Essex Farm Note
Week 29, 2013
The heat made for happy plants this week. The kids and I were away for most of it. Coming home to the farm after a few days mid-summer is like not seeing a small child for six months: you can’t believe how fast it changes. The corn had a big growth spurt. Since we have so little of it planted, we really poured the resources into it. We spread the field heavily with compost and then dressed the corn with purchased organic fertilizer after planting. All that nitrogen, plus good weed control and drainage, made for a gorgeous, even, deep green stand. It does my heart good to see it. In the northern section of Superjoy, the tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Now it’s a race against blights. Early blight is already here, creeping up slowly from the bottom of the plants, but we are used to that. We still get a tomato harvest with early blight. Late blight is the one we worry about. It is wending its way across the state, carried on the wind. Cross your fingers for bright dry weather and ask the wind to blow the spores away from us. We’ll do the same, plus spray copper, the organic prophylactic treatment for blight.
The big story of the week was hay. As you know, readers, the hay situation is serious. We need to bring in six months’ worth of decent hay for beef cattle, good hay for horses, and excellent hay for the dairy herd, plus a lot of material for bedding. By now should have a loft full of first-cut bales, with the grass for second cut well-grown in the fields. Before this week we’d made only a thousand bales, and they came in too wet and were ruined by mold. This late in the season, forage that hasn’t been mowed yet is over-mature and not very nutritious. But poor feed is better than no feed, so haying began this week the moment the fields were dry enough to support machinery and the forecast gave us hope for a few days without rain. The window looked just big enough to get the hundred acre field baled. I feel guilty that I was away, as it took enormous effort from everyone. Mark, Travis and Cory worked on the borrowed round baler. They were learning a new machine under pressure, which is like meeting a stranger and trying to become intimate friends really fast. This particular friend had not been out for a few years and had a bunch of cracked hoses and a quirky electrical system. While the hoses were being replaced, the rest of the crew made 2400 square bales. Gwen, Kelsey, Aubrey and Amy stacked in the mow, where the sun beats down on the roof, the heat rises up from below, and the bales throw off the heat of the field as they come in. Imagine lifting fifty pound weights for hours in a very dirty sauna. Not only did they get through it, but when I got home on Wednesday, Mark was finishing the last of the hundred acres with his new friend the round baler, and everyone was smiling. Thank you to all the farmers for their fortitude.
Animals did not like the heat as much as the plants did. We lost some broiler chickens, dairy and egg production is down a tick, and despite their fortitude, the farmers look a little droopy today. Extra thanks to Mairin, who is volunteering this week. I hear she’s a superstar. Summer shares are still available, and our web site is functional: www.essexfarmcsa.com. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this green-beans-and-zucchini-fest 29th week of 2013. -Kristin & Mark Kimball