Essex Farm Note

Week 36, 2017

I took a barefoot walk through Pine and Monument fields yesterday, at sundown. The soil and the air were still soft and warm. In the next field, Anne was turning the dairy cows out after milking. Their pasture was thick in tender fall grass and rich clover, and they greeted it with small moos of joy. This moment in the cycle of the year is one of my favorites, because it’s beautiful, and the weather is sweet, and everywhere you look there is bountiful food. (And also because there is change afoot, at a time when the status quo was feeling a little oppressive.) We’ve begun the rapid shift from the work of anticipation – of building, and growing – to the work of fruition – of harvest, and storage. The word harvest was passed down from the Old English haerfest, which means autumn. Those two separate things – the season and the action – are linguistically bound together, an acknowledgment of our universal human ties to the agricultural year. Wouldn’t it be great if the work of harvest were an all-team sport? Everyone who eats would participate, for the sheer pleasure of it. Send the children out of their classrooms to stook the corn. Let the banks close until the potatoes are dug. Everyone, fire up the stove and put the biggest pots on to boil. It’s time to bring the harvest home.

            The bear is becoming a nuisance in the corn field. Miranda and I went to case the scene earlier this week and found three more large areas of flattened stalks and chewed cobs, surrounded by enormous prints. There were also three comically large piles of bear scat, made up mostly of half-digested corn. The tracks ran into the woods east of the field and then south, across Route 22, so we can assume the bear is not a permanent resident of the farm. In other animal news, the older turkey toms are just beginning to experiment with their gobbles. They’re directly across from the farmhouse, so I hear them practicing as they head for their roosts in the evening. The dairy cows are very happy and productive on this good fall grass. Thanks to Ben, our dairy team, and this gentle season, breeding has been going especially well, too. We just sent five blood tests off to the lab for pregnancy checks, and all of them came back positive. I expect the two heifers we have in the barn will also test pregnant in a couple weeks.

            After a rainy stretch, the forecast looks clear again through Wednesday, so we’re going to mow a little bit more second cut hay today. Mark has been very busy with three projects on top of regular fall work: the big compost barn construction; the 40 acres of new drainage; and the beginnings of a NRCS wetlands enhancement project. That last one is going to be exciting, as it will take 35 acres of our wettest land permanently out of production; we get five miles of high tensile fencing out of the deal, a new well, and also – this is the best part – seven acres of wildlife ponds. I envision some really epic pond hockey games in our near future.

            Goodbye to Lauren Swank! Lauren has done just about everything on the farm and I know local members will miss seeing her at distribution. Thanks, Lauren, for your hard work, and good luck with your next chapter. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this autumnal 36th 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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