muddy-sweet

Essex Farm Note

Week 10, 2013

Can you feel the sap rising in the trees? It’s the source of that hopeful itch that makes you want to pull on your mud boots and dance in puddles. Most years, this energy goes to good use, as we stomp snowshoe trails in the woods, and collect the heavy buckets of sap. This year, with no sugaring, it is a frustrated joy. The animals seem to feel it too, cooped up in the barn. Yesterday, Jane and Miranda and I went out to the barn to watch David Goldwasser drain the abscessed hematoma on Juniper’s side. (This sort of thing is Jane’s favorite farm work. Despite the heavy and penetrating smell of infection she got in close and watched David with grown-up stillness.) Gem the orphaned lamb followed us into the barn, and the eight yearling heifers, who have yet to meet any sheep, stared at him through their gate with their heads low, a new creature, a new smell, an alien. They are penned in the northwest quarter of the barn and they used Gem as an excuse for a contained stampede. They galloped the length of their enclosure, bucking, executed synchronized sliding turns, and galloped back. I bet they dream of grass and sun, and a pasture big enough for all the life in their gangly limbs.

The best news of the week has been Donn Hewes. He was here from Sunday through Thursday, giving our farmers their first lessons in being teamsters. It was good to see horses at work after a long winter off, and to witness that look of awakening that comes when people take lines into their hands for the first time. Donn likes to start people in the woods, pulling logs with a single horse, because it offers opportunity for starting, stopping, standing, and reading a horse, so we got some firewood in the deal, as a bonus. We are so grateful to Donn for coming, and hope we can lure him back again before his own farm, Northland Sheep Dairy, gets too busy.

Mark is slowly returning to the world after last week’s surgery. He is down to Tylenol, which gives him a clearer head, and he’s being diligent about his physical therapy. It is disconcerting to watch his leg muscles shrink. He crutched his way out to the office yesterday for the morning meeting, the first step back to regular work. The team has done a wonderful job in his absence.

In the midst of this family crisis, I’ve been looking for ways to economize my time in the kitchen, without skimping on satisfaction. The stocked chest freezer is my best friend right now. I am calling on my cases of frozen squash soup, pozole, pork and beans, my bags of frozen kale and edamame, and this week I made three meatloaves – one for the table, and two for the freezer. I will never again make a single batch of pancakes, because I’ve learned my family will gladly eat them twice a week: once fresh off the griddle, and once a couple days later, heated up in the oven until they are hot and crisp. It is lovely to serve a delicious homemade meal that gives the feeling of normalcy but doesn’t generate a sink full of dishes.

This Saturday, March 9th, is the first farm tour of the year. Please come! It is free for members, with a suggested donation of $25/$5 for non-member adults/children. Details are on the events page. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this muddy-sweet 10th week of 2013.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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