Essex Farm Note

Week 35, 2014

This is a fat time of the year. The hens, in a new pasture today, are hunting through tall and fragrant clover for the crickets and grasshoppers that pop up in a cloud whenever you take a step these days. The hens are uncharacteristically still, half buried in grass, until they dart their beaks forward and spear a fat insect. Then they do it all over again. In their focused contentment they remind me of fishermen in an absurdly well-stocked pond. And that grass! Graziers talk about the summer slump – the lean time in July or August when the early season grasses are gone, but the fall grasses have not yet kicked in. The slump was not too severe this year, thanks to the well-timed rains, but what slump there was is certainly over now. All the animals are on beautiful grass and clover, and eating with dedicated purpose, because they can feel the winter coming too.

IMG_9586 IMG_9596            We are making more second cut hay this week. Fifty large round bales came in yesterday, and another fifty should come in today. We are lucky to get it. Mark took Jane camping for three days during this window of good weather, and as usual, the farm knew he was gone, and turned on us. The baler broke while all the hay was down, and Corey, who is so good in the shop, was called away from the farm unexpectedly. Scott and I spent a tense day moving from plan A to plan B to plan C, and still didn’t get the hay made until Mark was back and the farm was satisfied that we’d suffered enough.

Cheers to Matt Daly, who searched the whole region for a beef bull this week, and finally succeeded. I think it took fifty phone calls. Bulls are in tight supply this year. Beef prices are high, maybe due to the drought in the southwest, which caused many ranchers to reduce their herds last year. Whatever the cause, it was a frustration, and we were in a hurry, as we are trying to move our calving time back toward spring, so we can calve on good grass and not have to fight the blowflies that were such a scourge during calving this summer.

The vegetable fields are crazy with food right now. I can’t write about it without sounding hyperbolic, so just go look for yourselves. We have some cantaloupe melons in the share today, and glossy eggplants, and the finest sweet peppers I’ve ever seen. The raspberries are booming now, and will be until frost. Thanks to Carl, Caryn, Chris and Nicole, who were here from Rhode Island this week as Essex Farm Institute visitors. They all worked hard, and we enjoyed getting to know them; I think their children (five of them between the two families) get the prize for best behaved, most charming set of farmers under the age of seven, ever.

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This is Kelsie Meehan’s last week. Kelsie has been our main dairy farmer, managing everything from cow care to the milkhouse – a full time job and then some. She has given it her whole heart, as well as most of her waking hours, and has improved so many of our systems. I can’t quite believe she is leaving yet, because I don’t want to, but I am happy to report she’s off on a great adventure to New Zealand, to see how farming works on that green and grassy island. We send her with lots of love and gratitude for what she has accomplished here. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this fat 35th week of 2014.   –Kristin & Mark Kimball

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