Essex Farm Note
Week 9, 2014
Of all the work we do on this farm, sugaring is the sweetest, even if you don’t count the end product. Is it even work to spend a sunny late-winter afternoon tromping through the woods, from tree to tree, with frosty-sweet sap to drink out of the pails when the exercise makes you thirsty? We got a two day run before the cold clamped down on us again. We collected 350 gallons in two loads on Monday, using Jake and Abby to pull the wagon. The trail was already broken so the pull was not as difficult for the horses as it was the day we tapped, even though their load was heavier. The sun was low by the time we brought in the second wagon, and we still had to set up the holding tank and evaporator, bucket the sap from the wagon to the tank, get the fire going and the split wood stacked. When all that was finished, it was night. The forecast called for a stretch of valve-crackingly cold weather. If we were going to make syrup from this sap, it had to happen immediately, so Mark volunteered (or rather was conscripted) for an all-nighter. Scott joined him for a few hours to learn the process. Aubrey brought sustenance in the form of chocolate chip cookies. When I woke up in my warm bed the next morning, Mark was just finishing the last draw. He made seven gallons. Scott was shocked. This is his first sugar season, and he couldn’t quite believe how many hours of work it took to fill those precious jars. I am a jaded veteran and was surprised that we got as much as we did, since the sugar content of the sap seemed fairly low. But we all agree the first run of 2014 produced a particularly delicious syrup. Maple syrup has a complex flavor profile, with variations that depend on weather, soil, tree genetics, and means of production. We are one of the only producers I know still making a truly traditional maple syrup. We use buckets instead of plastic tubes, horses instead of engines, and a good old-fashioned evaporator that burns wood from our own trees. It is slow, and it is unique. We will be selling this syrup tomorrow, at the CCE’s annual Food From the Farm event, 2-5pm at the Plattsburgh City Gym. Soon as the new farm stand is open, we will have it for sale there too. Members will get a half pint in the share today, and can buy more with a member discount from the farm stand when it is available.
Speaking of precious, it seems we are in the midst of a kale seed bubble right now, created by decreased supply (widespread crop failure) and increased demand (kale hired a publicist and is suddenly the nation’s ‘it’ vegetable). Mark, Miranda and I finished our seed order on Wednesday, only to find every seed supplier we know has sold out of Winterbor seed. That’s the variety that holds up well in cold weather, and provides us with fresh green food through most of the winter. This morning I googled up a supplier who still had packets, at more than ten times the price we would have paid for our usual bulk quantity. I snapped them up.
And the short news? Travis fixed a cracked head on the skid steer; babies galore in the east barn, of the porcine and ovine persuasions; got a new moisture meter, so we know the popcorn, at 22%, is still too wet to pop, and a refractometer, so we know that our first syrup is a perfect 67 brix. Metrics! I love them. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this unsportingly cold 9th week of 2014.
–Kristin & Mark Kimball
PS Here are some photos from the week.