Essex Farm Note

Week 14, 2017

The barnyard, the farm roads, the fields are all plastic with mud. We got 2.51” of rain this week (thank you, mesonet station) on top of significant snowmelt. It’s the season of ruts, wet layers of clothes, of sucked-off boots. Everything in our world feels soft and swollen, like the victim of a drowning. The farm’s streams are over their banks and dark with moving dirt. Mark braved the mud for a farm walk yesterday, and reported that Pine Field has suffered some significant erosion, despite the fall cover crops meant to hold our hard-won dirt. Farmers get used to losing all sorts of things at different times, but losing good topsoil is perhaps the hardest loss of all. Soil is a generational resource. It takes years of care to build it, and only one bad season to abuse it, one bad storm to lose it. Increasingly, we are talking about healthy soil as the key to everything from climate change to nutrition. We already know that sequestering carbon in soil is good for plants and good for the planet. I suspect that in the next decade, we’ll start to get some data on the connection between a healthy soil microbiome and a healthy human gut. One of our 2017 goals is to double the quality of our cover crops, by optimizing the timing of planting, and increasing the legume content, which improves the soil’s ability to grow more plants, and capture more carbon – in other words, to build the healthy soil that grows healthy plants and animals.

            What more? That storm last weekend! The heavy wet snow and ice brought down the power lines, and with them, the power. I had been feeling so cheerful about getting the last of the broiler chicks out of the house, but without lights to keep them warm it was a mad rush to stoke the woodstove to glowing and bring them all back in. No sooner were they settled than the lights came back on. Happily, the house is now finally and completelypoultry-free; chicks are in the greenhouse and the west barn, and geese are in the garage.

            We may be finished with sugaring for the year. The forecast calls for highs in the high sixties and low seventies early next week, and no significant frosts at night. I’m watching the lilac out the kitchen window, to guess when the buds will break. We had one good run this week, and made another 10 gallons of syrup. If indeed we are finished, it was a poor year. We made 70 gallons instead of our hoped-for 125. But as our neighbor Ron says, the best boils are the first one, and the last one. I think we’re all ready to wash the sticky equipment and put it up until next year. Many thanks to Chris, who spent the most time running the evaporator, which is a fiery but tedious job. 

            Mark built a bird feeder for me this spring, under that same kitchen window with the view of the lilac. I’ve been keeping track of our visitors. I’m happy to report that the bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and the goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) are present and busy with their own spring work. There was a blue heron fishing in the ice-free pond yesterday (Ardea herodius) and this morning, a pair of hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus), such strange beauties, the Tilda Swinton of ducks. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this waterlogged 14th 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