Essex Farm Note
Week 49, 2014
Pancake the piglet has gone from flat to fat this week. (Thank you, Miranda and Kate, for that evocative phrase.) We’ve been feeding him cow colostrum, which is denser than cow milk, and contains far more protein and fat. It’s not exactly the same as sow’s milk, but apparently it is close enough. Pancake gets fed with a dosing syringe four or five times a day, spends daytime hours rooting around in the aisle of the greenhouse, and cold nights tucked in a tub of hay, under a heat lamp, with the chickens. He is one social pig. When Mary enters the greenhouse he stands on his hind legs and pushes his snout into her fur. He has sharp little needle teeth and when he is very hungry (which is pretty much always – he is a growing pig) he digs them into her ruff and hangs there, grunting. Mary has become less avid about mothering him as he has grown bigger, but she still cleans his face assiduously after feeding. He must be a very confused boy: born to a sow, saved by children, mothered by a dog, and surrounded by chickens. But identity issues aside, he is a pretty content little porker. Mark is quick to point out that farmers really can’t do things like this, or at least not very often. Time and attention spent on Pancake are taken from other things. The needs of the farm as a whole must trump those of one small orphan. This is not heartless, it is utilitarian. It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong, if I remember my Jeremy Bentham. But sometimes there is a little budget for clemency. And it always feels so good. In a fine coincidence, the Whallonsburg Grange is showing Babe – the story of an orphan piglet raised by a dog who looks a lot like Mary – this Sunday, December 7th, at 2pm, for free.
We’ve been on a kale binge at the farmhouse this week. It has gotten extremely sweet, thanks to the cold weather. We have eaten it sautéed with onion; tossed with salt and oil and crisped into chips in the oven; chopped into soups, chili, vegetable fritters, and frittatas; and as a main course, blended with garlic, ginger, Indian spices, and yogurt. Now is a good time to take extra to blanch and freeze, if you are so inclined, because very cold temperatures will rob kale that is still in the field of some of its quality. On that note, the delicata squash is nearing the end of its storage life, and the butternut will not be far behind, so enjoy it now and take lots of it for the freezer. Opinions differ on this but I’ve had the best luck freezing a final product in wide mouth pints, e.g., squash soup, or chili with chunks of delicata, rather than freezing raw cubes or cooked purees, which tend to get pushed to the back and never used. Soup and ready meals, on the other hand, are always in demand.
And that is the news from Essex Farm for this frozen 49th week of 2014.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball