Essex Farm Note, week 29

Fickle weather! Most of the rain passed us by this week, falling just to our north and south. We did get about half an inch – more of a sip than the deep cool drink the plants are craving. We expect slow growth, late or limited second cut hay, and limited pasture this summer, but all of that is better than the fast death by drowning, or slow death by moldering that so many of the plants suffered last year. Forecast says there is a chance for more rain early next week, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we see some of it.

Adam Perry and Mark Risley came over yesterday to harvest the rye. It is a mighty thing for farmers used to a horse’s pace to watch the combine move through the field, taking huge swaths of brown stalks and their bowed heads of ripe grain in each pass. The grain – 7 tons of it – came in a touch too wet at 15% moisture, so we will spend the next couple weeks stirring it and blowing it to get it down to 13%. We will also bale the straw that the combine left behind – a commodity nearly as valuable, in our straw-poor area, as the grain itself. I have had my eye on it for construction purposes but we may well need it for bedding this year. This coming week we will break ground on the two composting barns we’re building to keep our livestock off of pasture in late winter and early spring, and we will need plenty of straw to keep them functioning properly.

Garlic came in this week, too. It is tied in picturesque bundles, hanging to dry on the east wall of the east barn. In the field, the tomatoes are ripening fast. They are in the share today. The small variety is called Juliet, and is excellent for eating, drying or saucing. I like to half them, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and a few shreds of basil, dry them on a cookie sheet, cut size up, in a very slow oven for 2 or 3 hours, then put them in a zip lock bag and pop them in the freezer. The slight dehydration intensifies their sweetness. The kids eat them like candy, and I cook with them all winter.

There are lots of summer raspberries to pick this week. Members, help yourself, anytime you like. Remember to pick everything that is ripe in a given section, and return your berry boxes as soon as you can. Milk production is declining, as most of our herd is getting close to the end of their lactation. The dairy cows are grazing around the barnyard now – we are taking advantage of any and all grass we can find! Be aware that Spencer the bull is still with them, so don’t wander among them. Egg production has dipped a bit, as it does every summer, so please go easy on eggs for now. Weeds are demanding a big blast of attention this coming week. The potatoes (so many of them!) need a hand weeding, and the corn will be hilled. We have no potato beetles to speak of this year, because we rotated potatoes to the other side of the farm, and the beetles have not yet found them. Hooray for rotation – it really does work. Courtney and Chad spent most of the week behind horses, cultivating and mowing hay. Next week is Courtney’s final week with us before she moves on to the farm she and Asa are starting in Keeseville.

And that is the lickety-split news for this fresh 29th week of 2012.

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