Hard Cold Happy

The solar panels are aimed to catch the flat winter light.

Essex Farm Note

Week 51, 2016

The cold came, making tarmac out of fields that were mud only a week ago. Yesterday, Derek and Mark Wrisley drove their combine across Newfield, eating 10-foot swaths of corn and leaving stubble in their wake. By the end of the day they’d put 80 tons of shell corn in our bin. It’s the most we’ve ever grown, enough corn to feed all of us – humans and animals – for the next year. At about $500 per ton for organic corn, it was a $40,000 harvest, and it makes the monthly payment on the drainage we put into that field a more cheerful check to write. Our yields in Newfield should improve as we continue to use cover crops and compost to build fertility and organic matter on its silt soil.

The below-zero temperatures today have called halt to greenhouse production for the year. Kirsten harvested the rest of the lettuce, chard, and spinach yesterday. The tomato vines, no longer producing, died a natural death almost as soon as she turned off their propane life-support system. The new greenhouse gave us an extra six weeks of greens production this fall, and should bring greens to us several weeks earlier than usual next spring. We will also have frozen spinach available this winter, thanks to a good harvest and the crew at the Hub on the Hill.

I bit into a poor-tasting carrot last night, which reminded me to remind you all to store your refrigerated carrots in air-tight ziplock bags – a detail we overlooked at our house this week. The crisper isn’t good enough. Carrots go from sweet and delicious to orange-colored cardboard when they are stored with brassicas (like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or kohlrabi) or with fruits. On the farm, after harvest, we keep them in their own separate refrigerated trailer, and distribute them each week from a cooler without other vegetables in it. Once they are in your home refrigerator, you have to remain vigilant about segregating them. Just a day or two with incompatible neighbors will ruin their taste.

The sheep moved from the field to the barn at Bonebender this week. The rams have been with the ewes for two cycles. One more and we will pull them. Ben had another double-base AI hit, with two more cows testing positive for pregnancy. The piglets in the covered barnyard are snugged together in pods under a thick blanket of straw, invisible and inaudible until one of the sows steps on them. We are waiting for another litter of piglets, and also another dairy calf, and hoping they come in a few days, when it’s not so very cold. So far, the chill has been a clean hard benevolent presence. No frostbite, no frozen waterlines, no broken drainpipes. I’m grateful for our good wood stove, and for warm layers, which allow us to work and play in the cold instead of hiding from it. The girls have been outside, skating, from the minute they get home from school until I call them in for dinner. When the wind rose on Wednesday evening, Mark built a bonfire at the edge of the pond. My favorite moment of the week was playing hockey with them, after dark, in a mix of fire- and full moon light.

This is Taylor LaFleur’s last week with us. Thanks, Taylor, for your good work, good company and fabulous cooking – we will miss all three! And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this hard cold happy week of 2016.

Snow, rye, and wind erosion.

Horses and ponies in their thick winter fur

The tip of the piglet pile

 

Eau de Leek

Essex Farm Note

Week 50, 2016

The temperature dropped into the twenties after midnight, as predicted. Yesterday was a scramble to bring in the leeks before they froze into the ground for eternity. They were in Newfield, in two very long rows. I arrived near dusk, and Anya, Taylor and Kirsten had been at them since morning. When you are crouched in cold mud, pulling cold leeks out of cold ground with cold hands, long rows feel like endless rows. I’d come just in time to top the greens from the last fifty feet with a sharp little blade – which gave me an unfair level of satisfaction for such a tiny commitment. The winter leeks’ leaves fan out and hold leek-scented rainwater that soaks mitts, sleeves, pants and skin, so that soon, everything smells of eau de leek, and will for some time, no matter how hard you scrub. After a day of aging it is a strangely not-terrible perfume. The potatoes grew next door to the leeks in Newfield this year, and I think that the plants were aspiring from the beginning to become what I’m making for team dinner tonight: potato leek soup, an elegant dish that is so much more than the sum of its few humble parts.

We spent Sunday bringing in the last of the cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, mizuna, chard, and arugula. Mark and I took the morning shift, and Anya and Phil worked from afternoon until dark. I was gripped by the same mania for a bargain that WILL NOT LAST that propels the Black Friday shoppers, and wasted half an hour filling a bin with handfuls of scraggly cold-nipped cilantro, which wasn’t worth the effort it took to get it into the freezer. The other harvests were a different story. The cauliflower was especially satisfying. Each plant yielded a snowy gift hidden inside a tight wrapping of green leaves. You cut the thick stem at the base of the head but leave the protective leaf wrapping. Our bags filled quickly, and we tipped them gently into the bins, so they would not bruise, all the while grazing on a row of spinach as sweet as candy. The spinach! Anya and Phil brought in 25 bins of it; most of it went to the Hub for freezing, but don’t miss it fresh this week. It is weird to have reached the second week in December with so much fresh produce still available, but nobody is complaining about it.

Mark trooped out to Firehouse Field after dark last night to shut the hens into their mobile coops and pull up the electronet stakes. The hens will be in and around East Barn for the winter. In the dairy herd, Fly and Beatrice both calved this week. Fly was a first-timer, and is settling in nicely to her new job, milking; Cori and Kite’s pregnancy tests both came back positive on the first insemination. Ben “Better-Than-A-Bull” Christian shares credit for that with Alex and Morgan, who are doing a super job with heat detection.

We hope you’ll come by the farm store for your holiday shopping. Everyone loves maple syrup – it’s the perfect hostess gift. ($8/half pint). We have yarn ($15/skein) from our flock’s own wool, as well as wool batting ($20/2lbs) for felting projects, hand spinning, dyeing, or as filling for homemade quilts, pillows, or throws. Members get a 10% discount at the store, and NYC members can add store orders to their forms for delivery.

 

 

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

Evergreen

img_1732Essex Farm Note

Week 49, 2016

Here it comes. The end of the year, in full view. Before it arrives, we begin again. Mark and I curled up with the seed catalogue last night, at bedtime. There’s a new variety of kabocha squash! That’s what passes for exciting, in farmer-world. In twelve short weeks, we’ll be seeding in the greenhouse. We are about to order next year’s laying hens and broiler chicks.

What’s to look forward to in 2017? The Hub is adding a ton of value and convenience to the share in the form of frozen vegetables, fruits, beans, and bread dough, plus pickled and fermented products. We are dreaming up new products all the time, so let us know your wishes, and if we can make them come true, we will. We changed the pricing structure to a flat per-person price, instead of a discount for each additional member of a household. This change was made so we can give an easy answer to the question, how much does the share cost?; it should not effect each household total much, if at all. The biggest change is a four week vacation hold. If you are going away for a week (or, at most, four), you can put a hold on your share, without charge.

On that note, it’s time to remember that the share only works if you take just what you need for the week, without giving away (or selling!) or keeping a stash of meat at home. If you have frozen meat at your house please use all of it before taking more. We went through a larger-than-expected volume of meat this year, and we see it reflected in the bottom line, so we ask you to kindly treat meat as the precious resource it is, eat it sparingly, and enjoy every bite, all the way down to the bones.

What news from out there? We have a healthy litter of 7 piglets, from first-time sow, Chrysanthemum. Two young rams from Canton are fully occupied with the ewes. Fly, a Jersey heifer, is bagging up for a calf we weren’t expecting until March, with credit due to last year’s bull. The corn is still in the field, and will have to stay there now until the ground freezes solid; some fat and happy wild animals extract a small daily tax on it. Heifers and beef cattle are in the covered barnyard but hens are still enjoying pasture. They will come in when the weather turns ugly. Next year’s garlic is beautifully rooted, and the row of overwintering onions is mulched.

Essex Farm Institute is hosting a terrific workshop this Tuesday, Dec 6th, at the Grange, from 9am-1:30. Richard Wiswall, farm-business guru and author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, is offering Farming Smarter, not Harder: Planning for Profit. I’m surprised there are still spaces available for this, but there are, so please spread the word! It’s free for full-time farmers in our region, and open to others for a suggested fee of $25. Lunch is included. Please email essexfarminstitute@gmail.com to say you’re coming. Thanks to EFI programming director Racey Henderson and to all the EFI donors, the EFI board, and the Hub on the Hill for making this event possible. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this evergreen 49th week of 2016. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.           -Kristin & Mark Kimball

 

My phone is away for repairs, so I don’t have any pictures to show for the week. In lieu of new ones, I thought I’d post some really really old ones. Here goes.

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Nico! She lived most of her life in New York City, but thoroughly enjoyed being an elderly farm dog.

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That man.

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Jet, when he was much much younger.

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I was much younger too.

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The crew, 2008.

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Miss “I Eat Dirt” Kimball, as a wee thing. Very healthy immune system on this one.

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Picking currants.

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When they were too short to reach his hand he used to use a stick to bridge the difference. They were big enough not to need it in this pic, but not nearly as big as they are now.

 

Thanks Giving

Essex Farm Note

Week 48, 2016

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We served a traditional feast at the farmhouse last night. The groaning table (I love that creepy old phrase) held a 17lb turkey from our friends at Mace Chasm Farm. The bright cranberries were grown by our friend and former Essex Farmer, William McCaffrey. The rest – the stuffing, mashed potatoes, cauliflower, creamed spinach, roasted squash, bread, and gravy – was crafted entirely from Essex Farm dirt and Essex Farmers’ work. Sometimes, when things are not going smoothly, I ask, does it matter? This marathon of constant care, to produce a full diet, year round? The answer that came, last night, was this: It matters, because it is good. Not only food, but also the work.

Yep, the work. It’s time to pay gratitude to the whole team that gets it done, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I run over my usual word count. I’m grateful to Anne Brown, who has been a tremendous force for improvement here in the time she’s been with us. I’ve never met someone as simultaneously kind, smart, and steely-tough as Anne Brown. It’s hard to remember how the farm ran without her, and I don’t like to try. To Ben Christian, who has farming in his bones, deeper than any of us first-generation farmers ever will. We are so grateful for your work, Ben. In an unsure world, here are two thing to count on: If there is a problem with a cow, no matter the hour, Ben will pull in to help fix it. Also, as long as there is an important job to do, Ben will be on it until it is finished. To Barbara Kunzi, who has been on our team since our very first week of distribution. She is steadfast, talented, wise, strong, and incredibly generous with her work. To Jori Wekin and her crew at the Hub on the Hill, for using her courage and energy to boost the farms of our whole region to a more stable plane of existence. To Alex Prediger, who runs the dairy like the cow boss she is, using her good sense, intelligence, and skills, and Morgan Looney, who joined us this fall from his home in Georgia, and has helped keep the cows milked and the calves fed two times a day. To Aidan Cooper, butcher, who joined us last spring. We took a risky bet, bringing on a 16 year old girl, and Aidan was the unlikely jackpot. Jon Christian is the next generation of farming Christians, and, unquestionably, one of our farm’s most valuable players. Jon is in charge of animals this winter; they are in very good hands. To Brandon Jaquish, who runs the shop, for taking our broken things and transforming them into fixed ones. I’m grateful that Brandon’s skills keep the rest of us from messing things up too badly. To Phil Geerdes, who takes great care of our members in New York City. We’re lucky we got this big-hearted tall man to come so far from his glorious Pacific Ocean waves. To Megan Moody, who is here to pitch in when we need it most, and Cameron “Six Pigs” Duhaime, whose knife skills are getting us through these busy weeks in the butcher shop. To Meghan Brooks, who works on the tricky and important coordination of the New York City share. To Tatiana Abatemarco, who helps with the very visible hard work of distribution, both locally and for NYC. To Jenny Linger! Several years ago she pulled into our driveway from Ohio, her car packed with all her belongings, and declared that she’d begin working for us now. She did! So beautifully! This is her last week here… for now. We love you Jenny and wish you and Liam all the best. Extra special thanks in this season of harvest goes to the three people who did the most to make 2016 such a good year for vegetables: Taylor LeFleur, Kirsten Liebl, and Anya Kaplan-Seem. Taylor has worked incredibly hard for two years here, on vegetables, animals, grains, and machinery, and he almost single-handedly kept the draft horses employed this summer. Kirsten ran the vegetable enterprise, always a daunting job, requiring both a crafty sense of strategy and dogged physical tenacity. She and Taylor are both moving on to other farm and food projects soon, but they aren’t going far. We’re so glad they are staying in our community. Anya brought new skills and energy to vegetables and herbs this year, and is the person most responsible for improvements in the way they are presented. Not for nothing, she wrote her master’s thesis in Geography, while farming here full time and then some. Anya, thank you.

Thanks must always go to Mark, my beloved, who keeps this dirty dream pinned firmly to earth, week after week, year after year. And the names I’ve mentioned are only the farmers who are here with us now, at the close of the year. Thank you to all the other farmers who have worked here this year, and for the last thirteen years. To the generous landowners who have made good land available to us, we give you our most sincere thanks.

Finally, the grandest whole-hearted and most important thanks go to every Essex Farm member, for your dedication to Essex Farm and to this food. Growing a full diet, year round, without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizer, is complicated, and difficult, but we believe that it is also transformative, both for the land and for the eaters. We believe in whole food, in season, from healthy dirt. We believe in the benefits of agricultural diversity. We believe in working toward a form of agriculture that is socially just, environmentally beneficial, and economically sustainable. We can do all these things, but only because you believe in them, too. Thank you, members, for your continued support. We can’t wait to grow beautiful food for you in 2017. And that is the news for this Thanks-giving 48th week of 2016.

 

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

Skeleton at the Feast

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Essex Farm Note

Week 47, 2016

I’ve been saving three bones for a night with three eaters. Mark was in New York City last night, celebrating the harvest with members and prospective members there, and the girls and I were home alone, and so it was my chance. They were such beautiful bones! Round, three-inch tall slices of grass-finished beef shank, full of rich, cream-colored marrow, as if they had come to life from a dog’s sweetest dream. I cut the meat away for use in a stew, and arranged the bones, like a red-blooded triptych, in the roasting pan. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, as I puttered around, waiting for the oven to crank up. When it finally reached 400 degrees, I popped them in. Fifteen minutes later the primal fireside roasted smell of them filled the kitchen, and through the oven’s window I could see the marrow bubbling in its custom bone bowls. All they required to reach perfection was a dusting of salt.

Like all rich foods, you have to be truly hungry to enjoy roasted marrow bones. Best if they come toward the end of a week without much meat, when your body looks at those bones, smells them, senses the density of the energy there, and registers it as good. Best if you treat them as the delicacy they are, with ritual, in small amounts. I searched for the tiny spoons we reserve for small delicacies, couldn’t find them, so we three resorted, farm style, to turning the regular spoons around, and digging the steaming marrow out with the handle end.

Our kids like what most people consider very weird kid food. Green things. Unsugared fruit. All sorts of strange and strong-tasting vegetables, plus unusual animal parts like marrow, liver, kidney. The first clear phrase our older girl spoke as a toddler was, “More testicles, please,” the day we slaughtered our bull and ate his defining parts, sliced, breaded, and fried in butter. I’m tempted to be proud of them for their adventurous palates. But I know, really, our girls are just normal. It’s only that they are animals, like all of us. They are wired to detect and like what their bodies need, and what is familiar. What’s different about kids raised on whole, seasonal farm food is that they have developed their palates, for the most part, in the absence of processed food, away from the daily seduction of refined sugar, which clears an enormous amount of room for liking things like bones, organs, and vegetables. Maybe one day they will be in therapy, discussing the strange contents of their lunch boxes and the deleterious effect on their social lives, but for now, I’m grateful our table is a beautiful, bountiful, nutritious adventurous playground.

What news from the ground this week? It was a busy one, as everyone prepares for next week’s feast. Onions are cleaned and stored. Squash, sorted. Aidan has taken over the helm of the butcher shop at the biggest time of the year. Congratulations to her on a first week well done. She (17), Jon (19) and Morgan (19) are three counter-arguments to any narrative featuring lazy or rudderless teenagers. It simply isn’t so, not here. And that is the news from here for this bright warm 47th week of 2016.                                                                      –Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Next year’s garlic

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We have so much spinach in the field, but the forecast for this weekend (cold, with snow) reminds us that the greens won’t last forever.

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Mary

November Is Here

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Radicchio, endive, and lettuce growing in the new greenhouse. Fall just got more delicious.

Essex Farm Note

Week 45, 2016

Mark and I were away from the farm from Monday through Thursday this week, speaking at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. All the undergraduates at Babson are studying business, and they also have an MBA program. Students and faculty are deeply engaged in thinking about the intersection of business and sustainability, looking for disruptive, market-based solutions to the world’s great problems. It was an enlivening and thought-provoking atmosphere, and we learned at least as much as we imparted. It was also the longest the two of us have ever been away from the farm together. I’m happy to report that our wonderful team of farmers keep the great living machine running smoothly in our absence. Thanks, everyone, for shouldering extra work, and making good decisions.

Of course, it’s not farming without a little drama. Kimber, one of our Jersey cows, gave birth to a lovely healthy heifer calf on Monday, which Alex named Kalamazoo, in honor of her native state. Kimber seemed to be doing fine, but when Morgan brought her in for milking last night, she was unsteady on her feet, and fell down in front of her stanchion, and could not get back up. Her ears were cold and hanging down like a Brahma cow. She looked droopy and dull. Those symptoms, three days after calving, make diagnosis simple. Milk fever. Close readers of the farm note already know that milk fever is an imbalance in blood calcium levels that can happen after a cow calves. The sudden production of milk demands more calcium from the cow than she can liberate from her stored supply, so the milk steals it from the blood. Calcium is necessary for muscles to work, so milk fever causes progressive paralysis. First she looks unsteady, then she goes down, and, if untreated, her heart muscle stops and she dies. Jersey cows are prone to milk fever, and we always give our girls a preventative dose of calcium at calving, but it wasn’t enough for Kimber. Alex gave her another oral tube of calcium gel right away last night, and then Ben came over and got some IV calcium into her that would help immediately, plus some subcutaneous calcium to keep her going overnight. This morning Kimber was standing, and she should make a full recovery. Thanks to Morgan, Alex, Jon and Ben for late-night, life-saving work.

Kirsten and the vegetable crew spent part of the week threshing our dry beans. They yielded about 1,000 pounds. This variety is called King of the Early, a gorgeous spotted red heirloom bean. It’s a classic choice for traditional baked beans, but also works well in chili, or soup. I like to use them as a base for hummus, in place of garbanzo beans, and I’ve been known to use them in an Essex Farm version of cassoulet. Don’t forget to pick through them for stones, and soak them overnight for easier digestion.

And that is the news from Essex Farm for this glorious 46th week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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The welcome home farm walk, in the rain, at dusk. It’s so good to be home and back together with the girls.

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This one was left behind in the carrot rapture.

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Beautiful cucurbits.

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Certified kale-fed child.

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Rye is up.

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Our most enthusiastic salesperson in the farm store.

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Still lots of nice greens coming from the greenhouse, plus a few tomatoes.

 

Homecoming

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Essex Farm Note

Week 44, 2016

I just got back to the farm after 15 days in New York City, where I was holed up in my sister’s apartment, working on the new book. Mark and the girls came to get me on Wednesday, in the big van loaded with our city members’ shares, plus a donation of 150 carving pumpkins, birch leaves, and corn stalks, destined for Trinity Church, in Harlem, where they were having a Halloween party for the neighborhood children. Fifteen days is enough to clean the dirt from my hands, feel like a city person again. I took the A train from Canal to 125th Street, and met the van full of pumpkins. I sensed the first sizzle of reentry then, the frisson of textures: hard angles meeting organic curves.

Driving north last night, we ran into a crazy snowstorm. The visibility went to zero, there were cars off the road, pieces of bumper on the shoulder, shattered glass. We crawled along for hours, tense, at forty. When we got to the Westport exit, the snow suddenly stopped, and then we were home. Cold, dark house, happy dogs. The old, organic farm smells. The old, different farm challenges. Reentry is tricky, when the worlds are so different. I’m in the decompression chamber now, waiting to stabilize. I haven’t ventured out yet this rainy morning, but so far, all the reports sound good. Flops the sow had 11 piglets last week, and 10 survived, which is an excellent litter. Now that all have farrowed, they will move outside together. Yesterday, Anya and the veg team got the rest of the garlic planted for next year: 8 600’ rows, in good old Monument field. Cameron, Megan, and Aidan have been busy in the butcher shop with fall slaughter. They have beef hanging, and pork and lamb almost ready to go. Jon has been spreading finished compost on the pastures. Ben plowed the field along Middle Road, which was fallow this year; we will decide later if we should plant it to corn next spring, or wheat, or possibly seed it down to permanent pasture. Alex , Morgan and Barbara have been running the dairy so smoothly in my absence. I can’t wait to see how much the calves have grown. We are preparing to shift to winter mode, with cows in the covered barnyard, and calves across the way, in the East Barn run-in.

There’s barely time to adjust before we’re off again. Mark and I will be in Boston most of next week, speaking at Babson College. The main event, on Tuesday November 1st, is free and open to the public. I’ll read from the new book-in-progress, and we’ll talk on what we’re calling Organics 3.0 – how can a farm balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability, and how do we move the needle on what’s considered sustainable? Next Friday, Mark and I are speaking again, at the annual Youth Climate Summit at the Wild Center in Saranac Lake, always a highlight of our year. Then, on November 12th, I’m going to be back in Boston at the MIT Media Lab, for a panel discussion hosted by Food + Future. I’m a bit daunted by this schedule but also happy to chime in with a farmer’s voice on issues around food and sustainability.

And that is the news from Essex Farm for this homecoming 44th week of 2016.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

Catching up

Here are some pictures to go along with the big bunch of farm notes I just posted. I hadn’t realized I was *that* far behind. Here’s to a good harvest for all.

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Blue Hubbard

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The year’s last watermelon, found among the pumpkins.

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Calliope, with her newborn heifer calf, Calamity Jane.

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Mary in a mind meld with one of the new heifer calves.

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Sunflower

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Buckwheat in full bloom. If there were sound in this picture, you’d hear the buzz of very happy bees.

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Solar powered cows.

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Evening rounds. Last check of the farm store.

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Phil, Morgan and Anya coming in on Tuesday morning with the harvest for delivery to New York City on Wednesday. The packed van leaves at 2am.

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Farmhouse, dawn.

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The grapest grapes of all time. Such a treat.

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Frost coming. Running through the oats while the grownups harvest.

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Last call for peppers.

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Dairy cows on a misty morning.

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Moonrise, morning chores.

 

Roots, bones, beans

Essex Farm Note

Week 41, 2016

Warm days, cold nights, dew so heavy at dawn you could drink it. The leaves are putting on a colorful show, despite the dry conditions. Now the kitchen is full of hearty ingredients: roots, bones, beans. I’m baking a Blue Hubbard squash in the oven right now, for team dinner. We grew the smallest Blue Hubbard cultivar, but the larger specimens are still family-sized affairs. This one is the size of a soccer ball, the color of slate, and I wasn’t brave enough to cleave it with a knife, so I baked it whole. When it’s soft and cool I’ll cut it into slices, scoop out the seeds, and serve it with browned butter and rosemary. Earlier, I made a big batch of beef broth. I’ve been thinking lately that this modern first world habit of eating only muscles, drained of all their blood, is one of our stranger human anomalies. The broth that comes from this pot full of bones will gel when cool to something I could bounce on the table. It will feed us all week, adding flavor and nutrients to most of our meals. Some of it will go into the black bean chili that I’m serving with the squash tonight. If I have time, I’m going to make a giant skillet of corn bread, big enough to feed a table full of hungry farmers, with leftovers for tomorrow’s post-tour potluck lunch.

Carrots, beets, leeks and Brussels sprouts are all in now, and stored. We had a really good Brussels sprout harvest this year. They will keep in our coolers for several weeks but if you want them for late winter eating, take a load now, and blanch and freeze them, or ask Jenny for a large amount for next week. This year’s cauliflower is the best I’ve ever eaten. The girls and I made a meal of it one night this week, tossed with salt, lemon juice and olive oil, and roasted in a 400 degree oven until the edges turned brown. If you have some latent summery food cravings, fear not, the three greenhouses are planted with lettuce, for late fall greens. And there are still some sweet, fat raspberries on the canes for anyone who wants to pick. Look low, under the leaves. They are worth the hunt.

The last batch of chicks left the brooder for the pasture this week. I always sigh with relief when we turn the hot brooder lights off for the year, with the barn still intact. Thanks to Charlotte for being the champion of chickens these last two seasons. She’s brought wonderful care and focus to the birds. Speaking of things that Charlotte loves, four of the five sows have had their litters in the west barn. All are well, and thriving, with litter sizes ranging from 7 to 13. In another week or so, we’ll integrate the piglets, and put them, with their mothers, onto pasture. We’re patiently waiting for Wonder to calve, and hoping for another heifer.

Our final farm tour is tomorrow, leaving the barnyard at 10 sharp. The focus of this tour will be the harvest, and no one will leave empty handed. Suggested donation is $25 per adult, free for members. Please help us spread the word. If you want to stay for the potluck lunch, bring a dish to share and your own place setting. Next weekend, Essex Farm Institute is sponsoring a farmer’s farm walk at Ben Wever Farm. Shaun and Linda Gilliland will discuss carbon-positive rotational grazing of beef, hogs, lamb, chicken and hens. Details at essexfarminstitute.org. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this golden 41st week of 2016.                                              -Kristin & Mark Kimball

Harvest Home

Essex Farm Note

Week 40, 2016

It was a harvest week, one of the busiest of the year. A frost or freeze was predicted for dawn on Monday, so most of the crew kindly came over on Sunday to bring in the bumper crop of sweet and hot peppers from the field called Superjoy, which lies in a frost-vulnerable dip below the sugarbush hill. It was a beautiful day and a fun harvest, and there is a big haul of peppers in the share this week to show for it. (Did you know peppers are one of the vegetables you can freeze without blanching? Take plenty.) Of course, the frost was light enough to leave them unscathed after all the hustle to bring them in. The raspberries in Monument Field made it through the night, too. 25 pounds of them went to the Hub on the Hill for flash freezing this week, and will show up in the share this winter. On a roll, The Hub processed fermented hot pepper sauce from our big cayenne harvest, and turned 500 pounds of concord grapes that our crew harvested at Lewis Family Farm into juice and jam for all of us. Hooray, Hub, and thanks to Jori and her crew for all the hard work this week.

Everyone stayed late last night to get the carrot harvest in. The yield was lower than we’d hoped, mostly because of lack of rain, but the carrots are delicious, and fear not, there are plenty for members for the year, just not quite enough for wholesale. Potatoes are in, too. The dry bean harvest was complicated by a heavy load of weeds, but they home, and drying in the sun. This is a pretty mottled red baking variety called Kind of the Early. Members, we hope you’ll take some to cook this week, but note that they aren’t yet dry enough to keep unrefrigerated; take enough for one week, and keep them in the refrigerator. They cook a bit faster than fully dry beans. Pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins are in, available for members and for retail sale at the farm store. In short, pumpkins everywhere.

There were also many hours of ancillary fall vegetable work not directly related to what you are eating this week, but essential to what you will be eating next year: specifically, compost spreading (multiple tons) and cover crop planting (rye). We have to feed the soil so the soil will feed us. Speaking of compost, we got eight dump truck loads of gravel and rock this week, to make the drip trenches around the existing barns, part 1a of the grand, grant-funded new composting barn project. The drip trenches will reduce barnyard mud and hence, runoff.

Say hi to Morgan Looney, who has joined us from his home in Georgia, and is working on the dairy and vegetable teams. We are so glad he’s here. We’re also happy to note that Alex is taking over from me as dairy team leader, as I prepare to push through an intense month of writing. I’m going to miss my daily work with the cows but feel wonderful about leaving them in Alex’s capable hands. Finally, Mark will be leading our last farm tour of the year next Saturday, October 8th. Tours are always free for members (non-members, $25 suggested donation) and give good insight into the why of the how we do things around here. The tour starts at 10am with a potluck lunch to follow. Bring a dish to share and your own place setting. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this frost-nipped 40th week of 2016. – Kristin & Mark Kimball