Week 11, 2018 | Kristin Kimball | Mar 16, 2018

Cold and snowy, just five days before the first day of spring. Temperatures are supposed to dip into the single digits this weekend. At least the snow will help protect the garlic, scallions, strawberries and rhubarb from the soil-heaving freeze-thaw cycles that can be so hard on them. As for sugaring season, we have no complaints about the weather whatsoever. The runs have been frequent and strong. We collected so much sap this week we ran out of room around the evaporator and had to store it temporarily in the spare bulk tank. We’ve finished and canned 75 gallons of syrup so far with another 15 gallons in the pan. The sugar content remains a low 1%, so there is a lot of work – and a lot of firewood – in every gallon, which is a reminder to treat the finished product like the luxury it is. We usually keep a pot of sap boiling on the woodstove in our house this time of year, just for fun, and as the snow came down hard early on Wednesday morning, the house was suddenly full of a strong dark delicious caramel smell. We’d lost track of the sap, and it had boiled right through syrup phase, and was quickly heading toward candy. Our kids know that smell well. “Sugar on snow!” they yelled, and ran outside, barefoot, to scoop up bowls of clean snow. Mark poured the bubbling thick syrup onto the snow in strips that hardened into stretchy, chewy maple candy. That, plus it was a snow day. Could it get any better when you are 7 and 10? You can make sugar on snow for yourself, on purpose, by boiling syrup carefully until a candy thermometer reads 234 degrees. It’ll want to foam and boil over, so put a dab of butter in it, and keep a close eye on it. When it reaches temperature, pour it in ribbons over packed snow. It should firm up immediately. Many thanks to the whole crew, and especially Katie Culpepper and Chris McConnell, for extra hours in the sugarbush and at the evaporator, and to Noah and Elijah Ives who have spent long days cutting, splitting and stacking the firewood for next year’s syrup.

We’re waiting for Juniper to calve, hoping for a heifer. She’s one of our oldest cows, a granddaughter to Delia, our first cow ever. When Juniper was young, she got pushed around by the other cows, had a hard time keeping a good spot at the hay feeder in winter, and was a low producer. The next year, she got a cow bell on her collar, which gave her a bigger presence, and she learned how to hold her own. She has been one of our best producers ever since.

What else? The spinach is up in South greenhouse, hooray. We have a crew working on stringing 6 strands of high tensile wire along 25,000 feet of new fenceline. Sam Swartzentruber brought over his handy team of crossbred horses and a bobsled to carry the wire and heavy tools over the rough terrain, which made things go a lot easier. Sheep shearing begins Monday – a hundred ewes this year! – plus vaccination and hoof trimming. The quality of the wool is not good enough this year to have it made into yarn, so we are looking for a profitable use for it, if anyone has any leads. Don’t forget to spread the word that we’re looking for 20 new members this spring. Did you know we post this note and a picture each week at our website? essexfarmcsa.com. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this chilly 11 the week of 2018. Find us at 518-963- 4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, or on the farm, any day but Sunday. –Kristin & Mark Kimball

Good Husbandry