Thank you thank you

Essex Farm Note

Week 38, 2013

It was all about hay this week, friends. We’re striving to bring in enough high quality second cut haylage to keep the dairy herd milking through the winter. These big round wrapped bales require systems and equipment that are all new to us. And it is taking a village to do it. This is community supported agriculture all right. We are supported not only by you members but by our neighbors and fellow farmers. Allow me to send out a big pack of thank yous. To Ron Jackson, who has loaned us his truck and trailer yet again. To our new neighbor, Eric Craig, who is a retired dairyman newly moved to town. He has offered sound advice based on years of experience, and today he’s driving tractor for us. (You might meet him at the ferry dock – he’s working part time in the ticket office.) To Scott Bridge, who loaned us his new Ford tractor when our Ford broke down. That has saved us countless hours and much frustration. To Shelby Gardiner, for his bale spike. To Tom Salva, for loaning us a bale wrapper. To Rolling Hills farm, for the baler and mower. To Scott Christian at Ward Lumber for delivering twine when we needed it. To Jason Demar and Haulin’ Junk for transporting bales. To our own Scott Hoffman, who worked with Mark until midnight this week. To Cory and Travis for keeping all the equipment running, and to the rest of the team for keeping the farm running while short handed. We have 158 bales wrapped now. If nothing goes wrong (knock wood) and we get the rest in, the cows should eat well this winter.

I’m relieved to report that the frost barely nicked us. Basil is the canary in the coal mine as far as frost is concerned – the most tender of the frost-sensitive plants. Ours got badly winged but not quite killed by the low temperatures on Monday and Tuesday nights. The corn and beans are still alive and growing.

This may be the finest share of the year if not the decade. I know I say that fairly often, but I always mean it. We grew truly delicious celery for the first time and it is making its debut today. We’ve produced celery in the past but it is a fussy plant, and if it lacks fertility or gets too much or not enough water, or if you don’t mumble the right incantation over it, the stalks can be tough, or hollow, or bitter. Past years, the celery we’ve grown has been cooking quality. This year, it’s eating quality. Thank you drained ground, thank you vegetable team, and thank you compost. Conventional celery is one of the ‘dirty dozen’ vegetables that the Environmental Working Group identifies as having the highest levels of pesticide residue, so you can feel extra good about enjoying this clean and crunchy treat. Another debut this week: turnips. We grow a hybrid variety, hakurei, that is so tender and sweet we like to eat them raw like little white apples. Hakurei is one of the examples I cite when people ask me if/why we grow hybrids. We do, when the taste and quality of the hybrid variety justifies the added expense of the seed. You can braise these turnips in a little water or stock, add butter and salt when they are tender, throw a tiny bit of honey or maple syrup on top if you are feeling extravagant, and serve on a bed of sautéed turnip greens. Yum. Rounding out the crunchy vegetable offering this week, we have some pretty, spicy radishes. I like them sprinkled with salt and smeared with good cultured butter. In the field, the raspberries are ripe for picking. Feel free to pick today or come back later in the week, any day.

Now a few bits of short news at the end of a long note. The litter of pups Jet sired is almost ready to go. These should be wonderful farm or homestead dogs. See http://cynography.blogspot.com/p/english-shepherd-litter-2013.html for puppy info. We have 7 acres of soft white winter wheat planted. The leeks and winter squash will be in the share soon. The dairy cows are commuting to milking from ¾ of a mile away. They are grazing the amazingly lush oat/pea forage way out in Chad Field. Note that we will have limits on milk until the majority of the herd has freshened, in late October/November. In the beef herd, there are now 17 little calves on the ground. An 18th has gone missing, leading to a variety of predator conspiracy theories. Cub, the big Belgian gelding, is lame this week, and one of the yearling jersey heifers is still struggling with pink eye. Big thanks to Matt’s cousin Katie who has volunteered every day for the last couple weeks. Big thanks too to the sun for being so generous with daytime heat this week. We can use every minute of good warm growing weather we can get. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this grateful 38th week of 2013. -Kristin & Mark Kimball