Roots, bones, beans

Essex Farm Note

Week 41, 2016

Warm days, cold nights, dew so heavy at dawn you could drink it. The leaves are putting on a colorful show, despite the dry conditions. Now the kitchen is full of hearty ingredients: roots, bones, beans. I’m baking a Blue Hubbard squash in the oven right now, for team dinner. We grew the smallest Blue Hubbard cultivar, but the larger specimens are still family-sized affairs. This one is the size of a soccer ball, the color of slate, and I wasn’t brave enough to cleave it with a knife, so I baked it whole. When it’s soft and cool I’ll cut it into slices, scoop out the seeds, and serve it with browned butter and rosemary. Earlier, I made a big batch of beef broth. I’ve been thinking lately that this modern first world habit of eating only muscles, drained of all their blood, is one of our stranger human anomalies. The broth that comes from this pot full of bones will gel when cool to something I could bounce on the table. It will feed us all week, adding flavor and nutrients to most of our meals. Some of it will go into the black bean chili that I’m serving with the squash tonight. If I have time, I’m going to make a giant skillet of corn bread, big enough to feed a table full of hungry farmers, with leftovers for tomorrow’s post-tour potluck lunch.

Carrots, beets, leeks and Brussels sprouts are all in now, and stored. We had a really good Brussels sprout harvest this year. They will keep in our coolers for several weeks but if you want them for late winter eating, take a load now, and blanch and freeze them, or ask Jenny for a large amount for next week. This year’s cauliflower is the best I’ve ever eaten. The girls and I made a meal of it one night this week, tossed with salt, lemon juice and olive oil, and roasted in a 400 degree oven until the edges turned brown. If you have some latent summery food cravings, fear not, the three greenhouses are planted with lettuce, for late fall greens. And there are still some sweet, fat raspberries on the canes for anyone who wants to pick. Look low, under the leaves. They are worth the hunt.

The last batch of chicks left the brooder for the pasture this week. I always sigh with relief when we turn the hot brooder lights off for the year, with the barn still intact. Thanks to Charlotte for being the champion of chickens these last two seasons. She’s brought wonderful care and focus to the birds. Speaking of things that Charlotte loves, four of the five sows have had their litters in the west barn. All are well, and thriving, with litter sizes ranging from 7 to 13. In another week or so, we’ll integrate the piglets, and put them, with their mothers, onto pasture. We’re patiently waiting for Wonder to calve, and hoping for another heifer.

Our final farm tour is tomorrow, leaving the barnyard at 10 sharp. The focus of this tour will be the harvest, and no one will leave empty handed. Suggested donation is $25 per adult, free for members. Please help us spread the word. If you want to stay for the potluck lunch, bring a dish to share and your own place setting. Next weekend, Essex Farm Institute is sponsoring a farmer’s farm walk at Ben Wever Farm. Shaun and Linda Gilliland will discuss carbon-positive rotational grazing of beef, hogs, lamb, chicken and hens. Details at essexfarminstitute.org. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this golden 41st week of 2016.                                              -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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