November 16, 2008

Freezing So We Can Enjoy the Thaw

The wind is getting colder and the sheep have been growing winter fleece like chia pets the last few weeks –the chance of an Indian Summer has surely past. The last trees to lose their leaves here (the oaks and the big silver maple in the dooryard) have done so two weeks early this year. I’m not sure if this means we should brace for a strong start to winter or see the glass half full and hope for spring two weeks earlier. Our woodstove is working well so I’ll put that one away for hindsight consideration next year.
We have been trucking along here at the farm with some fun projects like sandblasting and painting Tom Settlemire’s old sheep trailer and beginning the process of fencing several of the fields. The latter project we were able to take on with the help of a cost-share grant from the Land for Maine’s Future Program. These new fences have been on our wish list for a few years now. Having permanent barriers to protect our flocks from traffic, predators and their own mischief will allow us to safely and easily move sheep all over the farm, increasing our grazing potential. The hope is to bring many of the open hayfields along Pleasant Hill back into fertile production through grazing and fertility inputs. Much of the new fence line will also enclose our vegetable fields making it possible to really work the sheep and their fertility into the production rotation.
Thanks for all of your membership deposits.  We are working with new software so we can produce efficient payment confirmation for you – we’ll get there soon.  There have also been quite a few new members enrolling which is always exciting this far ahead of springtime. As always the faster we can sign everyone up the less we have to worry about come the farm season. We hope to start promoting the CSA through brochures around town in the weeks to come. Those of you who are past members continue to be our best marketers as stories passed by word of mouth are always the truest explanation of what happens here each summer when some farmers and some families come together to make a piece of land into a community.
Here are a few things coming up that Maura and I thought you all might be interested in…
•    “Assessing Genetic Engineering: Empowering Students to Navigate in a Complex World” is the title of a lecture by Craig Holdrege to be held at Bowdoin College’s Searles Science Building, Room 315, at 7:30 p.m. on November 18.  The lecture, sponsored by Merriconeag Waldorf School, is free and open to the public. “Preparing students to meet the complexities of modern life requires educators to foster careful observation, thoughtful consideration of different perspectives,
discerning judgment and sensitive action,” explains Holdrege, a Waldorf high school biology teacher for 21 years. Currently the director of the New York-
based Nature Institute, Holdrege will use the topic of genetic engineering to illustrate the importance of a discovery-based, holistic approach to science education.
•    Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program is holding a “Sharing the Bounty” Auction November 22, 2008 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Frontier Café, 14 Maine St.  Fort Andross Brunswick. MCHPP served more than 26,000 hot meals in 2007 in addition to a food pantry that supports almost 1000 Midcoast families in need. We have donated Crystal Spring produce for the past five years to MCHPP and have been consistently amazed with the care and efficiency of this organization, which run by a group of over 200 volunteers and only eight paid staff. Please support their vital work this fall, especially with the uncertain times ahead. Learn more about the organization and this event at  their website:
•    The Brunswick Winter Farmer’s Market is up and running at Granite Farm (93 Casco Road) every Saturday from 9am until noon. Many of the vendors you know from the Saturday Market are here selling produce, bread, meat and cheese in abundance. Take Pleasant Hill west out of Brunswick and go left on Casco for ¼ mile.

May 20 2008

Greetings after a Long Winter

At this point, we are wishing the English language had more words to express gratitude. Thank you all for all your wishes of support, your efforts for the community gathering at Frontier Café, and your generous contributions to the Farmer Seth Fund. We have been overwhelmed to be so bolstered by our community. Before this year we thought we knew a lot about community supported agriculture; as it turns out our understanding was just a drop in the ocean of possibility.
First things first… Everyone is wondering about the health of the farmer. Seth is feeling well. Springtime has brought renewal with work to be done around the farm, from lambing, to spreading compost on the fields, to turning soil. Seth is still not definitively diagnosed, although he continues to work with a rheumatologist who has been treating him for an elusive autoimmune disorder. To supplement this treatment Seth has been taking a holistic approach, getting support from Eastern doctors and herbalists, as well as pursuing a daily regimen of diet, exercise, and health-focused awareness.
Lambs You may recall last Fall our pregnant ewes grazed on high protien cover crops and while cleaning up the broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts stubble down in the fields. This diet left them in great shape to start the winter and the second half of their pregnancies. Their outstanding condition yielded a very successful lambing season with 76 vibrant lambs from 42 ewes. The ewes and lambs both went out onto pasture this past week to much fanfare. There is nothing that says spring more than lambs testing their verticles and ewes wrestling over clover tufts. If you walk the trails at the farm, you will be able to say hello and may be surprised at how big the lambs are, some already nearing 100 pounds. We plan to be at the Saturday Farmer’s Market starting the last weekend of June with your favorite cuts of lamb for sale.
Fields Those of you riding up and down Pleasant Hill Road will notice how different this season is from others past. Big swaths of lush cover crop and dark brown open ground has replaced our usual patchwork of vegetables. The difference is stark to us, looking out over big areas of order, so different from the welcome chaos of the regular season. We are trialing a few new cover crops this year, like sorgum-sudan grass, a jungly tall mass of stalks and leaves, and will be trying to use the sheep to mow them as much as possible. This will save us time and diesel all while leaving behind a great “digested” product for the soil. Many of you have surely read about the horse farmers who have gotten together to grow hard spring wheat in our fields. It’s been great fun for us to see their quiet graceful animals plow, harrow and plant. If all goes well they will truck their 1800’s thresher into the field in August to separate the grain from the straw. We’ll keep you posted, it should be quite and event.
Family… With the changes on the farm this year, Maura has decided to dedicate her time to the farm and the family, and take some time off from social work. It is amazing how quickly a list of things to do can develop. Griffin (who joyfully turned five last week) and Leila (now two and a half) have planted some apple trees behind the farmhouse and have been regular helpers feeding the sheep.
Website Please check out our website! We are updating and revising it into a resource for members of the CSA old and new. In addition to the nuts and bolts of how our farm works we have added a recipe section that allows you to find new dishes by vegetable (this is great for kohlrabi novices). You’ll also find links to other local businesses in and around Brunswick that we think are vital to keeping our community vibrant and unique. We plan on updating the site regularly so check back to see what’s new on the farm.
Enjoy the spring and we’ll be in touch again soon. We’ll see you around town and at the farmer’s market.

September 11, 2007

Cycle, Re-cycle

What’s in Upic?……
Herbs            Flowers
Snap Beans        Cherry Tomatoes

This week, as we dive into signing you all up again for next year’s shares, I have also been talking to lots of new folks interested in joining the farm. As you would expect they have a lot of questions about vegetable varieties, amounts, harvest days, “how does the whole thing work?” etc. and at some point most will ask about our animals. Generally they want to know what kinds of animals we have, if they are kid friendly, and if they can see them on pick-up days. Some want to know if they can buy meat or eggs from us but that is for the most part where the questions stop. I’m always tempted to go into a big explanation of the larger role that our livestock plays on the farm, but stop myself short, knowing this is almost always more info than a perspective CSA member may want to hear.  I realized the other day that most of you reading these newsletters probably haven’t heard this big explanation and being as you are already members of the CSA I don’t need to spare you any boring details of how this farm works.
After farming organically for over ten years I can say definitively that livestock are vital to the health of any sustainable farm. Animals, and especially ruminants (the sheep in our case), have the unique ability of being able to digest the complex energy found in plants and convert it into protein and carbohydrates. This obviously supports the growth of the animal, but because up to 70% of the plant matter also comes out the back end of the animal, there is a great benefit for our vegetables. The digestion process breaks the plant matter down into “simple” elements that can be easily absorbed again by the plants and the soil they grow in. On a farm scale this process is so important because vegetables take so much out of the soil to grow. On this farm we have applied over 1000 cubic yards of animal manure (mostly as compost) to the fields in the past four seasons. The majority of this manure has come from sources off of the farm and has made it possible for us to expect good yields for all of your shares. As we learn more about our livestock and further explore crop rotations that include our animals we hope to be able to reach a point where we can minimize or eliminate the need for off farm sources of manure. We envision being able to run sheep and or chickens through vegetable crops after harvest, allowing the animals to graze off the leftover plants while leaving behind manure. The nutrients in the manure is then absorbed by cover crops we plant after the animals leave. Once the cover crop is put down and worked into the soil it releases the nutrients it absorbed from the manure, making them available to the next vegetable crop. I’ll write more on this subject next week, including  some of the hurdles small organic farms are facing in the marketplace as they try to maintain these systems of sustainability.
2008 CSA sign-up begins this week. We will be taking deposits ($100) for your 2008 shares starting this week. This is a great time to sign up as you can space your payments out over the winter. These deposits also help the farm budget through the winter months as well. We will begin opening up shares to our waiting list starting art the end of the month so if you would like a share for next year please don’t delay.
Pork Pre-orders this week. Talk to Spencer at pick-up about pre-ordering pork cuts from the pigs he and Jill raised at the farm this year.
Apples this week. We’ll have apples from Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus this week for sale at Friday pick-up. Paula Reds will be the first variety followed by Macs and Galas in the weeks to follow. Some of their great cider will be coming soon too.