Tomato Red

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Essex Farm Note

Week 36, 2016

The harvest wagon is stacked high with heavy, red-ripe tomatoes today. This is probably the climax of tomato season. The drizzle and humidity we had this week will accelerate the growth of the various blights and viruses that creep up the vines and put an end to production, so, think about winter and how good those red jars will look on your pantry shelf, and take many many tomatoes home for sauce, salsa, frozen whole tomatoes, or whatever form of preservation your inner squirrel desires.

Speaking of the inner squirrel, it’s a putting-up week in the farmhouse kitchen. I have a quart of our favorite fermented hot sauce already in the refrigerator. (Recipe below.) This is a big heat, big flavor cayenne ferment, but the heat fades during storage, so by spring it will be fairly mild. Tomorrow, I’m going to take advantage of the confluence of daikon, napa cabbage, cayenne and scallions in the share to make a good supply of kimchi. (If you are looking for an easy kimchi tutorial, the kitchn.com has a good one.) Basil is peaking now, so if there is any left over after distro I will blend it with garlic, salt and oil, freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop it into ziplocks to store in the freezer. I’ll do the same with cilantro. This year I have to remember to label the ziplocks so I don’t land in Italy when I’m aiming for Mexico. No matter how much basil and cilantro I freeze in this way, it’s never enough.

The big fall harvests for winter storage have begun. Garlic has been in for a few weeks and is drying; this week, the onions began to come in. Onions are a multi-step harvest. First they are pulled and partially dried in windrows in the field, then gathered into large bins, brought to the barn, and spread in a single layer in the hot, dry loft. Later, when they are thoroughly dry and we are less busy, they will be cleaned by hand, roots and tops removed, and then bagged and stored in the basement. We still have humongous carrot, beet, cabbage, winter squash, and potato harvests to look forward to, along with the bountiful usual.

The close-to-calving cows are beginning to get that look: sunken around the tail head, tight in the udder. It feels like ages since we’ve had a doe-eyed, spindly-legged baby in the barn, and I’m looking forward to it. Ben & co. made some spectacularly beautiful second cut hay this week, so the cows and the calves will be well-fed this winter.

We are so happy to have Barbara Kunzi back in the dairy after her 4,000 mile cross-country bicycle journey. Welcome home, Barbara. In other bike news, Mark and Jane left on Wednesday for their annual birthday adventure. This year, they’re biking to grandma’s house, 330 miles round trip, which sounds extreme until you think about Barbara. Don’t forget the Essex Farm Institute Public Forum, Resilient Farms, Resilient Communities, is taking place this coming Monday, August 29th, with special guest Anthony Flaccavento, author of Building A Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up. Dinner available from 5-6:15, the event starts at 6:30 and is free. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this tomato-red 36th week of 2016.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

 

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Fermented Chili Sauce

(in the style of Sriracaha)

Before I started chopping chilis I looked at a bunch of recipes and read the section on fermented hot sauce in Sandor Katz’s fermento-nerd text, The Art of Fermentation. This is what I did, and I really love how it turned out – with complex flavors to go with the big heat. Feel free to vary it as you please.

Ingredients:

1 lb cayenne peppers, stems removed but green caps left on, roughly chopped. For less heat, remove seeds and ribs.

2 to 5 cloves garlic, according to taste, peeled

scant tablespoon sea salt (or to taste, or about 2% of the weight of the combined peppers and garlic)

a splash of sauerkraut brine or other brine from a naturally lacto-fermented product will speed up the fermentation process but is not strictly necessary

Place all the ingredients in a mason jar and blend with an immersion blender, being extremely careful to avoid fumes and splatter. (If you don’t have an immersion blender you can do it in a blender or food processor, then transfer to a mason jar.) Cover the jar with a clean cloth or an air lock cap (not an airtight cap – the fermentation will release gasses that need to escape) and leave out of direct sun at room temperature until it has fermented to your liking, which, for me, was 4 days. After the first day, stir it once or twice a day to prevent mold from forming. Transfer to a clean lidded glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. It should keep several months.

-Kristin Kimball

 

Grass-hopping

Essex Farm Note

Week 34, 2016

This is the week of transition, the middle age of the year. We’re finished with the idealistic phase now, when we’re always asking the question, what should we do? All the big choices of the year have been made, and the question, now, is how much can be done in the time we have left? How much harvest, how much weeding, how much work before the frost? We’ve shifted from offence to defense: we weed now not to save a crop but to keep billions and billions of seeds from dropping on our good soil. We try to balance the panic of what will inevitably be left undone with the satisfaction of all that has been completed. Sweet corn is coming in now, and loads of cantaloupe and watermelon. The fall raspberries are beginning to ripen, guarded by an army of fierce yellow jackets, barracked in the canes. We got lucky with the weather yet again yesterday: the rain showers all over the region somehow missed our field, with 25 acres of second cut down. Two more cows will be dried off this evening, but Kite and Calliope, the first due to calve, are beginning to bag up. They were bull bred, so we are not exactly sure when it will happen, but probably two or three weeks from now. They moved back to the milking herd today.

On Monday, August 29th, the Essex Farm Institute is hosting its first public forum, at the Whallonsburgh Grange, with special guest Anthony Flaccavento, author of Building A Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up. The title of the event is Resilient Farms, Resilient Communities; the conversation will focus on the place of sustainable agriculture in the economic development of rural economies, and how our farms and our communities can work together to respond to climate change in the Adirondacks. Anthony was the founder of SCALE: Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies; ten years ago, he created a food hub in Virginia that is still going strong, and he is a certified organic farmer with 15 years of experience. We’re excited to welcome Anthony to our community and hope you will all join us for this discussion. Curt Gervich of SUNY Plattsburgh will facilitate, and Northern Feast Catering will be at the Grange serving crepes from 5:00 to 6:15; the event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6:30. Please help us spread the word. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this grass-hopping 34th week of 2016. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                                                                                                        –Kristin & Mark Kimball

Cold melon hot grass

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Week 32, 2016

The weather continues as if on order from a helpful purveyor: hot dry weeks punctuated by a soaking inch or two of rain. Ben, Jon, and Brandon made the first bales of second cut hay this week, quick-dried and rich with clover. Bob Perry came over with his combine to harvest the hard red winter wheat, which remained upright in the microburst of wind and hail that hit us two Saturdays ago, though the mature heads were heavy with grain. The field corn is growing steadily, and the sweet corn has tasseled. The first watermelons came in, just enough for a taste, but what is better than a taste of chilled watermelon, eaten in the afternoon shade of an oak, juice dripping down on the grass? Yesterday, the harvest wagon lurched home over the farm road under a colorful load of tomatoes. When the tomato flood begins, summer bounty has arrived in earnest. There were flats of the bright red slicers, which I have eaten to excess this week, while standing over the sink with the salt shaker in my hand; also, the oddball striped heirloom variety called Green Zebra, which is a hard sell on looks alone but will fly off the wagon once tasted at peak ripeness. Then, the husked, papery green tomatillos, a new crop for us this year, which I’m roasting in the oven as I type, along with jalapeños, to make a batch of salsa verde for tonight’s team dinner. Finally, there were many, many quarts of cherry tomatoes, evidence of how hard the harvest team has been working. I think that Sungold, the world’s favorite cherry tomato, might be dethroned by a new-to-us variety called Pink Princess. Or, maybe, it’s the mixed quarts that are truly perfect – Sungold’s tart acid chased by the Princess’s pure sweetness. We have tomatoes enough to satisfy everyone, and then more, and still more, enough to keep Jori and her crew busy processing sauce and salsa at the Hub on the Hill, hundreds of pounds at a time.

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While the fields are hitting their zenith, the dairy is approaching its nadir. We’re drying off the fall-bred cows, one by one, to let them regain their condition before calving. Calliope, Cori, Stevie and Kite are dry already, and Wonder will join them after milking this evening. The remaining cows are all late in their lactations, and therefore low in production. The calves begin to arrive around the 6th of September. In other dairy news, we got blood pregnancy tests back on the group of cows and heifers that we inseminated artificially for spring calving. Over half of them caught on the first shot – a very good percentage, thanks to Ben Christian’s skill at breeding them, and to Coleen and the animal team for diligently watching the herd for signs of heat. This should be the last year in which we have a dearth of milk in late summer. From now on we’ll calve in spring and in fall, which ought to keep production closer to even over the course of the year.

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I have a pair of Essex Farm Institute events to announce, both happening this month. The first is a talk on mob grazing, followed by a pasture walk here at Essex Farm, on Sunday, August 21st, from 2pm to 6pm. Our guest speaker is Meg Grzeskiewicz, of Rhinestone Cattle Company. Meg studied animal science and ag business in West Virginia, and then interned with the well-known grazier Greg Judy at his farm in Missouri. Meg now raises cattle in Western New York, and will talk about Greg Judy’s philosophy of low input, high profit production through high density, rotational grazing. This event is open to all farmers, farm workers and apprentices, and is free for farmers in the Adirondacks and Northern NY. Farmers from other regions are also welcome, with a $25 donation suggested. Those traveling long distances are welcome to camp on our farm. If you wish to attend, please email Racey Henderson at essexfarminstitute@gmail.com with your name, the farm you work on, and number of people in your party. Racey can also answer any questions you might have.

The second event is a public forum at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall, at 6:30pm on August 29th, titled Resilient Farms, Resilient Communities: How Agriculture Can Help the Adirondacks Respond to Climate Change. Our guest speaker is farmer, writer and activist Anthony Flaccavento, who works on strengthening rural economies through healthy agriculture. Anthony created a Food Hub in Virginia ten years ago that is still going strong, and is the founder of SCALE: Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies. His website, www.bottomupeconomy.org, and his new book, Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up, aim to bring the discussion about rural economies to the mainstream. The event is free and open to the public, so please help us spread the word. Northern Feast catering will be on site selling crepes, beginning at 5:00. Come for dinner, and stay for the talk.

And that is the news from Essex Farm for this hot hot hot 32nd week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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