IMG_1103What a wild ride so far this spring. If I could distill all of my big and small decisions from a farm season more and more I would find all I think about is weather. Its always been the great unknowable for any farmer but for the past few seasons, especially in the spring, mother nature has gone manic. So much of running a farm relies on general predictability. It takes a lettuce seed 5-7 days to germinate and another 3-4 weeks in the greenhouse before we can plant it out and another 45-50 days in the field before we can harvest it as a full head. If the lettuce stopped following these dates or stopped and started growing erratically we would have a very hard time keeping salad greens in your share week after week.

IMG_1148Spring has always been the most erratic season. The sun gets higher and the days get longer, slowly pushing the cold out of the ground and allowing the air above to stay warm even when the sun goes down. This process of warming the greatest insulator (the soil) is a battle and all of that warm and cold energy mixes into volatile expression of wind and air pressure, pulling in weather from Canada one day and Alabama the next. Our snowstorm this past week is a perfect example. The crew was in t-shirts on Monday and we all huddled in the greenhouse on Tuesday watching the snow pile on in disbelief.

Luckily we have a really great crew this year. Kristin and Corrine have returned and with their experience here are hitting the ground running.  We have two top-notch apprentices, Hannah and Virginia, and hourly staff including Anne who has been with us for a several weeks already and Emma due to start next week. With a team like this we can do anything!

Empty BarnsIMG_8148

The biggest change for us in the past six months has been the absence of our sheep. Selling the flock has given us more time for family and a quieter winter. But we miss them. The barns are quiet (parked tractors do not bleat and require no daily care). We also miss seeing our friend and partner in the sheep business Tom Settlemire. We moved Tom’s flock to this farm back in 2005 and began ten years together raising healthy, happy lambs on the farm’s pastures. Tom mentored me in the process of raising animals and shared a lifetime of knowledge along with his daily good cheer and enthusiasm for everything agricultural. He just returned from some snowbird travel out west and we hope we get to see him even when there isn’t work to do (or better yet, create some work for him to do).

New Food

Dairy-e1398111098578We have been busy the past month partnering with many local food producers to bring a smorgasbord of possible farm share add-ons. In addition to organic eggs and Maine mushrooms we also have artisan bread IMG_1119from Standard Baking in Portland, organic yogurt from Wholesome Homestead in Winthrop, Maine. We are still working on a cheese share which we hope to have ready for sign-up next week. All of these Maine products are, in our opinion, outstanding and they pair up with our produce to make summer meals even more of a celebration. For more info on these add-on shares and to sign up follow this link.

Let the Sun Shine

In the next month we hope to break ground on our next big step in farm sustainability. The front pasture will soon hold enough solar panels to meet close to 100% of the farm’s electrical need. We have been working on this effort since last summer along with a group of committed friends of the farm. Our solar array will be a net-metering solar farm, producing energy every time the sun shines and dumping that power back on the grid, producing a credit against our electric bill. We were able to make this work using the economy of scale, teaming up with several other Brunswick residents and building solar array that is large enough to support the power needs of not just the farm but seven other households. Our part of the investment in the array will be paid for over the next 10-12 years and was made possible through some creative financing and generous donations. Soon the sun will not only grown your produce but help keep it cool by pumping water to our washing station and running our coolers!

Farm Camp

IMG_3725Crystal Spring Farm Camp has a few spaces available for all sessions!  If you know any interested families please send them our way!

Kids get their hands in the dirt and participate in many stages of growing vegetables and caring for farm animals.  We also play games, cook, create art, and explore the trails and woods.  See the farm camp webpage for more info.

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

Well the longest fall in my memory has made a quick turn the past few weeks. The unusually warm weather in November and December kept us outside working on projects and doing clean-up. But this means we are way behind on office stuff like seed orders, taxes, field planning and the like. Luckily, like real winter is here so no excuses!

IMG_0509Giving a farmer in New England an extra month of warm, snow free weather is overwhelming. We didn’t know what to do first or just how long the clear days would last. After we planted the garlic the second week of November we settled down and got organized. Kristin spent almost an entire week flail mowing pasture and hay land, knocking down dead growth that will keep next years hay clean and highIMG_0491 quality while I tore out the rotting wooden side boards and end wall of our seedling greenhouse and replaced them with new lumber. I also stained and prepped some beautiful pine to finally (after 12 years) finish out the inside of the CSA barn. Add to this a few days of barn clean out, massive potting soil delivery, some machinery repair and the month of December went by very quickly.

IMG_0535The Time to Jump in is Now…

Thank you for joining us for another season of organic produce!  We have had a record number sign ups so far for 2016.  Memberships that come in during the winter help us save money and time by allowing us to make our orders of seeds, soil, and supplies early and and at a discount.  If you haven’t signed up yet, please do. We will run out of shares!  You can go to a link on our website or  follow the links here for Brunswick or Delivered shares.

Payment Plan February Payment Due

On that note, it is also time for February payments for those of you on our winter payment plan. For on-farm Brunswick members this payment is $155. For delivered share members this payment is $85. Here’s a link to our payment form but you can also find it on our website (green “make a payment” button on the right). Remember you will need your member number to make a payment (look for the confirmation email that followed your deposit in the fall). If you have paid in full we thank you!

Real Men Don’t Eat…

We know you’ve been wondering what Tom, Gisele, and their kids eat.  For those of you who missed this short article, they are huge fans of organic vegetables…I mean if Tom and Gisele are doing it, it must be good. Pat yourselves on your back, we are on to something here folks. Go Pats!

Big Changes…

IMG_6639After eleven years we decided this fall to sell off our sheep flock. While we loved these animals and will miss them on a daily basis we came to the conclusion that we needed more time for family. This is especially true in the winter months when daily care and lambing during subzero temps and frequent blizzards could often take the entire day (and night). Like all changes on the farm it will take an entire season to make and understand but for now we are enjoying some extra time. More than half of our flock went to Kris Coleman’s farm in Yarmouth and we hope to be able to continue offer her lamb for sale starting this fall.

Not having sheep on the farm will mean a couple of major changes to the farm’s production systems.  For one, without animals to harvest the grass from our pastures we will be cutting a lot more hay and silage to sell.  We are looking for new customers for these products. Another concern is on the other end (pun intended) of sheep — manure. We have leaned heavily on 30-40 yards of compost made from sheep bedding each winter and another 100 yards of raw manure these animals would leave on the pastures. The fertility of the farm has been built around having animals and we are now having to adapt to new systems without them. A big part of our new plan is the relationship we have with local breweries Maine Beer Company and Allagash Brewing Company.  Both of them provide us with various waste products from the brewing process that include grain, yeast, and hops. We have been experimenting with these products and believe that they, if used in combination with green fallow periods, can help us to continue the farm’s growth in fertility.

Whats New in 2016

In addition to our popular egg and mushroom add-on shares we will also be offering a yogurt and cheese share from our friends at Wholesome Holmstead. Incredible farmstead yogurt and an delectable line-up of cheeses that will rotate each week. This is the yogurt that we sold here at the end of last season to rave reviews.  We are working out the details now and will let you know when sign-ups are available!

We are also planning a late fall vegetable share. This will be every other week for the months of November and December with greens, squash and roots. This first year we are offering this as a Brunswick pick-up option but hope to offer delivery to Portland area in the future. Price and produce list to follow soon!

We are thrilled to have our assistant manager Kristin returning for another season with us.  She and I have been hard at work on the field plan for the coming year and have several new varieties of tomatoes, peppers, flowers, squash, asian choi/greens and cabbage to grow for you this year.  Each winter the process of looking over our harvest records, sifting through academic reviews, and reading multiple seed catalogs consumes us for weeks. I still remember lettuce varieties I grew in California twenty years ago (some of which I still grow in Maine). This process is still fun for me and when we boil down everything we do, selecting the varieties we grow is the most important.

Here’s to spring and fresh produce!

 

 

IMG_0472 3 IMG_0471 3 IMG_0473 3The last week of the farm season has arrived and we have a lot of food for you. Please be prepared and bring bags, boxes and helpers. Potatoes, winter squash and onions are the big crops but we have more carrots, cabbage, and greens to fill your chiller drawers as well. This final week is always a decathlon of sorts for me and the crew. We work these shortening days that are bookended by frost, harvesting the last leaves and roots. Hauling full trucks up from the fields we wash, sort and organize these hardy crops putting together our last work of the year and what we hope will be some great meals for you in the weeks to come.

Thanks for being a member of the farm this year. Your willingness to travel through a farm season with us, eating our way from spring to fall is what makes this farm thrive. We will rest and rebuild for another season and we hope to see you again next June.

Dirty Potatoes

Your spuds this week are unwashed. The reason is that they store better without the handling it takes to wash them. A quick rinse in the sink with a brush or the palm of your hand and they will glow.

Spring and the 2016 season is coming…

Many thanks to all of you who have signed up for 2016 already. Throwing your hat in with us now makes a huge difference for us as we plan our way towards another great season. Those who sign up now can take full advantage of our winter payment plan (not to mention its just done – and you don’t have to remember to do it later!). Your share is great value of fresh organic food that you know is grown well. Joining early allows us to work hard over the winter so we all can have the produce that makes our Maine summer taste so good. Click here for Brunswick Shares and here for Portland Delivered Shares

Pumpkins for Pigs
Pumpkins for Pigs

Recycle your halloween pumpkins and make some pigs happy at the same time! Drop your pumpkins in the big bin at the end of the driveway starting Sunday morning and know they are going to good use!

Fill the Freezer

Buy five packages of our ground Lamb, Beef or Pork at $5 off our regular price. There’s nothing like local meat during the cold dark months…

Crystal Spring Honey

We have farm honey available at pick-up. This is from the hives in our fields that are managed by our friend Ken Faulkner. Great for what ails you and pretty good on toast too.

Last chance to sign up for…Pork

Bacon, ribs, chops; need I same more?  Halves and wholes will be processed and ready for your freezer right before Thanksgiving. We will have more info on how to order pork at CSA pick-up, shoot us an email or click here for the digital version.

What’s in the Share?

Potatoes

Winter Squash

Kale

Carrots/Beets

Onions

Brussels Sprouts

Kohlrabi

Spinach

Cabbage

 

IMG_0469

Change of seasons arrived with a vengeance this weekend with killing frosts three nights in a row. Sunday night was the coldest here with a low of 23 degrees. The flowers in the upic field were all burnt by cold and while we had some loss of greens in the field the vast majority of the greens and roots look great and will only taste better. The few cold nights we have had up until now have kickstarted these cold hardy plants to convert starches to sugars. The sugars dissolve into the water in the plants cells and the freezing temp of the water goes down, protecting the cells from freezing. Of course if we get really cold temps (below 20) this even the sweetest vegetables will freeze, but until then we can continue to enjoy some of the best produce of the year.

IMG_0467Parsnips

In the carrot family, these white roots are amazing when roasted. Here’s a few recipes….

Renew Your Share for 2016

Many thanks to all of you who have signed up for 2016 already. Throwing your hat in with us now makes a huge difference for us as we plan our way towards another great season. Those who sign up now can take full advantage of our winter payment plan (not to mention its just done – and you don’t have to remember to do it later!). Your share is great value of fresh organic food that you know is grown well. Joining early allows us to work hard over the winter so we all can have the produce that makes our Maine summer taste so good. Click here for Brunswick Shares and here for Portland Delivered Shares

Fill the Freezer

Buy five packages of our ground Lamb, Beef or Pork at $5 off our regular price. There’s nothing like local meat during the cold dark months…

Crystal Spring Honey

We have farm honey available at pick-up. This is from the hives in our fields that are managed by our friend Ken Faulkner. Great for what ails you and pretty good on toast too.

Pork for the Winter

Bacon, ribs, chops; need I same more?  We will have more info on how to order pork at CSA pick-up, shoot us an email or click here for the digital version.

What’s in the Share?

Sweet potatoes

Delicata Squash

Asian Greens

Kale

Chard

Potatoes

Carrots

Parsnips

Onions

Shallots

 

IMG_0459

October is unknowable, at least until we get here. Each year we plant spinach, lettuce mix, tatsoi, etc. in abundance, gambling on the weather for these last few weeks of the CSA. Warm days with rain once a week and nights that don’t turn cold too fast are perfect. Without the extremes all of these crops keep growing and sweeten up in the cool. If stays dry and or we get night temps that crash well below freezing the leaves burn and we are out the cost of seed (and the chance to keep the share diverse in the last weeks). Most of the time this bet pays off an we have some of our best greens of the year and it looks like this year was a good one take the risk.

How Do I Store All this Food…

If you are wondering how to keep the roots and squash in your share around this fall and beyond we have lots of advice on our vegetable storage guide page…

When is the Last Harvest?

Our last share will be the week of October 26th. That means there are 2 weeks of produce after this one.

Renew Your Share for 2016

Many thanks to all of you who have signed up for 2016 already. Throwing your hat in with us now makes a huge difference for us as we plan our way towards another great season. Those who sign up now can take full advantage of our winter payment plan (not to mention its just done – and you don’t have to remember to do it later!). Your share is great value of fresh organic food that you know is grown well. Joining early allows us to work hard over the winter so we all can have the produce that makes our Maine summer taste so good. Click here for Brunswick Shares and here for Portland Delivered Shares

Crystal Spring Honey

We have farm honey available at pick-up. This is from the hives in our fields that are managed by our friend Ken Faulkner. Great for what ails you and pretty god on toast too.

Pork for the Winter

Bacon, ribs, chops; need I same more?  We will have more info on how to order pork at CSA pick-up, shoot us an email or click here for the digital version.

What’s in the Share?

Radishes

Sweet potatoes

Beets

Red Cabbage

Acorn/Sweet Dumpling Squash

Asian Greens

Kale

Chard

Leeks

Potatoes

Carrots

What’s in Upic?

Flowers

 

Late season onions are built for long season storage in cold dry conditions. A garage or proch that doesn’t freeze will keep them for months. The chiller drawer in the fridge will do well too if you keep them in a bag as well. Beware Aware the strong flavor of onions will flavor things stored around them. Potatoes, carrots, etc. will taste like onions if you keep them together without a barrier (plastic bag).

 

Carrots, parsnips, potatoes and beets all do well stored in your refrigerator. Pack them tightly in a plastic bag. If you are not going to be pulling a few out every week don’t seal the bag tightly (they need a little fresh air occasionally). The back of your fridge down low or in the crisper drawers are generally a good spot.

 

Keep your squash somewhere cool (55-60 degrees) and dry  where there isnt alot of airflow. A heated foyer, closet on an exterior wall or very dry basement are all good spots.

Winter squash can be divived into two storage groups:

-Short term varieties (enjoy before the New Year):

  • Delicata, acorn, sweet dumpling

-Long term varieties (can be kept until March):

  • Butternut
  • Kabocha (turban style)
  • Red Kuri
 

IMG_0446 copyWe have been digging potatoes in earnest this week and with yields that are quite good considering the Gobi desert-like conditions of August and September. The 3/4 acre that we plant into spuds each year is not large by Maine farm standards but it does yield us about 20,000 pounds each season, and harvesting them is a significant task.  To make the job easier we have a machine that lifts the tubers from the soil and lays them out on top of the ground for the crew to then pick up into crates.  The digger is vital as we would kill ourselves if we tried to harvest with forks by hand. Each winter I go through all of our machines and fix things we have broken or worn out the previous year. Sometimes I get the chance to do deep repairs (this is my term for work that goes beyond the problem I know the tool has) other times I just get to the obvious problem.  Sometimes we break something during the season that we need desperately and everything stops (at least for the head mechanic, i.e. me) and I have to get deep when I don’t have the time or the brain power.  This spring we were using our potato digger to dig rocks in the upic field (rocks can be lifted just like spuds) and we broke an axel that is part of the drive system.  Being spring, I did not stop everything and fix the digger but instead kept on with the cascade of other tasks and parked the broken machine in the corner of the field and promptly forgot about it. That is until about 3 weeks ago when I started thinking about potatoes.IMG_0447 copy

Our potato digger is old. I bought it out of an old barn in Fort Fairfield (across the river from Caribou) many years ago. It is by no means the oldest machine we own but I always assumed that it had been digging spuds in Maine at least before the age of disco. Old machines are like old houses – they look simple to fix but when you get into a repair you find yourself wishing you could just afford to buy a brand new one. The broken drive axle was 1.25″ square (not a common dimension) and when it broke it had taken out 2 of the 4 bearings that allow it to turn. The axel was a custom order and the bearings had to come from Texas and were not cheap, especially since I ordered replacements for all four of them. If you are going to take something apart, replace everything you can (this is the rule of deep repair). While waiting for my parts I spent a few hours taking the machine apart, cutting rusted bolts and fighting to remove steel rivets that were holding various things together. When I had the new stuff in hand it all went back together pretty easily and we still had a couple days before potato digging was to start. Murphy’s Law is as central to farm machinery as gravity so I gave my repairs a trial run. I hooked up to a tractor and filled up the tires on the digger. It was a hot day and as I added air one tire exploded. I took a step back. Both tires looked awful, old and worn. I pulled off the wheels and brought them to my tire guy. In trying to locate replacements he found out that the old tires were last available in 1964 (decidedly pre-disco) and also noted that the inside of the rims were heavily rusted and the holes where the valves come out were so jagged they would pop a new tube. I went and got the rims, ground off the rust, welded washers into the valve holes and repainted them. The tires were not in stock so while the rims were off I repacked the wheel hubs with grease. All told I put about 10 unexpected hours into this vital tool and have been working it ever since. Hopefully I can have a few extra hours reading by the fire this winter in exchange.

Renew Your Share for 2016

Many thanks to all of you who have signed up for 2016 already. Throwing your hat in with us now makes a huge difference for us as we plan our way towards another great season. Those who sign up now can take full advantage of our winter payment plan (not to mention its just done – and you don’t have to remember to do it later!). Your share is great value of fresh organic food that you know is grown well. Joining early allows us to work hard over the winter so we all can have the produce that makes our Maine summer taste so good. Click here for Brunswick Shares and here for Portland Delivered Shares

Pork for the Winter

Bacon, ribs, chops; need I same more?  We will have more info on how to order pork at CSA pick-up, shoot us an email or click here for the digital version.

What’s in the Share?

Butternut Squash

Celeriac

Asian Greens

Lettuce

Arugula

Kale

Chard

Red Onions

Potatoes

Carrots

What’s in Upic?

Flowers

 

 

IMG_0439
I went to sleep on Friday night thinking about a lot of things (kids soccer games, potato harvest, laundry -just to name a few). A killing frost was not even in my top 50. All forecasts during the week were for a stunning weekend (great soccer weather). Saturday morning I was up early to water and move sheep and repack the wheel hubs on the potato digger. I looked out across the pasture as the sun rose and knew I was in trouble. The light patches on the grass were frost and I immediately thought of just one thing -sweet potatoes. If it had been two weeks earlier my anxiety would have been diffused among many crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and tomatillos but all of these summer crops are done, leaving only one potential victim.

IMG_0440Sweet potatoes are a true snow bird crop for us. The green shoots arrive by mail from Tennessee each June and we hurriedly harvest them before it gets frosty, never to few the cold. When that southern box arrives in the spring we rush them into the ground laid with black plastic for warmth. Most years we can harvest them before the September equinox but this year we put that off. Hoping a warm fall and some rain would bulk these tubers up, they were on our list to harvest next week. That is until Saturday morning. Sweet potatoes are in the same family as the morning glory and are sensitive to frost is a way few other crops are. When the cold comes their leaves turn black like most sensitive plants but the vines also begin to decay quickly and release a chemical that can travel into the tubers and cause them to rot very quickly. Nothing is so painful as loosing a crop below ground.

We were able to harvest about half of the crop yesterday and cut the vines from the remaining tubers. While not our best harvest this looks like a solid crop -in spite of the change in the weather.

Adirondack Reds

Our first real potatoes in your share are adirondack reds. These are great all-purpose potato with red skin and red flesh. No better excuse to turn on the oven than a raining cold day and a few potatoes to roast. More varieties to come in the next few weeks!

Renew Your Share for 2016

Many thanks to all of you who have signed up for 2016 already. Throwing your hat in with us now makes a huge difference for us as we plan our way towards another great season. Those who sign up now can take full advantage of our winter payment plan (not to mention its just done – and you don’t have to remember to do it later!). Your share is great value of fresh organic food that you know is grown well. Joining early allows us to work hard over the winter so we all can have the produce that makes our Maine summer taste so good. Click here for Brunswick Shares and here for Portland Delivered Shares

Pork for the Winter

Bacon, ribs, chops; need I same more?  We will have more info on how to order pork at CSA pick-up, shoot us an email or click here for the digital version.

What’s in the Share?

Sugar Dumpling Squash

Asian Greens

Lettuce

Arugula

Kale

Chard

Red Onions

Cabbage

Potatoes

Carrots

What’s in Upic?

Edamame

Flowers

Cherry Tomatoes

Tomatillos

 
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