Essex Farm Note

Week 22, 2015


At morning meeting today, Mark looked around at the assembled crew of twenty and wondered aloud how long it has been since this piece of good land has seen so much concerted effort applied to it, in the form of muscle and sweat. Decades, or centuries? We have a very big crew for this early in the season, and there is still plenty of work to go around. All hands went to the field for planting ahead of the predicted thunderstorm on Wednesday – a storm that never really materialized, but did give us a sprinkle of much needed moisture. The gorgeous tomato plants moved from the greenhouse into the ground, along with all the peppers. We saw the first round of hand hoeing, plus many hours of horse cultivating, and fast, nimble temporary fencing. But the most impressive movement on the farm right now might be the un-human kind: the collective action of millions of seeds, emerging, right now, from the soil. There are dry beans and popcorn sprouting, and Mark planted nine acres of field corn on Tuesday, on our best ground. Each kernel is awakening beneath the surface now, unspooling its white thread of a root, sending up the tiny green twin flag of first leaves. It is hard to imagine that these tender babies will soon be mighty, seven foot stalks, and if all goes well, they will yield 6,000 lbs of energy-dense food per acre. That is the magic of corn.

We had a crazy morning filled with surprise and excitement. First, Lindsey texted to say one of the dairy cows, Fruity, turned up sick in the barn at milking, with what seems like pneumonia. We already had a call in to the vet about Fruity when Mike went out to get the horses and found the mare, Abby, with her head hanging down, separate from the rest of the herd, a little blood trickling from a snotty nose. Her throat, just behind her jaws, was enormously swollen, and she was having a hard time breathing. My first thought was strangles – a highly contagious disease that I have only read about, the one Steinbeck employs to kill that poor kid’s beloved horse in The Red Pony. But then Dr. Goldwasser arrived, and took about three minutes to rule out strangles. See? He said, pointing. With strangles, the swelling is here, not there – and then the big horse coughed up a mouthful of foamy half-chewed hay, and he said, That’s choke. Abby had something stuck in her throat, obstructing her esophagus. He sedated her, waited for her head to drop and her eyes to droop low, and then he braced her mouth open with a speculum. He examined the back of her throat with his headlamp, then passed a tube up her nose, down the esophagus, and into her stomach. There was no clear answer – the tube encountered nothing obvious – but whatever it was might have broken up with that mighty cough, and she seems to be feeling much better. She’s on stall rest today, under observation, and we have good reason to hope she’ll make a full and speedy recovery.

Such a beautiful share today, if I do say so myself. The most delicious lettuce, and the first chard, and still plenty of asparagus. Also, I am happy to report that the Reber/Essex farmers beat the Keeseville farmers in softball. Does it get any better than this? And that is the news from Essex Farm for this all-this-and-more 22nd week of 2015.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball



Lindsey, fencing.


The farm in her finest green.


The beef herd comes to the fence to say hello.


Raspberries, rhubarb at dusk.




Abundant lettuce.


Pretty chives.


Camomile is flowering now.


The youngest teamster, and the smallest horse.

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