Week 29, 2016 Essex Farm Note

We have been thinking a lot about the business side of the farm this summer, specifically about how to work smarter instead of working harder. Anne has spent many productive hours getting the numbers in order. In this week’s management meeting, we talked more about the balance sheet than we did about production. This is good for us, good for the farm, and normal for most businesses, I’m sure, but perhaps not the farmer’s natural inclination. Most people don’t go into farming because they are wildly fascinated by small business management. We farm, first, because we love fostering the growth of living things, and then we have to develop the skills to make the numbers come out on the right side of zero. Mark and I have known this for a long time now, but, typically, talking about the numbers is not our favorite subject. To illustrate: On one of our evening farm walks this week, we were looking at the high summer pasture. While some of the field had browned into the annual summer slump, there were pockets and corners lush with my favorite yellow-flowered legume, birdsfoot trefoil. It has a high feed value, the ability to fix nitrogen, good resistance to the summer slump, and does well in our region. Additionally, it doesn’t cause bloat the way clover can, and its tannins may help reduce parasite load in small ruminants. I love birdsfoot trefoil. Wouldn’t it be nice to be rich in birdsfoot trefoil? I thought to myself. But the seed is expensive, and difficult to establish. Musing aloud, I said to Mark, “I think we should invest in… birdsfoot trefoil.” He had expected the sentence to end with something normal, like stocks, or something sensible, like a retirement fund. “If we are both thinking the best thing to invest in is trefoil,” he laughed, “then we should probably not plan on retiring. Ever.” Oh, but it is summer, and we are all rich, rich, rich in many miraculous and unaccountable things. For example, eggs. Our eggs right now may just be the best eggs in the world. The red hens are sleek, young and fertile, binging on organic grain and green grass, the sweet blossoms of red clover and yes, birdsfoot trefoil, and paying copious dividends in hard-shelled, golden-yolked eggs. We are also filthy rich in herbs of all kinds. There are armloads of chives, parsley, dill, sage, and oregano at our disposal, and maybe, soon, cilantro. I’m planning to go long on both eggs and herbs this weekend to make a kuku sabsi. This is Persia’s version of the frittata, and making a good one requires the best-quality eggs and loads of fresh herbs. Check, and check. Tomatoes are paying off nicely now and we have a glut of summer squash, both yellow and green. Dr. Goldwasser was here on Tuesday, and two of the dairy cows we thought were not bred are actually five months pregnant. That was a sweet and unexpected windfall. Two inches of rain came exactly as ordered last weekend, followed by the kind of heat and humidity that plants and pastures adore. The field corn, now watered, can soak up all the light the mid-summer sun can give it. It’s growing five inches a day. The second cut hay is accruing value, and should be ready to mow in a few weeks. The brand new greenhouse was skinned this week and is primed for planting. We should get some nice late greens from it this fall. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this summer reckoning 29^th week of 2016. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com (mailto:essexfarm@gmail.com) , or on the farm, any day but Sunday. –Kristin & Mark Kimball

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