Skeleton at the Feast

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Essex Farm Note

Week 47, 2016

I’ve been saving three bones for a night with three eaters. Mark was in New York City last night, celebrating the harvest with members and prospective members there, and the girls and I were home alone, and so it was my chance. They were such beautiful bones! Round, three-inch tall slices of grass-finished beef shank, full of rich, cream-colored marrow, as if they had come to life from a dog’s sweetest dream. I cut the meat away for use in a stew, and arranged the bones, like a red-blooded triptych, in the roasting pan. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, as I puttered around, waiting for the oven to crank up. When it finally reached 400 degrees, I popped them in. Fifteen minutes later the primal fireside roasted smell of them filled the kitchen, and through the oven’s window I could see the marrow bubbling in its custom bone bowls. All they required to reach perfection was a dusting of salt.

Like all rich foods, you have to be truly hungry to enjoy roasted marrow bones. Best if they come toward the end of a week without much meat, when your body looks at those bones, smells them, senses the density of the energy there, and registers it as good. Best if you treat them as the delicacy they are, with ritual, in small amounts. I searched for the tiny spoons we reserve for small delicacies, couldn’t find them, so we three resorted, farm style, to turning the regular spoons around, and digging the steaming marrow out with the handle end.

Our kids like what most people consider very weird kid food. Green things. Unsugared fruit. All sorts of strange and strong-tasting vegetables, plus unusual animal parts like marrow, liver, kidney. The first clear phrase our older girl spoke as a toddler was, “More testicles, please,” the day we slaughtered our bull and ate his defining parts, sliced, breaded, and fried in butter. I’m tempted to be proud of them for their adventurous palates. But I know, really, our girls are just normal. It’s only that they are animals, like all of us. They are wired to detect and like what their bodies need, and what is familiar. What’s different about kids raised on whole, seasonal farm food is that they have developed their palates, for the most part, in the absence of processed food, away from the daily seduction of refined sugar, which clears an enormous amount of room for liking things like bones, organs, and vegetables. Maybe one day they will be in therapy, discussing the strange contents of their lunch boxes and the deleterious effect on their social lives, but for now, I’m grateful our table is a beautiful, bountiful, nutritious adventurous playground.

What news from the ground this week? It was a busy one, as everyone prepares for next week’s feast. Onions are cleaned and stored. Squash, sorted. Aidan has taken over the helm of the butcher shop at the biggest time of the year. Congratulations to her on a first week well done. She (17), Jon (19) and Morgan (19) are three counter-arguments to any narrative featuring lazy or rudderless teenagers. It simply isn’t so, not here. And that is the news from here for this bright warm 47th week of 2016.                                                                      –Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Next year’s garlic

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We have so much spinach in the field, but the forecast for this weekend (cold, with snow) reminds us that the greens won’t last forever.

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Mary

November Is Here

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Radicchio, endive, and lettuce growing in the new greenhouse. Fall just got more delicious.

Essex Farm Note

Week 45, 2016

Mark and I were away from the farm from Monday through Thursday this week, speaking at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. All the undergraduates at Babson are studying business, and they also have an MBA program. Students and faculty are deeply engaged in thinking about the intersection of business and sustainability, looking for disruptive, market-based solutions to the world’s great problems. It was an enlivening and thought-provoking atmosphere, and we learned at least as much as we imparted. It was also the longest the two of us have ever been away from the farm together. I’m happy to report that our wonderful team of farmers keep the great living machine running smoothly in our absence. Thanks, everyone, for shouldering extra work, and making good decisions.

Of course, it’s not farming without a little drama. Kimber, one of our Jersey cows, gave birth to a lovely healthy heifer calf on Monday, which Alex named Kalamazoo, in honor of her native state. Kimber seemed to be doing fine, but when Morgan brought her in for milking last night, she was unsteady on her feet, and fell down in front of her stanchion, and could not get back up. Her ears were cold and hanging down like a Brahma cow. She looked droopy and dull. Those symptoms, three days after calving, make diagnosis simple. Milk fever. Close readers of the farm note already know that milk fever is an imbalance in blood calcium levels that can happen after a cow calves. The sudden production of milk demands more calcium from the cow than she can liberate from her stored supply, so the milk steals it from the blood. Calcium is necessary for muscles to work, so milk fever causes progressive paralysis. First she looks unsteady, then she goes down, and, if untreated, her heart muscle stops and she dies. Jersey cows are prone to milk fever, and we always give our girls a preventative dose of calcium at calving, but it wasn’t enough for Kimber. Alex gave her another oral tube of calcium gel right away last night, and then Ben came over and got some IV calcium into her that would help immediately, plus some subcutaneous calcium to keep her going overnight. This morning Kimber was standing, and she should make a full recovery. Thanks to Morgan, Alex, Jon and Ben for late-night, life-saving work.

Kirsten and the vegetable crew spent part of the week threshing our dry beans. They yielded about 1,000 pounds. This variety is called King of the Early, a gorgeous spotted red heirloom bean. It’s a classic choice for traditional baked beans, but also works well in chili, or soup. I like to use them as a base for hummus, in place of garbanzo beans, and I’ve been known to use them in an Essex Farm version of cassoulet. Don’t forget to pick through them for stones, and soak them overnight for easier digestion.

And that is the news from Essex Farm for this glorious 46th week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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The welcome home farm walk, in the rain, at dusk. It’s so good to be home and back together with the girls.

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This one was left behind in the carrot rapture.

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Beautiful cucurbits.

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Certified kale-fed child.

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Rye is up.

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Our most enthusiastic salesperson in the farm store.

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Still lots of nice greens coming from the greenhouse, plus a few tomatoes.