Week 5, 2019 | Kristin Kimball | Feb 3, 2019

We bottomed out at negative 27 on Wednesday morning, with the wind chill. We went through two big boxes of hand warmers this week. Without them, hands are a such nuisance in this weather, feet too, and any parts of the face that are uncovered. It’s easy enough to keep the core warm, as long as you’re moving, and as long as you don’t get wet. The tricky thing is that wet is hard to avoid here. The stalwart animal team is bucketing water to the sheep twice a day, because all our little tricks for keeping their tanks thawed have failed. The glass jars, lids, eggs and vegetables still need to get washed. Milking is inherently wet. The cows’ teats got chapped and had to be soothed with coconut oil. The cold brought a few challenges with equipment and infrastructure, too. A vacuum line in the milkhouse snapped as Jonas tried to clean it, because the PVC got too brittle. The pulsators that control the milkers froze up a few times. We came close to losing a large amount of cabbage in the distribution trailer, because there was a case of hot sauce in front of the heater, which made it shut down. Amazingly, none of the other well-insulated trailers (13 of them!) froze, with only one 1500 watt heater in each. And everyone – human and animal – is hanging in there, looking forward to a few days of warm weather, which are on the way.

Meanwhile, preparation for spring continues. A great effort went into cleanup, repair and inventory this week, and most of the spaces on the farm are tidy now, with fence and electronet repair the only major items left on that list. Mark wrapped up the germination tests this morning, and is working on a grant for some irrigation equipment now. We ordered 20 yards of potting soil from Vermont Compost, to start our seeds in the greenhouse, which happens in three short weeks. The seed order is just about finished. Here are the highlights: We’re trying a new variety of deep purple scallions, and 9 new types of lettuce. We haven’t had a great Brussels sprout variety since the discontinuation of our beloved Oliver, but we have high hopes for a cultivar called Dagan. We’ll try a couple of new beefsteak tomatoes this year – an award-winning hybrid called Chef’s Choice, and a popular heirloom, Cherokee Purple. Scorzonera and salsify are both on the list, for you weirdos out there, and we’re planting a simple mix of flowers, including zinnia, marigold, tithonia, strawflower and statice.

I’m having a ball in the kitchen these days, cooking a lot of lamb. We had a killer shepherd’s pie this week, piled high with creamy mashed potatoes; I’ve got a scotch broth on deck for next week, when the cold weather returns, with steel cut oats in place of the usual barley. In addition to the usual shredded root salads, we’ve been eating a lot of roasted carrots and parsnips, especially on days when the added heat from the oven is welcome in the house. Have you tried the prepared pie crusts yet? I’ve been using them for all sorts of savory dishes – leek carrot tart, chicken pot pie, and even as emergency crackers (rolled out, sprinkled with herbs and salt and cut into squares) for unexpected company. Let us know what you think of this product. If we hear good feedback we’ll aim to keep it in the share regularly throughout the winter. Last but certainly not least, Mark Kimball has decided to try this social media thing. His Instagram handle is kimball8353. And that is the news from this squeaky 5th week of 2019. 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