Blackjack

Essex Farm Note

Week 21, 2015

I’m filing the note remotely this week, from a six day writing residency at the heavenly Blue Mountain Center, in Blue Mountain Lake. I’ll be back on the farm next week, with a cartload of fresh pages for my new book, which is due in the fall. In my absence, Mark has been on a tool acquisition spree. We’ve got steel in the field now, as he likes to say. Besides the new Ford tractor (which arrived just as the antique 504 Massey Ferguson took a serious turn for the worse) he bought a 3 bottom plow that will be very helpful for opening up more ground for corn. He also bought a used S tine harrow. Finally, he ordered a brand new water wheel transplanter, which can be pulled by a tractor or with horses. As it moves slowly over the rows, two people ride on the back, at ground level, pressing the plants into the ground, where they are automatically watered in. This saves strain on backs for the humans and also reduces transplant shock for the plants, making the transplanting season more fun and efficient for everyone. It should be here in 2 to 3 weeks. Meanwhile, the team put lots of plants in the ground this week, old school style. The tally, as of this morning, was 3,000 strawberry plants for next year, plus 10,000 leeks.

Speaking of strawberry plants, this year’s crop is blooming now and beginning to set fruit. Hooray for that, but boo for tonight’s forecast, which calls for frost. This is a late one for us, but not abnormal. We have seen significant frost as late as June 4th, and all of the tender crops are still in the greenhouse. The only vulnerabilities are the blooming and fruiting strawberries, and that first risky planting of green beans. When I spoke to him this morning, Mark said he could save either the beans or the strawberries, but not both, by covering them with row cover. Strawberries! I said emphatically, and he agreed.

The dairy calves had an exciting week. They are not yet well trained to electric fence, and they are also young, reactive, and energetic. They spooked at a truck and broke out of their pasture next to the driveway, sprinted up Route 22, and then just kept running. Megan and Lindsey herded them back from a good half mile away. When they broke out the second time and ran through the pony fence, we decided to put them in a high security situation until they settle down. They are living with the sheep across Middle Road, in the solid page wire fence. The baby chicks and pullets both moved this week, too. The chicks and their brooding lamps went from our garage to a more spacious arrangement in East Barn – a move I am at least as happy about as they are. The pullets are now pastured next to the older layers on lush grass in 50 Acre Field. You should see a huge boost in yolk color this week, since they have all been enjoying the fresh greens. We have greens for humans this week, too. The first taste of lettuce is in the share today, plus scallions and asparagus. Chard, spinach and strawberries are two to three weeks away.

I have much more news to report, new staff to welcome, and goodbyes to send, but I am out of time, so will leave it for next week. Local readers please note we have plants for sale at the store, plus a tour tomorrow, beginning at 10am; free for members, suggested $25 donation for guests, with details on the events page. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this blackjack! 21st week of 2015. -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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