Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
           Saturday, September 7th, 2019
                   Volume 28 Issue 10


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

  Harvest Season.

     Yosemite Valley, Painting by Albert Bierstadt. Circa 1885.
 The three days after Labor Day is when every year the National Heirloom Exposition is held in Santa Rosa. So, four years ago, this week, Jim went out to speak at NHE. He brought along with him Caleb’s two sisters, Sarah and Amy, then 17 and 12, for their first visit to California.

     While the trip was new and exciting, it wasn’t to be all fun and games for the girls. We had shipped out many cartons of early dug organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes. The girls - with help from their Dad - set up and manned our Wood Prairie booth at NHE and made brisk sales to the steady flow of visitors who passed by our booth, interested in Fall planting. Every day hit a hot 100F. From watching the other vendors, it was learned to keep cool by going barefoot on the concrete floor of the main pavillion we were set up in. The cooling effect was remarkable.

     Not wanting the girls to only experience the developed side of California from SFO to Santa Rosa, they flew out early and headed to the mountains. That means, after crossing the Central Valley, they got to the Sierra Nevada mountains and into Yosemite National Park. Jim has not been there for over 40 years, but Yosemite was still very much as he remembered it. They traveled all the way past Tanaya Lake up to the high country of Tuolumne Meadows.

     That was a year of forest fires, both inside and west of the Park. While there was no imminent danger, the fire smoke clouded the view, particularly in Yosemite Valley. As well, California was still experiencing their major drought. Yosemite’s famous waterfalls were but a thirsty trickle. However, none of these factors diminished their enthusiasm for the spectacular treasure's of the Park. The spirit of Yosemite, beautifully captured by Albert Bierstadt, remains for all time.

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine

Cleaning Organic Turkey Red Winter Wheat. A good but dirty job.
New YouTube Video: Cleaning Wood Prairie Turkey Red Wheat.

     The first grain crop we harvested this Summer was heirloom Turkey Red Hard Red Winter Wheat (HRWW). It is a much-sought-after landrace wheat which is highly prized for bread making. One farmer we spoke to yesterday who has grown Turkey Red in Indiana said chickens really love to eat it.

     Turkey Red was brought over by Mennonite immigrants from Russian to Kansas in 1874. A century ago, millions of acres of Turkey Red were being grown annually in America’s breadbasket. Then in time, over the following decades it fell out of favor, being largely replaced by the promise of modern hybrids.

     Thankfully, our visionary friend, organic farmer Bryce Stephens, and his 5th generation Kansas wheat farm saved Turkey Red from extinction about twenty years ago. The Stephens family’s hard work has stabilized Turkey Red and brought it back from the brink.

     We just made this video showing the process of cleaning grain fresh out of the field. As famous Washington State wheat breeder Dr. Steven Jones has observed, “Planting and growing grain is easy. Harvesting and cleaning grain is not.” What he means is that beginning at any moderate scale, it is advisable to secure some grain handling equipment.

     In the grain cleaning system we have put together on Wood Prairie Family Farm, we use two grain cleaners in series along with three augers. Electric-powered grain augers move the grain from machine to machine. First up is a Snowco Rotary Grain Cleaner which quickly separates out immature grain heads and small weed seed. Next, the grain is augered to a Clipper double-screen Seed Cleaner. After going through these two machines, the wheat is clean, free of weed seed and virtually free of foreign matter. In cleaning this Turkey Red, Caleb & Jim worked together.

     If seed is the final intended use, we’ll run the wheat over a third cleaner called an air-blast Gravity Table. That cleaning method we deploy as a separate operation, as needed.

Caleb & Jim

Special Offer: FREE Organic Red Russian Garlic!

     For a great many years, customers have raved about our Organic Red Russian Garlic. We agree: it is tops for eating quality. Organic Red Russian is a good keeper Rocambole-type hardneck garlic. Fall is the best time for gardeners to plant garlic. You’ll want to order your garlic soon before this popular item sells out!

     On average, about eight bulbs of Organic Red Russian Garlic will fill a one-pound sack. With 7-8 cloves per bulb you can plan on getting sixty planting pieces per pound. For those of you with a hearty appetite for garlic - or a large garden patch you want to plant - we offer extra EVERYDAY savings when you buy Organic Red Russian Garlic in 3 lbs. Units.

     Want to taste for yourself the exceptional quality of our Organic Red Russian Garlic? You can do it for FREE and earn some for yourself with our Special Offer. We will send you a FREE 1 lb. Sack of Organic Red Russian Garlic (Value $29.95) when your next Wood Prairie order totals $79 or more. FREE Organic Red Russian Garlic Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday, September 9. Please use Promo Code WPFF452. Your order and FREE Organic Red Russian Garlic - must ship no later than November 30, 2019. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please click TODAY! 


Organic Russian Red Garlic.
Great for Fall planting and for eating.
Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Wood Prairie Long Tunnel.     As most everyone reading this newsletter understands, potatoes are vegetatively propagated from seed tubers. Modern Certified Seed Potatoes are multiplied up from cuttings originating in the tissue-culture process. Tissue-cultured Cuttings produce disease-free Plantlets. Plantlets growing in soil-less media in greenhouses produce disease-free Minitubers. Minitubers are the seed for the first generation of potatoes grown in soil, the step following the tissue-culture process. We plant our minitubers in this double-bed 500’ long portable ‘caterpillar’ Long Tunnel shown above. Our Long Tunnel is covered with special fine-weave aphid-excluding netting we imported from Europe. Aphids are notorious vectors of potato disease. By excluding aphids, our organic seed gets a valuable extra year of growth where aphid-vectoring is prevented by an entirely non-chemical means. The seed tubers we harvest this Fall from the Long Tunnel used to be called “Nuclear 1.” However, in a recent initiative by the potato industry, there has been widespread adoption of common nomenclature and this generation is now called “FY 1” (Field Year).

Wood Prairie Propane Flamer.
    This time of year, in getting ready for harvest, we are midstream in the process of killing down our potato tops. For this job we use our eight-burner Propane Flamer mounted on an Oliver 1650 Diesel tractor. This flamer-unit gets double-duty on our farm. In the Spring, as pictured here, at 1-3% plant emergence we flash-flame two potato rows at a time vaporizing tender young weeds that once had ambitions to grow and multiply. For the Spring work, the tractor moves along at 4 mph (note the safety glasses Jim is wearing to keep dislodged soil out of his eyes). For Fall top-killing there’s a lot more green matter to handle so it normally takes a couple of passes at 1-2 mph to complete the job. The 120-gallon propane tank is mounted at the rear behind the tractor seat.


Red Cloud Potatoes in Blossom.
     One of the prettiest flowers of any potato variety we have ever grown belongs to the Nebraska-bed Red Cloud (named after the Sioux Indian Chief). Potato blossoms vary in color from white to off-white to pink to lavender to blue to red. A field of Red Cloud is a beautiful sight to behold during potato blossom time, which here in Northern Maine peaks during the second-half of July.

American Guinea Hogs on Wood Prairie Pasture.     Pigs are smart and they belong outdoors. The heritage breed "American Guinea Hogs" are great foragers, are gregarious by nature and as you can see operate with a close, extended family structure. When out on pasture Guinea Hogs produce high-quality meat with minimal out-of-pocket costs. They will eat grass and then root for insects and tender roots. In our case, the Guinea Hogs also enjoy benefitting from the drops under the apple trees.

Amy with Her Big Bass on Pleasant Pond.
Though farmers everywhere work hard, never say we don’t know how to have fun. In this shot, Amy displays her late Summer catch-of-the-day, a good-sized Smallmouth Bass. Our boat is at the far (east) end of the two-mile long, 1800-acre Pleasant Pond in Island Falls, in the part of Aroostook County fairly close to Katahdin. At this location the water depth was about 40 feet. Over Amy’s shoulder (north) is the electrical-generating Oakfield windmill farm. A few miles beyond the windmills is Interstate-95 heading toward Canada. These windmills are highly visible from I-95. If you’re ever up this way and notice the windmills while driving, you’ll know now that there’s good fishing in the cold, clear waters of the big “pond” (Maine vernacular for lake) beyond those windmills.

Mist Rising From Our ‘Big Pond.’
    This time of year the nights are cooling off quickly. We’ve yet to receive a frost but nights have been dropping into the 30s. The pond cools down more slowly that the air and sometimes as a result mist will rise off the pond in the early morning. We dug this pond for our irrigation needs. It’s about 1 acres in size and twelve foot deep at the deepest (west) end. This Summer in addition to several pairs of ducks hatching out their young, we had some Canadian Geese raise up a family as well.

Caleb Combining Wheat Next to Sunflowers.
    Yesterday, in light of the forecast for some rain Saturday from former Hurricane Dorian, was the best day to harvest our biggest field of FBC (Farmer Breeding Club) Dylan Hard Red Spring Wheat (HRSW). Here, Caleb is using our old reliable 1970’s Massey Ferguson 300 Grain Combine. This combine has a 13-foot cut and was the last model outfitted with a weed-seed-collection system (newer models simply toss weed seed back onto the field, thus insuring brisk future demand for chemical herbicides). Combining grain after a dry stretch helps get the moisture content down close to the 13% we’re shooting for. We use special grain fans to pull out moisture should grain be higher moisture than we like. Seeking aesthetics, Amy did the small planting of nearby sunflowers which Caleb was very careful to avoid.

Road to the Back Seed Field.
   This road - built up over four feet with excavated-pond-fill and topped off with rocks picked from potato fields - heads back across our Cedar swamp and brook (a tributary to the South Branch of Whitney Brook) to the “Seed Field” (old-timer’s term for an isolated field where farmers would raise their own seed). We ended up not needing the Seed Field this year for potatoes so we seeded it down to Dylan Wheat, undersown with clover and grass. Because this field was planted late (like the old-timers, we plant our grain first and then potatoes after grain), and is shaded being surrounded by woods, it will be a few more weeks before it’s ready to harvest. It’s most likely we’ll harvest this field after we get done potato harvest. That will start in a couple of weeks when local schools close down for the annual Potato Harvest Break.

Voltaire on Happiness.

Recipe: Potato Pepper Spanish Tortilla.

1 T olive oil, plus more for serving
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1 pepper, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 large eggs
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp hot sauce

Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add potatoes, pepper, and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are crisp-tender, 14-16 minutes. Uncover, and cook off excess liquid, about one minute.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, parsley, hot sauce, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Pour mixture over vegetables in skillet, and gently stir to distribute evenly. With the back of a spatula, press down on vegetables so they lay flat and are submerged. 

Bake in oven until set, about 15 minutes. To unmold, run a rubber spatula around edge of skillet to release tortilla; invert onto a serving plate. Drizzle with oil. Serve hot or room temperature.


Click Here for Wood Prairie Farm Organic Vegetable Seed.

A Delicious and Healthy Meal. 

 Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 49 Kinney Road
 Bridgewater, Maine 04735
 (207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox