Week 20, 2023|Kristin Kimball|May 19th, 2023

Don’t let anyone tell you farming is boring. Farms are basically plot generating machines, taking in desire and adversity, mixing them with hopes and dreams, and spitting out story. We had more drama here this week than I even have time to write about. Where to begin? I guess existential stakes are the biggest, so, how about the moment Mark almost capsized into Otter Pond? Last Saturday, he was using the skid steer to clear away a few young trees we had to cut down from Pine Field, because their roots were invading our drainage system. On his last load (long day, tired brain, cloudy judgment) he cut too close to the pond, which left him strapped inside a heavy machine teetering on the edge of a rather steep bank. I don’t like to imagine the worst case but I’ll do it, just for you: an upside down death in ten feet of muddy water. Crayfish mobbing to nip at his face. Second worst case scenario would have been losing a $40,000 piece of equipment, underwater. Luck was with us, once again, and Mark jumped free, the skid steer did not roll, and we managed to jimmy it out of the muck without flipping it.

But wait, there’s more. By the end of the weekend we were all aware that the forecast was calling for a late freeze between Wednesday and Thursday, after a high of 77 the week before. Most of the tender plants are still in the greenhouse, so we didn’t need to worry about the year’s worth of tomatoes and peppers. But the early varieties of strawberries in the field have already begun to bloom, and frost-killed blossoms yield exactly zero berries. Did you know that one way to mitigate freeze damage is by setting up sprinklers and encasing the plants in ice? I don’t understand the physics here, and I’ve decided I don’t need to, but it has something to do with the latent heat of fusion. The low temperature on Thursday morning was 25 degrees, and at dawn the plants were wearing a thick clear coat of ice, and looked like the glass flowers at Harvard: perfect, but unnaturally still. I was highly skeptical the blossoms would survive, but Mark was right. After the ice coats melted, the blossoms that were within sprinkler range were bright and alive, while the ones that were at the far edges were all brown and limp.

Let’s not forget the drama that has been playing out among the fowl for the last 35 days. Our pack of four Toulouse geese lives with the chickens, to help deter loss from smaller predators. Their job is to be hissy, intimidating, protective beasts, and they do it very well. They are their own nation, among the chickens, a united, feathered front. Every spring, they lay some eggs, and every spring, they fail to sit on them. This year, though, one of them seemed determined, and after she had settled down, the other three set up a perimeter around her nest, guarding her from the chickens and the curious people. She sat well. I never saw her leave her post. She plucked the down from her breast to share her heat with her eggs and it fluttered around the nest. We weren’t even sure the eggs were fertile, because we don’t know the genders of our geese, and my heart hurt at the thought that her long sacrifice would probably come to naught. But behold, just after Mother’s Day, four little yellow fluffballs were peeking out from under her spread wings. The other geese seem as delighted as she is. They are group parenting these little ones, escorting them away from the nest as they start to toddle, through the flock of omnivorous sharp-beaked chickens, to fresh grass and water, and never taking their collective eye off of them. These little victories are what make the inevitable losses sustainable.

OK, I know, the real purpose of a farm is not to generate story, but to produce food, and we have that for you too. This week, I’d like to draw your attention to the delicious chicken livers we bought from our friends at Reber Rock Farm. As you know, we sometimes trade or purchase from farms whose standards align with ours, and these are from certified organic pastured chickens. I made a big batch of chicken liver pate yesterday, and will have some samples at distro today. I really believe there’s no higher use for the gorgeous May butter and fresh thyme than a good pate. I use this classic recipe from Jacques Pepin, and having tried many pate recipes and methods over the years, I confidently declare this one sits squarely at the intersection of delicious and easy. Please, give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

Other highlights of the culinary week are the spring herbs we’re harvesting right now. Bethany made a gremolata, subbing oregano, mint and chives for the classic garlic and parsley, with a little olive oil and lemon zest, and served it over some ground lamb and asparagus, to rave reviews. The oregano is especially delicious right now, so don’t miss it. We also have carrots we bought from Intervale, to gap us up until ours come in, some sweet fresh greens and radishes, and a new item in the meat department: quarter pound lamb burger patties, that only need to be thawed, seasoned, and thrown in a skillet, for a convenient whole food dinner. We have those lamb burger patties for sale in our Farm Store, too, and they will soon be available for sale at the Ice Cream Cafe on Main Street in the village of Essex, which is being run this year by Champlain Peony Company. Thanks, CPC, for hosting Essex Farm products this summer!

Amidst all that drama, and so much more, I have completed most of your invoices, dear members, but not quite all! Thank you so much for your patience with these, the rest are on the way very soon, and if you have any questions please email or call me, anytime.

Remember we’re rescheduling our first member potluck, so that is NOT happening this weekend. Stay tuned for a new date for that. And next week, look for news about a fun thing we’re adding to the farmscape, which we hope will be a big hit. We have a few memberships still available for our full diet CSA, so please get in touch with questions or to set up a time to meet me for a tour and samples. Our next delivery to Albany, New Paltz, and NYC is scheduled for June 6 and 7. If you’d like to order a half or whole lamb for that delivery (or for on-farm pickup), follow this link. If you’d like to be included on the mailing list for our delivered curated monthly boxes along that Essex-to-NYC corridor, shoot me an email, and I’ll add you. Finally, we are hoping to welcome a new farmer next month, moving here from California to work with us. Jamison is 35, single, loves hiking, cycling, cooking and carpentry, and is looking for lodging in the area. If anyone has a room to rent, please reach out.

That’s the news from Essex Farm for this dramatic 20th week of 2023. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, on instagram at essexfarmcsa and kristinxkimball, or here on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball