Hooves Hit Grass

IMG_2957Essex Farm Note

Week 18, 2015

The week was suffused with the urgency that always comes with the first dry weather of spring. The opportunity to be in the field must not be squandered. The light! It’s coming up fast and its tenure is so brief. When it falls on fields without plants in them, it hurts. Mark and I spent daybreaks and evenings squeezing clods in our fists, judging moisture and texture, and walking through the machine yard, considering tools. How to make that clay ground sing? We took good care of it last year. It was well-weeded, and cover cropped to radish, pea and oat, and thickly spread with compost in the fall. There is drainage underneath it, too. But what to do about the cover crop residue and the clumpy, lumpy surface? The transplants, and especially the direct seeded crops like spinach and peas, want a fine, even seed bed. You would think there would be a ready answer, after 12 years of tillage here, but every year is different. This time, Mike went over it once with Jake and Abby hitched to the two-gang disk, to break up the residue and turn some of it under the surface. After that, Mark used the John Deere to hit it with the 12’ spring tine harrow. Then we put two fresh horses on the pulver-mulcher – a tool with crow foot cultipackers on the front and back, and a spring tine harrow in the middle. Next step was to hook the horses to the hydraulic forecart, to pull the 4 row, 3-point-hitch cultivator with S tines, to mark the rows. Finally, we ran the dibbler down the furrows, to mark the spacing. Then the field was ready and the wagon of plants came down from the greenhouse. We had all hands in the field, pressing plants into the dirt, until the sun dipped low to the west. I made a custard-topped spoon bread to keep everyone fueled, and we ate it in the field with soil-covered hands. Thanks, team, for getting those plants in. We have much more planting to do over the next two weeks, so please let us know if you would like to help.

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The bred and un-bred dairy heifers went out to grass this week. There is not yet much for them to eat but oh my does it make them happy. All the other animals are eyeballing the grass from the barns and wishing. I am scheming to get half the sheep out this week. In the barns, birthing has slowed down. No piglets this week, and only one lamb, born last night. I am so glad I decided to check the barn one more time before bed because the lamb had gotten hung up, during those first stumbling steps, between the side of the pen and the water tub, with a leg wedged in the wire of the pen. Mark and I got her out and into a jug with her mother, who was anxiously hovering over her. The lamb was up and looking good this morning.

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We decided to move forward with the grant application process to add 50KW of solar capacity to our existing 25KW array. The deciding factor was the understanding that many of the grants and tax credits available now will disappear at the end of 2015, most likely for good. I’ll give you a full report when we hear if we got it or not.

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And that is the news from Essex Farm for this watching-for-asparagus 18th week of 2015.   -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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The work day ends in the dark these days, and usually in the machine shop.

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Hoping we won’t need propane in the greenhouses much longer.

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Tomatoes looking great.

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Herbs!

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Ready for transplant.

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