There are eggs and fresh greens in the refrigerator, including red oak lettuce, lacinato kale, bok choy, and rainbow chard, plus big, beautiful heads of broccoli. Also: just-dug potatoes, pie pumpkins, two kinds of winter squash, carrots, cabbage, onions, and one of my seasonal favorites, hakurei turnips. These little white beauties are so sweet you can eat them raw, or you can steam, saute, or braise them. Mark once made me a cream-of-hakurei turnip soup that was so good I still think about it, even though it was probably five years ago. Come say hi and pick up something for dinner.
Essex Farm Note
Week 42, 2013
If you believe as I do that every farm has a persona, then ours may well be a buxom grandmother from the old country. “Eat!” she says. “Eat!” Baby greens and exotic varieties are not her thing, but she loves to fill bellies, and will heap your plate with meat and potatoes, hearty roots, whole grains, leafy greens. That is what I was thinking this week, as we brought in four of our biggest harvests of the year. First, potatoes. We planted two acres on good ground and the yield was fantastic; 15:1 would be my conservative guess. We have more than 10 tons of reds, whites and blues curing in the covered barnyard now. The best part is that unlike last year, the tubers are huge, which made harvest very satisfying for us, and will make peeling a joy for you. Thank you to the Essex Farmers, who pushed through one long hard day to get them in. The last ones came in under a bright moon. The next day, the Fledging Crow crew joined us for the first round of cabbage harvest. Again, the yield was phenomenal, with huge, sweet, rock-hard heads. Thank you so much, Crows! Yesterday was a big carrot harvest day. There are more in the field, along with the big loads of beets, rutabaga, kohlrabi, and celeriac, but it was a good start.
The phones are abuzz right now with farmers looking to make trades for their bumper crops. Our produce is so good and plentiful this year, we have a lot to offer. Yesterday, we traded our friends at the Intervale some of our surplus onions for some of their extra broccoli. Aubrey said she’d never thought of broccoli as beautiful before she saw this stuff. It is all in the share today, so members, please take advantage of this opportunity, and get some in your freezer. We had cream of broccoli soup for lunch this week. What a treat. The Intervale also loaned us their very cool onion-topping machine. This will reduce our onion-cleaning labor by a factor of four. Who knew such a machine existed?
We’re down to six milking cows, and they are late in their lactation, so production is low. We will set limits on the milk depending on how many people are taking it on any given day. The cows freshen in a month, so this is our annual temporary limit. Luckily it comes as all the other products are at their peak of abundance!
Finally, please help us welcome Mary, Jet’s daughter, who is 9 weeks old and as cute as they come, not to mention pretty darn handy for a baby. She arrived from Pennsylvania on Wednesday. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this still-no-frost 42nd week of 2013. Find us at 518-963-4613, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball
We’ve got a beautiful selection of winter squash, late-season greens, carrots, potatoes, celery and snappy red radishes. The little white turnips are sweet enough to eat raw. We’ve even got pie pumpkins and decorative corn stalks. Eggs ($4/doz) and greens ($3/bag) are in the fridge. Come by, say hi, take home something for dinner.
Essex Farm Note
Week 41, 2013
Every few days for the last month I’ve visited the corn field and gone deep inside it, shouldering aside the stalks like a crowd of skinny giants. I would twist off an ear, pull back the husk, brush aside the silks, and sigh. The kernels were rounded, small and milky, and frost could come any day. But frost held off and in the last two weeks the kernels have grown increasingly heavy and full, and they now have a deep dent in the center. That is the look of mature dent corn, and that is a very good thing. If frost had halted its growth, the immature kernels would have molded instead of drying down. The ear I picked yesterday was healthy, mature, and larger than any we’ve ever grown. Corn yield is limited by genetics but also conditions; the plant regulates its offspring like a ruthless mother. In good times, with lots of nitrogen, it produces heavily. In times of scarcity it invests all it can into fewer seeds. One counts the number of kernels around the cob to see what kind of year it has been. On poor ground, we’ve had as few as ten or twelve. This year, we got sixteen. On the ear I picked, each row numbered 50 kernels. That’s 800 kernels per ear, a yield of 800:1. No wonder corn is such a hungry queen. Thanks, drainage, thanks, compost, thanks soil, and thank you good horses and farmers for getting us to this point. Of course, we still have to contend with deer, raccoons, crows, and the possibility of an early snow or freak storm before harvest. Nothing is truly sure until it is sold – or eaten!
The forecast called for scattered frost on Tuesday night, which set off a scurry to harvest the tender plants. The frost just barely nipped us, but now we’re rich in gorgeous eggplant and peppers. Sweet peppers and jalapenos can be frozen, the fiery little matchboxes can be hung up and dried. Eggplant can be frozen too, preferably already dressed in its going-out clothes: moussaka, baba ganoush, caponata, anyone? We have pretty little pie pumpkins in the share today, plus butternut and acorn squash. Share your favorite pumpkin or squash pie recipe with fellow members on our facebook page. And brace for cabbages, which are coming in full force next week. They are plentiful and bigger than Mark’s head (!). We are hoping to harvest potatoes this coming week, and could use ten or twelve volunteers. This is a kid-friendly harvest, and one of my favorite, especially when we have a bunch of friends in the field. It will probably happen mid-week, and if you would like to help, leave a message at the office (518-963-four 613) and we’ll call you when we know which day and time.
Farm tour takes place tomorrow. Sounds like we have visitors coming from far and wide. It’s going to be so much fun. See all the details over on the events page. And thanks to everyone who visited our farm stand this week. It’s located at the end of the pavilion, restocked daily, and open 8am to 6pm. This week, we’ll be featuring pie pumpkins, squash, carrots, eggplants, onions, greens, and decorative corn stalks.
And that is the news from Essex Farm for this royal 41st day of 2013. -Kristin & Mark Kimball
Essex Farm Note
Week 40, 2013
Fall is such a jumble of firsts and lasts. First days of stunning color in the trees, last days of strong sunshine. Goodbye growing season and all its potential, and hello harvest, which is effort fulfilled. It makes for a bittersweet mix, and that is my favorite flavor. We filled 24 large bins with winter squash this week – about nine tons. The delicata should store in our cellar until December. If we get lucky the butternut will stay sound until February. Members, take quantities home to can or freeze anytime. In the field, broiler chicken season is winding down; a group of chicks went to pasture this week, and the last order of babies arrived to take their place in the greenhouse. The beneficent weather means the corn is nearly secure now, and the soybeans are almost there, too. The potato crop looks promising, but for a little scab, which leaves them rough on the outside but just fine inside.
On the home front, Miranda has stopped taking a reliable nap, which is both good and bad. I can’t count on that quiet pair of hours anymore, but I am no longer tied to the house, either, and can take her with me on farm jobs. On the balance, I’m glad about it. I like to be in the field with her, even if tasks are roughly four times more difficult with a small child in tow. We spent an afternoon this week harvesting squash with Kelsey, Aubrey and Matt. Miranda played in the dirt and stomped the rotten squashes, and told fantastical stories to the farmers. It’s good to share the raising of a child with the people who work here. And if soil is indeed healthy for the human microbiome then Jane and Miranda should have bodies of steel. I wonder how the memory of these days will form the material of their adult selves. What will the smell of tilled earth and sun-warm squash evoke for Miranda, when she is my age? Then, there it is again, that autumnal feeling: the last nap is followed by the first shared day in the field; and a small grief for the baby who isn’t anymore, is outmatched by the joy of the child who is.
Travis spent many hours this week tick-tick-ticking away the glazed surface of the grindstones we use to mill our grain. Tedious work, but it will make milling so much easier. The dairy heifers have healed from pinkeye and are back in the field. The milking herd is down to eight now, still commuting from the good pasture on the other side of the farm. Richard Robbins would like to convey his thanks to members who filled out his survey. “We’ll be compiling the surveys shortly,” he says, “and will share the results with CSA personnel and members. If you haven’t handed in your survey, it’s not too late. We are trying to get as close to 100% participation as we can.” I would like to convey my own gratitude to those who were able to make share payments in advance. This has alleviated so much pressure on us. Thank you a million times. We are doing a trial run of the farm stand, starting tomorrow. Hours will be daily, 8am to 6pm. Please spread the word to your non-member friends. Finally, mark your calendars! We are having a party for all members at the Grange on Friday, October 25th, from 6pm-8pm. Potluck supper, state-of-the-farm address, member q&a, and a slide show to celebrate ten years of Essex Farm. Thanks to Andy Buchanan and Mary–Nell Bockman for launching this. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this glorious 40th week of 2013. –Kristin & Mark Kimball
Essex Farm Note
Week 39, 2013
Another busy harvest week here. The tomatoes are still coming in, along with some beautiful sweet peppers. Delicata (the small, striped zeppelin-shaped squashes) are in the share today. We snipped the butternut squashes and the pumpkins from their vines, and they will cure for a week or two before going out to you. The acorns, and a few of the gorgeous kabochas will come in soon. Mark and I harvested celery this morning. It is still nice but a bit tougher than last week. Miranda and I picked a few raspberries yesterday. They are ripening more slowly now that the days are shorter and the nights cooler, but there were enough for a good grazing. Members, feel free to go out and pick, but please don’t drive on the field. While I was out there yesterday, I checked the field corn and the popcorn nearby. I don’t want to jinx us by sounding too hopeful, but the field corn is dented and the popcorn kernels are beginning to look full. The fall weather has been very kind.
All 40 of the early spring pigs are butchered and in the freezer. We saved one sow from that batch for breeding, and she needed to be moved this week from pasture to the sow barn. This is never an easy proposition. A lone pig will not be lured, pushed or herded. But Matt worked as a gaucho in Argentina for a year, so he found a length of climbing rope, made a lasso, and caught her by one back foot on the first throw. If there weren’t credible witnesses I don’t know if I would have believed it.
It’s not to early to start passing the word about our October 12th Harvest Tour. We’d like to make it our biggest ever. This year, we’ll take a hay ride to the far fields, and harvest our way back home. Guests are welcome to fill a bag with the food they have harvested. Free for members, $25/$5 for non-member adults/children. Additional details over at the events page. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this colorful 39th week of 2013. -Kristin & Mark Kimball