Essex Farm Note

Week 28, 2017

I hope you’ll forgive the absence of a farm note for the last two weeks. Our team got much smaller, and everyone got much busier, and I joined the harvest crew, a job I haven’t done enough of in the last few years. I’d missed so much! The smell of linden blossoms on the dawn breeze, the smell of one’s own hands after harvesting cilantro and chives and basil. The sound of honey bees feeding in the flowers of the blown Chinese cabbage. All that, in just one morning. I got so wrapped up in it I didn’t leave enough time to finish my weekly assignment. This week, though, we had reinforcements: a rotating selection of women from the Swartzentruber family, who arrived by buggy to help with harvest, egg washing, weeding, and chicken butchering. As many of you know, their Amish community is new to our area. In Heuvelton, where they used to live, they had a 16 acre vegetable garden, so they are well accustomed to field work. It was wonderful to have their quick steady hands.

            Most of the crops look really good despite the excessive rain and cool temperatures. We got a lot of planting done about two weeks earlier than usual, but the conditions have slowed the rate of growth, so crops are coming right on time. This week, we have our first summer squashes in the share – bright yellow and green Zephyr first, to be followed by a new green variety, Magda. We have beautiful lettuces, loads of herbs, two kinds of chard, kale, bulb fennel, and much more. Tomatoes are just around the corner, and eggplant and peppers are beginning to ripen. I was sad to hear Mark had to mow the fava beans, because they are one of my favorite treats, but they succumbed to a virus, so no favas until next year. Green beans have a virus too, but they are fighting their way through it. I’m rooting for them. For team dinner tonight, I’m making homemade fettuccini with browned butter and sage leaves, braised fennel, and a crisp Romaine salad.

            The spring piglets went to pasture this week. Charlotte and her team fenced 37 of them into a hedgerow between two pastures, so they have shady woods to root and play in as well as a strip of clover sod to munch on. The older laying hens moved from their east barn pasture to the pasture in Superjoy, where they are following the dairy cows. We have had an experimental guard goose with them since winter, and so far, we have had no losses due to flying predators. We’re going to place the eight young geese with the young laying flock, where we have lost a few birds to owls at dawn or dusk, and see how it goes.

            In dairy news, we finally bought a bulk tank – an automatic cooling and storage container for our milk, from which we can fill the jars. I’ve never been so happy about a piece of stainless steel. We have always cooled each 10 gallon milk can with a can cooler before jarring, so this will simplify the process and help us get our milk cooled more rapidly. I can’t wait until it’s up and running.

            Finally, we’re receiving feedback from members about using Tritown Packing this summer for beef and pork rather than our own in-house butcher, both positive and negative. Keep comments coming and we’ll address them in the next note. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this chilly 28th week of 2017. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, or 518-963-4613, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.  

–Kristin & Mark Kimball