Cold melon hot grass

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Week 32, 2016

The weather continues as if on order from a helpful purveyor: hot dry weeks punctuated by a soaking inch or two of rain. Ben, Jon, and Brandon made the first bales of second cut hay this week, quick-dried and rich with clover. Bob Perry came over with his combine to harvest the hard red winter wheat, which remained upright in the microburst of wind and hail that hit us two Saturdays ago, though the mature heads were heavy with grain. The field corn is growing steadily, and the sweet corn has tasseled. The first watermelons came in, just enough for a taste, but what is better than a taste of chilled watermelon, eaten in the afternoon shade of an oak, juice dripping down on the grass? Yesterday, the harvest wagon lurched home over the farm road under a colorful load of tomatoes. When the tomato flood begins, summer bounty has arrived in earnest. There were flats of the bright red slicers, which I have eaten to excess this week, while standing over the sink with the salt shaker in my hand; also, the oddball striped heirloom variety called Green Zebra, which is a hard sell on looks alone but will fly off the wagon once tasted at peak ripeness. Then, the husked, papery green tomatillos, a new crop for us this year, which I’m roasting in the oven as I type, along with jalapeños, to make a batch of salsa verde for tonight’s team dinner. Finally, there were many, many quarts of cherry tomatoes, evidence of how hard the harvest team has been working. I think that Sungold, the world’s favorite cherry tomato, might be dethroned by a new-to-us variety called Pink Princess. Or, maybe, it’s the mixed quarts that are truly perfect – Sungold’s tart acid chased by the Princess’s pure sweetness. We have tomatoes enough to satisfy everyone, and then more, and still more, enough to keep Jori and her crew busy processing sauce and salsa at the Hub on the Hill, hundreds of pounds at a time.

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While the fields are hitting their zenith, the dairy is approaching its nadir. We’re drying off the fall-bred cows, one by one, to let them regain their condition before calving. Calliope, Cori, Stevie and Kite are dry already, and Wonder will join them after milking this evening. The remaining cows are all late in their lactations, and therefore low in production. The calves begin to arrive around the 6th of September. In other dairy news, we got blood pregnancy tests back on the group of cows and heifers that we inseminated artificially for spring calving. Over half of them caught on the first shot – a very good percentage, thanks to Ben Christian’s skill at breeding them, and to Coleen and the animal team for diligently watching the herd for signs of heat. This should be the last year in which we have a dearth of milk in late summer. From now on we’ll calve in spring and in fall, which ought to keep production closer to even over the course of the year.

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I have a pair of Essex Farm Institute events to announce, both happening this month. The first is a talk on mob grazing, followed by a pasture walk here at Essex Farm, on Sunday, August 21st, from 2pm to 6pm. Our guest speaker is Meg Grzeskiewicz, of Rhinestone Cattle Company. Meg studied animal science and ag business in West Virginia, and then interned with the well-known grazier Greg Judy at his farm in Missouri. Meg now raises cattle in Western New York, and will talk about Greg Judy’s philosophy of low input, high profit production through high density, rotational grazing. This event is open to all farmers, farm workers and apprentices, and is free for farmers in the Adirondacks and Northern NY. Farmers from other regions are also welcome, with a $25 donation suggested. Those traveling long distances are welcome to camp on our farm. If you wish to attend, please email Racey Henderson at essexfarminstitute@gmail.com with your name, the farm you work on, and number of people in your party. Racey can also answer any questions you might have.

The second event is a public forum at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall, at 6:30pm on August 29th, titled Resilient Farms, Resilient Communities: How Agriculture Can Help the Adirondacks Respond to Climate Change. Our guest speaker is farmer, writer and activist Anthony Flaccavento, who works on strengthening rural economies through healthy agriculture. Anthony created a Food Hub in Virginia ten years ago that is still going strong, and is the founder of SCALE: Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies. His website, www.bottomupeconomy.org, and his new book, Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up, aim to bring the discussion about rural economies to the mainstream. The event is free and open to the public, so please help us spread the word. Northern Feast catering will be on site selling crepes, beginning at 5:00. Come for dinner, and stay for the talk.

And that is the news from Essex Farm for this hot hot hot 32nd week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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