Catamount

Essex Farm Note

Week 35, 2015

Remember the mountain lion – a.k.a puma, or Eastern cougar, and locally called a catamount – that our neighbor Ron spotted running across the road into the sugarbush a few weeks ago? Two more people have seen it now. Taylor described it as a very large-bodied, tawny cat, lurking in the field near the firehouse. Whereas Ron definitely saw a long tail as it crossed the road, Taylor didn’t see the hind end so can’t say if it had a long tail or a bobbed one. Once the cat saw Taylor, it flashed some teeth, then turned and ran. The Eastern cougar was officially declared extinct in June of this year, and the Fish and Wildlife Service believes it has been so since at least the 1930s. So is this a collective mirage, a bobcat with tail extensions, or a very very overgrown house kitty? Or has feline tenacity been officially misjudged? I’m rooting for the undercat, despite the little chill it sends down my spine.

We are inside the best haymaking window of the year, with no rain and low humidity. Ben and Jon will be mowing until the forecast changes, putting some precious second cut into the barn, and a lot of overgrown first cut. Meanwhile the vegetable crew has been slogging through heavy late-season weeding. Yesterday, two heaping wagon loads of mature amaranth, galinsoga and lambs quarter came out of the field. That is a sign that we missed some key cultivations, but a lot of the blame for that goes to the weather. You can’t cultivate a field that is too wet to support a team or a tractor, and that was the state of things for most of June. Big thanks to the weeders for keeping most of those seeds out of our soil.

The 2015 onions have been harvested and are drying down in the lofts of the barns. If you are a faithful reader you may remember that we experimented with planting the onion starts directly into the cover crop this spring, in unplowed ground. I think it’s safe to say that the strategy worked. Production was excellent. The east barn loft is completely full, with overflow in the west barn loft. We are hoping they will store as well as they grew.

 

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Onions coming in from the field. The horses, Jay and Jack, are in their mid-20s now — older than some of our farmers. They can still do a day’s work and are a steady reliable team to learn to drive with.

The raspberries are booming. On the other hand, eggs are scare due to molt, hot weather, and a change in feed formulation. We’re also at the low point in the year for milk production, with most of our cows resting before the first calves arrive this fall. Luckily, we are extremely rich in vegetables. Don’t forget to keep putting up what you want to eat in late winter and early spring. I’ve got a few bags of whole tomatoes in the freezer, and some pints of sauce, and some raspberries. This week I’ll work on edamame.

I was traveling last week, but Mark barely noticed I was away, because he has been so busy with the drainage project. I’m out of time and out of space, so next week, I’ll report on that in detail. But do mark your calendars for Friday, September 11th. Patagonia is kicking off their westbound Worn Wear tour from Essex Farm, during distro, from 3pm to 7pm. More details to come, but it is open to the public, with food and music. The Worn Wear team will fix or recycle your Patagonia gear for free. First come, first served. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this bright 35th week of 2015. -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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