Week 3, 2018 | Kristin Kimball | Jan 19, 2018

Miranda and I walked to the new Long Pasture pond after school yesterday. After this stretch of cold and storms, the weather felt so balmy, at 19 degrees, that both of us felt justified leaving the house without hat or mittens. Mary the English Shepherd came along, bounding through the snow, the canine embodiment of joy. We walked along the new fence line, which is scheduled to be strung with high tensile wire next week, but for now is just a line of posts. At the lower, hummocky part of Solar Field, Mary stopped and cocked her head at the snow. Then she leaped straight into the air, and down again, nose planted. There was a brief front-foot scrabble, which turned up snow, grass, dirt… and her quarry, a velvety, dark-gray vole. She curled her lips back to avoid the vole’s teeth, flung it in the air several times to stun it, and then dispatched it with a solid bite. “She crunched its noggin,” Miranda said, matter-of-factly. We watched Mary eat it, first the head, then the body. She repeated the whole performance four more times on our walk. While I’d like to believe Mary has an extraordinary nose, I think it’s more likely that we have an abundance of voles this year, a fact that must make the coyotes, foxes and hawks as happy as Mary.

It has been a full and busy week on the farm. We have a large crew right now, including three visiting students from Swarthmore, and we are using this rare abundance of muscle power to do mid-winter cleanup and organization of all the buildings on the farm. We have found parts we forgot we had, inventoried a supermarket worth of products, and gotten a good sense of what we need to order for spring. Mark says we checked off almost every item on our weekly to-do list – which is surely a first. This must be what it feels like to be sufficiently staffed! It won’t last, but we will enjoy it while it does. Next week, the focus will turn to the fencing project. Here’s hoping for moderate weather. My hands get cold just thinking about handling high tensile wire in some of the temperatures we’ve seen this winter.

Extra workers have allowed us to get corn meal back in the share today. We’ve ground it from the corn we grew on Pine Field this year. We also opened up our butcher shop for the first time in a long time, and slaughtered two fall-born Jersey bull calves, and a cow. (Miranda and I ate the calf kidneys the day they were slaughtered, sautéed with butter, red wine and a bit of mustard – a treat that maybe not every 7 year old would love, but this one does.) The rams are finished with their work in the ewe flock, and will hopefully head to the butcher shop next week. As this meat makes its way into the share you’ll notice the difference in cut style and packaging.

We had a surprise calf born in the beef herd this week, from a supposedly unbred heifer we bought last fall. He seems fine, despite the hard weather. The seed catalogues are out and thoroughly dog-eared, underlined, and notated, but the order has not yet been placed. If you are hungering for something we don’t usually grow, this is your last chance to let your desire be heard. If we can accommodate your request, we will. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this powered-up 3rd week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Insta at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball