Essex Farm Note

Week 29, 2015


We cut 80 acres of hay last Friday and no sooner was the last row laid down than the next day’s forecast changed from sunny to chance of rain. It takes three clear days in a row to make hay. On the first day, the grass is cut. On the second, it is tedded – fluffed – with a giant spider-like implement that spreads the hay out so the sun can get to it. On the third day, when the grass has dried to about 16% moisture, it is raked into windrows, baled, and hauled out of the field to shelter. Any rain will delay the process and reduce the quality of the hay. That’s why we watch the forecast so carefully before we mow. But we have found that forecasts are unreliable on years as wet as this one. Rain begets rain. The soaked ground gives up moisture to the laden air, which needs only a small excuse to get rid of it again.

The first storm on Saturday went to the north, just nicking us. Then, a storm popped up to our west out of nowhere. We could see it on the radar, a green blob with a red heart, moving straight toward us as though drawn by sinister force. It began as a light shower and then it started to beat on the roof and waterfall from the eaves, dropping an inch on us in two hours. There are few things that make one feel as puny and powerless as the sound of hard rain on 80 acres of cut hay.

The sun came out again on Monday and we got ¾ of the field baled before the next series of storms hit us on Wednesday morning. The quality of the hay is poor, but now our largest hay field is mostly clear and the new grass has already grown two inches, so we can hope for a good second cutting. Crops are holding steady or better in the drained fields. The first raspberries are ripe and the tomatoes, still free of blight, are sizing up. We have the first green beans in the share today, and the first sugar snap peas, both thanks to many hands that did the picking this week. I was excited to see a gorgeous Savoy cabbage appear in my kitchen this morning, and I’m told we have that plus the first green cabbage in the share today. Celery – the most moisture-loving of plants – is looking very happy.

Our big push this week was weed control. We’ve had such small windows of opportunity available for cultivation. So, for the first time, we used the tractor instead of the horses to cultivate between rows. I went to the field to watch as Mark drove the Ford through the field corn with our new four-row rolling cultivator hooked behind. I have spent innumerable hours behind horses over the last twelve years, cultivating slowly, one row at a time. It took the tractor about an hour to fly through a job that would have taken me a whole long day or more with the horses, and it killed more weeds, too. Watching it, I felt a complex cocktail of emotions that included both sadness and relief.

We are hosting our July tour tomorrow at 10am, details on the events page. Local readers, tomorrow is also the first in a series of harvest events at the Whallonsburg Grange Kitchen. At 9:30am, Jori Wekin will explain the Grange’s flash freezers, steam kettle, and other Grange equipment, which anyone may use to preserve the bounty of the summer share for the long north country winter. Does it get any better than that? And that is the news from Essex Farm for this rain rain go away 29th week of 2015.                                                           –Kristin & Mark Kimball


Taylor with Jake and Abby, cultivating popcorn.


Next door, Mark used the tractor to cultivate field corn.


Hay field games.


Ready for transplant.

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