Thursday, December 2, 2010

Here's that ram I was talking about:

I think he's done his time here and is ready to move on to his next home.

Here is the Yentes-Quinn house:

It's come a long way since this photo, but this will help mark the progress until I get the newest shots loaded. Seth, Lao and Craig put in a few days every week on the house, and it's amazing how quickly it grows in this framing stage. We were out there today, taking advantage of briefly thawed ground to plant tulips, narcissus, an azalea and an English walnut tree.

Here is a shot from the 2010 Slaughter-a-thon, more subtle than last year's but no less cheerful. In two bouts, two pigs, three lambs and two steers were added to the freezer. Tip of the year: to add less lead to the environment, use a sledge hammer instead of a gun. Tyler, Seth, Jonny and Graham were on this crew.

And for lack of any other strictly farm-related photos, here are a couple of Ada Ruth and her 'rents:

In the nursery, helping out digging trees to send to the Fedco warehouse.

In the apartment. The orange hat reminds me: everyone I know who hunts managed not to get shot this November, but no one I know managed to tag a buck. Better (retroactive) luck to rest of you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I am about as disconnected to the farm as I've ever been, but I have been missing it and wanting to give an update on it--as best I can. So here it is:

Ovine: The big, new sheep have been combined with the small, old sheep and they are happily grazing inside their electronet fence. I said we were done acquiring animals for this year (maybe I said it more than once) but I was mistaken: we bought a ram. We'll keep him for a month or two and then sell him to another young farmer who keeps sheep not far away.

Porcine: The two little piggies are just about of feed, which means that their lives are just about over. We'll wait for a good weather before we do them in.

Bovine: Cows moved into the barn for the winter about two weeks ago, along with the Haflingers, and, as such, the barn smells, all of a sudden, quite barn-y.

Chick-ine (?): All happily living in their tractors. Donated Araucana roosters are in the belly or in the freezer, and our new batch of hens should be laying in six to eight weeks. More eggs: something I'm looking forward to.

Dry Beans: Almost totally threshed and winnowed--a beautiful palette including Jacobs Cattle, Jacobs Gold, Marifax, Bumblebee, Calypso, Pinto, Crow River Black, King of the Early, Cannellini, and Black Turtle beans.

Tyler, Elsie & Dad at the thresher

Winnower, or fanning mill.

Final drying in the barn on screens.

Equine: April and May have been plowing and discing the future veggie and blueberry fields. The seat on the disc harrow broke while Tyler was sitting on it, so now he's mostly just plowing. And attending the animal power field days in Vermont, and getting all fired up, and looking after the farm in all its small intricacies and huge needs. Thank you, thank you, Tyler.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Welcoming Ada Ruth!

The long pause on blog entries has been due not to a dearth of excitement but rather to an overwhelming amount of momentousness! Our baby, Ada Ruth Yentes-Quinn, was born at 4:23 am on Wednesday, September 22, 2010. She weighed 8 lbs, 3 0z, was 20 3/8 inches long, and she is a star. Chris and Lucretia attended the birth, and of course Seth. Julie, the other midwife, almost made it, and had she been driving at 80 mph from Mount Desert Island instead of only 70 mph she would have gotten here in time--as it was, she was there for most of the important parts afterward.

I want to give a giant thank you to everyone who has helped us out in the last two and a half weeks with food, laundry, dishes, company, and work on the farm. The local family members kept us overflowing with tasty dishes and help in many forms from day one, and the not-so-local family members have been beating back the piles of dishes and diapers and building our house and threshing our beans and mucking our barn for close to two weeks now. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thanks also to everyone who sent kind words through phone, mail and email. It has been such a boost, even though I may not get the chance to personally thank each person.

Here are some photos of Ada and our families, for those who are interested.

Just a few minutes after she was born...

Chris giving Ada her newborn check-up, under the watchful eyes of the family.

Above: Ada about to get weighed.
Below: Copious numbers of photos of Ada and people who adore her.


Mary Kate, my dearest one and only sister.

Gran, Aunt Mary Kate, Greatgran



Ada and a good view of the super-cute hemangioma on her ear--something that will probably go away by itself over time.

Noni and Grandpa

On the second floor of our little house!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mountains of Treasures

Dear friends--
Oh my goodness gracious, how time flies! I thought it had been barely more than a week since our last post, but it looks like it's been a full two and a half. Let me see what I can pull together.

We had another epic round of salsa-making in early September. I forgot to take a picture of all of the tomatoes together, but we really did have mountains of them. I think we're over the peak of that mountain though; they're starting to slow down now that we are getting nights in the low forties. Here are some of our puniest little cherry tomatoes...oh wait, those are Brandywines.

They make great turbans, too.

Other mountains of treasures we have on our farm:

Chicken manure, trucked in from southern Maine, four 32-ton loads. Here are two of them.

An ever-increasing supply of woodchips (good for mulching blueberry bushes and fruit trees), dumped by the road-trimming crew that is working its way through downtown Monroe. Here are three loads, but we now have over ten:

Mountains of dedicated hard work: while Seth and I scurried around preparing for last weekend's framing party, Tyler, Elsie, Gib and his friend Matt tackled the long-standing barn roof and laid down those panels until there was no more metal to lay.

This was the morning, three panels in.

And here was the end of the day, twenty panels and a new farm record!

Mountains of livestock:
New sheep arrivals (6), and probably the very last of the new livestock for this season:

Black face=friendly, white=skittish. They weigh about three times as much as the stunty Coopworths we have, and they are meat-fiber crosses. Mountains of trouble? They may be that too as they have already broken out once, but they seem quite herd-able.

Little chickies, all growed up! We lost a few to an unknown predator, but the chicks have since grown up enough to not be such tasty morsels, and they really appreciated getting moved into an outdoor movable chicken tractor. They are now grass and bug enthusiasts.

As we speak, Tyler and Seth are getting the horse-drawn plow ready to go, and Tyler hopes to be plowing in the peas-oats-vetch cover crop with April and May today! We are having Too Much Fun on the farm, and are happily working our hearts out as the days get shorter and cooler. We had our first light frost two mornings ago, September 18th, and we are all looking forward to the Common Ground Fair this coming weekend. On our local community radio station, WERU, all the DJs are playing fall season music, and the transition from summer to autumn feels so tangible right now. I hope you all are enjoying these days, wherever you may be!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Putting Food (and Housing) By

Most recent to least, some photos of the Seth-Anna slab.

Insulated concrete forms (ICFs), assembled and ready to be filled with concrete.

Seth on a hot one, putting it all together. Don't worry, the house will not be built ENTIRELY out of styrofoam, despite appearances to the contrary.

Full (almost) view of the slab.

Slab pouring party!!!

Tom and Patrick, preparing forms for concrete pads to use up extra concrete.

Pouring concrete pads with leftovers. Seth, Tyler, Danielle, Cretia, Minh, Anna, Jonny and mystery person.

Keeping our eyes on the prize.

Gib and Jonny supervising while Seth power-trowels the drying slab for a smooth finish.

Gib screeding the 'crete, Chris and Tyler moving it around while Anna chats with the concrete delivery man.

The 7:30 pm to 1:30 am salsa canning party: 16 gallons of salsa, done!

Our main fuel, sea salt dark chocolate.

Gib and Seth, nutty at midnight.

Tasting the fruits of our labors, halfway done.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Newcomers once again

Bovine report:

This past week on the farm was an exciting one; we gained four new members and had one fabulous visitor. First, Seth and I drove to Vermont and bought a bull. We wanted a bull because we have six lady-cows and we'd like them all to calve next spring, and there are no bulls of our particular breed in the immediate vicinity. Our breed is the American Milking Devon, which is a now-rare breed of cattle that was the first type of cattle brought to North America, or at least to what is now the Northeast United States. Despite the specificity of the name, one of the best things about these cows is that they are bred to retain the tri-purpose nature with which they arrived on this continent: they can be trained as oxen, used for milk production, and also eaten for beef. In fact, there are even stories of single cows being milked and worked as oxen at the same time, and still tasting delicious at the end of their lives. So, we got us a daddy cow, and so far he seems to fit right in with our herd. His former keeper called him Billy Bob, though he doesn't have an official name. We get to choose it, and the only rule is that is has to start with Meadowbrook since that was the name of the farm where he was born. We're thinking of Meadowbrook Nebuchadnezzar, at my dad's suggestion, but we're still open to other ideas. Let us know if you have any, preferably starting with "N."

I haven't taken this guy's portrait yet, but he looks pretty much like all the others except he's got horns and they come straight out from the sides of his head.

Ovine report:

We finally have sheep! I have to say I was about ready to send them to the freezer on their first full day here, but I think we've moved past that phase (for now), and today they look and sound cute. I think they're Coopworths, which is a breed that's especially well known for their silky longwool fleeces. And my dear friend Eliza, who is not an ovine but a homo sapiens, is modeling one of the three little buggers we just acquired in the two photos below.

Eliza was a major trooper during a multi-hour sheep chasing mission over the weekend, and also a superb bundle of energy and adventuresomeness during her three-day stay here at North Branch Farm. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Friday, August 13, 2010

August Progress

Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,
Please excuse the long silence--I was away in North Carolina and my camera was dead. Both situations have been remedied, and we are back in full swing in both blog and farm worlds. Here are some images from the farm.

Veggie Art:
Many weeks ago, on July 26th, Seth used our first major cucumber harvest to do some sculpting. The main variety of cucumber used is Suhyo Long or Shantung Suhyo Cross, we're not sure, and they taste EVEN better than they look. Sweet, crispy, tangy, and delicious.

Our first and so far only eggplant harvest consisted of these four beauties and two shiny round apple-green ones.

The Pre-Slab:
And though this is more personal than farm, here are a couple photos from the Seth-Anna-young'un house building project. In the first, Seth, Tyler and I are just beginning to lay down tubing on top of sand and remesh for the radiant heat. Notice the color of the tubing? Red. This would have been about 4:30pm on Monday afternoon, the day before the slab pouring.

6:00pm: Lucretia, Oai and Minh come over to check it out. Oai tells us it looks like we have the wrong kind of tubing. Internet search confirms suspicions.
7:00pm: Tyler leaves for Bangor; last minute purchasing of correct material successfully completed at our favorite big box store, Lowes. Anna and Seth remove bad tubing.
8:30pm: Tyler returns with the goods (and our friend Destiny).
9:00pm: Anna, Seth, Gib, and friends Patrick and Abbey start to lay down correct tubing.
10:30: Tubing-laying completed amidst thunder, lightning and showers. In bed by 11pm.
5:15am, Tuesday: Anna and Seth are back out at the pre-slab again, putting the finishing touches on before the concrete arrives.

And here, Jonny and Seth are standing on the nick-of-time finished radiant system at 6:50am the following morning, minutes before the concrete truck arrived. I just can't stop feeling grateful to all the people who helped out with the pouring of the slab, photos of which are yet to come. Thank you Jonathan, Gib, Tyler, Chris, Destiny, Patrick, Lao, Danielle, Lucretia, Minh, Tom, other people I might be forgetting, and the two fine men of State Sand & Gravel. There is hope for this little house!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New TV!

...You all might be thinking, Anna and the North Branch Farm gang don't seem to be the TV-watching type! But looking at a noisy box with little things moving all around can be quite calming and mesmerizing. Here's what I mean:

I highly recommend it over the conventional type. It's cheaper, more interactive, and provides food for the belly as well as food for the eyes. In this picture you can see 22 of the most precious baby chicks in the world: 16 Barred Rocks (those end up black and white striped and lay brown eggs) and 6 Araucanas (hawkish-looking blue egg-layers).

The cows have given us trials and tribulations for the month of July: Psycho-killer Sadie Rose (picture a cow from Ghost Riders in the Sky: "Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel/Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel) threatened anyone attempting to milk her after her calf was born with a well-manured hoof deep into the eye socket. We decided to let her be; she is a good cow in her own way. Filet Mignon and Earl of Hamburg, the two beef calves, were happily in a little calf pasture until they learned to break out and started roaming the farm (both sides of the road), and so as not to be outdone in mischievousness Mara, one of the yearling heifer calves, made escaping from the main herd a routine. That was only mildly inconvenient until the three of them started stampeding the garden and hanging out in the road. They are now in quarantine in the barn, which brings new complications, as Mara enjoys beating up Earl most intensely while we undertake our twice-daily milking of Maple, causing the normally placid mama cow to stomp, roll her eyes, kick, and give concussion-worthy swats with her tail to the head of whoever is milking. The flies don't help. Cow drama makes an okay blog subject but doesn't do much for our quality of life; we hope the bovines fall back into their quiet old routines soon.

The garden, on the other hand, has been a pleasure. The CSA is going beautifully, and while snow and sugar snap peas, spinach, scallions, and the other spring veggies are on their way out, we have early summer root crops like baby carrots, baby beets, and new potatoes to usher in the high summer vegetables, notably cucurbits (cukes, zukes, and summer squash) and nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant). Portraits of some of the upcoming garden stars:

Green zebra tomato

Daikon radish top

Bell pepper


To finish up, the previous two weeks' CSA boxes:

And lastly, if you want a little bit of backstory on my agrarian interest and move to Maine, you can look at a piece I wrote in the newsletter of the school I went to from preschool through 12th grade at