Saturday, February 23, 2013


Uploading photos from my camera today, I noticed the color theme was overwhelmingly gray, which seems to be oftentimes what February is like in these years of climate change.  I hear tell that this part of Maine used to be white clear into April, but not so in the few short years since I landed here.   We go on trying to check things off our lists and look forward to forecasts of snow (a meager 1-3 inches are due here in the next 24 hours).

With March just around the corner, we are getting our seedling greenhouse set up in order to start thousands of leeks, onions and shallots.  Ada's here with me as I type, and has been an amazing young person to be around--she turned two and a half yesterday and I could brag on her endlessly.  But really, you should just come visit us and see for yourself.  I think that, all in all, we're gearing up for an exciting, productive, and thoughtful year of growing both in our farm enterprise and in our whole-farm picture.  We're hiring someone to help us plan a layout for many of the possible future infrastructure components on the farm, and we're dedicating more of our resources towards soil and forest improvement.

Here are a few photos from around the farm:

Seth next to the 4-ton capacity grain bin

Aged Brussels sprouts standing strong, but not that palatable, in the field

The nursery trees, dormant and waiting for another summer of grafting and growing.

Farm equipment also lies dormant at all scales
A glimpse of spring arrived from North Carolina by post!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Lunar Year

Yesterday we had a farm meeting with the four of us farmers--Tyler, Elsie, Seth and I--where it was brought up once again that the North Branch Farm blog has been neglected.  We're going to try to get back on track.  One picture for each month since the last post:

Lettuce, mache, pac choi and spinach in our unheated winter greenhouse (November)

Pork sausages hung in the smokehouse: andouille, bratwurst, hot italian, chorizo, and Seth's "liver perfection medley"

Yukon and Ada in a snow cave after last weekend's nor'easter (Nemo?)
We've had all kinds of adventures in the last few months.   In the bovine realm, Tyler and Elsie started drying off the dairy herd in mid-December, which took a couple of weeks, but the humans and cows have had a break from lactational work for the last month and a half.  The cows aren't due to calf out until late May or June, but at that point we'll have 6 or more little calves running about and we'll be swimming in milk once again.

Our herd of Coopworth and Romney sheep are wintering over in the barn and are due for their little ones in April.  We had a hard lambing season last time around, so we're hoping for more and healthier lambs this year out of our eleven ewes.

The seven piglets that were born last fall are four months old now and doing great, living off of a lot of rotten squash and other culled vegetables in addition to their daily grain rations.  They do eat a lot of grain though, and--forseeing their appetite and all the other hungry animals on the farm--we are in the midst of assembling and installing a 4.2 ton-capacity grain silo so that we can get regular deliveries of bulk pelleted organic grain from Maine Organic Milling Cooperative in Auburn, ME.  We're quite excited about supporting this relatively new cooperative business, reducing the amount of packaging coming onto the farm, and getting a better price for high quality feed for our critters.  We're also hoping we can resell grain to folks in our neighborhood who want to buy organic grain without all that packaging but who don't have their own grain bin.

The vegetable operation seems to have been a rollicking success, and it feels like we've just passed a natural "new year" in that area.  Our winter vegetable CSA had its last pick-up on February 7th, and I ordered seeds for this years' vegetables the very next day.  We still have a fair amount of vegetables lingering in the basement--especially rutabaga and celeriac--which we could sell, but most of it we'll eat ourselves until we can start harvesting fresh food out of the greenhouse and the garden again.  We ended up our CSA season with 51 members (our goal was 50), and my most heartfelt thanks go out to all of them.  We also sold to numerous other venues, including Crown o' Maine Organic Cooperative, the Natural Living Center in Bangor, the Ampersand Store in Orono, the Belfast Co-op, Fresh off the Farm in Rockport, and to restaurants including The Lost Kitchen, Francine Bistro, Shepherd's Pie, Natalie's, Waterfront, and Fresh.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, for purchasing and eating seasonal, organic, delicious produce!  Your body thanks you too.

Coming right around the corner is the beginning of the fruit tree season.  After sending a few thousand trees off to the Fedco Trees warehouse last November, things have pretty much been on hiatus in tree world.  But!  Pruning time is now, and not long after that is bench grafting season (late March-early April) and not long after that is tree planting time!  One goal for this year is to have a tractor-drawn tree-planter to save our backs and our time.  Nothing like a little metal fabrication project with a fast-approaching deadline to really make you feel crazy.

I think that's the news.  Enjoy, and stay warm.