Essex Farm Note

Week 25 2018

The year’s longest day was hot in the sun and cold in the shade, with a fresh breeze -- about as good as it gets for farming weather. It started at dawn with vegetable harvest and ended with the last of us in the field at 8pm, under a still-bright sky, picking the bumper crop of strawberries. In between, there was haymaking, cultivating, building fence, moving animals, hand weeding, and greenhouse work. There’s not a dull place on the whole farm these days. The grazing animals are gorging on the oat/pea forage we planted this spring. It’s so thick and high in Pine Field you can only see the cows’ backs. We have been moving them to a new paddock every six hours, leaving at least half of the green material behind to feed the soil. The cows are usually so eager to move to fresh forage they begin lowing at the sight of a person approaching with a reel of electric fence. This week, though, they were so full and content they didn’t even stand up right away when I opened the gate. The rumen sits on the cow’s left side, behind the last rib and just in front of the cord of the flank; when it’s empty, that space is indented, and when it’s full, it’s softly rounded. The sight of a nicely rounded rumen makes me very happy and the cows have been so round this week.

Meanwhile, we are in one of our periodic reshuffling periods with the wildlife that we share land with. Two weeks ago, the laying hens got hit by what we think was a fox with kits just learning to hunt. The first night, they got 74 of the lovely new pullets who are just beginning to lay. We’ve never lost anything close to that number before, and the electric net has always deterred land-based predators. We moved one of the guard dogs into that paddock immediately, but that night, the fox was back, in the adjacent paddock that the dog could not reach, and took another 25. My fault for underestimating a fox. Now the two paddocks are combined, with the dog covering the whole flock. So far so good and I still like foxes. We also have an active den of coyotes and pups on the farm, so the other two dogs are protecting the broiler chickens and the sheep. I think we can keep the peace, with forethought and sufficient dogpower.

On the other side of the farm, the problem is with herbivores. A herd of 4 or 5 deer is putting a very serious hurt on the young lettuce, peas, and chard, despite the hundred acres of prime oat/pea forage that is just in the next field. Mark killed one deer this week (which provided venison for us humans, and some beautiful guts for the dogs) and will keep at it from different angles until they relent and eat elsewhere. We welcome responsible hunters who would like to fill our nuisance permits and keep the deer population at a healthy level. Give a call or send an email.

We have had a nice stream of members coming to pick strawberries. This might be the best strawberry year we’ve ever seen. The field is open for members until tomorrow (Saturday) and then closed until next week, so we can pick for our delivered share members. Please tell your friends, we have incredible berries in the farm store! And make sure to check in on Facebook and Instagram – I’m making a real effort to post every day. And that is the news for this solstice 25th week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on FB and Insta, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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