Essex Farm Note

Week 37, 2017

A fast note this week, at the end of a full and busy harvest day. I was thinking today that every food has its perfect moment, and every moment has its perfect food, and right now the perfect foods of summer are overlapping with the perfect foods of fall. The result is a blinding array of deliciousness in the kitchen. This morning we harvested a full wagon load of perfectly ripe sweet corn, and bins of beautiful broccoli, and also the best broccoli raab I’ve ever seen. The arugula (my favorite green) is coming on now, and we still have tomatoes. The best thing that came out of our kitchen this week was a lucky accident I put together when I had extra space in the oven, while cooking a chicken: roasted eggplant, sweet pepper and tomatos, pureed with garlic, olive oil, lemon, cumin and toasted pecans. I ate it on thin slices of sourdough bread all week.

            The compost barn floor has been poured, and the sides are going up. Now you can see how gargantuan it really is – a football field in length, and 68 feet wide. This whole area will be used for making compost. For now, though, it’s empty. The kids have been riding their bikes on the newly-poured concrete this week; it’s like having a piece of city planted in the middle of the farm, a reverse park. Hard surfaces are rare in their world and they are exuberant about it.

            Seems there is not one bear on the farm but three.  The bear of the south is the one who feasts on the sweet corn. Two bears of the east (one grown, one juvenile) are eating the field corn. I wonder what shifted in our corner of the world, to bring three bears here, when, in the last fourteen years, there have been none. Every time we go out to look at tracks with the dogs, the bears stay away for a few days. I like the thought that they are wary about us, and hope we can maintain this détente until they hibernate.

            The laying hens have been on strike for the last few weeks. The reduction in daylight accounts for some of the loss, but also, a good percentage of hens went broody. Broody is a hormone-induced condition that makes a hen stop laying, pluck the feathers from her breast to expose her warm skin, change her attitude to one of preoccupied petulance, and sit on a pile of eggs until they hatch. Whether or not a hen goes broody is in large part a genetic trait, and for us, not a useful one. There are ways to snap her out of it – placing her in a suspended cage without bedding, for example – but it’s not easy to do at a larger-than-homestead scale, so we’ll wait for them to come back to production.

            Speaking of hens, we butchered the oldest laying hens this week. They were well beyond productive age, and while they’ve been wonderful to have cleaning pasture behind the dairy cows, the ratio of work-to-benefit was beginning to tip in the wrong direction. Members, these are the birds that make the absolute best stew. Their age and all that time on pasture, scratching for their living, give them a really amazing flavor. They are NOT good for roasting – the meat would be like rubber – but they are unparalleled for making stock, soup and stew. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this farewell, Mae! 37th week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.                                          

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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