Essex Farm Note
Week 16, 2014
The rule holds: the first week we hear the spring peepers singing from the pond is the first week the fields are dry enough to work. It has been so every year here and it was so this week. I had my doubts. The weather has been very strange. The pair of beautiful days we had coaxed the grass up out of the ground, dried snowmelt and rain, and also woke the peepers from their long winter sleep. The next day, the poor peepers had to sing through a skim of ice. But they sang. And this morning, the north end of Monument was dry enough for Scott to hitch Jake and Abby to the plow, and turn over a row of last year’s parsnips for an easy harvest. These parsnips are almost sweet enough to put in your Easter baskets. I like them simply cooked with water or stock and a little butter until they are soft and the sugar in them begins to brown. I could also make an argument for parsnip fries, or cubed, boiled and mashed with potatoes and maybe a little rutabaga for a white root medley.
Where else is it happening? The herb garden, for one. We raked leaves and dead stalks out of the nettles, sorrel, and chives this week. The new growth is taller every day. Also, the pastures. Green is the new brown there. We put milking cows and sheep out for the first time this morning. The grass is not a plentiful source of feed yet but cows enjoyed stretching their legs and nibbling the shoots, and they will return to the covered barnyard this afternoon. The sheep are out for the season, but they have access to the run-in and will not move far from the barn until after they are sheared next weekend. The lilac tree outside the kitchen window is budding, which means the maples will be too. We’ll collect the last run of sap today and then it’s time to pull the taps and put a poor sugar season behind us.
We have a lot of new faces around the farm right now. I love knowing, from experience, that they will soon become as familiar and dear as all the other farmers who have been part of the extended farm family. Transition! Mike and Matt and Michael and Josh have joined the full time crew, and Lindsay is here for a week, to see what it feels like. Mike and Matt have been on animal chores, and encountered a run of difficulties this week: a cow in the beef herd died of an injury, a piglet died of unknown causes, and last night, one of the dairy cows cast herself against a gate and is still struggling to regain her feet. I could see on the guys’ faces that they were disheartened – as I was, of course, but I’m used to it, and I know that it gets better, and soon. April is always the cruelest month, just before pastures are ready, while the temperatures shift wildly and the animals are confined indoors. Transition.
Mark and I are in hot debate this week over adding another 50 KW of solar power to the farm – which would bring our capacity up to 75 KW. There is a grant opportunity available right now and it will not last. The whole project will cost about $200,000. Grants and tax credits would cover $140,000. At our current usage rate, we would repay the remaining $60,000 in ten years. But we aren’t always able to use a tax credit and we can’t carry the loans. We are making calls for counsel this weekend, and we’ll need to decide by the end of the week. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this peeping 16th week of 2014.
-Kristin and Mark Kimball
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
-T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land