C’mon grass!

Essex Farm Note

Week 16, 2015

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The year is young and fickle and changes her clothes three times a day. Sun, then clouds. Ice, then heat. But her layers of brown are steadily giving way to fresh shades of green. The garlic is up and there are new shoots of sorrel and nettle, and the chives are tall and bright. Yesterday, Mark and I walked the fields in the morning. Way too wet. I walked again in the afternoon. The top layer of the drained fields had dried to cracking, and felt warm and soft enough to invite a brief, supine rest. So temptingly workable there, and yet just a few inches down the soil was corpse-cold and wet enough to wring water from a fistful of it. Much as we wanted to hitch a team and harrow a few acres, we waited, as haste now would pay back in soil compaction for the rest of the season. Maybe this weekend. The whole world seems impatient. We heard the spring peepers singing a defiant song on Wednesday evening even though the culverts are still blocked with tubes of ice, and Mark and Miranda took a quick dip in the farm pond one afternoon – a symptom of their fervent belief in spring rather than a reflection of the actual conditions.

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I shorted all the good news from the greenhouses last week, so we’ll start there this time. Kirsten and her team have done stunningly well with the starts. The flats of onions, scallions, shallots, chard and lettuce have moved outside to harden off for planting. Peppers, tomatoes, herbs and the many flats of flowers are up, spring broccoli and cabbage are looking good, and those l-o-n-g season marathon plants – celeriac and Brussels sprouts – are peeping over the edges of their flats. Germination and growth are beautifully even, a reflection of Kirsten’s careful work and Vermont Compost’s good potting soil. We have parsnips in the share today, first things out of the ground for 2015.

The lamb counter stands at 35, with 11 ewes left to go. I watched the birth of healthy triplets, 1,2,3, from beginning to end on Sunday. So far, no losses and no difficult births, but we have one bottle lamb, and a case of mastitis. We need to shuffle some animals out to pasture this week, due to space, hay and bedding limitations. The layer flock was the first out yesterday. Dairy heifers are moving this weekend. Then I can put the ewes with older lambs in the east barn run-in and free up pens for the lambing ewes and younger families. The piglet count is currently 41 live piglets from 5 sows. Now it’s time to go through the first litters for castrating, marking, and iron injections, so I guess I know what we’re up to this weekend.

And the short news. Mark went to an auction last Saturday and came home with light pockets and some heavy items: a John Deere round baler and a Gehl discbine, plus a reefer truck box (don’t get too excited, members – reefer is short for refrigerated), a horse drawn sickle bar mower in great condition, and a set of running gear for a wagon. We are still in the market for a tractor to replace our superannuated Ford. Sugaring is officially over. It was a whole-team effort but Taylor deserves a sugar medal for his work at the evaporator. It wasn’t a great season, weather-wise, but not the worst either. Please note we are taking applications for summer staff and apprenticeships. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this c’mon grass! 16th week of 2015. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm at gmail dot com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday. -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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