Essex Farm Note, week 28

It’s been a stressful week around here. Mark is still wrestling with his injury, trying to find a balance between the rest that his body needs and the work that needs to get done. All the plants want rain, and there is nothing we can do about that. Cash flow is tight – the legacy of last year’s flooding, which necessitated the purchase of $60,000 of grain. Then Ashlee broke her foot, Gwen got an impacted wisdom tooth, and Gus worked himself sick! Everyone is working very hard, doing the best they can with less guidance than usual. The good part is that Ashlee’s absence brings Mark and me back into the dairy two mornings a week. I have so missed the cows. Just being in the barn with them calms and soothes me. I remember when Mark and I first met, he told me that if things got bad, I should just send him out to plow something, because soil and sweat were a balm to him. He knew then, like I do now, that working at what you love and believe in will ground you when you feel a little lost.

There are lots of good things happening this week, beyond the above tribulations. Building is about to start on two covered barnyards, thanks to grants from the USDA. It’s a big $200,000 project, and Cory is managing it. All the dry weather means plenty of opportunities to make hay, which is what is happening as I type. Summer vegetables are flowing in. Raspberries are booming now. Come pick them! I’ve put a couple quarts in the freezer, despite the temptation to eat them all right in the field. The calendula is blooming in the herb garden. You can pick as much as you want. I dry it, infuse it into olive oil, and use it to make a soothing salve. It’s excellent for diaper rash! I’m putting things up little by little this year instead of in exhausting marathon sessions. This week I froze basil, cilantro and garlic scapes. Roughly chop with a knife, and then process them (I use my trusty immersion blender) with oil and a little salt. Freeze them in ice cube trays, then pop out the cubes and store them frozen in a zip lock bag. Fast and easy, and they are invaluable when fresh herbs are gone. Ask Amy or Jenny for items we have in abundance.

Members, it’s time for my periodical reminder to return your glass every week. I know it’s not easy – sometimes I forget and I live here! While I’m at it, please wash your glass AND your lids very carefully before you return them. Rinse them in cold water as soon as they are empty (dried-on dairy is super stubborn stuff), then scrub by hand with hot soapy water. We use the green 3M scrubbies in the farmhouse. Visually inspect both the jar and lid threads when you’re finished, as they can get icky if you’re not careful. After you rinse and dry, do not replace the lids. Store and return them separately. (It’s also fine to run your glass and lids through the dishwasher after they’ve been rinsed and scrubbed.) We rewash everything using a sanitizing solution and an automatic spinning brush gizmo. This works really well, but you can’t sanitize something that is not already clean, as the dairy inspector likes to say. Please save us time and scrubbing effort by bringing your glass and lids back – sparkling clean! – every week. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this Friday the 13th of the 28th week of 2012.

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