Essex Farm Note
Week 20, 2013
A quick note today, as the girls and I are off to central New York to pick up a load of seed potatoes – a job that offers a nice excuse to spend the weekend with my parents. Here, asparagus harvest is in full swing. What a strange plant. It is like a priapic alien, prodding its way out of the cold ground before the earthling plants are awake. The stalks we eat are the plants’ first shoots. After a few weeks we stop harvesting and let the plants grow up into their adult selves, which are just as strange but very different from the shoots: enormous frondy things that grow and grow until you think they can’t get any bigger. They bear little poisonous red berries, but their main job is to gather energy underground for next spring. In the kitchen, I love asparagus simply steamed or sautéed in butter. If we have an abundance I like to puree it with olive oil, garlic and herbs and use it as a topping for crostini. I’m also a sucker for asparagus soup, an easy luxury. My simple method is to sauté an onion in butter, add asparagus, salt and pepper, and chicken stock. Simmer until the asparagus is very tender, then hit it with an immersion blender until it is smooth. To finish, stir in cream or yogurt (or the creamy top of a yogurt, mmmm). That plus good bread and voila, you’ve got a meal.
The cows are binging on the lush spring grass. The quality of the milk is at its annual peak. Quantity is up too, by about 30% since they went outside. The biggest gainer is a nervous little cow called Juniper, daughter of June, granddaughter of our original Delia. This winter I would have voted to cull Juniper – she was a poor producer, didn’t hold her condition well, and got horned by other cows. Now I see that all those things were a consequence of her shy nature; when the cows were housed in the covered barnyard eating hay and haylage, she wasn’t assertive enough push her way past other cows to get her belly full of feed. Not that it’s crowded. She’s just very timid. On grass, she has as much chance as the rest of them. One afternoon this week I took Miranda with me to move the herd to fresh pasture. Then we sat and watched Juniper eat, filling her mouth again and again with mouthfuls of succulent clover. I could almost feel the pleasure rising from her. You are welcome to watch the herd graze too, members, but do not go inside their pasture. There is a bull in the herd, and he is the most dangerous animal on the farm.
What else? We decided to put the potatoes to rest today. They are getting soft and sprouty, and those that remain are, well, small potatoes, and not worth the peeling. We will miss them until new potatoes come in July. The Grange is hosting a community supper and a “Get to know the Grange” presentation this coming Tuesday at 6pm. Among other things you will hear about the new community canning center (!), opening soon. Details at www.thegrangehall.org. Brandy (the big Belgian) and Abby Belle (the little white pony) came home this week. They have been at Reber Rock, being trained by Chad and Nathan. Can’t say enough good things about the work they did. Brandy is field-ready. Abby Belle pulls a cart now. The fat pony can move, too. We made it to town yesterday in eight minutes flat. Welcome home, Luke Barns! He has returned from his travels, hooray. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this last frost? 20th week of 2013. –Kristin & Mark Kimball