A Wet, Wet, Week

Essex Farm from the air, with Lake Champlain in the background. Jane Mittelman took this photo from Beth Schiller's airplane.

Essex Farm from the air, with Lake Champlain in the background. Jane Mittelman took this photo from Beth Schiller’s airplane.

Essex Farm Note

Week 23, 2015

We were wishing for rain this week.  An inch would have been perfect. The three we got were a reminder that nature doesn’t take orders from us humans. Fine, fine. On a highly diversified farm, something, somewhere is always happy, no matter the weather. The pasture, the hay ground, and the recent transplants were all delighted by the deep soaking. The strawberries – both this year’s fruits, and next year’s plants – really needed what we got, and we should see dividends, in berries, in the coming weeks.

These alien-like blobs were all over the cedar trees on the farm this week. They are gelatinous galls associated with a disease called cedar apple rust.

These alien-like blobs were all over the cedar trees on the farm this week. They are gelatinous galls associated with a disease called cedar apple rust.

The swamp was full of water and very happy frogs.

The swamp was full of water and very happy frogs.

There were a few casualties, too. We lost some broiler chicks in a wet field, soybean planting is delayed, and the newly-planted sweet corn got chilled and soaked at exactly the wrong time. The crows and seagulls are not helping us out on the corn front, either. If you have ever wondered why it is so hard to find organic corn, or why it is so darn expensive, here’s a primer. Virtually all conventional corn seed is treated with insecticides and fungicides, and some seed also contains nematicides and bird repellant. That’s just to get the corn through its seedling phase. Conventional growers use another arsenal of chemicals during its growing phase to kill weeds, ear worms, and other pests, and most field corn is genetically modified to enable heavy application of the herbicide glyphosate. We don’t use any of those treatments, and so at germination time we are especially vulnerable to seed rot, insect, and bird damage. Some farmers who grow sweet corn organically have found that it’s worth the considerable investment in labor and materials to start their corn in the greenhouse and transplant it to the field. We may try a planting or two like that this year, but we’re still hoping the direct-seeded rows will make a decent stand.

The organic arsenal for vegetable growers includes products like Surround, a non-toxic clay that deters insects, and pyganic, an insecticide derived from chrysanthemums.

The organic arsenal for vegetable growers includes products like Surround, a non-toxic clay that deters insects, and pyganic, an insecticide derived from chrysanthemums.

Good news on the two animals Dr. Goldwasser saw last Friday. Fruity the dairy cow with pneumonia is feeling well again, after a course of antibiotics. We use antibiotics only when medically necessary, and we always double the designated holdback period before using milk or meat from a treated animal. Abby the horse is doing much better, too. The swelling has disappeared from her throat, her cough is gone, and we are hoping she’ll be ready for work again in another few days.

Parade lineup, from largest to smallest.

Parade lineup, from largest to smallest.

We have a new Hereford bull on the farm, Timmy, and he’s a real beauty. He came from just down the road at Lewis Family Farm, and joined the herd as the first calves of the season arrived. Now we are on the hunt for some Hereford cows with good grass-based genetics to build our new breeding herd.

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Here’s Timmy. What a stud.

We have infinite lettuce, scallions and Swiss chard in the share today, plus the first harvest of pak choi. Pak choi is a cruciferous Asian green that is loaded with nutrition and flavor. Both the white and the green parts are used and can be steamed or sautéed, or even chopped very fine and eaten raw. My favorite way is to sauté pak choi with scallion or garlic and a little grated fresh ginger, then finish with a splash of soy sauce or tamari. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this chilly 23rd week of 2015.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

 

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