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.