Essex Farm Note

Week 10, 2017

Forecast says -20 with windchill tonight, and the highs are not supposed to go above freezing for the next seven days. It may be one of those years when spring conceals itself entirely from us until it suddenly pops out from its hiding place, brilliant and fully formed. Anything that shortens the mud season is OK with me, but the cold has put sugaring on hold. We did have a run earlier in the week, which will yield another fifteen gallons of syrup. Mark is chafing at the awkward size of our current system – 400 buckets – and dreaming about 800 taps, with partial pipeline, a bigger evaporator, and a reverse osmosis machine. RO removes some water from the sap before boiling, which saves a lot of time and wood. The comically dilapidated state of our arch is going to force us to make a change next year in any case, but for now, a dream is a dream.

            I don’t think we’ve officially welcomed the McConnell family (Chris, Nicole, and their three young daughters) to the farm team and the community yet. Chris is just out of the Navy, where he was a pilot, flying a reconnaissance plane, the E2. Last week, Mark wondered out loud to me if he could dare leave Chris in charge of the evaporator after only a morning of training. (Mark is a little paranoid that beginners will burn through the pans.) I pointed out that Chris spent the last few years risking his life by landing multimillion dollar military equipment on moving ships, at night, and so can probably be trusted to run the evaporator. Mark relented, and Chris made much of the syrup this week, and what do you know? The pans are still safe. McConnells, we’re so glad you’re here.

            We’re making a sad farewell soon, too, as Alex is moving on at the end of the month. She has been our dairy team leader, and will leave behind a legacy of healthy, happy cows plus better systems for breeding, milking, and scheduling. Alex, we’re going to miss you, and wish you all the best at your next farm, in Wisconsin. We are eager to fill her shoes before she departs so please help us spread the word that we are hiring for this position. Applicants can email with any questions.

            What else? Mark spent part of the week in meetings about the compost barn project. The barn is now to be oriented east/west instead of north/south, in case we want to add solar panels to the south-facing roof at some point. We are grateful this week for the propane greenhouse heaters we bought last year. They are more efficient and less stressful than our old hands-on system. Anya seeded celery root today, the sloth of vegetable world, one of the first to be planted, and the last out of the ground in fall.  Ben is excited about diversifying grain; he’ll be sowing Field 10B to oats, undersown with hay. I’m beginning to see some udder development in the bred ewes, and we have our first AI calf due soon. Don’t forget Dan Kitteridge is coming to the Grange on Tuesday night to talk about improving the nutritional quality of the food system; free for students and local farmers, open to the public for $5. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this darn cold 10th 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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