Week 11 & 12, 2021｜Kristin Kimball ｜March 27, 2021
A double-header note this week, the consequence of more lambing hours than desk hours recently. Yes, lambs are here, and the potency and stamina of that errant teenage ram is impressive. We have an average of four ewes lambing each day. Most of them are experienced mothers who are doing well with their lambs. The first families are out on pasture already, which made me a little nervous this week, as March has been doing what March does — plenty of rain, wind, and temperatures ranging from the thirties to the seventies. So far, so good. We rigged up shelter for them from two wagons and a bunch of tarps. Not pretty but it keeps them mostly dry and out of the wind.
The first lamb came two weeks ago, on the worst possible night, when it was -8 with windchill. It was a single ewe lamb from an older sheep. Anne found her within an hour or so of birth. The ewe was doing her best to lick the lamb dry but it was so cold her ears were already frozen solid and the birth fluids were a crust of ice over the thin newborn wool. As you know from the hypothermic calf report earlier this year, this sort of situation is in the kids’ wheelhouse. They went out with towels and a lamb jacket and Mark got a hot fire going in the cabin near the barn. While the girls toweled off the lamb I milked five ounces of colostrum from the ewe, and when the lamb was warm enough we fed her via stomach tube, which gave her heat from the inside, and her body temperature came up quickly after that. Then all that was needed was an hour of girl love before she could be returned to her eager mother. Her ears puffed up from the frostbite so that she looked, temporarily, like a little rabbit, but they didn’t fall off, and she’s thriving now on pasture. It’s good to know we can lamb at those temperatures but I sure prefer not to.
Meanwhile, the old rule held true: the peepers emerged singing in the ponds the same week we were able to put the first tools to work in the field. This year it was Bethany who hitched Jake and Abby to the disc harrow, to work up a few acres in New Field and get it ready for seeds. It was so good to smell fresh earth and horse sweat, among the best smells of spring. The greenhouses are cranking, full of seedlings now and a few delicious greens. Caitlin frost-seeded clover by hand into a few sections of pasture, and Isabelle and Lilly transplanted some over-wintered herbs into Home Field, the garden in front of our house. The onions are soon to harden off out of the greenhouse, to get ready for life in the field. The first broiler chicks arrive April 7th, and then we’ll be in full swing.
So much good news to share. We got a Non Point Source (NPS) grant from Essex County Soil and Water to build up the roads in the barnyard with gravel and improve the way water drains off them, to protect water quality in the surrounding streams and the lake. I’m excited about the environmental benefits, fixing potholes and reducing mud; Mark is excited to source the gravel from the farm, which means a smaller carbon footprint plus an excuse to blast a hole in the ground with dynamite. Boys will be boys. And there’s more: we got a conservation reserve enhancement program (CREP) grant to protect the stream along Route 22, from the Hub to Windy Willow, with fencing, enhanced wetlands, and livestock water systems. This will help us in our ongoing effort to build soil, prevent water pollution and protect riparian wildlife. Thanks to our government agencies and to your taxpayer dollars for making these programs possible.
We’ve had a lot of good food at the house lately, despite being busy with the spring work. These are the weeks our kitchen is focused exclusively on the intersection between easy and delicious. Luckily, that covers a lot of real estate. Among the favorites was a lamb shoulder, rubbed heavily with berbere spice, salt, chili and smoked paprika, then cooked in the instapot with some fire cider and a bit of water until falling off the bone. It went to the table to be pulled off in little hunks and assembled into cabbage cups with basmati rice and a cilantro/chili/vinegar/sugar sauce I made from last year’s cilantro, kept in the freezer. The self-assembly theme continued with a roasted pork belly cut into thin strips, plus shredded radish and shredded cabbage that went into rice paper wrappers, with a spicy peanut dipping sauce. In both cases the kids said it was the crunch of the cabbage plus the fun of self assembly that made them so happy, but if you ask me, the sauces were the X factor.
Yesterday Mark made a soup for breakfast from roasted sliced kabocha squash, lamb stock, garlic, fresh ginger root and fresh turmeric root, with some red pepper and black pepper. This is the way Mark’s breakfasts roll, hardy and emphatic, no frosted flakes or white flour bagels in his morning world. It was warming and delicious and kept us going all day. I’m impressed that those kabochas, harvested in September, are still sweet and nearly perfect in the last half of March. Credit the dry growing season, careful harvest and consistent storage. The stock was made, the squash roasted, so assembly and blending took him about five minutes. Everyone chose different add-ons: a dollop of sour cream for Miranda and Mark, a sprinkle of toasted walnuts for Jane, and for me, the last of the spicy peanut sauce. I make a gallon of stock in the instapot at the beginning of each week so we always have it ready. Since I never know what we’re going to do with it, I’ve stopped using any aromatics, just bones, water and salt, because I don’t want incompatible flavor families. I find that if there’s time, roasting (bones before making stock, or the squash, for example) adds depth without muddying the flavor.
We are still looking for help managing the many large projects we’ve taken on in 2021. Aside from fencing, waterway protection and roads, we are moving forward with construction of the creamery. Let us know if you have skills or time to help move these things along. And if you love the share, please tell your friends! We have abundant food available and would love to sign up some new members. One thing I’ve been feeling really good about lately is how little waste our share produces compared to the industrial food system. We use everything for something on our farm, including using the animal’s fertility to nourish the plants, making our own compost, and now, using excess fat for biofuel to run the diesel engines. And unlike the big food delivery services, we keep disposable packaging to an absolute minimum with glass and returnable containers, so there aren’t bags of plastic and cardboard going into the landfill every week. If you know people who might be interested, please have them get in touch and we will give them all the details.
And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this peeper-song 12th week of 2021. Find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram at kristinxkimball, essexfarmcsa, and farmerkimball, or on the farm, from a distance, any day but Sunday.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball