Week 14, 2023|Kristin Kimball|April 7, 2023

The ice went off the ponds this week. We borrowed Anne Brown’s kayak to retrieve the post that held the sap line above the ice. For the last few days I watched it teeter and then sink, a semaphore for the end of winter. Snowy egret returned to the open water, a single brave frog sung from the chilly mud, and Mark came back to the house one evening, excited to report that he’d been hiding behind the farm store for a quarter hour, watching a crazy huge muskrat hunt crayfish along the bank of Meatworld Pond. It was absolutely full of spring energy, he said, tossing bits of wood around, and doing playful rolls in the water, and had deposited a big pile of poop full of crayfish parts on the bank. He’d never seen a muskrat act so crazy. Stephanie Ratcliffe of the Wild Center was visiting, heard his story, and, because she knows something about these things, offered the suggestion that perhaps what he’d seen was not a crazy huge muskrat but a river otter. All fell into place. The otter must have made its way from the Lake Champlain via Library Brook, then along the chain of ephemeral streams swollen with spring melt, then the marsh that drains Superjoy and Monument and Pine Fields, then up the bank (picture that rubbery slick body, ashore, galumphing) to our pond. An otter is gracing our farm with a residency, and it delights me.

Other wonders of the shifting season? The geese that guard the hens from hawks have been laying their annual clutch of eggs. Our geese are not good at sitting on their eggs, and they usually ignore their duty, except to curse and hiss at me with open beaks and flappy wings when I get too close, but this week, one of them has decided she might want to be a mother after all. We’ll see if she has the patience to stay on the job for 28 days. I know most people hate a fierce goose, but not me. I admire the fact as a species they have no chill. Their collective outrage seems stagy to me, and so consistent that once you’re used to it their loud performance becomes comedic.

The weather was perfect for frost seeding this week. I bought 150 pounds of clover seed and Mark spun it out by hand over 12 acres that the pigs had grazed and rooted last year, leaving the soil bare and receptive. Frost seeding, like sugaring, is for the weeks in spring when the nights freeze and the days thaw; the topsoil heaves up with the frost at night, leaving cracks to hold the tiny seed, and it settles down during the warmth of day, effectively planting them. Covering bare ground with growing plants is one of the most important things we do here, because plants sequester carbon, prevent erosion, and improve the health and capacity of the soil. When we plant legumes like clover, we double the benefit, adding nitrogen to the soil as well as carbon.

Thank you so much to all the wonderful people who responded to my request for help to market our extra lambs. I deeply appreciate it, and am following up with everyone as fast as I can. The first batch of lambs are off now and I am having a good number of them cut and boxed as single animals for folks who want to buy a whole lamb (average hanging weight is 65 lbs) so please, if you know people who’d like to buy one, have them email me at essexfarm@gmail.comand I will give them pricing and all the details. I’m also reaching out to high end restaurants, corporate dining rooms, private clubs and the better butcher shops between here and New York City and am learning fast how these things work! For our readers who live in that corridor, please let me know if there’s a store or restaurant in your neighborhood that you think might be good for us to partner with.

Thanks too to everyone who came to the Grange Hall last Tuesday for the Lyceum discussion about our local food system. We had an amazing turnout, which shows once again how much this community values its farmers and food. I’m grateful to the Grange, my fellow panelists Racey Henderson and David Brunner, and to Ben Stechschulte for showing parts of his documentary, Small Farm Rising, before the talk started. It was filmed 13 years ago and it was surprisingly emotional to see our younger selves on that screen.

I am so excited to kick off the new local membership on May 1st. I hope to have contracts ready next week (!) and also need to get new information up on our website. If you know people who are interested, the best thing to do right now is have them email me, and I can talk through details directly. Please help us spread the word about the Essex Farm Food Fund, which exists to bridge the gap between what our responsibly grown food costs and what folks of moderate means can afford. We’re really looking forward to welcoming some new members to the farm, and widening the circle of people we can feed.

If you could help spread the word:

  •  We are offering our full diet membership for pickup here at the farm this year, not for delivery.
  • We are not offering a seasonal unlimited share this year, but are working on ways to best serve those who don’t live here year round, and expect to have something firm in place in the next couple weeks.
  • We plan to continue our monthly deliveries of curated boxes to drop points in the Hudson Valley and the Capital Region, and door to door in New York City. Shoot me an email anytime at essexfarm@gmail.com to get on the mailing list.
  • We have delicious lamb to sell and could deliver orders for whole lambs to points along the Essex-NYC corridor.

Happy to say that we’re tentatively aiming for May 20th for our first member potluck, and hatching plans for other events this season. Thanks to Ana, Eve and Jen for putting plans together. I wonder if anyone would be interested in a running or walking club on the farm this year? Maybe on Fridays, to jive with pickup?  I’m thinking of something like a farm version of the Hash House Harriers. We have a terrific new public CATs trail through the farm that makes a nice loop. We could even plan a post-run gathering at the Tavern in the village, which is owned by one of our new members. (Shoutout to Leigh Firestone for giving Essex such a cool place to gather, and keeping it open all year! I can support that by lifting a cold pint.) It’s a little too ambitious of me to think I can be the one who puts this together, so let me know if you’d be interested in being the organizer.

That’s the news from Essex Farm for this crazy huge 14th week of 2023. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at essexfarmcsa, or here at the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball