The woolies should be getting wider every day. We’re six weeks out from lambing.


Essex Farm Note

 Week 8, 2015

The lake froze hard enough to stop the ferry this week, and Mark got into a battle of wills against the cold. First, during the deepest stretch, our internet access died. We have a radio receiver on top of the silo that picks up the projected signal from a fiber optic line across the lake in Vermont, which generally gives us a fast, reliable connection. We depend heavily on it. Apart from the usual things, we use Trello, a web-based management program, to keep track of everything that is being done, should be done, and has been done on the farm.

zscreenshot trello

Everyone who works here checks Trello many times a day to figure out the daily plan, pose questions and record data. When the internet access went dark last Friday it felt like we were all suddenly blind. So Mark ended up climbing the silo in the pre-dawn dark when it was -10 with a brutal north wind. Perched precariously forty feet in the air, he had to take off his mitts to fiddle with wires, and it all took longer because his fingers were numb. When he was finished and safely down and warming his hands, they ached so much he almost threw up. But no rest for chilly farmers. Next he had to go fix a frozen fuel line on the skid steer, and as he was crawling around underneath it, he bumped his face against a piece of metal and got lipstuck. Indignity on top of injury! But the internet is working now, skid steer is running, his hands are fine, and the lip is healing.

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those winters that stays strong until it suddenly cedes to full-on spring. We need to hurry to prepare for sugaring, even though it still feels like deep winter. Mark and I walked the sugarbush this week. It felt so good to be in the snowy woods.



We made a new road last year to give us easier access to the maples in the eastern section, and the old roads look relatively clear. Our primary concerns are patching up the old arch, which is nearing the end of its days, and laying in enough wood to fire it. It would be nice if we had stacked, split, seasoned hardwood to burn, but we do not. (If we did, I would have already stolen it for the farmhouse, where I am keeping a miser’s eye on the quickly shrinking woodpile!) Doug went to the woods on Wednesday and cut some loads of standing deadwood. We are lucky to have an experienced woodsman on our part-time team, since deadwood can be tricky to get out safely.


I love this tenacious maple. The V doesn’t quite touch the ground.

I did get my own chainsaw (thank you Barbara Kunzi, for passing it on to us!) and after using it for a day I’m kind of in love with it. It’s petite but powerful.


Mark and I spent my birthday felling and limbing an ash that was growing in an awkward place in the farmyard. It’s bucked, split and stacked now, the first deposit on heat payment for next year. I’m highly motivated to get three years ahead on our wood supply, since I’m the one who drives the woodstove.


My birthday ash, split and (somewhat awkwardly) stacked.

We have kim chi in the share today, and it will be available in the farm store soon, thanks to Jori, her crew, and the Grange Community Kitchen. It’s a fairly mild version so if you want to spice it up, throw a hot pepper in there. Big thanks to all the farmers for powering through the cold. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this snowy-woods 8th week of 2015.

–Kristin &Mark Kimball

PS I know I am late coming to this trick but I’m posting it here as a public service message, for any of you who burn wood and have not yet seen it. In the past, kindling was the key to my heart, because I always needed it, and found splitting it myself difficult. Now I can make a week’s worth in ten minutes on my own without stress.

The key is to choose straight-grained pieces and tuck them into the tire with their butts against the ground.

The key is to choose straight-grained pieces and tuck them into the tire with their butts against the ground.

Whack away at it. The split wood stays put and if you miss the maul hits the tire. I use an 8lb maul.

Whack away at it. The split wood stays put and if you miss, the maul hits the tire. I use an 8lb maul and walk around the tire so I can hit it at every angle. You can make it as tiny as you want to.

There are tons of videos on YouTube that show this method in action.

Comments are closed.