Week 11, 2022|Kristin Kimball|March 18, 2022

Mark called from New Field on Wednesday evening, just as we were getting dinner on the table. “Come out!” he shouted. “But dinner – “ I started. He pretended not to hear me. “Bring the girls and the dogs! I’m taking the mulch off the strawberries. It’s beautiful out here!” Now that I’ve crossed the river of fifty I know, really know, that our opportunities for beauty in this life are not infinite; the number of sunsets we’ll see on a soft evening at the outset of spring is alarmingly small, the number that will be shared all together as a family, smaller still. So we turned off the burners and put the milk back in the refrigerator and pulled on our boots and piled into the van to drive to the other side of the farm. The dogs had been cooped up in the house a lot, because of the mud, so when we let them out of the van into the expanse of the field they ran with giddy joy, feet barely skimming earth, delighted at their own speed and the golden sun on their fur, then stood, noses high to search the wind for threads of the recent past. Their happiness was contagious. Miranda climbed to the top of a round bale and shucked off her boots. Jane sprinted down a row, kicking over the brown stalks of last year’s Brussels sprouts. The sun was inching down toward the horizon but its warmth was still in the soil, radiating up from the ground. We found Mark alone at the end of the field, barefoot of course, forking massive amounts of winter-wet hay from three thousand row feet of overwintered strawberry plants. They looked healthy and well-rooted. Mark looked healthy and well-rooted. The girls, the dogs, and I, all healthy and well-rooted. That particular good smell rising up around us, of old hay and spring soil – half rot, half life – is something to contemplate when we have a choice between beauty and routine duty. It reminds us where we are in the big circle, in our brief moment of light.

Mud season is a time of danger and opportunity for the soil. It’s fragile right now. The frost is coming out, and the snow is melting, so it’s both malleable and saturated. Vehicles and heavy animals can damage its structure and its microbiome, so we keep off of it as much as possible. On the other hand, this is the moment of the year when we can plant some beneficial seeds without disrupting the soil with tillage, by frost seeding. On the next frosty morning when the ground is firm we’ll walk across the fields, spinning seed into established pasture, or onto bare ground, by hand with a spinner. Frost seeding works because frost lifts the ground, and when it thaws, the ground settles again. Four or five such cycles bury tiny seeds like clover to just the right depth for germination. We had great success last spring frost seeding red clover in the newly logged areas of the sugarbush, around the ponds, and in the heavy clay soil of Corner Field, where it out-competed even faster plants like oats and forage brassicas. Clover’s superpower is its ability to fix nitrogen from air and thereby improve the soil’s capacity without added fertilizer.

I’ve been asked to remind everyone again to please bring back glass every week. Thank you to everyone who has returned a backlog! We need every jar. Similarly, we are short on crates. If crates have found their way home with you (remember, unlike glass they should not leave the farm) please bring them back so we have a way to get all the delicious pork that’s in the butcher shop into the freezer. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this mud/frost/mud 11th 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