Essex Farm Note
Week 20, 2012
The thing that makes farming so interesting – and sometimes so heartbreaking – is the unpredictability that is built into natural systems. You really can’t count your chickens before they hatch. As farmers, our impulse is to control as many variables as we can (which is how we end up with CAFOs and GMOs) but the longer I farm the more I think nature is far too chaotic and powerful for our little minds to manage. The best we can do is hold on to her hem, and try not to get squashed when she takes a quick step. On Wednesday, I was building a new sheep pasture with Mark and the girls when the sky turned green and the world got still. We could see lightning in the distance. A bolt hit the hill to our west, and Mark felt the jolt of it in the piece of electric fence he was holding. That’s when we decided to go inside. We watched from the door of the house, and even Miranda was quiet. Wind came first, carrying big drops of rain. Then the rain came in sheets, blurring our view of the swaying elm tree across the driveway. Then the hard sound of hail, bouncing off the greenhouse, off the car, off the roof. As the hail got bigger and harder and fell faster, it felt like what it must feel like to witness an earthquake: thrilled by the force and beauty of the thing, while simultaneously registering the loss. The hailstones grew to the size of marbles, covered every surface, and washed into frozen piles at the edge of the driveway. When it was over, there was that clean, ozone smell that makes you feel the world has been washed, but also a lot of tattered plants, and lodged rye. The young plants in flats outside the greenhouse took a heavy beating, and so did the plants in the field. The good news is that while they are definitely set back, we think most of them will survive. Peas are starting to rebound, and some of the spinach might lift itself out of the mud over the next few dry days, and the asparagus will just keep coming. And we were lucky in that we narrowly missed the worst of it. Our neighbor Ron, just across the street, lost everything in his garden.
It is time to send thanks to Emily Schmitt, who has lovingly, heroically cared for Jane and Miranda five mornings a week while simultaneously getting more done around the house and farm than I do without kids. She and family are off to their jobs at camp. We will miss them! And please say hello and welcome to Natalie Kawecki, who is going to take over Emily’s duties for the summer. Natalie comes from a dairy farm family in northern New York and has spent the last few years training in and teaching eurythmy. (That’s a form of dance and movement based on Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy – the same place biodynamic farming comes from.) Natalie is going to be living with us until September, so come by and meet her.
We are going to start a weekly farm walk for members on Fridays at 4pm, so you can see how all the different farm systems work, ask questions, and pet cute animals. I will lead it unless there is pressing work in the field. Next week, we’ll look at chicks in the brooder house. Meet at the chalkboard. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this dramatic 20th week of 2012. -Kristin & Mark Kimball