Hopeful

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Essex Farm Note

Week 27, 2015

June ended the same way it started. Rain, rain, rain. We stopped counting inches on our rain gauge a while ago, but Mark told me this morning that the official tally across the lake was a whopping 15” for June. (For reference, 4” would have been ideal.) Let’s hope a new month means a new weather pattern, dry days, and some heat for the whole region, because we’re not the only ones who are soggy. The girls and I were in Vermont yesterday, and drove past a lot of very sorry looking crops – stunted, yellowing corn, and hay fields with coarse-looking, headed-out grasses.

The only mortality here so far has been the melons – watermelon and cantaloupe – which succumbed to a one-two punch of wet feet and insect pressure. Dry beans still look poor, but they are growing. Everything else looks fair to excellent. The weeds took advantage of the field conditions to get a jump on us, but we have two weeks before they have an unstoppable advantage, and if good weather holds, we should be able to catch up, especially if we can get our new 4-row cultivator in working order. Meanwhile, the team took advantage of a break in the rain last Saturday to get most of the fall brassicas transplanted, using the new waterwheel transplanter. Those plants look strong and healthy.

I shudder to think where we would be without drainage. Not to sound like a broken record on that front, but it really has saved us this year. Mark and I walked out to the end pipe last night after the kids were in bed, for the pleasure of watching water rush out of it. This is not the first time we’ve faced a supremely wet growing season, and it probably won’t be the last. We are talking about how to finance more drainage on the field next to Blockhouse Road. We would like to make it happen by the end of summer so we can get it fitted and ready for planting next spring.

Now that the sun is out, it’s full speed ahead. We can’t waste a minute. Ben took our newly acquired mower out to start cutting hay early this morning, along with every other farmer in the neighborhood. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the hay fields don’t look as over-mature as I thought they would. The cool wet weather must have slowed their growth. By mid-morning, Ben had laid down several acres, but then the mower broke, as it always does when you need it. Mark and Jon are in the shop with it now, hoping to get back out before the day is over.

What else? Lindsey has been on thistle patrol this week, trying to decapitate it before it goes to seed. Thistle has been increasingly problematic in our pastures over the last few years. We will see the last of the asparagus in the share today. The rain put a bad hurt on the strawberries, but raspberries are right around the corner and look particularly strong. We have a huge crew of volunteers here today and a large proportion of them are picking shell peas right now. It takes a day of picking to appreciate how much labor goes into harvesting shell peas. I hope you all enjoy them as much as we did in the farmhouse this week, cooked in milk with a little butter and some chopped mint. Sugar snaps should be here next week, and green beans in two weeks. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this hopeful 27th week of 2015.                                                    -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Picking peas before the rain.

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Heavy skies over the bean patch.

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Mark got the fall carrots planted yesterday. A little late, but not too bad.

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Carrots, carrots, carrots.

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First hay down.

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First breakdown.

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Getting down to deal with it.

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