The farm is in its post-solstice slump. Every farmer I know gets tired and stressed out by the end of June, and we are no exception. I’ve been thinking this week about how tightly our egos are tied to the well-being of the farm. Maybe everyone feels this about their work, but I suspect farmers, who deal in living things, must feel it more deeply. When the whole farm is thriving, it’s easy to be proud of what we do. When something isn’t – crop failure, sick animal, predation, weeds – we feel bad about ourselves. So it has been an extremely challenging season, both agriculturally and emotionally. The weather, though, is giving us a much-needed boost right now. Lots of sun and a stiff dry wind helped drive off the three inches of rain we got last weekend. We had a huge team of people and six horses in the field yesterday, working on weed and pest control. And we’re using some big guns for the first time this year. We’ve never spread anything but our compost on the fields before, but the excessively wet conditions have rinsed a lot of nutrients out of the soil, and the plants were looking a little peaked. So we bought five tons of kiln-dried composted chicken litter, a slow-release organic fertilizer, and are using it to side-dress the vegetables. Gwen, Mo and newcomer Matthew spent yesterday hauling fifty pound bags from one end of the row to the other. (Matthew, who’d spent the previous two days on a bus from Chicago, looked more peaked than the plants by late afternoon.) We’re expecting to see the plants suck up that nitrogen and run with it. Since we’ve never used fertilizer as concentrated as this before, it feels a little like going from acoustic to electric. On the pest control side of things, Asa has been spraying Surround on the cucurbits – squash, zucchini, melon, cucumber – to control those pesky cucumber beetles. Surround is a nontoxic product composed of pulverized kaolin clay. Mixed with water and sprayed on the plants, it creates a physical barrier that bugs find annoying. The second planting of potatoes is coming along happily. Asa is keeping an eye on the potato bug pressure. If it gets overwhelming, we’ll consider some spinodad – an organic and very expensive narrow-spectrum pesticide. We also have copper on hand if late blight threatens the tomatoes. Again, it’s an organic control, but one we’d rather not use if we don’t have to.
Dairywoman extraordinaire Ashlee Kleinhammer is with us this week. The Wiese family gets a golden hoe award for field work. Sabrina is signed on ‘til fall. We’re hosting a farm tour on Saturday, July 23rd, with a dinner to follow at the Essex Inn. We’ve got all the details. First sow delivered piglets last night. Gwen saw five but declined to investigate closely, as mama pig was asserting her right to privacy. Hens moved out to the beef cattle pasture. Nathan is shopping for dairy cows to bridge the dry season. Speaking of which, the first cows dried off this week, so we’re asking members who live nearby to please pick up milk on Tuesday instead of Friday. One more reminder on the compost: it can only be dropped off in the blue bins during distribution, and no paper, plastic or Styrofoam please. Finally, remember to leave a message at the farm if you need to pick up late. We will not call you back unless there is a problem.
That’s the news from Essex Farm for this amphibious 26th week of 2011. Find us at 518-963-4613, email@example.com, on twitter @k_kimball, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.
Kristin & Mark Kimball
- Essex Farm in Essex, New York (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- How would you describe Essex, NY? (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Independence Day Schedule (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Haying with Draft Horses at Full and By Farm (rosslynredux.com)
- Provisions and Paparazzi in Essex, NY (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)