Essex Farm Note
Week 2, 2017
The seasons of the year can be read as an equation that comes out even in the end. Addition and subtraction. Positive and negative. Sun and shadow. Objects and their absence. We farm in the north country. Here, summer is for gaining and winter is for spending. In the summer we fill the barns with hay. As winter trundles on the bales become empty space. They disappear but they are not gone. Matter trades places with energy, which is neither created nor destroyed, but in farming, it is so beautifully transfigured: A burning star in space becomes grass becomes hay becomes the beating of a heart. It becomes milk, roots, bones, flesh. It becomes us. It becomes this thought, a spark we are sharing between us. Now.
We have house guests this week, staying on the hoosier cabinet next to the dining room table. Two flats of germinated lettuce seed, planted in blocks of last year’s potting soil. It’s not worth heating the greenhouse to keep them alive, so we’re sharing our warm space with them for now. One flat has added organic fertilizer, and the other does not. We’re using them to test the old potting soil’s fertility, and also, perhaps, our limits. How early can we use this splendid new greenhouse of ours, if the winter stays mild? Would a late January Hail Mary planting of lettuce survive? Which is another way of asking that most pressing question, how soon can we all eat fresh greens in spring?
There was a lot of movement in animal world this week. We sold off 350 round bales of hay, which meant we could rearrange the lower covered barnyard to give dairy heifers and beef cattle more space. In the upper covered barnyard, we weaned most of the piglets. The timing of weaning is a balancing act between the benefits to the nursing offspring and the cost to the lactating mamas. Any mother who has nursed a child can probably relate to that. Producing milk is hard work, and there’s wear and tear on the mama equipment. Imagine nursing twelve 30lb babies with sharp teeth and enormous appetites. This time, the piglets were way beyond the minimum age and size for weaning, but the sows held their weight well. Now the sows are in with Buddy the fat and friendly boar, who came over from Vermont, and has been renamed Gilbert. Ben just texted me a picture of him in the act of breeding Flops, with the caption “Your boar works.” Looks like we can expect piglets again in 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Pig gestation time is the only one I never forget.
We’ve been working on our marketing and communications this winter. The essexfarmcsa.com website has been renovated, thanks to loads of help from Gwen Jamison and Alex Bates. We still have some editing to do there, but it looks five hundred percent better already, and the farm store finally has an order page, hooray. I still need to get my own site and blog cleaned up, and that’s the goal for next month. Meanwhile, we’re posting regularly on Instagram, so please follow us there at essexfarmcsa (farm) or at kristinxkimball (me). And that is the news from Essex Farm for this blue-sky thawed-out 2nd week of 2017. –Kristin & Mark Kimball