Essex Farm Note, week 30

It is a farewell day – to Courtney, who is off to Keeseville, and to Chad, who has been here full time with us for the busy season, but will now focus on his own projects. We send them both with lots of thanks, best wishes, and a few tears. One of the hardest parts of having employees is saying goodbye, especially after sharing hard work and many farm joys and sorrows together. Chad is available for horse logging jobs and can be reached at 540-270-7610. We hope he’ll come back and work with us when he has time in his and the horses’ schedule.

Speaking of horses, I been having a crisis of belief. It began last season as a niggling tickle in the back of my head, and has grown to a full-fledged internal conflict. Ask me what my favorite part of this farm is, and I will always tell you it’s the horses. That has not changed. But I’ve been needling Mark lately with questions about horses and efficiency, scale, and energy inputs. Such as: Is horsepower workable for us, at this scale, and at this level of diversity? Will we be able to keep up with spring work using horses alone? Can we balance our budget, given the added cost of payroll due to the slower pace of horse power? Can we find or train enough teamsters? Can we keep all the horses we need for the busy season productive year-round? Is biodiesel a more sustainable alternative? Mixed power? I am the last person you’d expect to be asking these questions, but the latest phase of growth has put them in the forefront of my mind. We welcome the input of readers and members as we hash this out in the farmhouse and among the farmers here.

Members, it’s high harvest season now, which means it’s time to think about what to put in your freezer and pantry for next winter and early spring. Here is the drill. Check the board each week for items in abundance. Some may be available the same week, but others need to be ordered by the Tuesday before distribution, by sending an email to, subject line HARVEST. We currently have cucumbers, chard, zucchini, kale, and beet greens in abundance. I think it’s easier to put things up little by little. And keep a list, because if you are like me you will soon forget what lurks in the frosty depths of your chest freezer. If you are a new member, you might want to talk to me or to veteran members about what and how much to put up. And as always, unless you’ve requested extra, or spoken to Amy or Jenny, please take only what you will use in a week.

When there is abundance from one direction, there is dearth from another. It’s drying-off season for the dairy cows, so they can rest before giving birth to their calves in the fall. We stopped milking Zea this week, and other cows are not far behind. At the same time, their production has dropped because they are late in their lactation, and because the pasture is not as rich as it was earlier in the season. This is all to say it is time to limit milk. Please check the board carefully. Soon we will go to twice per week milk distribution, and ask those who live close to the farm to pick up their milk on Tuesdays. Next year, some of our cows will freshen in the spring rather than the fall, so the drop in production won’t be quite so pronounced. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this rain-blessed 29th week of 2012.

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