Carrotfest

Essex Farm Note

Week 47, 2013

The carrots came in on Veteran’s Day. Carrots are one of our biggest and most important crops, and in past years, we’ve spread the harvest out over several days or even weeks. This year, we decided to try a different method, which would streamline the harvest, but also necessitate getting the whole crop in within a day. It would have to be a harvest of epic determination and military efficiency.

The kids did not have school so after breakfast the three of us bundled up and joined the crew in the field. Aubrey, Travis, and Matt were already at it, and Mark and Scott were just coming out, with Jake and Abby hitched to the walking plow. This was our big innovation: instead of prying the carrots out yard by yard with a pitchfork, we were going to try to plow them out with the horses. It would take precision. Plow too far away and the carrots would not come out of the ground, too close and they would break. Scott drove the team, and Mark guided the plow. The first few yards of the first row were a mess of broken carrots, but then they got it. The plow flipped a thick ribbon of soil upside down, leaving the carrots intact, their tips pointed to the sky. The rest of us followed along on our knees, freeing carrots from the soil, and tearing off the tops, leaving a fraction of an inch of green on top. Then into the buckets, and the buckets into bags. The density and quality of the harvest was phenomenal. In some places, I could fill my five gallon bucket without moving. Matt was the field boss, in charge of keeping the whole factory line moving. He threw empty buckets to the people who needed them, got the bags ready for dumping, and dumped four buckets of carrots to every one bag, which he then tied and positioned for picking up with the wagon. The horses had all the carrots out of the ground in an hour, and then the race was on. All tk tons of them would need to be in storage by nightfall.

At lunchtime Mark drove to the Meat Market and came back with a dozen hoagies, two loaves of store bread, peanut butter and jelly, bags of chips, and salsa. Also: Oreos, soda, and a box of chocolate chip cookies. This is a lunch that seems absolutely normal to most Americans but extremely strange to us. It tasted awfully good, hungry as we were. We ate in the field, standing up, dirt on our fingers. By late afternoon, all the carrots were in, and so were the mangel beets (winter feed for cows and sheep) and the rest of the leeks. Thank you, farmers, and thanks Fledging Crows, Sabrina, John and Barbara who pitched in to make it all possible.

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We finally have a calf in the dairy herd. Connie had a healthy little heifer this morning, in the chilly rain of course. Kelsey has made her comfortable in the west barn. We have been waiting for calves for over a month, and nada. It turns out that the first bull we used was a total dud. (As this is the family version, suffice to say that his aim was off.) This calf coincides with the date the second bull came to the herd. I think it’s going to be a calf avalanche now. Which means we should be rich in milk again very soon. The cows thank you, members, for your patience during this unexpectedly long period of rationed milk. Finally, we will have applications for the 2014 sliding scale available next week. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this ground-freeze-a-comin’ 47th week of 2013.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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