Essex Farm Note
Week 24, 2015
Muddy is the big word of the week. We got an astounding 7” of rain in the last 14 days. Every time we hit a stretch of weather like this, we shout thank you to our fifty drained acres. Before drainage, most of the crops out there would be dead, taking all the work we’ve put in to this point with them. With drainage, they are thriving. The cucurbits are growing like crazy. The shell peas are blooming. Tomatoes have never looked better. The wonderful planting of flowers, in Mailbox Field, is beginning to give us a little color. The field corn is up and gaining momentum. Away from the drained fields, the ground is far too wet to work, and will likely remain that way for several more days. Which leads to our second big word of the week. Pivot! As in, it’s too late to plant soybeans this year, so we’re pivoting to annual forage for pigs. Linguistically, I am not sure I approve, but I am all for the concept. As soon as we can get into the fields that are already prepared for soy, we’ll plant a fast-growing mix of corn, turnip, pea, oat and radish. Then we will turn the pigs onto it for the last part of the summer and into the fall. That should help reduce the grain bill, and because they will harvest it themselves, it will also reduce labor costs, and should produce some delicious and healthy pork, too.
We have our first broiler chickens of the year in the share today. It was an exceptionally good batch – nice-looking birds, and very few losses. Three cheers to animal team for good husbandry, and to the whole crew for a well-planned slaughter yesterday. This might be the time to point out that chickens are our highest-cost meat. They require a lot of labor from beginning to end, and eat very expensive organic grain. Members, please remember to treat them with the reverence they deserve, use every part, and don’t forget to save the bones for stock!
In other animal news, the piglets born in early spring are all weaned now, and the sows are turned back in with the boar, to be re-bred for fall. We had a disappointing loss in the sheep flock this week. One of the biggest ram lambs showed up with an injured knee, and after a lot of effort, had to be euthanized. We managed to get through lambing with 50 lambs and no losses, and somehow it feels worse when we lose one to a fluke like this, unexpected.
We’re saying thanks and goodbye to Jane M. and Daniel today. They have been wonderful members of the team for the last month. Meanwhile we welcome Charlotte to the fulltime crew, and welcome back Matt, Isabelle and Shona – three well-known, well-loved faces. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this muddy 24th week of 2015. –Kristin & Mark Kimball