Week 10, 2022|Kristin Kimball|March 11, 2022

Here in the north country, summer, fall and winter are visual delights. The north country spring, on the other hand, is decidedly homely, pocked with patches of dirty snow, dead plants, bare trees. But no season rivals this one for good smells. The girls and I stepped out for morning chores on the warmest day this week, and we all stopped, sniffed, smiled. “Smells like spring,” Miranda said. There is so much promise in that smell. It’s the smell of retreating ice and snow, of earth, the alive scent of the awakening microbiome, the return of the sun. The smell of change. We’ve had daytime highs touching 70 degrees lately, and some bright blue skies, also lows of -10, sleety dawns, and frozen muck. The ground is nearly bare now, but heavy snow is coming tonight, plus gusty, strong winds. Glad the sheep aren’t shorn just yet. Ice is breaking up on the lake and ponds. I took the dogs out for a spin in the back pasture on one of the warm days this week, and ran confidently onto the ice over the stream. Oops! I dropped in clear to the tops of my thighs. My glasses went flying. I climbed out, stood there in my socks and dumped muddy ice water from my boots. The dogs thought it was hilarious. Oh, March. The counterbalance to a moment like that is the hot bath one feels entitled to afterward, so much more pleasurable for the discomfort of the precipitating event. And that’s how March feels, when the weather finally shifts. Those blue sky days are more delightful because of their contrast to the gray.
The potting shed has been lively this week. All the onions and leek seeds are germinating in the greenhouses now, and everyone is busy making soil blocks for the next round of seeding. We are being stingy with the propane, keeping the greenhouses just above freezing, which might slow things down a bit. But fear not, the sun is making a steady comeback. The overwintering crops – garlic, green onions, spinach, strawberries – all appear to have made it so far. The ewes and Jane’s milking goats are beginning to look wide with their pregnancies. The goats are due to kid in mid April, and we should see the first lambs just after that.
We are watching the international news with heavy hearts, and desperately hoping for peace in Ukraine, relief from this violence. On a practical level, we are thinking through how to minimize the impact of soaring grain and fuel prices, our two biggest inputs. We are lucky to be diversified and nimble in times like these. We can shift faster than giant agribusinesses or specialized farms growing one crop. This year, for example, we’ll grow more grain ourselves, rather than buy it in. We’ll lean into production of our 100% grazing animals, the cattle and sheep. We just finished butchering the last of the winter pigs, which is a big relief, and the grain price will help us decide how many piglets to keep from this spring’s farrowing. If we must, we can cut back a bit on pork and the number of broiler chickens we raise, which are our biggest consumers of grain. On the fuel side, we have less flexibility, but we are glad to have the 10 electric vehicle charging stations installed at the front of the farm for our community.
That’s the news from Essex Farm for this melting/snowing 10th week of 2022. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball