Essex Farm Note

Week 28, 2018

Oh, deer. Part of farming is negotiating acceptable terms with the wild animals who live around us. Some years, these talks go better than others. It feels like we’ve gotten the skinny end of the deal with both the carnivores and the herbivores this year. We had some radical chicken predation, plus ongoing high-level devastation of certain crops by our graceful nemeses, the deer. As a countermeasure, the last thing Mark and I do every evening is hop in the car with a rifle and the dog. We drive the perimeter of the farm, stopping first at the laying hens’ pasture. No gun needed here. Suit the Great Pyrenees is on patrol against land-based predators, and a pair of Toulouse geese helps ward off hawks and owls. Mary the English Shepherd finds and catches any hens that have escaped the electric net during the day and are roosting in the tall grass, and then we three drive past the firehouse, through the village, along the lake and to the vegetable field on Blockhouse Road, where we hunt for the deer who wait in the woods to emerge in the day’s last light. It has been several days since we’ve seen one, but they’re definitely not gone. This week’s entire planting of lettuce is, however. Over 900 row feet, eaten down to the last ruddy leaf. Last night, Mark said, “Do you think these patrols are deterring them at all?” He sounded hopeful. “Nope,” I said, “but I think we are teaching them to be more alert.” It’s useful to accept that when things are balanced, cross-species negotiations aren’t unilateral. Despite our forebrains and firepower, sometimes the wildlife comes out ahead, and that’s as it should be. All this to say, members, that the certified organic lettuce in the share today was not grown by us, but bought from our friends at Fledging Crow Farm. And I’m voting to put the next planting of lettuce in Mailbox Field, between the road and the farmhouse, where we can keep a closer eye on it.

We had a mini heat-related crisis on Monday, with the sheep. For complicated reasons, they ran short on water during the day. Sheep can handle heat better than cattle as long as they have copious amounts of water, but if they don’t, they crash. Luckily, the highs were in the high 80s instead of pushing 100, and the chore team caught it just in time. The luckiest thing was that handling and close observation due to the water crisis led us to identify some ewes who were showing stress from haemonchus contortus – barber pole worm, bane of organic sheep production – which can kill a sheep within days once it gets rolling. We treated the ones who needed it with ivermectin, which is allowed in emergencies in breeding stock under the organic standard. I was worried we would lose some ewes in the wake of it but everyone is doing well so far, and the lambs are humongous.

Today’s share is glorious, and tastes like summer itself. The yellow squash and zucchini are rolling in now. Argentata chard is particularly good this year; see the recipe for chard with drained yogurt. The sweet onions debut today, beautiful and so good! Use them raw, or slice thickly and grill/roast them to make them the star of the plate instead of a supporting actor. Tomatoes should arrive in about two weeks. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this hope-for-rain 28th week of 2018. Like us on Facebook to see what we post there, or find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, 518-963-4613, on the web and Instagram at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

 

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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