Essex Farm Note

Week 49, 2017

It has been an intense week of envisioning, planning, hauling, and managing the last big project of the year. The new fence posts are laid out and the heavy work is happening now, just before the ground freezes. Last night, after dark, Mark, Miranda and I walked the fence line that now runs along the east side of Solar Field, then over the stream filling Long Pasture Pond, and along the farm road. Every thirty-five feet, we stopped to screw an insulator into a newly-planted cedar post. It took an enormous excavator to drive the posts 4 ½ feet into the ground. The posts were cut from our own land, and are eight to twelve inches in diameter – fat and sturdy enough to hold up, I’d wager, until well after Mark and I are dust. Then we strung a temporary electric line into the insulators, to carry power to the animals currently fenced on the south side of the farm. Soon, this temporary line will be replaced by six strands of permanent high tensile wire. There are new fence lines going up in several other places, including along Route 22, and there are some old, worn out fence lines coming down. Much of this work is part of the CREP grant project, to fence out the newly enhanced wetlands, but it adds a lot of flexibility to our grazing program. We will not be able to graze inside the wetlands, but with this fencing, it will be ten times easier to set up rotational pastures outside of them. And it’s high time we had a good perimeter fence along the main road. I will sleep better at night, knowing there is something solid between our animals and the nighttime traffic. The most immediately exciting part, though, is that the three large, new CREP ponds are filling, and deep cold is coming next week. I’m looking forward to some yuletide skating parties. Time to get your skates sharpened and pull your earmuffs out of storage.

            What else? The corn came in this week. The yield from Pine Field was excellent. From New Field, it was fair. As the combine ate through the rows, it revealed some large empty places: the bears’ portion. They ate 4 to 5 acres! I guess they will have a deep, fat winter’s sleep. The best news for us was that the corn came in dry, at 14 percent moisture. Often, our biggest problem is getting it dry enough to safely store. We put up 96 tons of it.

            The weather forecast is calling for truly cold weather beginning on Tuesday. This might be the end, finally, of working the ground this year. Earlier this week we called in our neighbor, Dale, to do some sub-soiling with his tractor. Right now we are hurrying to harvest more parsnips before they are locked down until spring.

            In the kitchen, I’m deep into the stew and braising time of year now. I make stock every weekend, and use it all week. I made Beef Bourguignon this week, from a lovely pound of bottom round that I cut into cubes, the last of a bottle of red wine, some stock, and tomatoes from the freezer. Though Julia Child would probably disapprove, I used a pressure cooker – 25 minutes yielded perfectly tender meat. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this winter’s-coming 49th week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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