Saturday, November 17, 2012

North Branch Farm Stand, Thanksgiving Edition

I'm here with a shameless marketing ploy, so I hope those of you far away can see it as news of the farm, and those of you close by can spread the word!  Here goes...

Why go to the supermarket when you could come to North Branch Farm?  Our farm stand is open now through Wednesday, November 21, so come on over for a turkey and everything to keep it company on the Thanksgiving table!

Find us at 122 Stream Road in Monroe for winter squash, onions, garlic, cabbage, carrots, leeks, herbs, Fuzzy Udder Creamery cheeses made with our milk, locally grown and freshly milled oats, and dry beans in six varieties!  Turkeys grown organically by Lucretia and Oai on Stovepipe Alley are available by pre-order, as are apple, pumpkin and blueberry pies (fresh, or frozen for travel!) baked by Elsie.  Also available by pre-order or by luck: licensed raw milk and cream from our heritage Devon cows, 10 lb boxes of frozen organic wild blueberries from Montville and 14 oz bags of frozen organic cranberries from Ellsworth.

Open daily on the honor system from 6:30am-8pm.  Call Five-two-five-3323 or email northbranchfarm(dot)monroe(at)gmail(dot)com with questions or to pre-order.  Pre-orders should be in by noon on Tuesday.  Thanks, and enjoy!

Piglets on their second day, born three weeks ago

The Yentes-Quinn house, only a day or so away from being fully shingled!

Over 2000 trees and fruiting plants were dug and sent to the Fedco Trees warehouse last week!

The Shapley-Quinn/Gilbert/Apprentice Cabin on its way to livability

Monday, September 24, 2012

First Frost, Etc.

We've had some blazingly brilliant days and cool nights here on the farm, with our first light, patchy frost just a week ago.  Fall is a time I am both excited and relieved by every year, and I'm glad to see it's here again.  Just in time to save us from our ridiculously prolific tomatoes!  Late blight and frost pulled the old one-two on those solanums, and now all that's left are some fat brandywines slowly going soft on the windowsill.

North Branch Farm is in a bit of a frost pocket, so when the weather forecast for Monroe says the night will be clear and 42 degrees or lower, we assume we'll get a touch of frost.  And if there's anything winter squash doesn't like, it's just that.  Last Sunday, we harvested our entire squash crop--about two-thirds of an acre--in a day.

Crates of Red Kuri in the field

The last of three wagonloads of squash

Half of our harvest crew: Seth, Kirsten, Willie, Clayton, Timmy, and Katya
Last week we also opened our North Branch Farm stand, right in front of the farm, where we sell all our standard fall crops along with some leafy greens and fresh herbs and any other home garden items we have in surplus.  In a month from now, we'll be selling at two farmers' markets--the Bangor European Market, Saturday 9:30-1 on Buck St; and the Ellsworth Woodlawn Market, from 11-2 on Sundays, so we've been gearing up for that as well.  We hope to see some of you there!

Monday, August 27, 2012

August's Closing Shop

Time flies when you're working hard...sometimes you forget to eat lunch, or pee, or even (astonishingly) write a blog entry.  But the farm is still here, and thriving on the whole.  We are deeply grateful to Kerstin and Katya, our apprentices this season, for the many hours of hard labor they have put in on the farm.

Before I go farther, I want to formally invite all blog readers to our annual pig roast, co-hosted at our place by North Branch, Artisan Builders, and First Light Community Midwives.  It is on Saturday, September 8th at 3 pm and it is a potluck (don't bring pork) family-friendly event, with hay rides, music, and fun.  We hope many of you can make it, and feel free to contact us here or on our facebook page if you need more details.

We are actually coming to the end of an interesting time in the vegetables and fruits right now, when we mainly watch, wait, weed, and water.  This slight grace period in the cultivated crops coincides beautifully with hay-making, and when that’s not going on we have endless lists to fill the time between morning and evening milkings.  We’ve moved firewood, worked on building a small cabin, frozen green beans, made sauerkraut, canned salsa, bud-grafted 4000 fruit trees, fenced in tens of acres of new pasture, treated mastitis infections, hosted an ultimate frisbee game and cook-out, planned a field trip to the Blue Hill peninsula, broken and repaired my camera (one excuse for the dearth of activity here), had our weekly meetings, and even gotten the veggies and fruits certified organic by MOFGA!

Now for the photos:
A view of our farm, looking south from the new cabin.

The milking parlor

Tyler, a blissful milker

Our new Massey 80 hp tractor

Frida the Brown Swiss, on loan to us for three months.

Elsie filtering milk.
Additional feline news:

We are the new adopted family of a burly gray cat named Scottie who has come to help us with our rodent problems.  Mere days after Scottie came to live at the farm, we found a scrawny, loud little kitten scrunched under the edge of our outhouse.  What shall we do with the little lass?  She's crawling with fleas, and seems to need a home!  We're feeding and housing her for now, and waiting to see how she and Scottie get on.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fence-Building etc.

It's July 15th, and the crops are in!  We just have some late successions of lettuce, pac choi and the like to get in over the next couple months.  Potato planting this year was a speedy group effort: dig a shallow trench with a wheel hoe, band in fish meal and sul-po-mag, plant whole sprouty potatoes, and then cover them up with the same wheel hoe.

Gib cleaning up during potato planting.

Elsie and Ada cleaning up on stunning-ness during potato planting.

Anna (that's me) seeding pelleted carrot seed with a double gang Earthway seeder.  Didn't work so well.

Anna on the double gang seeder and Chris on the single to complete the 3-row bed.

Crops and barnyard around the summer solstice.

Tyler walking through the orchard.
On June 23rd we had a fence-building party to really get things kicked off, and get those deer moving out of the orchard and away from their young apple trees snacking.  To prepare, Seth dug many of the post holes with a borrowed post hole auger that hooked on to our Kioti tractor, and Seth and Tyler hauled and put into position many of the cedar posts they had cut from the woods surrounding the orchard.
Touching up a hole by hand.

Setting the posts

The first run of posts, heading north along the east side of the orchard

Setting up for the gate, the last posts to go in.

Trusty post hole digger

The last run of posts, heading east along the south side of the orchard

A few days after the fence started going up, our two apprentices for the season arrived: Kerstin and Katya.  They are amazing, hard-working, and great company.  Thanks to them, we have caught up on a lot of farm work that had been neglected and things are looking beautiful.  Now, for a little more rain!?!?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In the news...

Hey Everyone-
Check out the Bangor Daily News feature that came out yesterday, June 12, 2012,  about North Branch Farm:

Things are going blazingly well here on the farm, with the usual setbacks to keep us humble and in check.  Deer have discovered the young apple trees in the new orchard and are making tasty snacks out of them while we race to cut cedar fence posts for an eight-foot deer fence around the whole six-acre block.  In the shuffle of farm priorities, we neglected to cover our delicate home garden crops--zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, melons, and eggplant--with row cover, and they have been decimated by squash beetles and flea beetles in a matter of a few days.  We sprayed them and will cover them today, and hopefully they'll be able to recover to give our apprentices and us some food this summer.  The only other bad news of note is that one of our calves was very sick--we figured out it was a selenium deficiency (our soils, like most in this area, have no selenium at all) and got him an injection of selenium, and he seems to be recovering well though he will probably be at least partially blind for life.

We got our 30 laying hen chicks and 40 meat bird chicks out into chicken tractors this week, and they are happily chomping grass, clover, and bugs along with their organic chicken grain pellets.  Ada's not the only one who likes to eat chicken feed!
Meat chicks on pasture
People started stopping by the farm yesterday after seeing the BDN article, to tell us about it and to chat, and we thought, "Okay, now we need a sign, even a temporary one..."  This has been in the works for the last month or so, but one thing led to another and before long we had a massive, eleven foot high cedar structure (not so temporary), and a sign that will hopefully be replaced within the year with something more permanent and artful.
North Branch Farm goes public

The vegetable crops are doing great so far this year--brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts) are looking healthy, alliums (onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks) are sturdy, solanums (tomatoes and peppers) are loving the sunshine, and one of our new and exciting crops, sweet potatoes, is settling in nicely.  We have yet to plant the root crops, and the winter squash is seeded but not sprouted yet.  The annual crop of quackgrass is not as bad as in previous years, but we still have our fair share.
Ada and Seth killing quackgrass.
We're in the thick of preparing the milkroom so that we can be state-licensed to sell milk.  We basically emptied the existing milkroom and started fresh: painted the walls a sunny yellow, rewired and plumbed the whole things, installed an electric hot water heater, and bought and installed new stainless steel hand-washing and milk-equipment-washing sinks.  The vacuum system is also functioning, and Tyler's gradually training the cows, starting with the Jerseys, to be milked with a Surge belly-milker (photo from
In fact, I just heard the vacuum pump turn off; morning chores must be moving along!  The cows themselves are a little ahead of schedule, and Tyler and Crew are milking six cows right now, mostly by hand.  Elsie has taken on the noble, labor-intensive work of milk processing.  She has put up many pounds of fresh, yellow, I-can't-believe-I-can't-stop-eating-it butter, hand-churned in her vintage Dazey churn.  She also bought a wine cooler to function as a mini cheese cave, and has already begun to fill it with wheels of cheese: Parmesan, cheddar, Caerphilly, and more.

It's raining today, but it will be busy nonetheless.  The list of rainy day options is endless.  We could repair a tractor, spread beneficial nematodes to control wireworms, kill and butcher a sheep whose time has come, work on the milkroom, clean, clean, clean, and more...

Thank you all for your continued support, near and far, and we hope we get to see you or hear from you soon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Good, happy Cinco de Junio!

We have been like busy bees and busy beavers here at North Branch Farm, but my camera is not up-to-date on the happenings so there may be a shortage of visual evidence to back up my claims; judge for yourself if they are true...

Plowing the vegetable field, one luscious furrow at a time.
We prepped what we estimate to be one and three-quarters acres of vegetable ground this year, and it's slightly less than half full at the moment.  Yet to go in the ground are squash, carrot, beet, rutabaga, parsnip, root parsley, popcorn, sweet corn, and dry bean seeds, as well as potatoes, the leafy greens for fall and winter and some late storage cabbages.  Already planted in the field are more cabbages, pac choi, Brussels sprouts, onions, leeks, shallots, celeriac, kohlrabi, parsley, basil, rosemary, tomatoes, and hot peppers!

Cabbage seedlings in the greenhouse.

Nine third-graders from the local Waldorf school spent two nights here on the farm with us in May, and we had a great time with them...playing, working, cooking, eating fiddleheads, and more.
The fullest full moon we'll see for a while.

Cabbages on the move!
The cow update is that of eight mama cows, seven of whom we plan to milk, five have calved and are doing great.  Tyler and crew are racing to get the milkroom licensed so that we can start selling our delicious milk to the Fuzzy Udder Creamery.  Every animal is out on pasture except one pig, busy rooting up barn stalls, the newborn calves, and two adult male sheep who would cause problems and pregnancies if they were out with their kin.  We can hardly believe it's really June, because we've had chilly, wood-stove-wanting weather and 3+ inches of rain this week.  The visiting season has commenced, so if you're coming to Maine, call us up and pay us a visit.

Sales plug of the day: High bush blueberry plants are $15/each, potted and ready to plant.  CSA shares are $365 for 18 weeks of abundant vegetables.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Mission Orchard Accomplished.

Some of you may know we spent last weekend tucking hundreds (440-ish, to be more specific) of fruit trees, mainly apple with some pears and cherries thrown in, into the brand new North Branch Orchard.  The week preceding orchard-fest was a marathon of using, breaking, borrowing, and repairing equipment: tractors, chippers, plows, disk harrows, and our bodies.  It was a close shave, but by the time a crew of about twenty showed up to lend a strong hand on Saturday morning, we were ready for them.  Here, after a cute opening photo of our newest lamb, is a series of photos from the orchard-planting party, shot mostly by Chris Yentes and MK Shapley-Quinn.

Lamb #2 of 2012, a hefty little guy

Orchard Prep Checklist
Step 1: Graft trees, grow in nursery, dig and store in basement.
Step 2: Plan a fenceline. 
Step 3: Fell all trees dead near or leaning towards fenceline.

Step 4: Haul off logs and chip brush for mulch from felled trees.

Step 5: Put chips on high bush blueberries.

More chipping.

After step 6, plowing and disking the orchard site, comes step 7: planting party!!!

Women labeling trees.

Tree planting lesson.

Trees ready to go in the ground.

Tyler doing last minute disking in the orchard's Moody plot.

Cousins sleeping.
The crew on cider break, day one.

Last tree goes in the ground!

Victorious!  The crew, day 2.
Thank you so much to all who helped with this wild endeavor.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April Fool's and beyond

Friends, Neighbors and Family!

Three short weeks ago, on April 1st, 2012, the Gawler parents arrived to set us and our barn roof straight.  Equipped with safety gear of all kinds, they inspired us (once again!) to be more cautious on the job--and more lighthearted--as John whipped out the milk room roof while Ellen landscaped and cooked a hearty meal.
The bare essentials of metal roofing personal gear: hard hats, safety goggles, fire extinguishers and first aid kits.
Barn roof rescue squad and OSHA inspectors

Our newest calf, a bull, born to the second Canadian Jersey

Onions & Elsie on March 31st

Onions on April 3rd

Seth's grafting set-up

Our enchanted farm!