July 27th, 2019
28 Issue 09
Issue of The Wood
The Peak of Summer.
All-Blue Potatoes in Bloom on
Wood Prairie Family Farm.
This has been a very busy and fast-moving year for us The
and wet Spring has been left behind and we’ve had below average
precipitation in both June and July. We’ve been missing the rains the
coast of Maine and southern New England have been receiving.
Crops here in Northern Maine, after getting off to a slow start, are
looking excellent and catching up. Potatoes remain in full bloom and
Aroostook County’s many potato fields are a beautiful sight. A little
more rain would be welcome… but just not too much!
Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Jacob's Cattle Dry Bean. Hardy and productive in the most
challenging of years.
|Maine Tales: Cool Maine Summer
Nights. Bridgewater Maine. Circa 1979.
The last couple of mornings in
the 40s have reminded us of the welcome fact that Summer mornings in
Northern Maine are reliably sweatshirt weather. Even last
weekend, during a brief hot spell when we hit a rare 90ºF, the nights
cooled down to the manageable 50s.
As farmers we are able to happily
report we’ve never seen a single
frost occur during the month of July, although thirty years ago we did
come close. The first four days that July were unseasonably chilly.
night was in the 30s and overcast. Had it ever cleared off any one
of those four nights, it’s likely that lacking the warm blanket of
cover we would have suffered
At the tail end of the season,
we can begin expecting our first cold nights beginning in mid-August.
While we’ve never had a mid-August frost, we’ve flirted with the
concept several times and do have some friends in frost pockets who
have suffered that sad sensitive-crop-killing conundrum. Of course,
in the 1970s and 1980s it was colder than it is nowadays. Back then, if
we escaped a frost in late August we could reliably count on one during
the first five days of September.
Exactly forty years ago - 1979
- was the year we had our all-time shortest growing season. We had
killing frosts on June 27 and August 29 rendering us with a record
short 62-Day Frost-Free Growing Season. But, like most challenging
experiences with that late June frost we came away learning something
We had been warned by the
on-the-ball weather forecast that frost was likely for early Summer
Wednesday morning. Beginning at first light - 4 am - we were prepared
and set about spraying water on a quarter acre field of healthy
Cattle dry bean plants. Counter intuitively, as
the water sprayed on the leaves freezes in the cold air, heat is
released by the action of water freezing which prevents the cells of
the protected plant from freezing and rupturing. With Solo 4-gallon
backpack sprayer, each plant was doused with enough well water to leave
It was 5:45 am when the sun
first peaked over the trees and began to shine its warming rays on the
bean plants. In another fifteen minutes, at 6 am, the water-spraying
exercise was complete and all beans had been serviced.
Within a few hours our lesson
had been made clear. Each and every bean plant which had been sprayed
with water prior to the moment of the first rays of sun at 5:45 am had
been completely protected. However, that last small group of plants
which received their dousing after
that hour totally succumbed to frost damage and were lost.
That next killing frost
arrived on August 29 and wasn’t any more welcome than the one two
months earlier. In the case of the Jake beans, the plants were in their
last stage of growth and had begun to dry down by that time. However,
some of the individual beans in the pods still had enough moisture in
them that they were hurt by the freezing temperatures. These damaged
beans would require an extra step in the sorting phase, separating the
good, dried, mature beans from the pale and immature beans...which were
subsequently fed out to the cow.
In the end, 1979 brought us
hard-won partial harvests under tough conditions that had a high
capacity for crop failure. The experience elevated in our minds Jacob’s
Cattle already legendary reputation and confirmed that it’s an
exceptionally hardy workhorse we’re glad to know well.
FREE Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed!
Fast growing and highly effective as a soil protector, Organic
is one of our favorite cover crops. Organic Buckwheat is a warm season
crop sensitive to frost. However, it is very fast growing, ready to
turn under at 2% bloom in just 7-8 weeks after planting. Its rank
growth serves to smother competing weeds. Strong roots will draw up
Phosphorus from deep in the soil and make that important nutrient
available to succeeding crops. Organic Buckwheat is not fussy and does
not require high fertility to grow well. You’ll find it will do a nice
job improving the tilth of your soil.
Why wait? Receive a FREE
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Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed. Queen of warm-season
|Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.
Organic Seed Corn: Planting Corn Seed into Corn Transplant Trays.
To prevent pesky crows from pulling up tender
young corn seedlings (in search of the tasty corn kernel at the bottom)
we’ve switched over to planting corn transplants in recent years. Here,
before potato planting Ken is filling trays with high quality compost
seeding mix. Megan (right, Caleb’s mother) and Megan #2 work to seed
trays from a bowlful of corn seed which has been soaked for a couple of
days in a Liquid Seaweed solution. Megan #2 helps us year-round. Ken
works for us in the Winter. After potato planting Ken went back to
working on a crew building hiking trails along the East Branch of the
Penobscot River near the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National
Sarah & Amy with Corn Transplants Ready for Planting. Two
or three weeks after corn seeding, potatoes have been planted and corn
transplants are ready to go into the ground. Caleb’s sisters Sarah
(right) and Amy discuss next steps while standing between a truckload
and wagonload of vigorous transplants. The tractor at left is hooked up
to the transplanter machine.
Megan & Sarah Planting Heirloom Corn with Transplanter.
Our Mechanical Transplanter (made in
Holland, Michigan) is a two-row model and it takes two workers per row
to keep up. The machine gently grabs the young plants freed from the
trays, sets them in the ground, squirts a slug of water at the corn
roots and then firms the soil around the roots. American ingenuity at
its best. Sarah’s college semester ended just in time and allowed her
to help us with planting full-time this Spring.
Hoeing Corn Headlands.
This shot was taken this week and the ears are already developing on
this petite early season heirloom sweet corn. In the foreground is a
field of Organic FBC (Farmer Breeding Club) Dylan, our favorite Hard
Red Spring Wheat (selected for exceptional disease-resistance by FBC
organic farmers in North Dakota). In the background is a field of
clover which was cut for hay earlier this month. The clover regrowth
will be ready for grazing in another couple of weeks.
Moose at Tee in Road.
Looking north, this young adolescent moose has been hanging around us
all Spring, mostly around the road “Tee.” In the foreground is Kinney
Road which goes to our farm. The road headed to the right is Bootfoot
Road and leads to U.S. Rte 1 and the village of Bridgewater three miles
away. The road in the background is Number Nine Lake Road and in eight
miles gets to Nine Lake, and then after that, Nine Mountain. Kinney and
the Nine Road serve as the townline between the township of Bridgewater
(right, east) and Township D, Range 2, Unorganized Territory (left,
west) If you look close you can see a notch in the trees on the
horizon, which again separates these two six-by-six mile townships.
Wood Prairie Cat Condo.
Neveah lounge in the safety of a stack of wooden potato greensprouting
trays. Greensprouting is an optional pre-conditioning step we use for
the seed potatoes we plant, about 25,000 pounds every Spring. It takes
three trays per one-hundred-pounds of seed and we stack the trays 8-10
layers high, three stacks per pallet. The open design of the trays
allows sprouting tubers to receive light. The light greens up the
tubers (“greensprouting”) and minimizes elongation of the sprouts. Full
greenspouting takes about thirty days (plan to start a month before
your expected planting date) but will knock 10-14 off the field growth
cycle, allowing a considerably earlier harvest.
Manure on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
Last week we got done haying. This week we spread
manure on the hay field which will be planted to Organic Certified Seed
Potatoes next year. Now we’ll plow down the sod and manure , harrow and
then seed the ground to cover crops.
We put together a You
Tube video of our manure spreading and it's now
posted on our Wood Prairie You Tube channel. Caleb is in the Case
Skidsteer shoveling into the PTO (power take-off) powered International
530 Manure Spreader, which is pulled by the 1650 Oliver Diesel tractor
driven by Jim.
The “bed chain” on the manure spreader
slowly pushes the pile of manure into the “beater” at the back which
flings the contents backwards in a fairly even distribution pattern. We
spread about 70 tons of manure on this ten acre field.
Caleb & Jim
Manure on Wood Prairie Family Farm. An age-old practice of
helping the soil by adding fertility and biological activity.
|Daniel Webster on the
|Recipe: Whole Wheat Croissants.
2 1/2 cups whole wheat
2 tsp organic
2 tsp sea
3 tbsp sugar (can use less)
2 Cups milk (whole or 2%)
1lb butter (at 65ÂºF)
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1Tbsp milk) optional
Bring the milk to room temperature in a large bowl or bowl of your
stand mixer. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
the dry ingredient into the milk and then knead for 5-7 minutes, or mix
in stand mixer on medium for about 4 minutes. Proof in a covered bowl
for 30 minutes.
Turn the dough onto lightly floured surface,
fold the dough, then refrigerate in an air tight (or almost air tight)
container for about 2 hours.
Using parchment or waxed paper, create
an 8 x 8 inch square slab out of the pound of butter. Place the wrapped
butter slab in the fridge.
Take the butter out of the fridge
about 10 minutes before you take out the dough so it has a chance to
soften a little. You want the butter to be slightly pliable (about 65
degrees) at the time you take the dough out of the fridge.
lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about a 14 x 14 inch
square. Place the butter in the center of the dough with the corners of
the butter in the center of the straight edges of the dough (a square
of dough with a diamond of butter in the middle).
One at a time, fold the corners of the dough towards the center of the
butter, overlapping the dough folds as you go.
All the butter must be contained in the dough package.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle enough so it can be folded into
three sections, letter style.
the dough package in plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Repeat
this rolling, folding and refrigerating process three more times for a
total of four folds. (Only about 20 in the fridge is necessary between
the 2nd and 4th folds.)
After the 4th fold and yet another period in
the fridge, the dough is now ready to use, or it can be kept in the
refrigerator overnight and used the next morning.
Roll the dough into a rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick all over.
the desired shapes and treats, let proof in a warm spot for about two
hours or until somewhat risen and kinda puffy, (time depends on the
proofing temperature). Lightly brush with egg wash before or after
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees before the dough has finished proofing.
Bake for about 15 -20 minutes, until golden brown.
modified from Breadtopia
Photo by Breadtopia.
Ready for Harvest? and Rogue Agency USDA.
Ready for Harvest?
Good morning Jim,
Just spoke with a very nice lady regarding my Dark
Red Norlands we planted from you folks this year. The photos are of
potatoes picked up yesterday before a summer thunderstorm in western
NC. My vines are starting to die- very little green left. My question
is how long should I leave them in the ground before I dig for BEST
LONGTERM storage. I have a root cellar with AC. The potatoes were
planted around April 22ish. (I posted a picture of the 425 pieces
waiting to be planted on your facebook page) I have grown your Elbas
for two years but fooled around this year waiting too late to order so
I have Norlands.
here in Maine it typically takes 2-3 weeks for the tuber skins to lose
moisture and thus survive the rigors of machine harvesting. Digging by
hand will require slightly less time for tubers to “cure” sufficiently.
You can test whether tubers are ready to be harvested by trying to rub
off the potato skin with your thumb. On a "new" potato the skin rubs
off easily. When the potatoes are ready to harvest-for-storage it will
take substantial thumb-effort pressure to rub off the skin.
Rogue Agency USDA.
You are a hero! It seems that the regulatory
agencies in the states are a bit more "wobbly" than here in Sweden (The USDA Appears to be in Favor
of Gene-Edited Foods in Organic Production ) .
Must break your heart that all your efforts could be erased by a pen
USDA has a long history of missing the ball.
However, it’s many blunders and lumbering policies at odds with the
public interest are nothing which can’t be corrected and turned around
with good leadership and robust integrity.
In the 1970s and early 1980s various
member-run organizations like MOFGA, NOFA and CCOF had developed their
own highly functional, regional organic standards. However, in the
mid-1980s numerous State Departments of Agriculture were demanding that
USDA enact national organic standards to meet the Constitutional
requirement for the Federal government to facilitate interstate
commerce. It is
important to understand that one way or another, USDA was going to act.
Because of USDA's hatred of organic,
many of us were extremely concerned USDA would act unilaterally and
create a worthless and false definition, which would flood the market
with bogus product and collapse organic. Sen Leahy (D-VT) and Rep
Defazio (D-OR) became our champions and over many many months and many
many drafts - there were many, many of us who helped get the concepts
refined - came up with the good language that became the Organic Foods
Production Act ( OFPA ). In time,
miraculously, OFPA was attached as a rider to the 1990 Farm Bill and became law with the passage
of that Farm Bill .
OFPA is a good law, not perfect, but
yes good. The failures in organic we have been painfully experiencing -
illegal CAFO factory farms, illegal soil-less corporate Hydroponic
operations, massive unrestrained fraudulent grain imports mis-labeled
as “Organic,” and now, hapless and uninformed USDA leadership rumblings
about allowing Genetic Engineering (currently
explicitly prohibited under law ) has been due to USDA's continued hatred
of organic . Sadly, USDA is under near total capture by
Industrial Ag, USDA’s illegal and willful refusal to enforce provisions
of OFPA and the NOP Final Rule is an illegitimate effort to place the
interests of Industrial Ag puppetmasters over the interests of the
public good and the organic community.
I was a participant and a witness to
the history above. Beginning in the mid-1980s I served on the MOFGA
Certification Committee for almost 25 years. After helping co-found the
New Brunswick chapter of Organic Crop Improvement Association, I also
co-chaired the OCIA-NB Certification Comm for many years between 1986
|Wood Prairie Farm Quick
Caleb & Jim
& Megan Gerritsen
Prairie Family Farm
429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox