Essex Farm Note

Week 27, 2018

The heat wave is finally breaking today. Like a fever? Nope, that’s not it. It’s more like the way you feel when physical pain abates: better than you felt before the pain came on, because you’re just so grateful it’s gone. This was our first serious heat emergency in about ten years, if I remember correctly. We got really lucky on some fronts, like the inch of rain that fell before the heat wave hit. That sustained the thousands of young transplants – the whole fall brassica crop – that were just getting established. They were able to take root, and live, instead of baking to a crisp in that hot hot sun. The direct-seeded fall carrots and beets germinated and emerged into the middle of the wave, and survived, as did the planting of soybeans, which just got its first cultivation. The animals, for the most part, did well, thanks to long hours and some heroics by our seriously muscular animal team, who made sure they were well-watered and tucked into the hedgerows, or under cover of the barn, going out to graze mostly in the early morning or late evening.

The extreme weather took the biggest toll on the humans, I think. The strategy was to start early and quit early, but the reality was that we started early and quit late. Everyone looks a little limp today, but since they were mindful of staying hydrated and taking mid-day breaks, we had no casualties. The to-do list this coming week includes some heavy work that couldn’t be done in the heat, like pounding in the tomato stakes to get those plants trellised. They are so fragrant when you brush by them, and are heavy with green fruit. I can’t wait to see the first blush of red. I hear reports that the sungold cherry tomatoes are just beginning to ripen, but haven’t tasted them yet, because the reporter ate them all. Soon!

What else? We disked in about two thirds of the oat/pea cover crop, leaving the rest for grazing sheep and dairy cattle. It seems like it’s a little less palatable to them now that it’s getting mature, but it’s really fun to watch the sheep lip and munch their way through infinite pods of peas. Speaking of peas (for humans), the deer ate the ones we planted, along with most of the first planting of green beans. Not happy about that! Also, crows got a good part of the second planting of sweet corn, but the first planting looks solid. We are still patrolling for deer every dawn and dusk, adding dog presence when possible, and generally sending the message that they ought to graze elsewhere.

We are saying goodbye to one of our MVPs this week. Ben Christian, we are really going to miss your stories, your experience, your work ethic, and your knowledge of cows. I have always especially loved Ben’s steadiness in the face of a crisis, large or small – a skill born of having seen so much, I think, in the course of his farming life and the farming lives of his parents and grandparents. There’s no substitute for generational knowledge. Happy to say we’ll still see him around the farm on an occasional basis. We are looking for someone with good tractor skills to take over part of Ben’s job, so let us know if you have any leads. And don’t forget our farm tour tomorrow at 10, free for members, $25 suggested donation for non-members. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this abating-wave 27th week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web and Insta at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.         

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

pig wallowing