Week 19, 2018 | Kristin Kimball | May 11, 2018

The storm cloud came over the hill to our west like an incubus, smothering and dark. It wasn’t exactly a surprise. The radio had been blaring actual tornado warnings all Friday afternoon. It’s just hard to grasp that something so cataclysmic can arrive on a day when the sun is bright and the sky is blue. But suddenly, the cloud was over us, blocking the evening light. Then came the wind and the dust, swirling in the driveway, stinging the eyes. Then the sound, above the wind, of all the loose things on the farm blowing free and sailing east – sheet metal, crates, the tops of the dumpsters. As the rain came, hard and horizontal, I ran to find the children, who had, of course, disappeared outside, attracted by the drama of the storm. I corralled them soaking into the house and from there we watched it blow, then hail, then blow again. The power went out after bedtime. By dawn we knew the storm had been big and it would be a while. The most immediate problem was water for animals (no well pump) and the next most immediate was milking (no way to power the milking machine), and chick brooders (no heatlamps). Then, refrigeration and freezers, because several tons of produce and meat are stored in the on-farm units. Nothing like a good emergency to get everyone thinking fast. The Ives were on chores and they filled and refilled the sap tank at the firehouse to water all the animals. We sealed off the brooders with tarps and added propane heaters. Then we flexed our wrists and rubbed our forearms and prepared to milk by hand like we used to, but decided to skip milking altogether, hoping we’d have power back or a generator on by the time their udders got too full. And we did, just barely. Huge thanks to Ryan Hathaway at Hometown Electric for answering Mark’s 6am call, and promising to hook up a gen set for us, soon as we could find one. And heartfelt thanks to Chris McConnell, who hauled his maximally pregnant wife Nicole and their three children all around the north country on Saturday to find one for us. The set wasn’t big enough to power everything, but it was enough to get the water flowing, the cows milked, chicks warm, and refrigeration up. Thanks too to the whole Essex Farm team who showed up to help get through the crisis on two of their rare days off. We got power back on Sunday night.

More happened this week than I have time or space to write about. Isn’t that just so May? Anne and her team got most of the animals out on pasture, including cattle, calves, and the lambed ewes. There isn’t a sight in the world as happy as stock on first grass. On the plant side, Mark was moved to tears by the sight of Jonas driving two horses hitched wide to the hydraulic forecart, pulling the new-to-us two row I&J cultivator, while, in the same field, Scott was killing weeds with the new Einbock, hooked to the little cultivating tractor. This is not the first time the sight of efficiently killed weeds has made Mark weep.

Finally, welcome, joyous welcome to Chris and Nicole McConnell’s new baby daughter, born last night. She’s the freshest member of the Essex Farm team and we can’t wait to meet her. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this happy 19th week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web and Insta at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball