May

Essex Farm Note

Week 20, 2018

     Let’s begin with the good news. The weather, since the storm, has been textbook perfect for May. The animals are eating fast-growing neon-green spring grass. Loads and loads of plants are going into the ground today, and also seed potatoes, in front of the gentle rain due to hit tomorrow.

     Also, we have a new product to sample in the share today, one that we’ve been dreaming about and working on for a really long time: our very own Essex Farm tempeh. If you’re not familiar with it, tempeh is a traditional staple food from Indonesia. It’s made from whole soybeans that have been soaked, lightly cooked and cultured with rhizopus oligosporus – helpful little spores that ferment the beans and form a white mycelium that binds them together into a beautiful firm-textured cake. The fermentation does some remarkable things to the soybean’s nutritional profile, making it easily digestible and breaking down the anti-nutritional phytates that give soy a bad name. Unlike tofu, is a whole and high-fiber food. It also contains a large amount of good-quality protein, Vitamin B2, minerals, and concentrated cancer-fighting isoflavones. Ours is made from certified organic, local soybeans. So, it’s good for you, but how does it taste? I’ve been a fan ever since I ate it in Indonesia, marinated, grilled and served with a peanut dipping sauce. But on its own, it’s kind of a neutral and non-exciting entity. It’ll readily take on whatever flavor you want to give it, which makes it ideal as a substitute for meat no matter what culinary mood you’re in. For first-timers, try slicing it ¼” and marinating it for half an hour (or more!) in a bit of soy sauce and vinegar plus some flavorful extras, like crushed garlic and grated ginger, before pan frying it, until golden brown.

    Huge thanks to Thanh for her painstaking development of the fermentation process for us, at the Hub’s kitchen. She spent many hours tracking down a good commercial-scale source for the culture (finding it, at last, in Belgium!), then tending to those magical little spores and coaxing them to grow. Thanks, Thanh!

     We’ve long wanted to offer a delicious, locally grown and produced vegetarian alternative to meat, and we know many of you are interested in eating lower on the food chain. Even the way we raise it, meat is resource-intensive, environmentally and economically. Having a non-meat protein source will help shrink our carbon footprint. So, please tell us what you think of the tempeh, or if you would like suggestions for using it. It would be fantastic to know how much of it you think you’d eat each week so we can make plans to scale up. Shoot us an email when you get a chance.

    And now the sad news, and I’m awfully sorry to break it. We lost our beloved dog Jet this morning after he was badly injured in an accident. Local members all know him well, but for others, he was the diplomat, the nicest creature on the farm, wise, gentle, and everyone’s friend. I know many of you will miss him almost as much as I will. Hard as it is to say goodbye, he was nearly 14, and had a great run. I’m too sad to write more now but expect a Jet tribute in the near future. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this farewell 20th week of 2018. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, 518-963-4613, online or on insta at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

– Kristin & Mark Kimball

R.I.P. Jet

Storm

Essex Farm Note

Week 19, 2018

The storm cloud came over the hill to our west like an incubus, smothering and dark. It wasn’t exactly a surprise. The radio had been blaring actual tornado warnings all Friday afternoon. It’s just hard to grasp that something so cataclysmic can arrive on a day when the sun is bright and the sky is blue. But suddenly, the cloud was over us, blocking the evening light. Then came the wind and the dust, swirling in the driveway, stinging the eyes. Then the sound, above the wind, of all the loose things on the farm blowing free and sailing east – sheet metal, crates, the tops of the dumpsters. As the rain came, hard and horizontal, I ran to find the children, who had, of course, disappeared outside, attracted by the drama of the storm. I corralled them soaking into the house and from there we watched it blow, then hail, then blow again. The power went out after bedtime. By dawn we knew the storm had been big and it would be a while. The most immediate problem was water for animals (no well pump) and the next most immediate was milking (no way to power the milking machine), and chick brooders (no heatlamps). Then, refrigeration and freezers, because several tons of produce and meat are stored in the on-farm units. Nothing like a good emergency to get everyone thinking fast. The Ives were on chores and they filled and refilled the sap tank at the firehouse to water all the animals. We sealed off the brooders with tarps and added propane heaters. Then we flexed our wrists and rubbed our forearms and prepared to milk by hand like we used to, but decided to skip milking altogether, hoping we’d have power back or a generator on by the time their udders got too full. And we did, just barely. Huge thanks to Ryan Hathaway at Hometown Electric for answering Mark’s 6am call, and promising to hook up a gen set for us, soon as we could find one. And heartfelt thanks to Chris McConnell, who hauled his maximally pregnant wife Nicole and their three children all around the north country on Saturday to find one for us. The set wasn’t big enough to power everything, but it was enough to get the water flowing, the cows milked, chicks warm, and refrigeration up. Thanks too to the whole Essex Farm team who showed up to help get through the crisis on two of their rare days off. We got power back on Sunday night.

     More happened this week than I have time or space to write about. Isn’t that just so May? Anne and her team got most of the animals out on pasture, including cattle, calves, and the lambed ewes. There isn’t a sight in the world as happy as stock on first grass. On the plant side, Mark was moved to tears by the sight of Jonas driving two horses hitched wide to the hydraulic forecart, pulling the new-to-us two row I&J cultivator, while, in the same field, Scott was killing weeds with the new Einbock, hooked to the little cultivating tractor. This is not the first time the sight of efficiently killed weeds has made Mark weep.

     Finally, welcome, joyous welcome to Chris and Nicole McConnell’s new baby daughter, born last night. She’s the freshest member of the Essex Farm team and we can’t wait to meet her. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this happy 19th week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web and Insta at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Greenup

Essex Farm Note

Week 18, 2018

At last, at last, the grass is growing, and all the acres of oat/pea we planted are up, turning the dull brown places on the farm a bright and cheerful green. Grass grows so fast after a few days of warm weather. Every time I walked across Solar Field this week, it seemed to have gained another inch. Impressive as that is, I like to imagine what is happening out of sight underground, where the network of white roots is grasping downward and outward, moving further and even faster than the visible green. The dairy cows went to pasture for the first time yesterday – just about par for the yearly course. They’re only grazing for the hours between morning and evening milkings right now, but you can see happiness radiating off of them as they rip into that sweet green feed, then bask, teats to the sun. All the other animals are eyeballing them jealously from their barns and paddocks. Soon, beasts!

     I think we’re halfway finished with lambing now. The work has been smooth and entirely enjoyable. I check four times a day, make sure laboring ewes have two hooves and a nose presenting, shuffle new families to the jugs, give them their tags, then shuffle them out the next day to the mix pen, and otherwise just let them get on with it. We have about 65 lambs on the ground so far, more singles than I’d like, but all fat and sturdy. We lost one lamb shortly after birth, and had one ewe that needed slight assistance, but they are basically lambing themselves. I’m so glad that we started small with the sheep, and built up the flock gradually, selecting for what worked in our systems – or rather, against what decidedly didn’t. I had to explain to Jane and her friend Sofie last weekend, when they came out to help, that the first-time ewe who walked away from her newborn lamb will not get another chance next year. Nor the one whose lamb died. Neither will the older ewe with the pendulous teats, whose lambs needed help latching on to those giant things in order to nurse. We cull sheep for bad mothering, bad udders, and difficult births, as well as for lack of parasite resistance. The girls thought this was horrible, and unfair, which it is, for the individual. But it’s the fair and right thing for the flock, which is a hard thing to grasp when you’re ten.

     It was another marathon stretch of transplanting during the dry days this week. You should see what it looks like on the Blockhouse Field now – lettuces and dill and kale and Brussels sprouts, all bright green against the good black dirt, well watered in and growing like crazy. The peppers and tomatoes are potted up and looking well in the greenhouse. One never knows until harvest how the year will turn out, but so far, it couldn’t be going much better.

     We have a new cultivating tractor on the farm, a Case 274, bought from our friends Bruce and Beth at Maple Wind Farm. It’s small, old and runs like a clock. Mark is at an auction today, looking at larger tractors to replace our dying John Deere. With a dearth of working tractors this year, and wet weather, and with good skilled Amish help available, the draft horses have been playing a large and valuable role. It’s great see the horses fully employed after a couple of years of lighter work. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this greenup 18th week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on the web and on insta at essexfarmcsa, or here on the farm, any day but Sunday.  

–Kristin and Mark Kimball

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