Essex Farm Note

Week 1, 2018

            A tractor trailer got stuck athwart the narrow Bouquet River Bridge last night, blocking the homeward road for the Amish girls and their horse. In the blowing snow, in the dark, they waited, then led the horse off the road, and knocked at the McConnell’s door to spend the hour until the truck could be towed clear. Then they hitched up again, and made their way up Crooked S Hill, to Jersey Street, and home. The tractor trailer driver, meantime, backtracked east on Route 22, but got stuck again, overnight, at the base of our hill. Mark found him parked at the end of the driveway before dawn. He was from Liberia, unused to snow and ice, and hauling a load to Michigan. We made him coffee and some breakfast and by 9 he was on his way again, fishtailing up the freshly sanded hill.

            The farm news is all hard-frozen this week and delivered through chilled fingers. It has been a grueling stretch. Work on non-essential projects has come to a stop. No seed order, no fixing of equipment, not even the broken wood stove in the machine shop, which we missed very much this week. We have not had a day warm enough to slaughter the last batch of broiler chickens, so they are still pecking and scratching in the greenhouse, the warmest creatures on the farm during the day.  

            Instead of the usual, we attend to all the things that could go wrong. We run the propane heater in the barn before milking, so the equipment doesn’t freeze. We have twice-daily mandatory temperature checks in all the insulated trailers, where tens of tons of vegetables are stored, and temperatures are being kept above freezing with an ad-hoc collection of space heaters. This morning, Mark discovered the door to one of the trailers had blown open overnight, and the cabbages were beginning to freeze. He found it just in time to save a year’s worth of hard work from ruin. That’s why the cold is stressful: a minor mishap – the poor latching of a door – can have such outsize consequences.

            Only 48 more hours before this weather is due to break. Tomorrow night will be the worst of it. The lows are predicted to be close to twenty below zero, not including the wind chill. So, until Monday, the priority list is extremely clear: Keep people safe, first and foremost. Make the animals as comfortable as possible. Get the cows milked twice a day, without frostbiting their teats. Get food to our members. Keep equipment from breaking and stores from freezing. Then bask in the heat of the wood stove, sleep under thick down covers, and begin it all again.

            Tonight, for team dinner, we’re having black bean soup topped with sour cream, and cilantro from the freezer; smoked ham; warm apple sauce dusted with cinnamon; and grated carrot salad – simple, filling fare that will make the kitchen fragrant, warm and steamy, before warming our bellies. Hard to believe, in this chill, that green plants are not far away. The ground is still not frozen, holding at 33 degrees, though the deeper layers of soils are chilling faster and faster, equalizing. The greenhouse will be tilled for seeding in six short weeks. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this deep-cold first week of 2018. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, and on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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