Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Good day, all dear friends!

It's the season for spending every daylight moment outside, for listening to the American woodcock and the spring peeper, for ahhing and aweing at fresh, hidden wildflowers, for joining the families out hunting fiddleheads and fishing in streams. Exodus from the hearth fires! Banishment from the computer screen and its horrible buzz!

But today it chilly and grey, so I'll take the chance to share a bit with you and look at the big picture of what's been going on lately. Last we spoke, new cows had just arrived on the farm and Lane had spent a week at North Branch Farm. Exactly a week after Lane left, my parents and our good friend Lucy Pryor arrived at the Bangor Airport from the Sunny South (NC and VA, respectively) to spend a week pushing our farm forwards. And in the midst of their efforts, someone else was pushing too...

Part 1: A Son is Born
The following are pictures of our new mama cow Maple and the birth of her Jersey-Devon bull calf, Filet Mignon. When Tyler got home from teaching weekly violin lessons, he found her with the water bag already out, and after an hour or more of labor, this was as far as she had progressed: front hooves out:

Chris ruptured the membranes and she and I each grabbed one not-so-little hoof to assist in getting the little guy out.

Before long, Jonny and Tyler joined the fray, and while Maple nobly pushed and heaved, the humans hauled away.

Within a few minutes, out the calf slipped, and Maple the good mama checked him out and licked him down.

Chris and Minh also checked him out, but they did not lick him down.

A stiff breeze was blowing and the little calf was starting to shiver, so Elsie did follow-up duty to Maple and rubbed him until he started trying to stand up.

Up and at 'em!

We were all pleased with the healthy status of both mama and baby, and not too alarmed by the fact that we had had to pull the calf out--though it was Maple's second calving and should have been a breeze, she was bred to a Jersey bull and Jerseys are a good bit larger than Milking Devons. Chris claimed that just by the size of the hooves she could tell a bull calf was on the way, and a bull calf is a good thing for us: he'll keep our fields shorn and poop on them, and in a year two we'll send him to the freezer. Welcome, Mignon!

Part 2: Digging In
One of the most exciting projects of the week was The Planting of the Blueberries--Seth received about 350 baby plants by mail and they needed a nursery home. We dug into Ralph and Barbara's old garden and found fluffy, sandy, loamy soil--slightly deprived in organic matter, but with a lot of potential and nothing bigger than pebbles in the mineral department. The sod, however, was creeping in from the edges and took a good bit of beating back. Below, Seth is using the hand-forged broadfork we won in an auction. Behind him you can see up into the field where we'll eventually move these blueberries when they're big enough.

Blueberries in their temporary holding pens in front of the barn.

Looking back towards the barn, Mom/Kathleen strips the peat pots off of the blueberry plants and Anna then plants them.

Part 3: Victories
One project that Dad/Todd--sometimes with a team, sometimes solo-- stuck with throughout the week was the removal of the fence surrounding our front yard.

Lucy and Mom took care of our chicken tractor, whose tarp covering was so old that the chickens could just pop out through the holes when they wanted to and poke around in the icky old sludge pile nearby. They put on a brand new tarp and then added PVC-pipe skids so that the tractor could be towed around easily even by people weighing under 150 lbs.

There are two victories implicit in the photo below: number one is that we managed to get Tyler and Elsie's beautiful tent platform and tent set up before our guests arrived, and number two is not only did our guests not freeze to death, they actually enjoyed their guest house on the river!

Part 4: Lucy's Eye

Milkweed Pod


Trout Lily

Cinnamon Fern

View of the loo (new addition: avian apartment)

View from the loo (new subtraction: the next day, the funky elm tree was cut down to make way for our future leach field)

After an incredibly productive week, the parental clan headed out and left us to our own devices. In the intervening period, we have made yogurt from Maple's extra milk, put five more panels on the roof, stripped shingles off the entire north (silo) side of the barn, and gotten multiple new wwoofer requests. We can't wait for more great friends and friends-t0-be to spend time with us on the farm!

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