Week 6, 2017 | Kristin Kimball | Feb 10, 2017

The snow that blanketed the city and much of New England mostly missed us, but we shared in the storm’s high winds and low temperatures. All the animals are fine, and probably enjoying today’s clear skies and bright sun. I am. As you all probably know by now, I love a good cold snap. At night, when Mark and I make our final rounds, we stop at the hose that we leave running next to the West Barn to keep the pipes from freezing, and I crunch at the tube of ice that has formed around the spray during the day. I can measure the depth of winter by how much it resists my foot. But we really are getting close to the great crescendo of spring. Seeding begins very soon. Sugaring is just around the corner. Most alarmingly, our first batch of broiler chicks arrives next week. In a moment of weakness I agreed to let them come into the house and live next to the woodstove for a few days, until we can get the greenhouse rigged with heat lamps and an insulated hover. We are already sheltering ten giant bins of endive in the playroom, so I guess my defenses were down. Also, the girls both voted, emphatically, yes to house chicks. I expect they will be dressing them up in little suits and trying to smuggle them into bed. One day we may have a clear division between the house and the farm, but that day is not today.

Meanwhile, outside, it was a busy week. The dairy heifers got shots of vitamin A and D, to try to help them fight off the ringworm they’ve got. This fungus comes every winter, and clears up when they hit pasture. It’s generally harmless, but annoying, and leaves them patched and itchy. The reason we’re trying to quell it this year is that it’s hard to tell when they are in heat because they keep scratching the heat detecting stickers we have stuck on their tailheads. On that front, our first AI calves are due next month. I can’t wait to see their well-bred little faces. The sheep flock got new feeders this week, thanks to Jon and Brendon. (The bedding pack has been getting higher, which contributed to a ewe getting her head fatally stuck in the old feeder.) We received two loads of weaned beef calves and young stock from Conroy’s Organics, to join the load that came from South Farm last week. We are going to try grazing purchased young stock this year, instead of keeping brood cows and a bull for breeding our own calves. On paper, it seems to pencil out a little better, and allows us to be flexible, but we’re staying open to the idea of restocking our brood cow herd in the future.

It was a fun week in the farmhouse kitchen. I used Instagram (kristinxkimball) to post what I chose from the share this week, and the meals I made from it. My favorite discoveries were an Oat and Mushroom soup inspired by Louisa Shafia’s The New Persian Kitchen, and roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar, inspired by Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. As our long-time members know, cooking with the share is a learning experience; it takes most people about a year to really get the hang of making a whole week’s worth of seasonal, whole food meals and snacks that are delicious and convenient. This week of posts forced me to articulate some of the strategies that have become automatic. Check it out on Instagram, or on the Dirty Life Facebook page. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this bright cold 6th week of 2017. Find us at 963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball