Little Pigs

Essex Farm Note

Week 32, 2013

I’m on my way back from giving a talk in Michigan, so today’s news comes via Mark. The weather seems to be trying to make up for its poor behavior earlier in the season. We got a very well-timed eight-tenths of an inch of rain last night, which watered in the oat/pea mix that was just planted in Chad Field. It will help move the grass along toward some nice second cut hay, and it gladdens the buckwheat strips in Fifty Acre Field. If you have never seen buckwheat, members, it might be worth the long walk to see it. It’s a vigorous grower, and good for weed control because it tends to outcompete all the other plants. The bees love it when it flowers, and it gives a dark color and distinctive, molasses-like flavor to their honey.

Speaking of the bees, they need all the help they can get this summer. Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries came to check our hives a couple weeks ago. He usually gives us glowing reports on the health of the Essex Farm bees, but this time, there was something really wrong. He saw a lot of dead bees, and some live but twitching ones. A bit of investigation revealed that we’d inadvertently poisoned them by using wasp spray on a nest of yellow jackets in the machine shop. The hives are not particularly close to the machine shop, but as Sam says, that poison is strong stuff. Lesson learned, and all but one hive should recover.

Mark says the corn is 8 feet tall and tasseled now. I can’t wait to see it. The girls love to explore the corn canyons this time of year, running along the rows with the green plants towering above them. They find all kinds of life in there, from giant black and yellow garden spiders to huitlacoche, a crazy-looking corn fungus that we love to eat sautéed in butter with a little bit of onion, cilantro and a squirt of lime.

The whole crew raced the rain to bring in straw from the harvested rye and wheat fields. Travis had to fix a fairly constant stream of broken machinery to make it happen. Things only break when you’re using them, of course, and so, naturally, that’s when you most need them. Thank you, Travis, for your skill and patience. Two more volunteers joined the crew while I was gone. Annelies was with us last summer, and is here for a sort of working reunion after spending most of this summer in India. Michael Hanchett is a newcomer who arrived on Monday and gave us a week of hard work. The two of them joined forces with Malcolm to bust out two major projects: bringing in all of the summer carrots, and hauling the weeds out of the corn in Monument field. Meanwhile, Liam used Jake and the one-horse cultivator to get the weeds between the rows of potatoes.

In the share today, we have the first two pigs from the litters born in February. They were fed on grain, pasture, and skim milk, and these two finished at 290 pounds, which is really good. I’ll take this occasion to remind members that meat is the most precious thing we produce. Please savor it and use it sparingly, especially now, as grain is scarce and expensive. Finally, a loving farewell to Luke Barns, whose last day is today. He’s off to the University of Vermont to start his first year. We will miss his dogged work ethic but even more, his good company. Good luck to you Luke! And that is the news from Essex Farm for this watered 32nd week of 2013.                                                 -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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