Thursday, November 24, 2011

November's Elixir

Last week, Elsie, Chris, Minh, Ada and I all headed over to Paul Bernacky's Wayback Farm in Belmont with 18 bushels of apples and a lot of empty buckets and came back with...CIDER!
Enjoying the cider on our way out
Filling buckets with cider.

The whole cider-barn-contraption, running off a belt from the tractor.
Juice starting to trickle out of the press
Minh and Elsie letting out the first bit of cider that came out while filling the cloths.

Monday, November 14, 2011

CSA and Barrel Washer

This time a week ago, we were madly painting, harvesting, re-organizing, and setting up our new barrel washer in preparation for the our inaugural winter CSA pick-up for our 33 members who we support in the noble challenge of eating healthfully, locally, and seasonally through the winter months.  We had a boomingly successful first pick-up day and are already looking forward to the next one.  The enjoyment we get from people coming to our farm and getting excited about our vegetables is topped only by the feeling of satisfaction we get afterwards thinking about our food being eaten across the state.  Below are a couple photos of the assembly of the root washer inside the little greenhouse we built for it:
Seth screwing on the slats of the barrel

View of the greenhouse built onto a rock wall

...looking down the barrel
And here's Ada, asleep during an applesauce making party.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Woodmizer encore

Greetings, everyone!
In the press this month, Seth and Tyler made the front page of the monthly magazine Acres USA, "The voice of eco-agriculture," as stars of an article on the profitability of portable sawmills.  You can't read the article online, but email me at northbranchfarm(dot)monroe(at)gmail(dot)com and I can forward you the pdf if you're interested.  The barn floor, which we were in the process of re-boarding at the time the article was written, is now finished and we danced on it at our wedding and then loaded it up with round bales of hay the next week.

The sawmill has seen a lot of use lately: Seth milled up 13-foot long hemlock strapping which we bent around a jig and used to form frames for a wooden, gothic-arch shaped greenhouse.  This greenhouse will shelter the barrel root washer for which we purchased a kit from Grindstone Farm in NY and will hopefully be assembling later today!  Unfortunately, our only 13-foot long sawlog was at the bottom of a large pile of hemlock, so rather than moving all those logs aside, Seth just milled his way to the bottom of the heap and got us a nice, large stack of two-by lumber as a byproduct of building our little 20'x12' greenhouse.

November's coming along fast and hard, and here at North Branch Farm we have been taking advantage of a nearly endless stretch of crisp, sunny days to get our winter storage crops harvested and packed away into the root cellar.  Our harvest started way back in July with garlic, then moved on in September to onions and squash.

Chris and Anna and Eric load squash onto the horse-drawn haywagon before a supposed hard frost that didn't happen.
In October we cleared out our cellar and brought in the bulk of the harvest: carrots, cabbage, rutabagas, beets, leeks, celeriac, and apples.  We've been packing most of our crops into bulb crates for storage, and they've proven great for just about everything; not only do they haul vegetables well, they can also be used to carry firewood, laundry, lunch food, books, and just about anything else on the farm.  They stack great, they're sturdy, they're lightweight, and they're easy to clean.  One drawback: they're plastic.  Someday we'll get back to wood.
Bolero carrots, a storage hybrid from Johnny's Selected Seeds.

Mammoth Red Rock cabbage, from Fedco Seeds.  Our green storage cabbages are Bartolo from Fedco and Storage No. 4 from Johnny's.
The last two days have been potato-harvesting days.  Using our little old horsedrawn potato-digger, we dug up the quarter acre of potatoes then sorted and picked them up by hand. 

The potatoes had a rough year between the wire worms, late blight, scab, hollow heart and lots and lots of rain, but due to our enthusiastic over-planting we will still have more good-quality potatoes than we need for our CSA and ourselves.  And the 2500 lbs of culled potatoes?  We plan to eat them while they're still good, then set up a cooker outside and boil them for our four pigs.  I was inspired by reading a little James Herriot this summer and in one of his collections of short stories he tells how the old farmhouse compound he lived in, in England, not only had a built-in pigsty, but that pigsty had a built-in wood-fired cooker in order to cook up potatoes and other pig food.  Our pigs will surely appreciate hot boiled potatoes on a cold fall day, if we can figure out a system that works well and doesn't get anyone scalded.

Finally, for a different perspective on things, here are a few pictures of our area and North Branch Farm from Elsie and Tyler's ride in Elsie's dad's plane:


Mount Waldo

The hub of the farm: barn and silo, greenhouse, old house, new house, veggie fields.

The farm from much higher

So...until the next time, stay warm and eat well.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

All spiffed up!

Happy rainy October, everyone!

It's been a busy one so far.  Seth and I got married on Sunday, October 9th, and in preparation for that grand and festive event many folks from our families (most broadly defined) rallied round and helped with some serious farm beautification.  The barn roof (less milk room and silo connector) got finished.  The greenhouse got plastic.  Everything but a couple of tons of loose hay got moved out of the barn, the floor got vacuumed and the rafters swept.  Every pile of odds and ends around the grounds got a firm dealing with and the farm is looking better than new.
The inside of the barn--this is for our former apprentice Pauravi, if she's looking--her dream come true!  My sister is shop-vac'ing the whole thing and the cider press is wedged away in a corner.

Our greenhouse!  We did it!
The inside of our greenhouse, our new favorite hangout spot, temporarily hosting winter squash, onions, dry corn, popcorn, and dry beans.

A couple of random newlyweds.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New calf spurs blog entry

Some photos of the farm taken from the roof of the Yentes-Quinn house, clockwise from Northeast-ish:

First, the top end of the vegetable field with blueberry acre behind.

Then the lower part of the vegetable field, with the fruit tree nursery in the foreground (and chicken tractor off to the right).

Southeast view of cows, pigs, Mount Waldo, and the beginnings of a greenhouse frame sticking out from behind the barn.

A better view of the barn
And the farmhouse, home garden, and Kioti tractor, plus a corner of our handsome grey standing seam metal roof thanks to CO Beck and Son.
Seth and Ada playing on the floor--since that photo, Ada Ruth has successfully turned one!  This weekend is the Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association's Common Ground Country Fair, with all kinds of neat talks, demonstrations, tasty foods, wonderful friends to meet up with and ideas for new projects (just what we need, right?).  Strep throat keeps me home writing blog entries, though.

News from the last couple weeks:
The 320-pound 2011 garlic crop is cleaned, graded, bagged, and ready to go.  (Let us know if you'd like to purchase German White seed garlic, bulbs size 2"+, for planting this fall, $12/lb). 

The onion harvest is drying on the hayloft floor, and some that weren't quite dead enough at harvest are turning their few leaves ceiling-wards in hopes of a few more days of sugar-storage.  Unfortunately, they're having a hard time photosynthesizing in that cavern and we are reminded of Monty Python and the Holy Grail: our little onions, after losing most of their roots in getting ripped from the soil and being bumped about and lugged into a dry, dark location are still screaming "I'm not dead yet!" and "It's only a flesh wound!"

The winter squash is also harvested and waiting on hay wagons for us to find a suitable curing spot for them, and the 1/3 acre planting yielded two full hay wagons, which we preliminarily have estimated to be about 3 tons or 6,000 pounds.  We sent a few hastily-chosen specimens to the Common Ground Fair and won prize ribbons on almost every one!

We're excitedly looking forward to the winter CSA and subscriptions have been coming in over the last couple of months.  We're not full to capacity yet, so if you'd like to be the lucky eater of luscious, sturdy vegetables this winter, be in touch with us.  We can't wait to feed our friends and neighbors.

And finally, yesterday our cow closest to pet status, Ella Rose, had her first calf, a heifer!  She then went on to suffer milk fever and a prolapsed uterus but the vet came out and put it all to rights, and it seems like everyone's doing well now.  [Bookworm's note: In the past month I have read three of the four James Herriot books: short autobiographical stories about vet work in Yorkshire, England.  I think Dad read them to me years ago, and they are just as intriguing as they were and haven't lost the cheesy closing line to each chapter.  But now I know that milk fever used to be treated by inflating the udder with a bicycle pump.  Yikes!?!?]  I haven't even seen the new babe yet, but she's sure to be a beauty. 

So, until next time...enjoy these beautiful days and eat your summer veggies while you got 'em!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ramblin' in the new mown hay

It's hay season! A smattering of photos to illustrate some of what that's like

Ground-driven PTO forecart (for tedding) and John Deere No. 4 Big sickle bar mower

Chain of...command? fools? Loose hay loader, Anna on hay wagon, Seth and Ada on the forecart, draft horses making it all go.

Tyler and Gib bringing in a full wagon-load.

The barn, filling up with loose hay

The sweetie herself

The gang: Tyler, Elsie, Andy, Gib, Pauravi, Ada, Anna and Seth! Thanks to our hard-working, humorous helpers on the farm.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A small collection of photos to give the feel of the farm these days:

High bush blueberries in pots, for sale.

Hazelnut "tubelings," now happily growing in the nursery along with baby American chestnuts, amelancher cherries, grapes, and all kinds of other tasty and interesting edibles.

A portrait of the garlic--we have about a quarter acre of it altogether.

My porta-farm. Hundreds of cabbages and other brassicas traveled to the farm via Volkswagen. Those little seedlings are now more a foot tall!

Beautiful Tyler and Elsie coming home from a star performance in Monroe's Memorial Day parade.

Milking Reagan, one of our six Milking Devons.

Barn reconstruction continues...

Gib's brilliant solar hot water heater. For some reason, it only works when the sun shines, but other than that it's awesome.

Crop mob (volunteer work party) came on July 3rd and helped mulched the acre of high bush blueberries.

Sadie's heifer calf. Of the five calves born, we have four heifers and a bull.

Good-bye from Ada, and all of us!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Planting season 2011

With blackfly season halfpast, all the seeds in the ground, and a half-inch of rain tumbled down to get them started, we're basically sitting around drinking lemonade and sunbathing. But when we're not busy doing that, we're weeding the garlic and blueberries, building and fixing horse equipment, waiting for calves to be born, deworming sheep, working on the barn roof and floor, doing chores, and plotting what we will do differently next year. So we're not exactly lollygagging around, but I, at least, have a little more time for contemplation than I have had over the past few weeks.

One "how did I get here?" moment hit me yesterday: sitting in the kitchen of a house on a farm in Maine of which I am part owner, pre-chewing boiled roadkill deer for my eight-month-old daughter who is standing on my lap, crowing at me, and driving a matchbox army tank across my face. There's a snapshot of life for you.

But to back up a couple of weeks, before the grass really started growing and when the cows were still in the barn, Tyler, April and May did a lot of chicken manure spreading in the pastures and hayfields. Here are a couple more shots of that activity.

Seth's Herculean task for the spring was twofold. With some skilled assistance he planted both one acre of high bush blueberries for a future pick-your-own patch (that's near on 800 blueberry bushes) and about four thousand young trees in his tree nursery.

The Demere great-grandparents are back in town!

...and the blackflies are vicious. The sun-hat-bug-net combo is effective but not popular with Ada Ruth, who has three tooths (and countless opinions).

The winter vegetable CSA planting is complete save 750 cabbages, 100 kale, and 50 broccoli that need to get transplanted out in two or three weeks. We've had a dry spell for the last week and a half and got the last of the seeds in the ground just as a thunderstorm opened up on us yesterday afternoon. Red and white onions, leeks and garlic are all growing well, as are celeriac, Brussels sprouts and a first round of kale, broccoli, and red cabbage. The winter squash; sweet, dry and pop corn; potatoes; carrots; beets; parsnips; rutabaga and dry beans should all be popping up out of the ground in the next week or so. In the home garden we recently transplanted out all our cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. Elsie's early plantings of spinach are getting big enough to eat and the lettuce is not far behind. Edible podded peas are also in the offing; rhubarb and asparagus seasons are coming to a close. As I walked down the driveway with Minh last week, he gave the perfect guided tour/summary of the season: "New spruce needles coming out. Sugar maples. Rasperries are blooming!" And this morning he and I checked out one more sign of the times: a big snapping turtle laying a nest of eggs, somewhat inconveniently, in Lucretia and Oai's pile of compost they purchased for their garden. So that's the word from the field, until next time.