Essex Farm Note
Week 3, 2016
We spent much of this week planning for the rest of the year. Seed order is almost finished now, thanks to Kirsten Liebl. There are some fun new things for 2016. We’re ordering mache, the tender, low-growing, cold-loving green also known as corn salad, or rapunzel. In the eponymous fairy tale, this is what Rapunzel’s pregnant mother craved so badly she sent Rapunzel’s father into the witch’s garden to steal it for her. The witch caught him, setting off the whole long-haired-girl-in-the-tower drama. That is one powerful plant.
We’re also growing a couple fancy-schmancy things like hericot vert, and Belgian endive. Hericot vert are thin, delicate green beans. The good old Fedco catalogue, usually pretty laid back, says these should be picked every 48 hours — or less –, “when pods are still stringless and thinner than a pencil.”
Belgian endive is an old Essex Farm favorite that Kirsten has positioned for a comeback. The seeds are grown out in the field for the season, then the roots are dug up in the fall, and stored until winter, when they are replanted, inside, in tubs of potting soil. This forcing must be done in total darkness in order to get the gorgeous, pale, mildly bitter leafy chicons. It’s a labor intensive magic trick, but so very delicious, especially in deep winter when other fresh leafy things are off the menu. We’re adding a petite blue hubbard, Blue Ballet, to the winter squash repertoire, and switching over to a variety called Cargo for our jack-o-lantern pumpkins. Mark is advocating for a planting of blackberries to complement the raspberries. Once seed order is finalized, we will get it posted for members.
Mark and I are also strategizing about how to make the 2016 all-you-can-eat, free-choice, full-diet share more user-friendly for busy households. We added ready-made whole wheat bread dough to the share in late 2015. The one pound loaves bake up in 25 minutes, and in our house, they’ve been a huge hit. Next, I would like to explore making stock or bone broth for members. I can’t get along in the kitchen without stock on hand, and it might be more efficient to make it on a larger scale. Members, if you have ideas for things we could do to add a dash of convenience to your whole food kitchen, please email us.
The two young rams have wrapped up their work with the ewes. Almost all of the ewes got bred on the first cycle, which means we should have a veritable lambalanche beginning on April 15th, and be nearly finished with lambing three weeks later. We have about fifty ewes bred. I’m eager to see what a slightly later lambing is like. I have moved it back a little bit each year, from February my first year to the beginning of April last year. Each delay has made me happier, and the lambs too, I think, at least as newborns. I’m a little nervous about putting delicate youngsters and vulnerable post-partum mamas on grass just as the parasites are waking up, but I very much like the idea that they will be on forage almost from the get go.
The East Barn run-in renovation project hit a costly bump this week. We got a heavy rain after the Sonotubes were in, but before the concrete was poured, and so had to do a lot of the excavation all over again. In better news, the beef cattle are enjoying their winter quarters down at the metal barn. The pregnant gilt farrowed in West Barn, but unfortunately only three piglets survived. The laying hens are ensconced in the East Barn, where they have protection and a little bit of extra light to keep the eggs coming. The draft horses are eating hay now, but the ponies are still roughing it on the last bit of pasture. They could stand to lose a couple pounds before coming in for the winter.
Mark just reminded me that my weekly note often makes it sound like he and I are still doing everything on this farm all by ourselves. He’s right, and I’m sorry about that. We have 24 hard working people on the farm right now, the biggest crew we’ve ever had, and each one of them deserves a big fat thank you. We say goodbye to Malcolm and Roman this week, with gratitude for their good work, and we welcome Jenny Linger back to the front of the house. Jenny started here in 2011 and has since developed a busy farm business with Liam Davis at Harvest Hill in Willsboro. We are happy to have Jenny’s cheerful presence with us again this winter, and I know our members will be too. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this forward-looking 3rd week of 2016.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball