

            It is still wet and cold here at the start of June. We had 1.7” of rain in seven days. The grasses, the lettuces and strawberries are happy, but the heat-loving young melons succumbed. We are lucky to have our good drained ground, which got dry enough, between storms, for the all-important weeding. Last Saturday, Chris hit 7 acres of corn with the tine weeder. On Sunday, we recruited Jori and Andy, plus a visiting group of 4H campers and their parents, to stirrup hoe millions of tiny weeds on a quarter acre of carrots, beets, cilantro, lettuce and spinach. Thanks to Andy and Jori, Nils and Susie and their whole Hudson Valley gang for that good work, which saved untold hours of hand weeding. Another win: the four yearling cattle that were at large for a week are finally, finally home. Huge thanks to our neighbor George Sayward for his patience and help in getting them out of his herd and back into ours. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this productive 22nd week of 2017. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, 518-963-4613, on instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball