Saturday, November 9th, 2019
28 Issue 13
Issue of The Wood
The Angelus. Circa 1859.
Oil-on-canvas by French painter Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875). “Het
angelus” was painted by Millet over the years 1857-1859. Wikipedia
provides this description: The painting
depicts two peasants bowing in a field over a basket of potatoes to say
a prayer, the Angelus,
that together with the ringing of the bell from the church on the
horizon marks the end of a day's work.
Here in Northern Maine, the farming
season has quickly drawn to a close and Winter is moving in. We’re
expereincing snow and frozen ground which fails to thaw during the day.
Field work is complete and most of next Winter’s firewood is safely put
away under cover. For us, a good time now to focus on thanks.
Caleb, Jim & Megan
Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
|The Neccessity of Agriculture.
Gerritsen. Wood Prairie Potato Harvest. Circa 2010. Photo
by New Zealand photographer Lottie Hedley. Love of family farming
expressed as youthful exuberance.
Our friend Eliot Coleman recently shared with us this must read
penetrating piece by Kentucky farmer and essayist Wendell
Berry. It appeared ten years ago in Harper’s
Magazine and is a portion of an acceptance speech given at
that time by Wendell on the occasion of his winning the annual Louis
Bromfield Society Award. Caleb, Megan &
|I read Louis
Bromfield’s Pleasant Valley and The Farm more than forty years ago, and
I am still grateful for the confirmation and encouragement I received
from those books. At the time when farming, as a vocation and an art,
was going out of favor, Bromfield genuinely and unabashedly loved it.
He was not one of those bad pastoral writers whose love for farming is
distant, sentimental, and condescending. Bromfield clearly loved it
familiarly and in detail; he loved the work and the people who did it
In any discussion of agriculture or food production, it would be hard
to exaggerate the importance of such love. No doubt there are people
who farm without it, but without it nobody will be a good farmer or a
good husbander of the land. We seem now to be coming to a time when we
will have to recognize the love of farming not as a quaint souvenir of
an outdated past but as an economic necessity. And that recognition,
when it comes, will bring with it a considerable embarrassment.
How great an embarrassment this may be is suggested by a recent article
in the Wall Street Journal about Japan’s effort to “job-train”
unemployed urban young people to be farmers. This is a serious, even
urgent, effort. “Policy makers,” the article says, “are hoping newly
unemployed young people will help revive Japan’s dwindling farm
population. . . . ‘If they can’t find workers over the next several
years, Japan’s agriculture will disappear,’ says Kazumasa Iwata, a
government economist and former deputy governor of the Bank of Japan.”
But this effort is falling significantly short of success because “many
young people end up returning to cities, unable to adjust to life in
the countryside.” To their surprise, evidently, farming involves hard
work, long hours, and getting dirty—not to mention skills that
city-bred people don’t have. Not to mention the necessity of loving
farmwork if you are going to keep at it.
Even so, the prospect of reviving agriculture in Japan is brighter than
in the United States. In Japan 6 percent of the population is still
farming, as opposed to 1 or 2 percent of our people. And in Japan, as
opposed to the United States, policymakers and economists seem to be
aware of the existence of agriculture. They even think agriculture may
be a good thing for a nation of eaters to have.
If agriculture and the necessity of food production ever penetrate the
consciousness of our politicians and economists, how successful will
they be in job-training our overeducated, ignorant young people to
revive our own aging and dwindling farm population? What will it take
to get significant numbers of our young people, white of collar and
soft of hands, to submit to hard work and long days, not to mention
getting dirty? In my worst, clearest moments I am afraid the necessity
of agriculture will not be widely recognized without the sterner
necessity of actual hunger. For half a century or so, our informal but
most effective agricultural policy has been to eat as much, as
effortlessly, as thoughtlessly, and as cheaply as we can, to hell with
whatever else may be involved. Such a policy can of course lead to
FREE Organic Caribou Russet Seed Potatoes!
One of the most
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|Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.
Geese Startled From 'Big Pond' on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
For whatever reason this year we’ve had a lot
more Canadian Geese hanging out on our farm than we’ve ever
had before. Once, last month, we saw over a hundred geese gathered in
one of our clover fields which had its over-story Organic Dylan Spring
Wheat crop harvested back in September. In this shot, a large gaggle
was lazing in the pond only to be quickly startled into flight when Jim
peered around the nearby Spruce trees.
Coming & Going Chopping & Chiseling Rapeseed. Our
last field work every Fall is to incorporate the plowdown crop of
Biofumigant Rapeseed into next year’s potato ground. Last week, on a
cloudy day in the 40s and just ahead of the inch-and-a-half rain
predicted for Halloween, Caleb and Jim decided it was time to get this
job done. On the left, Caleb is driving the Oliver 1750 Diesel tractor
pulling a 7-tooth International Harvester Chisel Plow. Jim works a few
laps ahead of Caleb chopping the Rapeseed with an Oliver 1650 Diesel
pulling a seven-foot Woods Bushhog mower.
Caleb Chisel Plowing Chopped Rapeseed.
The Chisel Plow’s twisted shanks bolted to the rugged teeth dig in
about a foot deep and buries about 90% of the green matter left on the
soil surface. Rapeseed leaves and stalks are chopped just ahead of
chiseling to facilitate burying and decomposition. Akin to Organic
Tillage Radish, the Rapeseed material decomposes
in the soil and naturally gives off gases which cleanse the soil,
killing weed seed and pathogenic fungi like Rhizoctonia and Pythium.
The result is that next year we will harvest a higher quality Organic
Seed crop. "Biofumigation" practiced by organic farmers has been
extensively documented by scientists as an excellent cultural
substitution for harsh and dangerous chemical soil fumigants. Chemical
fumigant ‘Methyl Bromide,’ for example, is widely used on conventional
farms and numerous times has been targeted for banning. It wipes out
beneficial soil organisms and has been identified as a serious ozone
of Winter Rye Protects Soil Under Organic Seed Corn Crop.
As Caleb continued to finish Chisel Plowing Rapeseed, Jim
switched fields and used the Bushhog to chop the remaining stalks from
a crop of harvested Organic Seed Corn. Back in July on the last pass
cultivating the corn with the tractor, Jim used a 12-volt spin spreader
- bolted to the tractor fender – to spin Organic
Winter Rye onto the bare ground. The Winter
ability discourages competing weed seed from germinating. The Winter
Rye clearly achieved good growth and over the winter will continue to
provide a dense protective mat. Come Spring, after snowmelt the Rye
will grow once again. Then in July we’ll be able to harvest a new crop
of Organic Winter Rye Seed.
Wood Prairie Guinea Hogs Pastured in Apple Orchard.
Our heritage breed American Guinea Hog herd enjoys our Apple orchard as
their pastureland. We have a boar and several sows. All told we have
around two dozen animals, all mostly related to one another and ranging
in size from tiny to big. American Guinea Hogs are noted for being
relatively docile and lacking in aggression. This characteristic allows
us to keep the entire multi-aged clan together. They live on roots and
grass, apple drops, cull potatoes and a small amount of grain. In
winter hay takes the place of grass and they continue to get cull
potatoes. If you look closely in the background, you can see three of
the eight piglets born in the orchard to one sow about six-weeks-ago. At
birth, a piglet is about the size of a beer mug.
Firewood Operation on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
our Climate Change trend towards heavier rains and higher winds, this
Fall Caleb has been cutting down the shallow-rooted Poplar trees near
our buildings. Pound for pound, dry firewood has the same BTUs whether
it is maple or Poplar. Poplar is fine for firewood but since it’s half
the density of maple it takes twice as many cords to get the same heat.
Each pallet box is mixed with ¾ Poplar and ¼ Maple. We’ll save the
maple for nights so we’ll have coals left in the morning. Here, Caleb
works the Honda gas-powered homemade woodsplitter. Longtime co-worker
and High School Senior Nate stacks wood into pallet racks and boxes.
Nate has signed up to join the Maine National Guard after graduation in
June. He’s already taking part in maneuvers one weekend a month down in
Early Snow & Four-Foot Pallet Box of Firewood.
This week we had our first snow, way less than the 10” they were
predicting for us early in the week. Cold and more snow is forecast
into next week. We’re pretty much a full year ahead on firewood. This
winter’s supply has been seasoned and is safely stored away inside.
This pallet box – and many others like it –will dry over the next year
and be ready for use next Winter.
Geese Flying South on a Cold, Gray Nothern Maine Morning.
Canadian Geese are smart enough to head south for the Winter. But if
they grew potatoes they would want to stick around because Winter means
plenty of work ahead for Maine potato farmers. This morning shot was taken
looking westward across this year’s snow-covered potato fields, now
planted to Organic Winter Rye. Temps were in the 20ºFs with wind a from
Wood Prairie Rose Hips Covered in Snow.
Rosa Rugosa grow wild along the Maine coast. Over the years we’ve dug
up plants from the coast and transplanted them up here near the west
bank of our Big Pond. Over the years these Rose Hip plants have spread
into a long, pretty thick hedge. Along with the snow, there are plenty
of nutritious Rose Hips for our wintering Maine birds to enjoy.
|Dr. John Ikerd on Large Farms.
Parsnip and Parmesian Gratin.
4 lb Yukon
potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 lb parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cored and cut into 2-inch
4 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 oz creme fraiche or yogurt
4 oz mascarpone
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1 egg white, whipped until lightly foamy
1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup)
Put potatoes and parsnips in a pot, cover with water and add 1 T salt.
Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20
minutes. Drain the potatoes and parsnips, put them back into the pot
with butter, and coarsely mash with a potato masher. Fold in the creme
fraiche or yogurt, mascarpone, nutmeg, t tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
Fold in egg white. Transfer to a 9x13-inch baking dish.
Heat the oven to 375ºF. Sprinkle the gratin with the cheese, and bake
until the gratin is heated through and the top is golden, about 40
Photo by Angela Wotton.
|Wood Prairie Farm Quick
Caleb & Jim
& Megan Gerritsen
Prairie Family Farm
429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox