Essex Farm Note

Week 43, 2017

Mark was away from the farm for ten whole days. Some things went awry, but at a pace no faster than usual, and nothing irrevocable, injurious, nor terribly expensive. It felt different, with the twin engines of Anne and Chris propelling the ship, instead of the single powerful screw that is Mark. But different was good, and Mark and Jane had a fine adventure, climbing ten Adirondack high peaks, to mark Jane’s 10th year. My only contact with them came from pictures that arrived unexpectedly on my phone, from strangers who met them on top of Haystack, Basin, and Gothics. In each one they stood together on a bare summit rock, smiling widely, Jane’s braids flying in the wind. The braids were progressively more frayed as the days went on, but otherwise, she looked reassuringly well. The golden weather held for them until it broke spectacularly on Tuesday, with seventy mile per hour winds, and driving rain. They rode out the storm in a lean-to, then struck out, in the dark wee hours, to bag their next peak, because they’d a schedule to keep. Jane came back bigger, stronger, and wiser, with knowledge of her home mountains now rooted in her bones.

            Here, it was still harvest time. Carrots were the focus of the week. We try to plant enough for members to eat all they want until the next crop comes in next summer, plus some extras, if we can, to sell. Our method for harvest is unorthodox. Instead of pitchforking them out of the ground like a smaller scale farmer, or using a tractor-drawn digger like a larger scale farmer, we plow them out with a walking plow and a team of draft horses. The advantage of this method is that if you get it just right, the carrots come out of the ground in a graceful orange wave and land tips up, loose, on top of the soil, where they can be easily collected. The disadvantage is that if you are slightly off with the plow or the horses, the carrots snap in half, or else end up submerged in the overturned soil and have to be dug out again by hand. Chris drove the horses and Joseph managed the plow, and Jake and Abby pulled, and after a wavy row or two they nailed it. The rest of the crew came behind to top and bag, and three days later the job was done. It was an excellent crop. We only kept the perfect carrots, culling the broken, the split, and the intertwined, and we still filled twelve one-ton totes, plus ninety 50lb pound sacks. Now, cabbage harvest is underway, to be followed by potatoes. The potato crop is always a nail biter. How will they yield? How will they store? Most importantly, how will they taste? Soon we’ll know. If you’d like to be part of the harvest crew, please get in touch, and we’ll alert you when it’s scheduled. Years ago, when the farm labor force consisted of Mark and me, we invited everyone we knew for potato harvest and made a party of it, boiling potatoes in the field for snacks, and passing around jars of butter and bowls of salt. I think it’s time to reprise that event, for the fun of it. When we hone in on a day I’ll post it on Instagram and see who shows up.

            We are saying heartfelt farewell to Hannah today. She’s been an incredibly steadfast worker and kind presence, and our secret weapon for this harvest week. Hannah, thank you so much for your good work; I hope we get the honor of having you back here one day. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this splendid 43rd week of 2017. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, 518-963-4613, on Insta at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or in the field, any day but Sunday.  

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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