Blustery and bright



Essex Farm Note

Week 45, 2014

Mark and I scrambled to pull in the last few peppers and a bucket full of cilantro by headlamp the night before the predicted freeze this week. It turned out to be a false alarm. The clouds rolled in and held the cold back, so we got only another small nip of frost instead of a hard freeze. It has been a remarkably mild fall but we may be reaching the end now, with snow and cold predicted. We’ll tuck the memory of these last bright days into our hearts to hold us through the winter.

Most of the heavy fall work is finished now. Carrots are in, and they are giants this year. Low germination and heavy deer pressure made spacing between plants very wide. Luckily this variety stays tender and sweet, even when it grows to large proportions. Thanks to the team from Middlebury College who came on Saturday to help dig them. On Wednesday, the home crew got next year’s garlic planted. Half of it went into a section of the field that we left fallow this summer, to reduce the weed pressure. The other half went into a plowed-up section of cover crop. The cover crop was made up of peas, oats, and tillage radish, to add nitrogen, carbon, and air space to the soil. It was beautiful to see it turned with the plow and a team of horses, and find the white roots of the tillage radish grown deep into the topsoil. I can’t wait to see which planting does better come spring. The only crops left to harvest are cold-loving celeriac and the winter leeks. Now we look forward to getting animals settled into their winter quarters. The beef and dairy cows are on pasture, but getting some hay each day to supplement the scanty selection. They will come to the covered barnyard by the end of the month.  The last batch of broiler chicks is in the greenhouse now, hooray. Every fall we look forward to the end of chicken season. We love raising them but they are seriously labor intensive, and it’s good to have a few months between the last birds of November and the first chicks that arrive at the end of March.

There seems to be a mild curse on the entities that provide traction around here this week. The John Deere tractor blew some crucial (and to me, incomprehensible) part of its engine block, requiring a $4,000 repair. The Ford tractor needed a new tire, and a rebuilt rim. Then Amos, one of our painted draft geldings, turned up lame in the pasture. Mark brought him up to the barn this morning, and says he doesn’t think it is serious, but we will keep a close eye on him.

Don Hollingsworth is heading west of Canton today to pick up a ram for us. We and the ewes thank you, Don. Big hugs to Lexi and Justin who worked here this week. Justin got put on lard duty on Wednesday, and was still stirring at dark.

Mark and the girls and I attended the annual Election Night Dinner at the Whallonsburgh Grange Hall on Tuesday night. This is one of my favorite local traditions. There is something goodhearted about sitting down to eat together after voting, as if to say, we may or may not agree on what is best for our town and our nation, but that will not get in the way of fellowship over a good turkey dinner. The turkeys came from our friends at Reber Rock Farm, and all the trimmings from us and other neighbor farms. Thanks to the Grange Crew for making it happen.

It was a big week in the farmhouse kitchen. Miranda brought in a bag of field corn and wanted to make something with it. She and Jane and I made tortillas from scratch, which became the basis of tacos with our own chorizo, shredded vegetables, sour cream, and our lazy-farmer version of salsa: a jar of our canned tomatoes, a splash of cider vinegar, diced onion, salt and cilantro. We saved a little bit of the masa (dough) from the tortillas for making chocolate atole the next morning. Atole is a warming, filling Mexican drink, thickened with the ground nixtamalized corn. There are a million versions of it but I make it with milk, a square of good baking chocolate and a generous splash of maple syrup. There is no liking atole — it is a love it or hate it kind of a deal. In our family, we love it, especially on a cold gray November morning. Finally, the leftover tortillas got cut into triangles, fried in lard and tossed with salt for an extra-special tortilla chip snack. I ended the week wanting to dive deeper into Mexican cuisine, and feeling awed and grateful, once again, that whole, seasonal farm food lends itself so well to many different ethnic cuisines. With a well-stocked spice cabinet, it is impossible to be bored in our kitchen.

I’m leaving on a trip tomorrow (to Mexico!) so there will be no post next Friday, but I’ll post again when I’m back on the 21st. Happy fall eating, everyone. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this blustery 45th week of 2014.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball


End of eggplants.


I find dead vegetables beautiful. Is that weird?


Carrot harvest. Thanks to the team from Middlebury College!


A happy cover crop of oats, peas and tillage radish.

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