Week 25, 2020|Kristin Kimball |June 19, 2020

We said goodbye to Jake the Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dog this week. I saw him at noon yesterday when I went to check the sheep, and he came over for pat and a treat as usual, but when Fred went out for last rounds at the end of the day, he was dead. The giant breeds don’t live long lives, but we were not expecting to lose him now. He was a super guard dog, and just a lovely guy to know, sweet and mellow almost all of the time, and only fierce when needed. He was the sort of dog who let you know with his eyes when there was a lamb that needed help or anything was off in the flock. He never left his sheep and was on duty until the very end. Coincidentally, Charlie and Beth found Mozzie’s skull yesterday, as they were spreading compost. Mozzie was the Great Pyrenees we lost last year to cancer, and I’d like to think that Mozzie came by the field in spirit, to guide Jake home. Rest well, good dogs. It’s uncomfortable without a guard dog in the flock and I hope we can find replacements soon.

The big story at the solstice this year is lack of rain. We got 2” in May, and so far in June, less than half an inch. Vegetables would really like a steady inch per week. I’d describe the general conditions here as bone dry. The trucks and our clothes are always covered in dust. The good news is that we planted most of our crops early, and they grew good roots before things dried out. Six inches down, where they are now, there’s still water, so they are doing alright. And haymaking is easy in a dry year. It has been galloping along, with our first big loads of fairly good quality hay coming in right now. As Anne drove by with the haywagon just now, I calculated the amount of milk we will make with that load in winter: 850 gallons, more or less. For many years we made small square bales and now we make large round bales, one of which is equivalent to 22 of the old ones. Part of me misses those effortful days of loading square bales onto the wagon by hand, and even the sweltering afternoons spent stacking them in the loft, but the large rounds require much less fuel to make and haul, and we get to save our backs for other work. Speaking of machines, we made a huge purchase this week, thanks to a grant from NYS Soil and Water. It’s an 8’ speed disk that will reduce tillage passes, and thereby reduce our diesel usage by four fold. We’re using it to push down and turn under the cover crop, to get the ground ready to plant again.

The kitchen is beginning to taste like summer. Note that dry hot conditions increase bitter flavors in some of the greens, like kale and romaine lettuce. Mark loves to cook the romaine when it tastes like that, just a quick saute in a hot pan with a little butter and salt to take the sting out of it. We have infinite swiss chard right now, and it’s tasty, so take extra for putting up. The strawberries have a deep flavor, not as sweet as some years, but delicious. They are smaller and yield is less than normal. We’re harvesting them now and will open last year’s patch to members who want to pick more. (Don’t get too excited, as that section is so weedy you have to hunt for the berries.)  Personally, I’m failing food and cooking this June. Among other things, I’m rushing to finish up all the renovations and be back in the farmhouse next week, so the kids and I are eating whatever is within range and edible and requires little effort! That’s the news from Essex Farm for this dusty 25th week of 2020. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web and insta at essexfarmcsa, kristinxkimball and farmerkimball, or on the farm, from a safe distance, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball