Bears' Portion

Essex Farm Note

Week 49, 2017

It has been an intense week of envisioning, planning, hauling, and managing the last big project of the year. The new fence posts are laid out and the heavy work is happening now, just before the ground freezes. Last night, after dark, Mark, Miranda and I walked the fence line that now runs along the east side of Solar Field, then over the stream filling Long Pasture Pond, and along the farm road. Every thirty-five feet, we stopped to screw an insulator into a newly-planted cedar post. It took an enormous excavator to drive the posts 4 ½ feet into the ground. The posts were cut from our own land, and are eight to twelve inches in diameter – fat and sturdy enough to hold up, I’d wager, until well after Mark and I are dust. Then we strung a temporary electric line into the insulators, to carry power to the animals currently fenced on the south side of the farm. Soon, this temporary line will be replaced by six strands of permanent high tensile wire. There are new fence lines going up in several other places, including along Route 22, and there are some old, worn out fence lines coming down. Much of this work is part of the CREP grant project, to fence out the newly enhanced wetlands, but it adds a lot of flexibility to our grazing program. We will not be able to graze inside the wetlands, but with this fencing, it will be ten times easier to set up rotational pastures outside of them. And it’s high time we had a good perimeter fence along the main road. I will sleep better at night, knowing there is something solid between our animals and the nighttime traffic. The most immediately exciting part, though, is that the three large, new CREP ponds are filling, and deep cold is coming next week. I’m looking forward to some yuletide skating parties. Time to get your skates sharpened and pull your earmuffs out of storage.

            What else? The corn came in this week. The yield from Pine Field was excellent. From New Field, it was fair. As the combine ate through the rows, it revealed some large empty places: the bears’ portion. They ate 4 to 5 acres! I guess they will have a deep, fat winter’s sleep. The best news for us was that the corn came in dry, at 14 percent moisture. Often, our biggest problem is getting it dry enough to safely store. We put up 96 tons of it.

            The weather forecast is calling for truly cold weather beginning on Tuesday. This might be the end, finally, of working the ground this year. Earlier this week we called in our neighbor, Dale, to do some sub-soiling with his tractor. Right now we are hurrying to harvest more parsnips before they are locked down until spring.

            In the kitchen, I’m deep into the stew and braising time of year now. I make stock every weekend, and use it all week. I made Beef Bourguignon this week, from a lovely pound of bottom round that I cut into cubes, the last of a bottle of red wine, some stock, and tomatoes from the freezer. Though Julia Child would probably disapprove, I used a pressure cooker – 25 minutes yielded perfectly tender meat. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this winter’s-coming 49th week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Ram Ram Thank You Ma'am

Essex Farm Note

Week 48, 2017

I have been at my desk most of the week and missed all the action on the farm, but here’s the report from outside my window. The rams have joined the flock this week. The older ram – who was named Peony, somehow – has red raddle slathered on his brisket, and the younger ram, who just arrived today, is painted green. When they mount the ewes, they mark them with their own particular color. We can keep score of the merits of youth vs. experience this way, see which ewes are bred and which are open, and get some Christmas-themed color in the field at the same time. I’m half excited and half nervous about the rate at which the flock is growing. We had 84 lambs this past spring, but of them, only 25 were ram lambs, and 59 were ewes. If we were to retain all the ewe lambs for breeding and not cull any ewes, we’d be lambing 140 ewes.

Many thanks to everyone who worked in the field to bring in the leeks this week. It’s a cold-hand sort of job, and takes a long time. But they are all in now. I’m making potato leek soup for team dinner tonight, with fresh challah bread. Meanwhile, the rest of the team was focused on getting the new fencing laid out – part of the CREP project, to fence out the wetlands. We have to decide exactly where to put them, and where the gates should be. The tricky part is knowing that these are 25-year fences, so we will have to live with these our decisions for a long time, even if the farm’s needs change. As Mark says, we’ll never get it exactly right, but we’ll try our best. The posts should be in next week. We had two new adorable calves in the dairy herd this week. Good old Fanny, one of our oldest cows, delivered her 7 th calf, named Fiddle. Last night, Frida (who is
a Fanny daughter) gave birth to Forina. Both babies are doing well. The pigs are in a new pasture, and their grain ration has been reduced because there is so much other food available to them. They are thriving on beets, pumpkins, skim milk, and a limited amount of rye berries, plus everything they can root from the field.

I have three good introductions to make, but time is short, so they will wait until next week. For now, I’ll just say a loud and heartfelt farewell to John Keating. He arrived with no farm experience, and quickly became a beloved and valuable member of the team. He’s returning to Chicago where he works as an actor. We hope he’ll be back with us sometime soon. Meantime, thank you John for your hard work and good company.

The Grange is hosting a benefit for area food pantries next Sunday, December 10 th . This is the annual performance of “A Christmas Carol” and holiday celebration. All proceeds will go to the food pantries in Willsboro, Westport, and Elizabethtown. Last year, they raised $1,000 and would love to top that this year. Several farm members will be on stage! Festivities start at 3pm with cookie making and kids’ crafts, along with music and refreshments for adults. Performance is at 4pm. Suggested donation is $10/adults, free for kids. Please help spread the word so we can keep everyone in our community at the table. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this raw 48th week of 2017. Find us at 518-963- 4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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Thanksgiving

Essex Farm Note

Week 46, 2017

Thanksgiving, and time to celebrate the harvest that is safely home. Every year right about now I feel a deep connection between us and every other person in the last 10,000 years who has labored with hands in the dirt or among animals to foster the growth of living things. They all knew, as we know, the nameless harvest-home feeling of gratitude and security that comes with that labor’s fruition – food safely stored in abundance – just as the days grow short and the nights grow cold. Farmer or not, there is no better way to celebrate this season and the year’s accomplishments than with people you love, over food that was thoughtfully grown, joyfully prepared, and peacefully enjoyed. I’m thankful, as I am every year, for the astounding generosity of soil, sun and rain, and for the hard work and magic that transforms those things into food. And I’m thankful for each of our farmers, supporters, and members, for making this farm possible.

            It seems very quiet in front of the house now, without the chirp and gobble of 150 large, charismatic birds. When I say large, I mean large. The biggest tom dressed at 35 pounds, and the flock averaged 19-20 pounds. They finished so beautifully! As Mark said today, we got supermarket-quality presentation with organic-farm quality, processed by our own team, who had never processed turkeys before. Special thanks to Ben Christian, who suggested this project, and had a lot of turkey experience. We are really proud to offer these birds to you, members, with our thanks for your support this year. Some of you may be getting turkeys that are larger than you asked for. Please, enjoy the abundance, and use every precious part, including the bones for soup. They were pasture-raised on 100% organic feed. We also have some beautiful heirloom-variety cranberries for you, from our friend and Essex Farm alumnus William McCaffrey, who grows them on his family bog in East Taunton, Massachusetts.

            What else? We harvested some of our bumper crop of parsnips this week, to trade for organic potatoes from the Intervale, and some future organic greens from Fledging Crow’s greenhouse. That’s how surplus and deficit works, farmer style. We’re beginning to look for a clear cold window to harvest the field corn. Garlic will go in today, I hope, ahead of this weekend’s rain. Suit the Great Pyrenees stayed in her fence this week. She and Jake are guarding the whole flock in the permanent pasture on Middle Road now. The lambs grew bright and fat this year, on grass, grass, and nothing more than grass. I’m so proud of our team for rotating the flock to fresh pasture every 3 to 5 days without fail since they went out as lambs in May, which meant they grew well and stayed relatively clear of debilitating internal parasites (truly, the bane of organic sheep production) without anthelmintics. Moving those electric nets for a flock of this size is hard work, and it’s especially difficult to stay on top of it when the season is cranking. Lambs will head to the butcher shop in December. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this thanks-giving 46th week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or here on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                                       

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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