Essex Farm Note
Week 2, 2018
Nothing abides but change. The cold rolls out, the fog rolls in, and the January thaw is on us. There goes the snow, the ice, the solidity of the ground. All the water on the farm is on the move now, searching with its infinite eyes for easy passage to the depths. The depths, today, are found in our basement, which is half flooded and rising. Mark is down there as I type, reaching one arm into the black water of the drain in its corner (where a host of evil things live, in my imagination). There’s a slim hope that it is plugged. The alternative is much more complicated: he must have hit the drain line from the house while driving the new fence posts, and crushed it. Which will make for a more interesting weekend than it should be.
On the bright side of change, our farmhouse crossed into a new era yesterday. The cracked, squinty, east-facing window that has plagued me for fifteen years is gone, along with its uncracked but equally undersized partner. They have been replaced with a pair of brand-new, full-size, double-hung, uncracked beauties. The light is beautiful, even on a foggy day and through the dust of construction. The wall between the two downstairs rooms is gone, too, the cracked plaster ceiling is gone, new drywall is hung, new lighting is wired, and we can finally reach the upstairs bedrooms without having to go outside. I won’t miss the feeling of my hand freezing to the doorknob on the way to bed after doing dishes in the evening. Another week of work and we should be at a new level of civilization, fresh paint included. Thanks to Dennis Shetler and his son Benjamin, Mark and Erin Hall, Travis Gigous, and to Ryan Hathaway, who has just opened his own local electrical business, Hometown Electric Systems.
The wet, mild winter weather of a January thaw is harder on the animals than deep dry cold. We got the sheep and the three livestock guardian dogs under cover, just before it hit. The horses moved to a more sheltered pasture, with bark-chip bedding around their feeder, better for them and for the ground. The heifers and dry cows are in the covered barnyard, and the laying hens are hunkered in their barn. We finally got the last batch of broiler chickens butchered yesterday. I’m wary of raising broilers this deep into winter, but they did really well in the greenhouse, on fresh daily hay, and grew better than some of our mid-season batches.
Dan Kittredge of the Bionutrient Food Association gave a talk at the Grange this week. He works on soil health and its relationship to crop nutrient density. What’s that? One very accessible example comes from a 2007 study, which found that eggs from truly pasture-raised hens, compared to conventional eggs, have 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene. I (inexpertly) suspect that the next front line in nutrition research will involve the microbiome of the soil, and how it affects our own human microbiome, and that in ten years we will talk about and measure nutrition in a very different way. One of our goals for 2018 is to quantify and increase the nutritional density of all the food we produce, building plant, animal, and human health from the soil up. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this warm wet 2nd week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Insta at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.
–Kristin & Mark Kimball