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Essex Farm Note

 Week 43, 2014

I’m back to the farm and the family, at last. It was a good and productive month away. I finished the proposal for my next book, and now have a deal with the same publisher (Scribner) and the same wonderful editors who worked with me on The Dirty Life. After that business was wrapped up I still had three uninterrupted weeks to work on the manuscript, which was a huge gift. This next book doesn’t have a title yet, but it is a sequel to The Dirty Life – about farming, food and family. I’m so grateful to Mark and to everyone in the community who pitched in to keep things running here at home.

Landing on the farm after time away is always a jarring experience, but this time even more so, since I was going from the quiet, contemplative writers’ colony to the non-stop action of this place at harvest season. The whole crew has been stretched pretty thin. We have not yet hired a new dairy manager to replace Kelsey, Luke injured his back, and Mark was busier than usual with the children and household duties. We have some extra muscle on the farm this week for harvest, which makes our tired farmers very happy. Thanks to Gilberto and his friends for being here. So far we have about 6 tons of cabbage cleaned and in the cooler, plus 4 tons of beets, the radishes and turnips. Onions and garlic have been cleaned and stored. Squash and potatoes still need to be cleaned, sorted and stored. We hope to get to that next week.

We had three new heifers born in the dairy herd while I was away. Aubrey had naming rights for all of them, but she ceded two to Miranda, so we now have a pair of calves named Frozen and Fantastic. The third heifer is Betty’s daughter, who is named Barbara, after our own Barbara Kunzi. Barbara had a slow start. She was a very large and vigorous calf when she was born but her sucking reflex was poor, and Shona had to feed her by tube for the first few feedings. She seems to be doing better now.

The sheep were trucked to the field on Middle Road on Tuesday – the leased hundred acres where we usually make our hay. The fall grass looked so good up there, we were temped to try to make a third cutting, but given how late the season is, and what a logistical headache it would have been in the midst of harvest, we decided to graze it instead. The flock seems happy about that. I’m glad they have moved off of Fireman Field, because on Monday morning, driving Jane to school, I saw a large coyote eyeballing them there, before darting across the road in front of my car. We have not yet had any predation in the flock (thanks, I think, to hot electric nets, and frequent moves that keep the coyotes from forming a strategy) and I would like to keep it that way. The lambs born in February are about as big as their mothers now.

It has been a rainy week, but we did not get the 2 inches of rain that was predicted. Whew. We did get a frost, which means we are finally and truly at the end of eggplant and peppers. What a run we had this year. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this raw 43rd week of 2014.      -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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