Essex Farm Note
Week 20, 2015
I’m writing from the back step of the farmhouse today. The soft south breeze is carrying the heavy scent of lilacs, and the barn swallows, on morning shift, are swooping low over the pond, which is loud with frogs. The ponies are mowing the back lawn for me, and the orphan lamb, Jessica, is blatting from her pen in the front yard. I love mid-May. There is nothing, and then, everything. The long-awaited grass is suddenly to our knees in spots, and the annual plants are coming on, and so are the weeds. There is no lack of work, but it’s all good work, in fine weather, without flies. It will only be a matter of days before the green-headed horseflies hatch but we will all enjoy it while it lasts. The questions Mark and I discuss at the dinner table now are all about priorities. How much should we plant against the grain bill this year? And what should it be? Green crops, or corn and soybeans? How much labor can we spare from the rest of the farm to do it, and how much should we hire out? These decisions will be made in the next two weeks, and will shape the economic outcome of the next twelve months.
Most of the animals are on grass as of today. The sheep – 31 ewes and 48 lambs – are in the Schwartzberg/Schiller pasture across Middle Road. It’s very nice to have use of their good page-wire fence. I’m not used to putting sheep in a fence we didn’t have to build ourselves, out of temporary electric net. I need to subdivide the field into smaller paddocks, but I’m having trouble with the fence charger, so for now, the flock has the entire five acres. They couldn’t grasp the concept of that much freedom at first and stayed clustered near the gate where we’d dropped them off. They’ve got the hang of it now. The ewes lounge near the shade trees, and the lambs dash across the field in a gang, only to come leaping back to butt their mothers for milk. The beef herd went out this week too, so only the pigs are left indoors.
Lots of news from the vegetable team. The first direct-seeded crops are up: peas, fava beans, spinach, lettuce mix, and beets. Carrots won’t show themselves for another week or so. The strawberries are growing fast, and we planted a risky early row of green beans. All the transplants are looking well after 2” of rain, including the cabbages that I was so worried about last week. A crew from Middlebury helped transplant more shallots, herbs and flowers last weekend. Kirsten put row cover over those flowers when frost threatened on Wednesday, but our low was a safe 35 degrees, and the forecast looks solidly above freezing for the coming week, so those green beans have a good chance of making it. Speaking of weather, Essex Farm is going to be home to a new weather tower, which will be part of a network of 125 monitoring stations across the state. The New York State Mesonet staff was here yesterday, exploring sites.
Our new tractor arrived last weekend. It’s a 1990 Ford 7710, with four wheel drive, a front end loader, and a cab. And air conditioning. Aren’t we moving up in the world? And that is the news from Essex Farm for this powered-by-magic 20th week of 2015.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball