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.