By the Ton

Essex Farm Note

Week 33, 2015


Harvest season now. Food coming in by the ton. I feel the change in my palate already. I’m craving more substantial vegetables, the roots and the hearty greens. The weather was cool and wet this week, carrying a premonition of autumn. The heat is coming back this weekend, but the real shift is not far behind. Every crop we grew this year was planted on our 50 acres of drained ground. The weather was so wet during planting season, it was simply not possible to plant anywhere else, and if we had managed it, the plants would have been poor at best. We prioritized vegetables on the available ground and left out most of the grain, which had to be purchased this year. This is the hand that nature deals and she doesn’t take requests. But drainage, at least, offers a hedge against her whims. In our area it is the wet years, and not the dry ones, that hurt the worst, and this farm is wetter than most; even in a dry year, our drained fields yield better than the unimproved fields. Drainage is expensive – between $1,000 and $2,000 an acre, after all is done – so Mark and I have been thinking and planning for a long time about how to put in more of it. This week we finally made the decision to go for it, on another 40 acres. If we can grow grain on it, the investment should pay back within a few years. We chose Chad Field and a section of Fifty Acre Field, on the northeast section of the farm. We do not own that land but we have a long term lease on it, and it has excellent soil – a foot of rich and stone-free topsoil above a layer of sand, underlain by clay. In the past, despite the beautiful soil, it has yielded well only in years with near-perfect rainfall. I can’t wait to see what it will do next year. Ben Collins is here today, removing willow and poplar from the border ditches, and the Barnes family will arrive on Monday with their ditching plows. The Barneses have been in the drainage business since the 1970s, back when drainage was made of interlocking one foot sections of ceramic tile. Now it is done with 4” perforated plastic pipe, laid continuously along the field 30 feet apart, 4 to 6 feet underground.


Now, plant news. The last flats of lettuce are going into the ground this week. First sweet corn is in the share. The ears are small, thanks to weed pressure, but small corn is so much better than no corn. There’s okra in the share too. I used it to make bhindi masala for dinner last night, delicious. We also have the first harvest of kohlrabi today. This time of year I like it raw, simply peeled and sliced or grated, with a little salt or a light dressing. The green bean harvest was immense this week. Thank you to the team for all that hard picking. Members, this would be a good week for canning them. Also, note that the early blight is halfway up the tomato vines, and late blight has been spotted just north of us, so the end of tomato season is probably not far behind. Now is the time to take advantage of any extra tomatoes for canning or freezing. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this bountiful 33rd week of 2015. -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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