Essex Farm Note

Week 34, 2017

There’s another week of August left on the calendar, but it felt and looked like fall in the field at harvest time this morning. The soil was cold enough to chill my bare feet, and I wore an extra layer until the sun was well up. The maturing brassicas are a study in greens: from the bluish green broccoli to the green green kales. The first variety of sweet corn has peaked but is still producing, and the second variety should be ripe in about a week. The sweet peppers are finally coming on in force, including my all-time favorite, Jimmy Nardello – a bright red sweet Italian frying pepper that I love to eat fresh in the field. The tomatoes, though, are showing signs of early blight – the slow-moving fungal pathogen that is nearly inevitable on a wet year like this one, under organic production. The small salad tomato – Juliet – is showing good resistance to it, but there just isn’t a lot of fruit on those good-looking plants. So, while we are in tomato heaven now, we’re not sure how long it will last.

            This transition between summer and fall might be my favorite time in the kitchen. We are so rich in good vegetables, meals practically make themselves. I keep a spinner full of washed lettuce and a jar of homemade dressing in the refrigerator, so it’s ready to go three times a day. (Yep, we eat salad for breakfast.) For team dinner tonight, I’m making sweet corn off the cob, cooked with bacon, onions, herbs and sauerkraut, and a big pot of chorizo and beans. Junket and raspberries for dessert. That will have to do, since I’m heading up shortly to relieve Mark and finish raking a bunch of good second cut hay. This week has been the best haying weather we’ve seen all year.

            We’ve been waiting all week for Bean the Jersey heifer to have her calf. She was due last Saturday. Every morning, when she lumbers into the barn, swinging her legs around a giant udder, I predict that she will calve any second. So far, no calf, but this morning, she was actually dribbling milk from one of her teats, so I am doubling down and predicting we’ll have a Bean calf by nightfall. Meanwhile, Calliope calved last night, with so little pre-birth drama I wasn’t expecting it, even though I knew she was due tomorrow. She had a beautiful little bull. All the calves we are having now are products of artificial insemination, from the world’s top bulls, and are very classy-looking. We have some sex-sorted semen in our nitrogen tank now, and are using it on the easy-to-breed cows and most of the heifers; sexed semen is less fertile than unsorted semen, and also more expensive, so we don’t use it on everyone, but I love knowing that if a cow settles with it, we will get a heifer.

            Big thanks to our whole crew for lots of hard work this busy week, with several people on vacation. That thanks includes newcomers Anthony and Molly, and our member and neighbor Jeff, who joined us early in the week when we were most in need. The golden trophy for hard work should go to Anne Brown, who is technically our office manager but in actuality is everywhere on the farm, often all at once, from chores to harvest to the milking barn. Thank you, Anne, for your incredible energy and dedication. We are truly grateful. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this cool bright 34th week of 2017. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, or 518-963-4613, on Instagram at essexfarmcsa and kristinxkimball, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.       

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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