Week 8, 2021｜Kristin Kimball ｜March 1, 2021
For one brief moment during shearing last weekend, I thought the world was ending, via earthquake or bombardment. But no, it was the winter’s load of icy snow, slipping from the roof of the barn in a mighty roar and crash. The sheep raised their collective heads at the sound and went still. The humans looked at one another and grinned, knowing this meant the sun was getting stronger. Only Mary Lake kept moving, a supine ewe between her feet, her shears moving in even rows, keeping the same pace, never hurried, never resting. Mary, of Can-Do Shearing in Tunbridge, Vermont, has been shearing our flock since we got our first seven sheep 8 years ago. As the flock has grown, so has the job of shearing it. We got 210 ewes and a ram sheared and vaccinated, all their hooves trimmed, missing ear tags replaced. Mary hit her personal record for the number of sheep she sheared in a day, which made me proud of her and of our crew for the smooth setup and handling. It was a big team effort! Tam Mrose came with her border collies to help keep the pen full, and Jameson Fiegl spent the whole long day and a half moving them through the chute to Mary’s board. The rest of the crew carried and skirted the fleeces, and practiced the shepherd’s jujitsu move of catching a sheep under the chin and then turning her head to put her off balance, and tipping her up on her rear end, where she can relax for her shot and pedicure. The flock looks so good. We have a very nice uniform crop of bred yearlings, and all the sheep look well fleshed, ready to raise their lambs.
Based on udder development I’d guess we are a week to ten days away from seeing our first lamb. With that in mind, Benjamin Shetler came over this week to install a new wood stove and some insulation in the house he and Lizzie used to live in, across from the compost barn, so we can use it to warm people and newborn lambs on cold days and dark nights. Until now we’ve been calling this structure the Amish House, but after we start rolling we may begin calling it the Lamb’s Quarters (pun credit and/or eyeroll goes to Mark for this one). Benjamin and Lizzie moved to Reber Rock farm, where Benjamin is running the butcher shop. We are sending them congratulations on the birth of their first child, a sweet little mite of a girl.
Thank you, thank you to everyone who responded to our plea for bullets in the last note. I’ve temporarily changed the definition of CSA to Community Supported Ammunition. We have enough for the butcher shop now, and for some target practice. Realizing our readers are so well-armed, Mark asked me to include another request this week: we’re looking for a 22 magnum, if anyone has one they’d like to sell.
My favorite meal from our kitchen this week was french onion soup. It delights me to turn the simplest ingredients — bones, onions, bread and cheese — into something that tastes so fancy it makes you want to pull out starched linens and set the table with care. It does require patience to slice and really caramelize the onions, in order to get the mellow, deeply sweet base you need for a good french onion soup. It also requires, in my opinion, a high-quality homemade meat stock. I didn’t have beef bones in the house so I used lamb bones and we liked the added mineral element. Then it’s just red wine, some thyme, a bay leaf, salt and pepper, and, right before serving, a piece of bread and a thick slice of cheese for each bowl. I used the last of a stellar wheel of sheep milk tomme that Mark got me for my birthday, from our friends Donn and Maryrose at Northland Sheep Dairy, and it played well with the lamb-based broth. Under the broiler the bowls went until the cheese was bubbly and brown. Then the only hard part: waiting until it was cool enough to eat without scorching the roof of my own eager mouth.
We went across the lake to see Scott Hoffman and Aubrey Schatz’s last week at the Family Cow Farmstand. Scott and Aubrey met here at Essex Farm, then got married and took over the Family Cow, which they ran as a successful dairy and farm store until this week. They’ve decided to close shop on a high note to start something new, so we bought a big load of their equipment: glass-fronted refrigerators and freezers for the pavilion and the farm store, a new egg washer, and various pieces of animal handling equipment. They are terrific farmers, cooks and businesspeople and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Warm sun coaxed the sap into the trees this week. It’s sugar season. We will gratefully be getting maple syrup for the share from our member and friend Mike Farrell, of New Leaf Tree Syrups. Mike is also the author of The Sugarmaker’s Companion, the definitive book on sustainable management of sugar-producing trees. Mark and the girls tapped seven of our own maples, for fun, and we have a pot of sap boiling down on the woodstove. I dipped into it to make my tea this morning. Thanks to Mike and to the trees for this year’s exquisite sweetness.
We had back-to-back emergency room visits this week, both with good endings. First Miranda, who was taking the collar off of Jake the draft horse when he raised his big head, took her small self with it, and crunched her hand and head into the edge of the barn roof. One stitch, nothing broken. The next day, I got a call that Isabelle needed help in the farm office, because she’d dropped a fork on her foot. For a moment I thought she meant the utensil and wondered what the fuss was about. Then I realized it was the forkLIFT, and panicked a little. But miraculously, she’s OK too, with nothing broken, just one very sore foot.
Now the short news. The greenhouse is up and running, with 70,000 onion seeds beginning to sprout. The germination chamber, which has been an awkward tenant in our mudroom for the last 16 years, finally got its own place and is moving out, to a potting shed between the greenhouses. I celebrate its fledging. We’re looking to hire some help with construction and project management on a few building tasks, including, first, a grant-funded fuel shed. If you are interested, text Mark at 518-570-6399.
We’ve been hosting informal every-other-Sunday meditations this winter, led by Paul Deal, who is a gift to human sanity and also Anne Brown’s husband. These meetings take place outside, usually around a fire, to keep them COVID safe. You are all invited to join us. Call or text Mark for times and our COVID protocol.
Please welcome Jarrod who is with us for a brief stint between working on ecological restoration projects in Colorado and beginning what sounds like some serious outdoor survival training, in June. And thanks and farewell to Liz and Elise who just completed their work here with us.
We have both year-long and seasonal memberships available so please get in touch if you are interested or know someone who might be! And that is the long-winded news from Essex Farm for this meditative 8th week of 2021. Find us on instagram at kristinxkimball, farmerkimball and essexfarmcsa, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone at 518-963-4613.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball