Week 28, 2020|Kristin Kimball |July 10, 2020

More very hot weather this week, with some humidity thrown in, but no rain. The soil is 77 degrees two inches down. We got one little storm that brought the most glorious rainbow over the dairy cow pasture but less than a tenth of an inch of water. Still, everyone is doing well, working hard, and mostly smiling. Mark and I took a walk at sunset last night to see the vegetables. Amazingly, most things look really good. There was some serious hand weeding this week, to save the carrots and the leeks. Chard is positively glowing. Cukes and melons are coming along. Tomatoes are doing well too and getting close to ripe. Rutabaga can withstand anything, lettuce is finding water somehow, kale and arugula are plentiful, and fresh cabbage is rolling in. And sunflowers! They are in bloom, and gorgeous, and we have bouquets of them in the share and for sale in the farm store today. Potatoes, though, prefer the same weather I do: cool, with plenty of water, so they and I are both a bit wilted. 

All the animals want shade right now, and fencing and rotations are a good challenge. The sheep have been in the hedgerow of Blockhouse Field, grazing out into the open areas in the evenings and early mornings. The oat/pea mix they are grazing is becoming more mature every day, with the oat heads beginning to fill out now, and the peas getting harder, but still plenty of succulent leaves on the plants. The lambs are fat and happy, growing quickly, and depending more and more on the forage, less and less on their mothers’ milk. Parasites loads have been building, with a few ewes requiring treatment. I think the high protein content of the peas is helping the young lambs withstand the parasite pressure and build immunity. We try to select for natural parasite resistance in our breeding stock. Requiring treatment earns you a place on the cull list.  

First chicken slaughter yesterday, and the birds look terrific. Hooray for the return of chicken to the menu. Yesterday, the slaughter team had everything in order and ready to go before it got too hot. Freddy was in charge of knife sharpening and since he’s a chef he did it extremely well. Anne, who was working the kill station, took a good cut to her hand. (Not for the first time! But hopefully the last.) It obviously required stitches, but first she finished killing all the chickens, then went to the field and pulled some hose in the sheep pasture, one handed. We’re lucky to have such tough farmers here. Our good friend Beth is our neighbor and a nurse practitioner so Anne got her stitches in Beth’s kitchen and is back at work today. 

Quill turned 1. He’s grown now, and he’s a real beauty, but still has some mental maturing to do, and I have a lot to learn too. Last weekend I was training him on his three dog-broke sheep and on the first run he and the sheep escaped my orbit. Then the excitement got the best of him and rather than bring them to me, he split one off and chased him clear over the sturdy, high, woven wire fence. I’m not sure how that happened. Maybe highly motivated sheep can levitate. Quill stayed in and the sheep kept running until he ran out of sight. So after spending the biggest part of a hot day searching the neighborhood for a terrorized sheep, I sent Quill off to sheep boot camp for a couple weeks, where he’ll get more experienced instruction. The sheep came back on his own the next morning, no worse for the excitement. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this hot-as-blazes 28th week of 2020. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web and insta at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, from a distance, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball