Essex Farm Note

Week 23, 2018

A very newsy note today, because there is so much afoot. Mark set a sort of reverse doomsday clock this week, to remind us that we have just 11 days left to plant all our major crops, before the window slams shut for the year. It’ll be full throttle from now until then – or full trot, depending on what you’re driving. On the tractor side, we bought a new-to-us mid-sized John Deere this week. We have also been making full use of the draft horses, working at lease one team every dry day, all year. Jonas has his black Percheron stallion hooked with our Belgian, Jake, on the spring tine harrow today; most of the rest of this week, they were cultivating corn and vegetables. It’s awfully good to have horses back in full employment.

     The new field on Blockhouse Road is starting to look like a real vegetable farm. The rain this week helped the plants take off, and now the sun is back to add some speed to their growth. The main headache there is nut sedge – one of my least favorite weeds, because it’s so dang hard to kill. The good news is that the sedge makes the broadleaf weeds seem like child’s play. Thanks to the whole plant team and the horses, we are on top of them, and today is perfect for weed control – the bright sun, fresh breeze and low humidity mean that any weeds we manage to disturb will die on the surface of the soil.

     We are still talking daily about how to utilize more and better forage and other non-grain feeds for all the animals. The ruminants are already either 100% grass finished or very nearly so (the ewes get grain at the end of pregnancy and beginning of lactation, until the spring grass is up, and the dairy cows get a little at milking time in the winter). Mark tightened up the dairy cow rotation this week, moving them to a fresh paddock every 6 hours. This style of grazing gets the cows to eat or trample all the forage in a given paddock, instead of picking and choosing their favorite plants, which, in the long run, encourages the less favorable ones to take over. The girls look happy, and production has stayed even. More: last year’s laying hens are moving into the new compost barn, where they will have access to all the goodness that ends up there, plus pasture, but no grain – a system that Karl Hammer at Vermont Compost practices on a larger scale. I can’t wait to see what it looks like here. Meanwhile, 600 new pullets have arrived and begun to lay. They are pastured in Firehouse Field in two separate flocks, learning to eat grass and bugs, with one guard goose each. Finally, we’re trying a new low-grain system for 36 feeder pigs. This morning they were grazing and rooting the oat/pea pasture, with side helpings of a failed batch of tempeh, assorted vegetables, and skim milk, and looked about as happy as pigs get. (That is, exceedingly happy.)

     We have equipment here today to complete a grant-funded vegetated treatment area – a section of permanent vegetation engineered to keep any runoff from the dairy out of the waterways. And grants, wonderful as they are, always mean a cash flow crunch, because of the lag between laying out the money, and getting it back. If you can pay your quarterly or other payments now, they would be greatly appreciated! And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this brilliant 23rd week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on insta and the web at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–K&M Kimball

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