Essex Farm Note, week 36

We spent the early part of the week bringing in the onions and shallots, in advance of predicted wet weather. By Tuesday evening they were curing in the greenhouse, a mix of papery yellows and reds and purples.

Mark and I slept so soundly on Tuesday night that we woke up thinking the rain had missed us yet again. We groused about it as I made coffee and Mark laced up his boots. He stomped out into the pre-dawn gloom, and then came bounding back. The rain gauge showed 2.75”! Still there were hardly any puddles. The  ground was so thirsty it sucked up every bit of it. The pasture and hayfields have been at a standstill for weeks, but now, with luck, we might get some 2nd cut hay after all. And it was excellent news for fall crops. This morning, we surveyed the remote fields where we are growing the winter squash, field corn, cabbage and potatoes. We were surprised at how good the squash looks, as we’ve taken a very hands-off approach to it this year. The per-plant yields are low, but we planted so much of it, we’ll have an abundant harvest of butternut, delicata, acorn and pumpkin. The kabocha squash, Sunshine, looks a little weak. The flea beetles really favored that variety this year. Too bad – it’s my favorite too. Meanwhile, the cabbage looks fine, and the field corn is coming along nicely. The field corn crop is practically invisible from a member perspective – besides showing up in early winter as corn meal in the share, you don’t really see it – but its importance to the farm as a whole cannot be overstated. The corn is the energy that grows the chickens and the hogs, and keeps muscle on the horses when they are working hard. With corn prices at an all-time high, it is imperative we grow our own. Now what we need is a long warm fall, and a late frost.

Some of you spent time last holiday weekend with friends at the lake or a park, but I doubt you had more fun than we did at Potato Beach. Saturday’s weeding party was a great success. The kids played in the sandy soil while a dozen or so adults powered through the lambsquarters with pruning shears. It was kind of like vacuuming a very dirty room, where the satisfaction comes from the contrast between the before and the after. We got through several long rows, leaving the patch about 2/3rds weeded. We will probably have one more party before we harvest the potatoes. Thank you to everyone who came out and helped.

Member payments for September are due today. If you are on the quarterly schedule and can pay us now, that would be nice for cash flow purposes. We are buying organic roasted soy (the protein for chicken and hog feed) at a whopping 60 cents/lbs. Cue my periodic reminder to please treat meat as the precious resource it is. Make use of every bit of it, including bones, and remember that the dry beans are also a delicious source of protein. I make a point of using them as a main course at least once a week. The share price hinges largely on how much meat we consume. Speaking of meat, the beef in today’s share comes from a beautiful Angus bull, pasture raised by Shaun and Linda Gililland. Finally, there are milled oats in the share today; use them like steel cut oats. I soak them overnight with a little whey, which makes the cooking faster in the morning. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this quenched 36th week of 2012.

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