Who wants to drive to Plattsburgh and brave the rain and the supermarket lines? We have all the holiday hits at the farm stand: three kinds of winter squash, sugar pie pumpkins, potatoes, onions, Brussels sprouts, leeks, beets, celeriac, and much more. PLEASE NOTE: Spinach, eggs and sage are in the outdoor fridge but thanks to the arrival of winter, everything else has moved inside the office trailer (directly across from the pavilion), including the cash box and the scale. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Essex Farm Note
Week 47, 2013
The carrots came in on Veteran’s Day. Carrots are one of our biggest and most important crops, and in past years, we’ve spread the harvest out over several days or even weeks. This year, we decided to try a different method, which would streamline the harvest, but also necessitate getting the whole crop in within a day. It would have to be a harvest of epic determination and military efficiency.
The kids did not have school so after breakfast the three of us bundled up and joined the crew in the field. Aubrey, Travis, and Matt were already at it, and Mark and Scott were just coming out, with Jake and Abby hitched to the walking plow. This was our big innovation: instead of prying the carrots out yard by yard with a pitchfork, we were going to try to plow them out with the horses. It would take precision. Plow too far away and the carrots would not come out of the ground, too close and they would break. Scott drove the team, and Mark guided the plow. The first few yards of the first row were a mess of broken carrots, but then they got it. The plow flipped a thick ribbon of soil upside down, leaving the carrots intact, their tips pointed to the sky. The rest of us followed along on our knees, freeing carrots from the soil, and tearing off the tops, leaving a fraction of an inch of green on top. Then into the buckets, and the buckets into bags. The density and quality of the harvest was phenomenal. In some places, I could fill my five gallon bucket without moving. Matt was the field boss, in charge of keeping the whole factory line moving. He threw empty buckets to the people who needed them, got the bags ready for dumping, and dumped four buckets of carrots to every one bag, which he then tied and positioned for picking up with the wagon. The horses had all the carrots out of the ground in an hour, and then the race was on. All tk tons of them would need to be in storage by nightfall.
At lunchtime Mark drove to the Meat Market and came back with a dozen hoagies, two loaves of store bread, peanut butter and jelly, bags of chips, and salsa. Also: Oreos, soda, and a box of chocolate chip cookies. This is a lunch that seems absolutely normal to most Americans but extremely strange to us. It tasted awfully good, hungry as we were. We ate in the field, standing up, dirt on our fingers. By late afternoon, all the carrots were in, and so were the mangel beets (winter feed for cows and sheep) and the rest of the leeks. Thank you, farmers, and thanks Fledging Crows, Sabrina, John and Barbara who pitched in to make it all possible.
We finally have a calf in the dairy herd. Connie had a healthy little heifer this morning, in the chilly rain of course. Kelsey has made her comfortable in the west barn. We have been waiting for calves for over a month, and nada. It turns out that the first bull we used was a total dud. (As this is the family version, suffice to say that his aim was off.) This calf coincides with the date the second bull came to the herd. I think it’s going to be a calf avalanche now. Which means we should be rich in milk again very soon. The cows thank you, members, for your patience during this unexpectedly long period of rationed milk. Finally, we will have applications for the 2014 sliding scale available next week. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this ground-freeze-a-comin’ 47th week of 2013.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball
Essex Farm Note
Week 45, 2013
It was another week of big harvests here. The Fledging Crow farm crew came over to help get in the celeriac, leeks, daikon, beets, rutabaga and kohlrabi. All that food is safely stored for winter now. Adam and Bob Perry came by with their combine on Monday to harvest the soybeans. Bob joked that the weed control was so good, he thought we were using GMO beans and glyphosate. Nope. Just horses and humans. Watching them come in, I was nervous that they were still too wet, because when I squeezed them, they seemed squishy, but they tested at 13% moisture, which is just about right. They are just so darn rich in oil that they don’t dry down hard like other beans. They can’t be used until they are roasted, so that’s the next step. We’ll have to hire in a giant propane roaster to do it. We got about 12 or 13 tons. While they were here we decided to use their combine to shell the black beans. In the past, we’ve done it with flails, on the hard cement floor of the pavilion, but this year Matt, Scott and Adam pitched them into the maw of the combine, Bob revved the engine, and they came out clean. The moisture was a little high on those beans, at 17%, but Nathan and Racey loaned us their grain dryer, and we’re hoping for the best. We have five or six hundred pounds. There are only a few big field jobs left before we are buttoned up for winter: harvesting mangel beets, parsnips, carrots, and field corn, and planting next year’s garlic.
Poor Gwen had a tough week. She was moving the draft horses from one pasture to another, in a hurry, and decided to walk three of them over an electric line that was on the ground. One of the horses spooked, and jumped in the air, and came down on Gwen’s foot. Luckily, it’s not broken, but it is very sore. It’s a testament to her toughness that she was back at work yesterday.
Mark and I gave a talk on Wednesday evening at the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. We’ve spoken at this conference for the last five years and every year, Mark’s ideas have gotten more outrageous. Two years ago, we both wore wetsuits and scuba gear. Last year, he juggled flaming torches and rode his unicycle. Our message, this year, was that we want to make it socially unacceptable to not fix climate change. If you want to check out the performance, you can find it here. Yeah, that’s me, crowd surfing.
What else to report? Mary the puppy is growing by leaps and bounds. She met the electric fence this week, and recovered nicely. Her bossy genes have kicked in, and she has found her bark. She has also learned sit and lie, and is a sharp little pupil. A newborn beef calf got separated from the herd when they moved pasture. Luckily Travis found the little thing before he got too hungry, and he and Aubrey caught him and got him back to his mama. We are still waiting for calves in the dairy herd. It’s maddening. At least they have finally moved back up near the barn so we can keep a close eye on them. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this blustery 45th week of 2013. -Kristin & Mark Kimball
Essex Farm Note
Week 44, 2013
Sometimes this farm’s arithmetic includes some very interesting variables. In the current market, for example, one top-of-the-line registered Berkshire boar equals $200 cash plus four bushels of winter squash, onions and potatoes. This week, we were in the market for a new farm truck. For many years, we denied the fact we needed a farm truck. That just meant we used our car instead, for all sorts of jobs that cars should not be asked to do.
Then, this summer, we bought our current Ranger, which was too far gone to be roadworthy, but good for hauling fence posts and calves and such around the farm. We have gotten our $250 out of it, for sure. However, in the last few months, the angle between the Ranger’s bed and its cab has grown increasingly acute, and then the brakes failed, so that whenever it was parked, the wheels had to be chucked. Mark asked Jason Demar at Haulin’ Junk to keep an eye out for a bargain for us. Jason called this week, with a much-used Ford 150. Mark and Travis went to see it, and thought it might actually pass inspection, and they settled on what may be my favorite deal ever: one large pile of ancient copper wire that came out of the ground when we put the tile drainage in, plus Travis’s old motorcycle that has been parked in front of the machine shop for the last few months, plus the now-V-shaped Ranger. What a bargain!
Don Hollingsworth very kindly hauled two dairy bulls to the farm for us this week. We ought not to have needed a dairy bull this year, because we raised our own, but alas, poor Finn turned out to have some conformational faults with his feet that disqualified him from the gene pool. We decided to buy bulls instead from our friend Steve Martin, in Westport. Steve has spent 20 years developing a grass-hardy Jersey/Milking shorthorn cross. The two bulls he sent us are naturally polled. Polled means they do not have horns, and it is a very rare trait in dairy cattle, and one I appreciate very much. Polling is a dominant trait, so if the bull is homozygous for polled that means all his offspring will be polled. We got one big bull who will go in with the cows in a couple months, plus a younger, smaller bull to be used with the heifers we’re going to breed. Meanwhile, we are pacing the pasture with cigars in our pockets, anxiously awaiting the first calves of the fall. They are due any minute.
We had our first hard freeze this week. The corn kept growing almost to the last minute, but its ears are pointing to the ground now in a gesture of surrender. The raspberries are mush today, but just after the freeze, they tasted like sweet sorbet. Miranda and Mary the puppy and I ate bellyfuls of them, each harvesting her own. Meanwhile, the black beans came in and are ready for threshing. Daikon and Brussels sprouts make their debut in the share this week. Daikon is a mild, humongous white radish that can be eaten raw or cooked, and it makes a wonderful pickle. We have enough to start a kim chi factory. This week, we hope to bring in the rest of the carrots and the beets. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this extremely windy 44th day of 2013. Find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball