Essex Farm Note

Week 22, 2017

We let the girls skip school to go to the Shetler’s barn raising this week. It was a busy morning on our own farm and by the time we arrived the scary part was over: the bone-crushing skeleton of timber already hauled up by many hands and pinned, complete, against the sky. Over and around the tall frame scrambled seventy-five men and boys. They’d arrived in buses from up the Shetler’s old community up north, and in buggies from the other two new farms in our area. As the girls and I stood staring, the roof was forming, sheet by metal sheet, the walls appearing, board by board, before our eyes. Everything moved steadily on and on, without rush, without rest, like a slow dance with well-known steps, set to the muted thud of hammers on new wood. (The wood itself cut tree by tree from that land, by three teams of two strong boys with a long saw between them.) Meanwhile, in the side yard, women and girls worked on a new quilt set on a wood frame, eight stitches to the inch. When it was almost noon they all got up from the quilt to help with the meal. Inside, Dennis and Mary’s new house had been transformed into a restaurant – one that functioned smoothly without running water, powered by a wood cook stove. There were new pegged wooden benches, set around long tables laid with crisp, ironed cloths, and 75 sets of plates, silverware and glasses. The men stopped work and lined up at a wash basin, then came in, eldest first, and took seats, elbow to elbow. Silence washed over the long tables as they said a silent grace. Then they ate. There were plates of stewed chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy. Bowls of peaches and green salad, slices of bread and saucers of bright-yellow homemade butter. Coffee, in delicate china cups. Platters of cake and platters of pie. The girls and I stood to one side with some of the women and their babies, watching and chatting. At the very end of the meal, they passed around big bowls of candy. “That’s the treat,” Dennis’s mother told me. “On days like this, there’s always a treat.” Then there was another wave of silence that spread from one table to the next, a prayerful pause in the day-long dance of work. By dark, despite an afternoon storm that loosed lightning, wind and hail, the last nail in the last board had been hammered home, and the new roof was tight against the stars.

            It is still wet and cold here at the start of June. We had 1.7” of rain in seven days. The grasses, the lettuces and strawberries are happy, but the heat-loving young melons succumbed. We are lucky to have our good drained ground, which got dry enough, between storms, for the all-important weeding. Last Saturday, Chris hit 7 acres of corn with the tine weeder. On Sunday, we recruited Jori and Andy, plus a visiting group of 4H campers and their parents, to stirrup hoe millions of tiny weeds on a quarter acre of carrots, beets, cilantro, lettuce and spinach. Thanks to Andy and Jori, Nils and Susie and their whole Hudson Valley gang for that good work, which saved untold hours of hand weeding. Another win: the four yearling cattle that were at large for a week are finally, finally home. Huge thanks to our neighbor George Sayward for his patience and help in getting them out of his herd and back into ours. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this productive 22nd week of 2017. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, 518-963-4613, on instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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