Beautifully Mature

Essex Farm Note

Week 30, 2014

Winter squash

Winter squash

I was away for a few days this week and when I came back I could see the farm had shifted. Mark had left a welcome home note on the counter. “We just passed that moment where the plants were unencumbered by blights, greens untouched by yellows,” it read. “Midsummer is here.” That was it. We moved from growth to maturity this week. The plants are putting energy into their fruits now, and the little niggling pests and diseases have taken that lovely bloom off the leaves. No matter. Nothing is meant to last forever, and there is beauty in every phase. This year has offered us better growing conditions than we could have hoped for. We are deep in cucumbers and zucchinis now, green beans and lettuce and herbs. We’ll have green bell peppers in the share today. The first red tomatoes are trickling in, and we expect enough for the share next Friday. Two, maybe three weeks until sweet corn, and after that, with luck, the cantaloupes.


Sweet corn has tasseled. The potatoes are the size of golf balls underground.


Come on, melons!


Nice peppers!

            We are not growing much grain this year. No field corn, no oats. This spring we decided to bare fallow some land, to get control of the weeds; in a few weeks, we’ll seed to cover crops, to have it ready for next year. We did grow a few acres of soft white winter wheat, and now it’s close to maturity. The storm that passed through this week did not knock the stalks over, and the clover and weeds growing underneath are still below the level of the heads. Mark wanted to test the moisture level this morning, so I filled a backpack with the heavy brown heads and brought them to the kids, who threshed the grains out by hand and winnowed the chaff in the breeze. The moisture meter read 18.9%. The afternoon reading might be four points lower than the morning reading, but it still doesn’t get us to the 13% we need to safely harvest and store the grain. So now we root for dry breezes, and hope the clover and weeds don’t grow much higher.


Future pie crusts and scones.


Mark and the crew got another 160 round bales of first cut hay made while I was away. Hooray for that. We are ready to start second cut as soon as we get a good window of weather. We have eleven new calves in the beef herd. Most are doing well but one poor little guy had a bad case of flystrike. This happens when the mama doesn’t lick the calf clean enough, and blowflies lay eggs in the hair that is all wet with birth fluids. Eggs become maggots, maggots pick at the calf, and so on, until you have a very unhappy calf. The treatment involves a lot of close contact with a lot of maggots, so thanks to Matt and Shona for taking on that task. They cleaned him up, shaved the bad patches, and treated the wound the maggots had created. When he went back out to his mother we treated him with some non-organic fly repellant, to keep the flies away from the wound while it heals. We always let members know when we do something outside of the organic standard, and this was one of those times. And it seems I have more news than time this week, so we will leave it there for now. Thanks to Griddles for making our picnic today! It’s about to begin. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this beautifully mature 30th week of 2014.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball


Went to get a drink of water from one of our outdoor faucets and found these two in the cup.


The laying hens are finally putting out lots of eggs! Better late than never.


Summer babies


Grow, baby, grow


Essex Farm Note

Week 28, 2014

We are all rooting for the pullets to come into full lay, and for the older hens to regain their composure, stop going broody, and get back down to business. The hens have been through a series of ordeals this year. First, they were roosting outside the coop at night, and an owl discovered them. We close them in at dusk now, but their pasture is plagued with tall thistle that was difficult to fence, so they began escaping underneath the netting, and a few more became owl feed. Scott got the whole field clipped with the horses this week, so now the thistle is gone, and the flock is contained, safe, happy, and hopefully focused on laying. Every day, the egg buckets come in a little heavier, but we are still barely keeping up with demand.

We have a lovely summer share today, with a few vegetable newcomers, and lots more waiting in the wings, two or three weeks from ready. We harvested the first of the conical cabbages and the first savoy cabbages today, two of my favorites. Also, the first of this year’s beets, with their beautiful nutritious greens. We have put the entire final harvest of bok choy in the share today, as it was about to bolt. It looks a little rough around its leaves due to flea beetles but it is so delicious and so very good for you. I ate it three times this week, sautéed with garlic scapes and dressed with a little soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Please take extra for the freezer. Most people recommend blanching bok choy for two minutes, then cooling in ice water before freezing, but I think it does better (and is much easier) simply washed, chopped and frozen in zip-lock bags without blanching.


Bok choy selfie. This is the week to put some in the freezer.


Savoy cabbage ready for harvest


Ah, summer!

Strawberry season is over for the year. The old plants have been disked under. Next year’s plants are coming along, but have been under assault by deer the last week or so. This is the first time in many years that we’ve had significant deer pressure in the vegetable fields, and I find it rather surprising, given how harsh last winter was. Speaking of harsh winter, we’ve lost our summer raspberry crop. This year’s summer bearing brambles were killed by the deep cold. cold. However, the summer variety will give us some fall berries, and the fall-bearing variety looks fantastic, so hang in there for a double harvest.


Deer prints in the strawberries

You may have noticed the colorful kite-like things hanging from the trees around the farm. Our friend Ezra is an entomologist, and has a grant to test different designs of emerald ash borer traps. The ash borer is an invasive insect that could decimate all the ash of the northeastern forests in the coming years. I don’t know which trap is working best on the ash borer but I can tell you that the green one has caught a cow. One of the traps fell out of the tree into the dairy cow pasture this week, and Francis, ever curious, managed to use the trap and its rope to securely cleat herself to a tree by her horns.

Thank you to everyone who helped make last weekend a big success. Special thanks to Griddles for a wonderful picnic on Friday, and to all the visitors who came to the tour on Saturday. We’re looking forward to the next Griddles picnic on July 25th, and the next tour on August 16th. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this grow, baby, grow 28th week of 2014.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

Here’s a photo tribute to tools, marvelous tools.

IMG_8712 IMG_8710 IMG_8706 IMG_8707


The arsenal


We love you, finger weeder.

4th of July


A wall of hay. We made another fifty acres of first cut this week. Mary manages to insert herself into pretty much every photo.



See what I mean? It’s because she is wherever I am. The farmers always know when I’m coming because Mary is my little harbinger.


She likes moving cattle but nothing compares to sheep.

Luke worked horses for the first time last week. This week he hitched to the spring tine harrow.

Luke worked horses for the first time last week. This week he hitched to the spring tine harrow.


After a few passes in the open field he was steady enough to cultivate between the tomato plants.


…which as you can see was a very tight squeeze.

Meanwhile the tomatoes are coming along well. We have some good sized green ones out there already.

Meanwhile the tomatoes are coming along well. We have some good sized green ones out there already.


Fennel and green beans are making a good showing.

Asparagus is put to bed for the year. It has been heavily composted and now it will grow up into a tall green thicket and store energy for next year.

Asparagus has been put to bed for the year. It has been heavily composted and now it will grow up into a tall green thicket and store energy for next year.

Goodnight, farm.

Goodnight, farm.