Essex Farm Note, Solstice Edition

Week 25, 2015

We made our evening farm walks through puddles and mud once again this week. After twelve seasons, I know we have a choice when the weather gives us challenges. We can either bemoan the rain, over which we have no control, or marvel at the beauty of the clouds piled on the horizon, stained by the orange and purple of a setting sun. I’ve learned that it’s best to lean as much as possible toward the marvel. But it’s a heck of a lot easier to do that when you have drainage in the fields. The last time we had a June this wet, before the drainage, we struggled with lakes full of drowning plants and lost about half our crops. That was a really tough year. This time, thanks to drainage, all our plants went in on time and we were even able to keep cultivating on all but the wettest days. On Tuesday, after getting another inch, Mark walked to the eastern edge of Superjoy to find a spout of water coming out of the ground, as though from an underworld whale. He called John Barnes, who installed our drainage, and he drove down from Plattsburgh with his backhoe and tile snake, the world’s biggest plumbing tools. They soon found the problem – a thick plug of viburnum, honeysuckle, and thistle roots, right near the outlet. They fixed it, and the water began to flow out in the right place again, bringing with it tangled mats of root, and a large, dead frog.


Kirsten learned to cultivate with the horses this week. She is leading the vegetable team this year, and it felt good to see her out there with steady old Jay and Jack, using the best tools in our weed arsenal. She, Mike, Taylor and the horses have worked hard to stay on top of weeds despite very small windows of opportunity. So far, so good. Strawberries are beginning to bear nicely now; the ones picked in the rain won’t keep long and should be processed or eaten immediately. You can freeze them, or make jam, or shrub. We have radishes in the share today – a pretty, crisp and spicy variety called Cherriette. I’ve been nibbling at the sweet shoots of peas whenever I pass them. There are blooms on the snap and the shell peas now, as well as the fava beans. I’m really looking forward to the favas and hope they make it through the cool damp weather without catching a blight. They are touchier about rot than other legumes.


The animal team is working just as hard as the plant team, trying to keep on top of the mud, sometimes literally. Waterers, minerals, and fencelines have to be moved quickly to keep the pastures from being badly compacted, which makes regrowth slow or nonexistent. Abby the mare is back to work this week after her frightening episode of choke, looking as good as new. The weather has been rough on the sheep, as it favors the parasites that tend to pull them down this time of year. Ben and Lindsey are off to look at two new milk cows in Westport today, hoping to expand the herd.

We got a mention in the latest issue of Rodale’s new updated and relaunched magazine, Organic Life, in a piece by Tracey McMillan about living off the grid. We were included because we and our members are essentially off the industrial food grid. There’s sweet picture of Jane with Jessica the lamb by photographer Amy Toensing.


And that is the news from Essex Farm for this cold solstice 25th week of 2015. -Kristin & Mark Kimball




Peas and favas.


Family scouting mission to find a good site for the new weather station.


Mike taking advantage of a break in the rain to kill weeds with Jake and Abby.


Cloud Medley.

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