Essex Farm Note
Week 22, 2014
Pressure, release. This is one of the main principles of horse training. Apply increasing pressure until you get the behavior you want, then release. The pressure asks the horse for a different behavior, and the release tells him he got it right. Pressure can come in many forms: voice, touch, tension on the lines, or even energy directed at a place on the horse’s body. But the pressure, release thing has gotten generalized around here from a horse training tool to a principle of human behavior management. It is true that Nathan used pressure, release to win Racey’s heart when they were both farming here; Mark and I have employed pressure, release parenting and marriage strategies. This time of year I fear the farm has been observing all of this and is turning our strategy back on us. It is applying awfully firm pressure on the whole crew, in the form of fast grass, fast weeds, a million urgent needs. Our reaction is to work faster, longer, harder. Is that the behavior you wanted, farm? I think we are all good and tired now, and ready for a little release.
Have I mentioned lately that I’ve become friends with my pressure cooker? I don’t know what took me so long. The pressure cooker lives at the intersection of delicious and efficient, which is exactly where we need to be during the busy season. At the beginning of the week I pressure cook a whole chicken for 35 minutes with a pint of water, carrots, shallots, salt and pepper, then remove all the meat from the bones and keep it in the fridge. I use the meat in different forms: chicken salad for kids’ lunch boxes, chopped and stir fried with vegetables for a quick dinner, or in savory croquettes. The liquid from the pressure cooker gets strained and used as stock for cooking or a base for soup. That avoids the end-of-crazy-day blues, when everyone comes in looking hungry and all forms of protein are still in the freezer. I’ve been using that same pressure cooker to make a weekly pot of beans. Soaked beans cook in 4 minutes! And they are such versatile soldiers, working breakfast, lunch or dinner, taking on any style you ask of them. My final weekly efficiency is a 16-cup pot of polenta. This does not use the pressure cooker but neither does it require a lot of babysitting. 4 parts salted boiling water to 1 part corn meal, whisk, bubble, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes, or up to an hour. This morning we had it hot for breakfast, topped with some lovely sautéed mushrooms (thank you, Ron!) chives and sour cream. The leftovers go into buttered pyrex dishes, to cool into something firm enough to cut. Polenta can be the base of anything saucy, or fried and topped with maple syrup for a different breakfast later in the week.
First lettuce in the share this week, and bountiful asparagus. Strawberries are a couple weeks away. Thank you to everyone who came to our farm tour on Saturday. We had perfect weather and lots of fun. And our first Picnic in the Field last Friday was delicious, thanks to Russ Bailey and Kaska Moore of Griddles. We are plotting to have them here again. Mark and I are off to Lake Placid today to talk at the Farm to School Festival. Thank you, members, for supporting our efforts these last ten years. We do love to feed you. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this bright 22nd week of 2014.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball