Kristin Kimball | March 20, 2016

This was the week that seeds hit dirt, the official launch to the growing season. Onions were planted first, as always. Four tiny seeds to a cube of rich topsoil, 20 cubes to a block, 8 blocks to a flat, 75 flats in the germination chamber, which fills it to capacity, with another 20 flats stacked next to the dining room table in the house. Of course, the weather would turn cold now. We’re wishing for milder, cheaper temperatures by the time the seeds have germinated, when the flats will need to be taken out to the life-giving light of the greenhouse and kept snug and warm with propane. We made our goodbyes to a good horse this week. Jack was brother and teammate to Jay, the half Suffolk, half Belgian drafts we bought in 2006. He and Jay were very well matched in looks, but easy to tell apart in the pasture based on temperament. Jay would lean in for a pat, while Jack would flinch at a touch, as though affection hurt him. That is, if you could get close enough to touch him. Some days, catching him was the hardest job on the list. But once at work, he was stoic and dutiful. As soon as he felt a lead rope slip over his neck he resigned himself to it, and became a different horse, all business, no resistance. He gave everything he had in harness, without being cajoled. He reminded me of an old Spartan, devoid of joy or soft feelings, but steely to the core and entirely reliable in his dedication to the cause. Jack was at least 25, maybe 28, which is very old indeed for a draft horse. The last few years, we left him out of the hard long hitches but he still did many hours of light cultivation. He and Jay were the perfect team for training new teamsters. Nothing surprised them, nothing made them bolt, and they were patient with mistakes. Jack started losing weight last fall, and continued to go downhill this winter; this week he began to look uncomfortable, so we decided the most humane thing would be to put him down. Farewell, good horse, and thank you for all the miles we traveled together. Most of you know already that the barn at Reber Rock Farm burned down last Saturday, in a most spectacular and thorough fashion. We are all lucky to live in a community where bad fortune does not have to be shouldered alone. Racey, Nathan, Chad and Gwen are making plans for cleanup and rebuilding. Stay tuned for news on what we can all do to help. Meanwhile, I’m feeling grateful that all their precious lives are safe. Lindsey, our wonderful dairy manager, is moving on to a new job at the end of this month, and we are taking this chance to reconfigure staffing in the dairy barn. We will be hiring a new milker for Monday through Friday, and also a weekend/relief milker for Saturdays and Sundays. Applicants should love cows and have some dairy experience. If you know anyone who might fit the bill, please have him or her get in touch at Also, please continue to spread the word about our Air B&B listing, the Essex Farm Guest House at Windy Willow. We have enjoyed having visitors and are working on some special events there for spring. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this frozen-slush 10th week of 2016. Find us at 518-963-4613 or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball