Week 33, 2019 | Kristin Kimball | Aug 19, 2019

The winter squash plants were a lush green canopy just last week. Their spiny stems were full of life, the leaves dense and broad enough to shade out the weeds between the rows and keep the soil cool as night. This week, downy traces of disease have crept over the surface of the leaves, the stems have relaxed just slightly, and the plants look past their prime. The ground between the rows is mottled with hot light. The fruit is set and the plants are still productive – we are almost guaranteed an excellent crop – but they are getting tired. Isn’t that just how the season feels, now? The damp beach towels piled up in the corner, the sunscreen bottles almost empty, and a return to school and brisk work routines just around the next corner? It’s a sad-tinged, good feeling as the close of one season approaches, hand in hand with the beginning of another. Only five weeks now until a real threat of frost. And the big harvest this week was the alliums. We brought in a bumper crop of fat storage onions, both yellow and red, plus sweet onions to eat now, and the year’s worth of shallots. We recruited help (thank you, Claudia) and pulled them all at once, knowing wet weather was coming, and they got two days to dry in the field before the drizzle began. They are secure in the east barn loft now, curing. The rows they came out of have already been prepared for a cover crop of oats and peas. The fall beets are almost ready to harvest, too, and should be in storage within two weeks. The fall carrots look amazing, and the tomatoes, cucumbers and squash are so delicious and plentiful.

Meanwhile, because of our hard-working animal team (Anne! Charlie! Brandon! Beth! Evan!), the flocks and herds are moving across the hundreds of acres of this landscape onto fresh forage every day, converting plants to eggs, milk, meat, and wool. We are coming through the summer slump in the pastures now, and the fall grasses, forbs and legumes are coming on. Imagine, as you cook and eat: the chicken’s beak plucking clover, the lips of the sheep nibbling the side leaves of burdock and wild parsnip, the hooves of the beef cattle stomping carbon into the ground while the rough tongue finds and harvests a tender leaf of trefoil. There is a lot of press lately about the environmental cost of animal agriculture, which has made me realize that it’s possible for something to be true in general and false in the specific. We all want actionable information that is easy to understand. But agriculture is a complex web of living things, and the truth changes as scale changes, and from location to location, and with different methods.

Mark and Jane had a busy day at the Adirondack food event in New York City last Sunday. They got so much help from kind friends and members who stopped by their table and were instantly recruited as chefs and salespeople. They sliced and gave out about a million samples of heirloom tomatoes and heard from lots of people that they were the best tomatoes they’d ever had. Thanks to everyone who helped! We are happy to have found some new members in the city because of it. Welcome to you newcomers.

Best news of the week comes last. Baby Amanda was born to Jonas and Mary Shetler last weekend. Jonas and Mary live and work here on the farm, and we send our hearty congratulations to them and their two sons, Levi and Emanuel. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this summer-slow-fade 33rd week of 2019. 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