Essex Farm Note
Week 24, 2014
These last few days of gentle, soaking rain made the crops very happy. We’re only a week away from the summer solstice, and the fields are filling with green. We have new spinach, lettuce mix, and chard in the share today, along with unusually beautiful head lettuce and late-season asparagus. We should be solidly in fresh greens until well after frost now. Isn’t that a good feeling? The strawberries are just starting to color, and with luck we will have some in the share next week. Aubrey and her team of vegetable warriors transplanted the winter squash and melons in the rain yesterday; direct-seeded cucumbers are coming along well. No rhubarb this week – the plants just don’t have the oomph to withstand a heavy harvest. They really need to be separated and then heavily fed. In the last week, the potatoes have gone from vague green sprouts to bushy rows. No sign of Colorado potato beetle yet, but we have our eyes out for them, especially since we did not rotate potatoes to the opposite side of the farm this year, as we did the last two years. I wish potato beetles weren’t so darn destructive, because I like their harlequin costumes. The adult beetles have flashy yellow wings with black stripes, and orange heads splashed with black. The larvae are squishy and bright orange, and the eggs are like teeny tiny orange tic tacs stuck to the bottoms of leaves. Our first line of defense against them is simply going through the rows early in the morning and knocking beetles and larvae into buckets of soapy water. So far, no need, but we will be vigilant.
I am quite in love with the head lettuce this year. There are two varieties being harvested now, a green leaf lettuce and a butterhead. When Mark and I take our evening farm walk, I cut a head from the ground with my leatherman, push my face deep into it, and rip out the silky, tender heart with my teeth. It makes me feel like a very privileged woodchuck. I wonder if the quality of the first lettuce this year has anything to do with the fact that it was planted in the section of the field that held tillage radish last year? Tillage radish is a specialized variety of daikon radish, with thick, strong roots that can grow up to 30” deep. It is not harvested, but used as a cover crop. The root decomposes in the ground, leaving behind looser soil with space for air and water, plus nitrogen and other nutrients. Last year we planted some test strips. Given how happy the lettuce is, I’d like to try a larger planting this year.
Mark has been on a cleaning tear all week. He got the machine shop back in order, and is now moving on to the pole barn. Travis finished clearing the bedding pack out of the dairy barn. Meanwhile we are keeping eyes on the weather report, looking for a window to cut hay. We will be making dry round and square bales this year, instead of the haylage we made the last two years, so we need to weather to cooperate and give us a good stretch of sunny days soon.
We say goodbye to Travis this week. He has been an incredibly valuable member of the team and we will miss him very much. We are wishing him lots of luck and success with his new venture: his own construction company. And that is the news from this light-filled 24th week of 2014. -Kristin & Mark Kimball