Essex Farm Note, week 32

Let’s do it inverted-pyramid style today, most important news first. It’s tomato week. I mean, the biggest tomato harvest we’ve ever seen on Essex Farm. There are wagons of luscious, fire-engine red fruits laid out at the pavilion as I type. They are both plentiful and exceptionally tasty. And you will crave them come winter. Members, if you are reading this before distro and you want to can or freeze tomatoes this week, please bring your own boxes or crates to take the loot home with you. Strike while the tomatoes are ripe, because we never know when blight is going to hit us and end the tomato season.

Our 2012 oat crop is making its first appearance in the share today. The oats are smaller than normal due to the dry weather, and that makes them harder to hull. Before cooking them, put them in a bowl of water and let any loose hulls float to the surface. Speaking of cereals, I am in love with rye porridge and wheat porridge these days.  I like to soak all the whole grain cereals overnight before cooking, both for added nutritional benefits, and because it cuts the cooking time in the morning. Soak one part cereal in one part water with a few tablespoons of whey from yogurt or buttermilk. In the morning, boil two parts water with a little salt, then stir in the soaked cereal and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s just the way you like it. When I get tired of topping it with butter and syrup, I switch to savory style, with sausage and eggs on top. And any leftovers become fried mush the next day. Farewell, overpriced boxes of breakfast cereal.

We have expensive improvements happening on the farm this week. The Barnes family is here laying tile drainage in the rest of Monument Field, Pine Field, and Mailbox field. Jane asked what the big snaky pile of black plastic pipe was. “Your inheritance,” I told her. She and her sister might not get much cash when we die but if we are lucky and diligent and they are inclined to farm, they could get some of the best dirt ever turned. I can’t overstate the difference drainage has made in production. On a wet year like last year, it keeps plants from drowning. On a dry year like this one, it encourages plants to root deeply in the spring, which means they have the wherewithal to withstand a drought. We are also pouring footings this week for the new composting barn, where the beef herd will spend the wet season.

Remember to keep your meat and milk cold between the farm and your fridge. We recommend bringing a cooler and ice with you. Meat that you aren’t using until later in the week should go in the freezer when you get home. It’s fair week! Check out Ben Stechschulte’s photo essay on the Essex County Fair’s demolition derby, Farm tour tomorrow. We leave from the barnyard at 10am, rain or shine. We’ll gather at the pizza oven for flatbreads around noon. In the afternoon, we’ll have a weeding party in the potatoes. The day is free for members, suggested $25/$10/$5 donation for non-member adults/students/children. And that is the news for this 6/10th-of-an-inch-of-sweet-rain 32nd week of 2012.  -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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