Rolling!

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Essex Farm Note

Week 21, 2014

No complaints about the weather this week. The rain left the fields steaming in yesterday’s late-afternoon sun. The grass is taller and greener every time I cross the pasture. The farm feels young and fecund. We have been lunching outside next to the pond, and on Tuesday, Scott picked up a toad that got caught up in our circle. The toad sat still in Scott’s hand and croaked and burred his green spring desires to the world at large. We have had cool breezes and warm sun, and still no horseflies. Birds are busy with their domestic arrangements, making good music to work by. And plenty of work there is. All the drained ground is ready now. Next year’s strawberries were planted just ahead of the rain – 3000 crowns. Sweet corn is in, too, the first planting in a series of two-week successions. If it goes well we will have sweet corn all through late summer and early fall. But that if is a big one. Organically grown sweet corn is not an easy proposition. Beyond the usual challenges (fertility, weeds, worms, etc.), the seed is not treated with chemicals to deter birds. Corn seedlings are like bird crack. Crows and seagulls can decimate a whole field in no time. We have used scare tape in the past, with limited success; this year we’re going with a circus-like approach, adding balloons, flashy CDs, row covers, and sporadic shotgun blasts. I bet the crows will take the hint, but the seagulls – more plentiful, and not quite as sharp – will need constant vigilance.

We have a new piece of equipment on the farm, thanks to a grant from the Essex Community Fund to the Essex Farm Institute. It’s a one-horse treadmill, which can be used to turn a PTO shaft. Treadmills were used for all sorts of jobs on farms in the past. This one is used but modern, Amish built, and can run a log splitter, ice cream maker, grain grinder, or power up batteries. I have not had a horse on it yet, but after the kids are in bed I run outside and do a few minutes of stairmaster on the end of it to keep my legs in shape. Abby Belle, the fat white pony, is my first candidate for treadmill training. I’ll post a picture next week.

This year, instead of hatching out our own layer chicks, we bought 16-week-old certified organic pullets from an Amish dealer in Pennsylvania. We needed to place a large order to make it economical, so our friend Beth Spaugh at Rehobeth Homestead put the deal together, and Asa of Mace Chasm Farm delivered the birds late last night. The power of cooperation is a wonderful part of the growing small farm infrastructure in our region. Thanks to both farms for making it happen. Thanks, too, to Matt Daly, for coming in to help us unload so late at night. The pullets looked relieved to be on solid ground this morning. They are smaller than we expected, so we’re crossing our fingers that they will begin to lay soon.

And the short news? Strawberries are blooming. David Goldwasser checked the beef cows for pregnancy on Wednesday and while they were in the chute we got everyone vaccinated for pink eye. Dairy herd has grown by one small heifer calf, and since she is the only baby at the moment, we’ve left her with her mama, lucky girl. Don’t forget we have a farm tour tomorrow, May 24th, at 10am. Details on the events page. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this rolling! 21st week of 2014.

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Come on lettuces! Grow! They are still two weeks away.

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Transplanted onions are making a strong showing.

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Kids played while the grown-ups sorted cows.

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Spring means a lot of days working from can until can’t. Sunset over the barnyard.

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