Stevie

Essex Farm Note

Week 39, 2016

Stevie calved this week, a little bull. As with her previous calvings, Stevie’s udder swelled to the size and texture of one of the large carving pumpkins that was harvested this week. She has to swing her hind legs out to the side and around the enormous thing when she walks, despite twice-a-day applications of cooling peppermint liniment. All that swelling causes small blood vessels to rupture inside the udder. Anne texted me from the barn during milking, alarmed that Stevie’s colostrum was not the yellow-orange she expected but instead, brick red. “Disconcerting,” I wrote back, “but not pathological.” Jenny milked the next day, and nearly fainted at the sight of all that blood. Next milking, she considered wearing a helmet just in case she went down. Stevie will be right in a few days, and it will be wonderful to have her milk in the share. If this lactation is like her others, she’ll give most of her year’s production in the first ninety days, and then taper to a trickle. That’s fine with us, since now is when we really need it. We have one more cow to calve in the next week or so, and then a bit of a break. Our first artificially inseminated heifers will calve in March.

Meanwhile, the three heifer calves are healthy and beautiful in their paddock in the covered barnyard. They are starting to mouth a little bit of hay, even though their rumens won’t be developed enough to make use of it for quite a while.

In other baby news, Charlotte has been getting ready for piglets. The first five sows are in their pens in the west barn. They are in good lean condition after their summer on pasture, and just beginning to bag up. Charlotte wants to try farrowing them in their stalls, then moving them to a community pasture when the piglets are about a week old.

The spring pigs have reached slaughter weight, so we are preparing for pork. Doesn’t that feel right, just as the weather turns crisp? These pigs were raised outside, on organic grain, pasture, cover crops and skim milk. They should taste as good as pork can taste. We will also have some Jersey beef in the share this week, and in the weeks to come. The Jersey breed doesn’t metabolize beta carotene the same way other breeds do, which is why their cream – and also their body fat – is golden instead of white. You might notice a streak of yellow-gold in the ground beef, stew beef or roasts. It doesn’t change the taste, and beta carotene is good for you.

All that space spent on animals, when some of the biggest news of the week comes from vegetables. The winter squash are in, a bumper crop, and gorgeous. The cauliflower is the best we’ve had – snow-white, sweet, delicious. I have been lacto-fermenting all sorts of things, but my favorite, so far, is the pastel-fleshed elongated Asian radish, sliced into rounds, and pickled in brine just the saltiness of seawater, with a little garlic, ginger and hot pepper. I have been eating them with every meal, and sometimes in between. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this suddenly-colorful 39th week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

Jimmy

Essex Farm

Week 38, 2016

Farewell, tomatoes, we’ve had a lovely time; so sorry about this latest blight, but that’s what you get for being organically raised. We’ll look forward to seeing you again next year. Eggplants, you look so well, glad to know you’ll be hanging around until frost. There’s a lot I still want to do with you, so I hope it’s a late one this year. Sweet corn, I hear you’re making your last appearance in distro this week; honestly, you took a lot of work to grow and a lot of work to pick, so don’t let the door hit you on your way out. But, Jimmy. Jimmy Nardello! Please, Jimmy, don’t go, not yet. I’m your biggest fan! You’re my favorite sweet red pepper of all time. Jimmy, every year you’re good, but this year – ah! You’ve been so sweet, so red, so complicated, I’m obsessed with you. Here’s a true story. This week, I bit into a Jimmy Nardello that was so good I wrote down its flavor profile, as though I were tasting fine wine. In one crunch of a perfectly ripe Jimmy Nardello I tasted notes of green apple and black pepper, with a sweet, juicy finish of black cherries. Here’s the sad thing. That perfect bite of sweet red pepper led me not down a wide avenue of pleasure but onto a sidestreet of minor anxiety. How can I hold onto this? I thought. A pepper this perfect might come along only once in a lifetime. What if I never taste one again? I started calculating how many Jimmy Nardellos I could pick, considering freezer space, blanching protocols, canning options, before coming back to my senses. The perfect anything is always an ephemeral thing. You can’t keep it. You can’t hold it. You just have to enjoy it, for the moment it’s perfect. Then let it go, and wait, and trust that the next perfect thing is only one harvest away.

Well then, what else? Three new calves in the dairy herd, and all three are heifers. It doesn’t get nicer than that. We have Kite’s daughter Kelly, Calliope’s daughter Charlotte, and Cori’s daughter Calamity Jane, who I’m calling CJ for short. All three calves are thriving, and so are their mamas; as of today, the cows are all giving milk instead of colostrum, so the milk supply will be coming up significantly.

What’s the phrase of the week? I asked Mark this morning. “Work-hard time,” he said. Harvest, repairs, cover crops, fencing, mowing – not for hay but against weeds. Prep for a lot of fall slaughter. Prep for frost, which feels, this morning, like it’s right around the corner. We bought a 12 passenger van this week from North Country Camps, which opens up more remote distribution opportunities. Mark started work in earnest on the new compost barn project, funded by NRCS. This week, he met with contractors to plan the drip trenches we’re putting around existing barns. The vegetable team is bracing for the really big harvests: dry beans, potatoes, winter squashes, carrots and beets. The pumpkins look incredible, so get your carving game on. We’ll have them for sale at the Harvest Festival tomorrow.

Welcome to Morgan Looney, who is joining us from Georgia. Much, much gratitude to Amy O’Brian, who made her last delivery on Wednesday, before heading out west, and then to Poland for a long and well-deserved wander around Europe. We already miss your beautiful, positive, good-natured presence. We love you, Amy! -Kristin & Mark Kimball

Winning

Essex Farm Note

Week 37, 2016

It’s not all weeds, seeds and afterbirth you know. Like other businesses, we have structures and routines that are meant to sculpt order out of the chaos that will ensue from any complex multi-person effort. We have written sales and marketing strategies; weekly, monthly, and annual production goals. We have meetings – a rather shocking number of meetings! – and occasional mandatory all-team pep talks. We have a large collection of checklists, SOPs, and spreadsheets, some of which are useful.

My favorite of these non-dirt oriented business-things is our weekly management meeting. Our management team is made up of Mark and me (owners), Ben Christian (production manager), Anne Brown (office manager and much, much more) and Jori Wekin (minister of magic, and value-added coordinator). Every meeting starts with a round-robin of how everyone at the table is doing, and the wins and losses of their week, followed by an hour’s worth of discussion and problem solving on production, staffing and financial issues. Usually, I make a pot of tea for Ben. Sometimes, when the numbers are hard to swallow, there are cookies.

In true Essex Farm fashion, everyone on the management team has to name three wins for every loss we want to talk about. Some weeks, that’s tough and it feels forced. This week, it was a snap. The first win to celebrate was the end of second cut haymaking. It really was a spectacularly good year for hay. Thanks to Ben, who managed all of it, and did much of it, we have made a record amount of really good quality first and second cut, all stored under cover, with no major equipment breakdowns; if the weather continues to cooperate we may get some third cut in a week or so. The whole team deserves a lot of thanks for this achievement. We are also incredibly grateful to the landowners who lease us their fields, and to the Rice family for letting us use their pole barn for storage.

The second big win is the way the field corn is shaping up in Newfield, and along Blockhouse Road. The ears are long, heavy, and just beginning to dent. I admit, I was against planting the Blockhouse Road field to corn, and fought hard against it. It tends to be wet, and I didn’t think it was fertile enough. I lost that fight, Mark planted it, and it produced beautifully. There is one corner that didn’t size up well, but even that is going to be put to good use: we’ll turn the pigs into it next week, to harvest their own feed. This was corn grown from organic seed, organically fertilized, cultivated and managed.

The third big win, raised by Anne, was the fact that the Hub on the Hill has been processing hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds of our bumper-crop vegetables every week – making kraut, fermented pepper sauce, canned tomatoes, salsa and more. Members will see some of these products in the share this winter, some are for the Hub to sell, and some will be sold in our store. Thanks to Jori and the Hub crew for adding value and storability to our ephemeral summer crops.

The forth, short win: the first calf is on the ground! A lovely heifer, Kelly, was born yesterday, from Kite. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this winning! 37th week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

Tomato Red

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Essex Farm Note

Week 36, 2016

The harvest wagon is stacked high with heavy, red-ripe tomatoes today. This is probably the climax of tomato season. The drizzle and humidity we had this week will accelerate the growth of the various blights and viruses that creep up the vines and put an end to production, so, think about winter and how good those red jars will look on your pantry shelf, and take many many tomatoes home for sauce, salsa, frozen whole tomatoes, or whatever form of preservation your inner squirrel desires.

Speaking of the inner squirrel, it’s a putting-up week in the farmhouse kitchen. I have a quart of our favorite fermented hot sauce already in the refrigerator. (Recipe below.) This is a big heat, big flavor cayenne ferment, but the heat fades during storage, so by spring it will be fairly mild. Tomorrow, I’m going to take advantage of the confluence of daikon, napa cabbage, cayenne and scallions in the share to make a good supply of kimchi. (If you are looking for an easy kimchi tutorial, the kitchn.com has a good one.) Basil is peaking now, so if there is any left over after distro I will blend it with garlic, salt and oil, freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop it into ziplocks to store in the freezer. I’ll do the same with cilantro. This year I have to remember to label the ziplocks so I don’t land in Italy when I’m aiming for Mexico. No matter how much basil and cilantro I freeze in this way, it’s never enough.

The big fall harvests for winter storage have begun. Garlic has been in for a few weeks and is drying; this week, the onions began to come in. Onions are a multi-step harvest. First they are pulled and partially dried in windrows in the field, then gathered into large bins, brought to the barn, and spread in a single layer in the hot, dry loft. Later, when they are thoroughly dry and we are less busy, they will be cleaned by hand, roots and tops removed, and then bagged and stored in the basement. We still have humongous carrot, beet, cabbage, winter squash, and potato harvests to look forward to, along with the bountiful usual.

The close-to-calving cows are beginning to get that look: sunken around the tail head, tight in the udder. It feels like ages since we’ve had a doe-eyed, spindly-legged baby in the barn, and I’m looking forward to it. Ben & co. made some spectacularly beautiful second cut hay this week, so the cows and the calves will be well-fed this winter.

We are so happy to have Barbara Kunzi back in the dairy after her 4,000 mile cross-country bicycle journey. Welcome home, Barbara. In other bike news, Mark and Jane left on Wednesday for their annual birthday adventure. This year, they’re biking to grandma’s house, 330 miles round trip, which sounds extreme until you think about Barbara. Don’t forget the Essex Farm Institute Public Forum, Resilient Farms, Resilient Communities, is taking place this coming Monday, August 29th, with special guest Anthony Flaccavento, author of Building A Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up. Dinner available from 5-6:15, the event starts at 6:30 and is free. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this tomato-red 36th week of 2016.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

 

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Fermented Chili Sauce

(in the style of Sriracaha)

Before I started chopping chilis I looked at a bunch of recipes and read the section on fermented hot sauce in Sandor Katz’s fermento-nerd text, The Art of Fermentation. This is what I did, and I really love how it turned out – with complex flavors to go with the big heat. Feel free to vary it as you please.

Ingredients:

1 lb cayenne peppers, stems removed but green caps left on, roughly chopped. For less heat, remove seeds and ribs.

2 to 5 cloves garlic, according to taste, peeled

scant tablespoon sea salt (or to taste, or about 2% of the weight of the combined peppers and garlic)

a splash of sauerkraut brine or other brine from a naturally lacto-fermented product will speed up the fermentation process but is not strictly necessary

Place all the ingredients in a mason jar and blend with an immersion blender, being extremely careful to avoid fumes and splatter. (If you don’t have an immersion blender you can do it in a blender or food processor, then transfer to a mason jar.) Cover the jar with a clean cloth or an air lock cap (not an airtight cap – the fermentation will release gasses that need to escape) and leave out of direct sun at room temperature until it has fermented to your liking, which, for me, was 4 days. After the first day, stir it once or twice a day to prevent mold from forming. Transfer to a clean lidded glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. It should keep several months.

-Kristin Kimball

 

Grass-hopping

Essex Farm Note

Week 34, 2016

This is the week of transition, the middle age of the year. We’re finished with the idealistic phase now, when we’re always asking the question, what should we do? All the big choices of the year have been made, and the question, now, is how much can be done in the time we have left? How much harvest, how much weeding, how much work before the frost? We’ve shifted from offence to defense: we weed now not to save a crop but to keep billions and billions of seeds from dropping on our good soil. We try to balance the panic of what will inevitably be left undone with the satisfaction of all that has been completed. Sweet corn is coming in now, and loads of cantaloupe and watermelon. The fall raspberries are beginning to ripen, guarded by an army of fierce yellow jackets, barracked in the canes. We got lucky with the weather yet again yesterday: the rain showers all over the region somehow missed our field, with 25 acres of second cut down. Two more cows will be dried off this evening, but Kite and Calliope, the first due to calve, are beginning to bag up. They were bull bred, so we are not exactly sure when it will happen, but probably two or three weeks from now. They moved back to the milking herd today.

On Monday, August 29th, the Essex Farm Institute is hosting its first public forum, at the Whallonsburgh Grange, with special guest Anthony Flaccavento, author of Building A Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up. The title of the event is Resilient Farms, Resilient Communities; the conversation will focus on the place of sustainable agriculture in the economic development of rural economies, and how our farms and our communities can work together to respond to climate change in the Adirondacks. Anthony was the founder of SCALE: Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies; ten years ago, he created a food hub in Virginia that is still going strong, and he is a certified organic farmer with 15 years of experience. We’re excited to welcome Anthony to our community and hope you will all join us for this discussion. Curt Gervich of SUNY Plattsburgh will facilitate, and Northern Feast Catering will be at the Grange serving crepes from 5:00 to 6:15; the event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6:30. Please help us spread the word. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this grass-hopping 34th week of 2016. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                                                                                                        –Kristin & Mark Kimball

Cold melon hot grass

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Week 32, 2016

The weather continues as if on order from a helpful purveyor: hot dry weeks punctuated by a soaking inch or two of rain. Ben, Jon, and Brandon made the first bales of second cut hay this week, quick-dried and rich with clover. Bob Perry came over with his combine to harvest the hard red winter wheat, which remained upright in the microburst of wind and hail that hit us two Saturdays ago, though the mature heads were heavy with grain. The field corn is growing steadily, and the sweet corn has tasseled. The first watermelons came in, just enough for a taste, but what is better than a taste of chilled watermelon, eaten in the afternoon shade of an oak, juice dripping down on the grass? Yesterday, the harvest wagon lurched home over the farm road under a colorful load of tomatoes. When the tomato flood begins, summer bounty has arrived in earnest. There were flats of the bright red slicers, which I have eaten to excess this week, while standing over the sink with the salt shaker in my hand; also, the oddball striped heirloom variety called Green Zebra, which is a hard sell on looks alone but will fly off the wagon once tasted at peak ripeness. Then, the husked, papery green tomatillos, a new crop for us this year, which I’m roasting in the oven as I type, along with jalapeños, to make a batch of salsa verde for tonight’s team dinner. Finally, there were many, many quarts of cherry tomatoes, evidence of how hard the harvest team has been working. I think that Sungold, the world’s favorite cherry tomato, might be dethroned by a new-to-us variety called Pink Princess. Or, maybe, it’s the mixed quarts that are truly perfect – Sungold’s tart acid chased by the Princess’s pure sweetness. We have tomatoes enough to satisfy everyone, and then more, and still more, enough to keep Jori and her crew busy processing sauce and salsa at the Hub on the Hill, hundreds of pounds at a time.

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While the fields are hitting their zenith, the dairy is approaching its nadir. We’re drying off the fall-bred cows, one by one, to let them regain their condition before calving. Calliope, Cori, Stevie and Kite are dry already, and Wonder will join them after milking this evening. The remaining cows are all late in their lactations, and therefore low in production. The calves begin to arrive around the 6th of September. In other dairy news, we got blood pregnancy tests back on the group of cows and heifers that we inseminated artificially for spring calving. Over half of them caught on the first shot – a very good percentage, thanks to Ben Christian’s skill at breeding them, and to Coleen and the animal team for diligently watching the herd for signs of heat. This should be the last year in which we have a dearth of milk in late summer. From now on we’ll calve in spring and in fall, which ought to keep production closer to even over the course of the year.

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I have a pair of Essex Farm Institute events to announce, both happening this month. The first is a talk on mob grazing, followed by a pasture walk here at Essex Farm, on Sunday, August 21st, from 2pm to 6pm. Our guest speaker is Meg Grzeskiewicz, of Rhinestone Cattle Company. Meg studied animal science and ag business in West Virginia, and then interned with the well-known grazier Greg Judy at his farm in Missouri. Meg now raises cattle in Western New York, and will talk about Greg Judy’s philosophy of low input, high profit production through high density, rotational grazing. This event is open to all farmers, farm workers and apprentices, and is free for farmers in the Adirondacks and Northern NY. Farmers from other regions are also welcome, with a $25 donation suggested. Those traveling long distances are welcome to camp on our farm. If you wish to attend, please email Racey Henderson at essexfarminstitute@gmail.com with your name, the farm you work on, and number of people in your party. Racey can also answer any questions you might have.

The second event is a public forum at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall, at 6:30pm on August 29th, titled Resilient Farms, Resilient Communities: How Agriculture Can Help the Adirondacks Respond to Climate Change. Our guest speaker is farmer, writer and activist Anthony Flaccavento, who works on strengthening rural economies through healthy agriculture. Anthony created a Food Hub in Virginia ten years ago that is still going strong, and is the founder of SCALE: Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies. His website, www.bottomupeconomy.org, and his new book, Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up, aim to bring the discussion about rural economies to the mainstream. The event is free and open to the public, so please help us spread the word. Northern Feast catering will be on site selling crepes, beginning at 5:00. Come for dinner, and stay for the talk.

And that is the news from Essex Farm for this hot hot hot 32nd week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Super Summer

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Essex Farm Note

Week 28, 2016

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We had hot, dry, weather this week, perfect for haymaking. Mark, Phil, Jon, Ben, Brandon, Taylor and Cameron worked long hours mowing, raking and baling while everyone else kept the farm running. We have 1,026 round bales of first cut made and under cover now, most of it very good quality. Then, yesterday, we got a much-needed .7” of rain, which will help coax the pastures and hayfields back to life, bring the vegetables, corn and soybeans along, and plump the summer raspberries, which are just beginning to show some color. We know good weather like this doesn’t last forever but we will enjoy it while it does.

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The milking herd is shrinking fast, but only temporarily. Our heavily pregnant cows need a few weeks of rest from making milk before their calves are born in the fall. Stevie and Kite were dried off last week, and Calliope and Cori were milked for the last time this morning. Now they go into the covered barnyard, to eat the boring dry hay and moo plaintively as the rest of the herd comes in and out at milking time. Their udders will be full and uncomfortable for a few days, and then begin to soften and shrink. We have plenty of whole milk for everyone for now, but the supply is beginning to tighten up and will continue to do so until the dry cows freshen in the fall.

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We have some ripe sungold tomatoes in the field this week and our first ripe slicing tomatoes – much earlier than most years. The winter squashes have vined and their leaves are so big and heavy they make a solid bright green canopy over the ground. The strawberry season is over, but wasn’t it a good one? Mark brought me a hatful of the last fat red berries last night, some so sweet and intensely strawberry-flavored they tasted like a parody of themselves. In animal news, the pullets are laying so well we need to stop calling them pullets and call them what they are now: hens. We bought a couple dozen organic Tamworth piglets last week to round out next year’s pork supply. I like this breed’s red coat, prick ears, and alert expression. They will join our weaned piglets on the cover crop in Newfield this coming week.

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We always tell our members when we step outside the organic standard. Last week, we had a really bad strain of pinkeye making its way through the dairy heifers and calves. Pinkeye is painful, irritating and can progress to ulcerated eyeballs and blindness. We treated mild cases with topical antibiotic eye ointment, and severe ones with an injection of long-acting antibiotic. These dairy animals are a year or two from making milk so there is no chance of any residue in our food supply, but both the ointment and the injection are disallowed under the organic standard.

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Finally, I’m leading an outdoor writing workshop to benefit Champlain Area Trails this coming Tuesday from 4pm-6pm, on the Wildway Overlook Trail. The group is limited to 15 so if you’d like to join us please sign up now via the CATS web site. This is the first in a series of participatory walks that will explore a sense of place through the arts. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this super-summer 28th week of 2016.  –Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Solstice

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The Egg Department, off to work at sunrise.

Essex Farm Note

Week 25, 2016

Here we are at the solstice, and doesn’t it feel like it? The forecast calls for clear weather until Monday, and it has been clear all week, so we, like every other farmer in the region, are maniacally making hay. We have 300 large round bales of grass hay down now, and about half of it baled. I love these long days of focused, urgent effort, when everyone works together to get it in before rain, and large bets are laid on which way the clouds blow, and whether or not the repair on the baler will hold. We switched from square bales to round bales a couple of years ago, so we no longer spend sweaty summer evenings running through the field, throwing bales onto the wagon, then loading and stacking them in the hot barn loft, dizzy with effort and trying not to get walloped on the head when a bale fell off the elevator. My memories of those times are all happy ones, even the night when I tried to keep pace with Matt Volz, stacking, and got sick on the new green bales. Haying is not so demanding now, physically, but there is still that enjoyable sense of urgency and unity that I have always loved.

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Mowing

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It only breaks if you use it. Pay attention, girls, and you might learn to fix it.

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Family dinner in the field. Still hours to go before dark.

Vegetable team, led by Kirsten Liebl, is feeling the solstice burn. They are weeding, transplanting, and copiously harvesting now, all at once. There is so much coming in from the field for distribution today, Anya and Isabelle came in at 5 this morning to get a jump on it in the cool dawn. The obvious star of the share this week is the strawberry. Early Glow is still booming, and the Jewel variety is beginning to ripen now. The first bloom on each plant sends forth one enormous berry, which our girls call the King Berry, and all week they have been grazing on them, each berry the size of their fist or better. I made panna cotta for team dinner tonight, and as I type I have a pot of berries cooking down into strawberry sauce, to go on top. But there’s only so much sweet red perfection one can take, and it is the B-list celebrity I’m most interested in this week: rhubarb, in savory garb. I made a version of Martha Rose Shulman’s chicken tagine (NYT cooking) last night, and rhubarb gave it that pop of brightness that pomegranate molasses brings to Persian cooking, or preserved lemon to Moroccan.

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I have more to report but I’m out of time now, so that’s the brief news from Essex Farm for this make-hay-while-the-sun-shines 25th week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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No filter on this shot, just sunset through a mean cloud. There was some hail in it, but it just missed us.

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Clover, birdsfoot trefoil, happy cows.

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Love Bucket

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Essex Farm Note

Week 24, 2016

We are almost halfway through the 100 day sprint now, in the annual race to capture as much sunlight as we can, and keep it. I see surprised exhaustion on the faces of some of our new farmers these days, but those of us who have been at it a while are accustomed to the intense power of June and the work that comes with it. Yesterday, Ben said that when he was in his twenties and dairying he worked such long hours in June he would fall asleep on the tractor and wake up when his head hit the steering wheel. I know that feeling from having fallen asleep while cultivating in June, stopped at the end of a row to let the horses blow. With the strong June sun hammering down on us, those few profound seconds were sweeter than dark hours between cool sheets.

The brand new AI tank is in the barn now, full of liquid nitrogen and, as of yesterday, forty straws of deep-frozen Jersey bull semen. We’re sending thanks to Skip Maynard of Milk and Honey Genetics, who drove all the way over from Orwell, Vermont to get it to us in time to service the three cows who are scheduled to come into heat this weekend. It was wonderful to select semen from prime bulls to compliment each cow, rather than using a single live, dangerous, and genetically fair-to-middling bull. Among other traits, like good feet, strong udders, and the ability to thrive on grass, we chose bulls with genes for A2/A2 milk. Some background: The A1 and A2 alleles determine the kind of protein a cow will produce in her milk. There is some research suggesting that the A1 gene (which predominates in Holstein cattle, and exists, but does not predominate, in Jerseys) makes for milk that is difficult for humans to digest, causing inflammation and intolerance. Now, some of that research was sponsored by a corporation with a vested interest in promoting A2 milk, so you have to take it for what it’s worth, but additional research has shown there may be something to it, and in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the demand for A2 milk is very strong. We have had some members ask about it, so I’m happy to be able to say that with artificial insemination we know which gene the bulls carry, and can select for A2 milk.

Short news, now. We had several calves born in the beef herd this week. The 500 new pullets are beginning to lay, and are well-trained to get in their coops at dusk, thanks to Mary the dog, who specializes in finding the outliers in the long grass, and the stowaways under the grain wagon. The piglets are weaned and moving to pasture next week. The corn is up and cultivated. All hands were in the field last weekend to get that done before the much-needed rain came. We got 2 ½ inches, good for plumping up the strawberries, which are in the share today. The lettuces are thriving and we’re eating them by the giant bowlful around here. The farm has never looked better, Mark says, which he says every year, and means it. Thanks to Liam for coming over this week to get the new greenhouse endwalls made. The plastic is not up yet, so the frame has served as the biggest kids’ jungle gym ever. Every time I look outside there’s a girl scaling a pole or hanging from a hoop, upside down. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this intense 24th week of 2016.                                                         -Kristin & Mark Kimball

 

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Radish, three seconds before I ate it, dirt and all.

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That’s the year’s bread, members, if all goes well until harvest.

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Mark brought me the first ripe berries while I was milking. Better than breakfast in bed, that.

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Mark checking the nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots of the vetch in the rye/vetch cover crop.

Lettuce, peas. The peas got trellised this week.

Lettuce, peas. The peas got trellised this week.

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Fava beans, a favorite of mine. We have a ridiculous amount growing in the field.

The corn is up!

The corn is up!

Asparagus, mulched with bark chips, with oat/pea cover crop between the rows.

Asparagus, mulched with bark chips, with oat/pea cover crop between the rows.

Farmer father, double tasking.

Farmer father, double tasking.

Dizzy

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Essex Farm Note

Week 23, 2016

I was away for six days and when I came home everything was dramatically changed. The strawberry plants had gone from bud to flower to fat green fruit. The cover crop of rye on Monument Field, which had been thigh high, had been tilled in and the field made ready to plant to soybeans. The pastures, when I left, were still full of that soft, short, succulent grass that makes ruminants crazy with pleasure. Now the orchard grass has nearly gone by, its stems tough and topped with seedheads. Things move so fast this time of year, you can’t turn your head, or you lose the thread of the story.

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Today, the first lettuces are coming in from Newfield, in gorgeous variety and in abundance. I grazed on a head of red oak leaf lettuce this morning, on my walk home from that field. It was so tender and sweet I ate the whole thing, leaf by leaf, dirt and all, savoring the sweet center last. The heat of the last ten days has accelerated the asparagus to the point where it’s hard to keep up with the picking. And those strawberries! I eyeball them every day when I walk Miranda to the end of the driveway to catch the bus. The fruits on the Early Glow plants are the size of shooter marbles, and yesterday I saw the first blush of red over the green. We might get our few first ripe berries by next week, or certainly the week after that.

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The dairy herd has relaxed into a more moderate level of production now that the first flush of spring grass is over. It will soon be time to think of drying off the cows bred to calve in early fall. At the same time, Ben and I are getting set up to breed the heifers and some of the cows to calve next spring instead of calving all of them in the fall. This will help spread out our dairy production more evenly, and take good advantage of the best grass while we have it. This time, we’re doing it with artificial insemination instead of with a Jersey bull. We have a new semen tank on order, for storing frozen semen, and now we get to look through the Jersey sire catalogue, which makes me dizzy, because the full-color spreads are all so bullishly beautiful.

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It was a huge week of planting and transplanting. We have close to 40 acres of field corn planted. Soybeans are going in right now, 10 acres. Sweet corn was planted yesterday. Last weekend, all the winter squash, melons, summer squash and cucumbers were transplanted, by hand, plant by plant. Over a weekend! Two acres of transplanting! Thanks so much for the whole team for making that happen. Potatoes are up, Adirondack Blues first, with their strange blueblack leaves. We bought a new manure spreader, on credit, a big investment in NEW equipment for once, and we have put it to good hard use already. The only thing we have been lacking is rain, and guess what? Forecast says we should get between an inch and two inches on Sunday and Sunday night. If we do get it, and manage to cultivate the corn once before it hits, we would suddenly and without precedent have everything a farmer could wish for. That is the news from Essex Farm for this golden late spring 23rd week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

 

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