Essex Farm Note

Week 11, 2018
Cold and snowy, just five days before the first day of spring. Temperatures are
supposed to dip into the single digits this weekend. At least the snow will help
protect the garlic, scallions, strawberries and rhubarb from the soil-heaving freeze-
thaw cycles that can be so hard on them. As for sugaring season, we have no
complaints about the weather whatsoever. The runs have been frequent and strong.
We collected so much sap this week we ran out of room around the evaporator and
had to store it temporarily in the spare bulk tank. We’ve finished and canned 75
gallons of syrup so far with another 15 gallons in the pan. The sugar content
remains a low 1%, so there is a lot of work – and a lot of firewood – in every gallon,
which is a reminder to treat the finished product like the luxury it is. We usually
keep a pot of sap boiling on the woodstove in our house this time of year, just for
fun, and as the snow came down hard early on Wednesday morning, the house was
suddenly full of a strong dark delicious caramel smell. We’d lost track of the sap, and
it had boiled right through syrup phase, and was quickly heading toward candy. Our
kids know that smell well. “Sugar on snow!” they yelled, and ran outside, barefoot, to
scoop up bowls of clean snow. Mark poured the bubbling thick syrup onto the snow
in strips that hardened into stretchy, chewy maple candy. That, plus it was a snow
day. Could it get any better when you are 7 and 10? You can make sugar on snow for
yourself, on purpose, by boiling syrup carefully until a candy thermometer reads
234 degrees. It’ll want to foam and boil over, so put a dab of butter in it, and keep a
close eye on it. When it reaches temperature, pour it in ribbons over packed snow. It
should firm up immediately. Many thanks to the whole crew, and especially Katie
Culpepper and Chris McConnell, for extra hours in the sugarbush and at the
evaporator, and to Noah and Elijah Ives who have spent long days cutting, splitting
and stacking the firewood for next year’s syrup.

We’re waiting for Juniper to calve, hoping for a heifer. She’s one of our oldest
cows, a granddaughter to Delia, our first cow ever. When Juniper was young, she got
pushed around by the other cows, had a hard time keeping a good spot at the hay
feeder in winter, and was a low producer. The next year, she got a cow bell on her
collar, which gave her a bigger presence, and she learned how to hold her own. She
has been one of our best producers ever since.

What else? The spinach is up in South greenhouse, hooray. We have a crew
working on stringing 6 strands of high tensile wire along 25,000 feet of new
fenceline. Sam Swartzentruber brought over his handy team of crossbred horses
and a bobsled to carry the wire and heavy tools over the rough terrain, which made
things go a lot easier. Sheep shearing begins Monday – a hundred ewes this year! –
plus vaccination and hoof trimming. The quality of the wool is not good enough this
year to have it made into yarn, so we are looking for a profitable use for it, if anyone
has any leads. Don’t forget to spread the word that we’re looking for 20 new
members this spring. Did you know we post this note and a picture each week at our
website? And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this chilly 11 th
week of 2018. Find us at 518-963- 4613,, or on the farm, any
day but Sunday. –Kristin & Mark Kimball


Sugar On Snow.jpeg