Essex Farm Note, Week 15, 2014
This week the snow pulled back to reveal the winter-ravaged world. Muck, ruts, bones. A dead frog suspended in the ice at the edge of the pond. Also, a pollywog, alive and swimming in the meltwater. Water gaining against ice. Rye that was a mere suggestion two days ago now stands an inch tall. In the perennial field, there is a row of confident red and green rosettes rising from the cold mud. Love you, rhubarb. The ground is still frozen but the frost is loosening its grip. Water is moving everywhere we look. The tiled fields are starting to drain from below. The wind and the sun are doing their work from above. We’re still waiting for the first spring peepers, still waiting for the first chance to put steel and hooves in a field. Meanwhile the greenhouse is filling up with flats of healthy young plants. The animals, still indoors, dream of grass.
Remember the rat problem and the barrel trap? The barrel trap caught exactly zero rats. Yet the rat population has regressed to its usual low simmer – what passes for normal on a farm. Why? Possibly because of the mink. When Travis hauled the bedding pack out of the east barn run-in, he found thirty or forty rat bodies buried in it, which puzzled him. That evening, Aubrey was trying to catch an escaped piglet in the same area, and saw a slender, sleek brown creature about two feet long drinking out of a puddle of melting snow. Minks kill rats and bury prey in their dens. Go, mink, go. They also kill poultry so we will keep a close eye on the hens and chicks and meanwhile send the mink our thanks.
Hot chicks! The first batch arrived on Wednesday, a day earlier than we expected them. We didn’t have the greenhouse brooders ready for them so we put the cheeping boxes inside next to the woodstove and set up four hasty brooders made of one-ton apple crates in the garage. I ran to the hardware store for extra waterers and thermometers. In our experience, chick health, in the first week, depends on keeping the temperature of the brooders at a steady 95 degrees, not too hot and not too cold. We’ve killed more chicks by overheating than by chilling. The garage has turned out to be quite a nice setup for new arrivals; we’ve had no losses so far. Of course, it would be nice to use the garage as a garage, but as long as I’m not scraping snow off the car, no biggie.
We have room for more members this year. Please help us recruit some new families by telling friends and family about the share. If you know someone who might be interested, let us know, and we can give them a tour of the farm and tell them how the share works.
Parsnips are ready to be dug. After a long winter in the cold cold ground they are sweet as candy. And it has been a long winter, hasn’t it? This is the first week we’ve let the fire go out in the woodstove since November. Here is to spring – better late than never. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this dead frog, pollywog 15th week of 2014.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball