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Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
          Saturday, December 21st, 2019
                Volume 28 Issue 14

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 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

   Another White Christmas?


    New Wood Prairie Catalog Coming to a Mail Box Near You!

Keep an eye out for our new Wood Prairie Catalog, soon to be in your mailbox. Here in Aroostook County, Maine, after an early start to Winter - with a snowy November, the pendulum has swung back over the last couple of weeks with some milder weather. We've dropped to zero several mornings but have yet to go below zero, which in unusual for December.

Generally, one of the safest bets one could ever make is whether or not Northern Maine will see a white Christmas. There have only been a handful of brown Christmases in the last hundred years. Our woods and fields are still covered in snow despite some recent heavy rains.

About 30 years ago we had an open Winter with just a few inches of snow covering until Valentine's Day. That January we had ten consecutive mornings of -10F to -20F and the frost went deep into the soil. That was enough cold to kill all of the garlic we planted that Fall. Then, with a pattern shift, between Valentine's Day and mid-April we had two, sometimes three storms a week. By the time Winter had ended, those two months of snow added up to our 'normal' eight to ten feet of snow. Statistically, that is what the weather record books would record as an "average" Maine Winter.

Caleb, Jim & Megan

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
Bird's Eye View: Autumn Over Northern Maine.

Katahdin, Northern Maine. From the west with the West Branch of the Penobscot River in view.

Before our country slips too far into Winter, we thought you would enjoy watching this last view of Fall: a brand new aerial drone video (2:15) filmed this October by Nick Godfrey and Nick Woodward for Maine Public.

View spectacular footage with Fall colors at peak, beginning with Aroostook County farmland and ending with Katahdin and the West Branch of the Penobscot River.

The potato harvest portion of the video features the multi-generation Staples' family farm in nearby Presque Isle which grows eight different varieties of Maine Certified Seed Potatoes. As you will see, the Staples use a Lockwood 4 -Row Windrower to consolidate the crop ahead of their tractor-drawn Lockwood Air-Harvester, digging 10-rows of potatoes per pass. Caleb's sister Amy's boyfriend would be Alec Staples, one of the fifth-generation potato farmers in the Staples family.

About 20% of the Maine potato crop is grown as Maine Certified Seed. A study once calculated that half of all potatoes grown in the eastern United States were progeny of Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

We grow twenty varieties of Organic Certified Seed Potatoes and they are available ten months a year - from Sept until July 4 - to customers in all 50 States via our Wood Prairie Mail Order Catalog and Web store (www.woodprairie.organic).

Caleb, Megan & Jim

Special Offer: FREE Organic Keuka Gold Seed Potatoes!

      Organic Keuka Gold is a welcome addition to our Wood Prairie Organic Potato Collection. Keuka Gold offers both excellent taste and culinary quality, along with admirable production qualities including reliability, good yield and ease-of-growing.

      Why not try Keuka Gold in next year's garden? With this Special Offer your experiment can be with our compliments! Earn a FREE 1 lb. Sack of Organic Keuka Gold Seed Potatoes (Value $11.95) when your next Wood Prairie order totals $39 or more. FREE Organic Keuka Gold Seed Potatoes Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday, December 23. Please use Promo Code WPFF456. Your order and FREE Organic Keuka Gold Seed Potato Offer - must ship no later than May 5, 2020. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please place your order TODAY!

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

Organic Keuka Gold.
Delicious Golden Potato well-suited to organic growing.
Hand Grading Table.
Simple design for a versatile table for grading or washing crops for market.
Farmer's Workbench: Wood Potato Hand Grading Table.   

Recently, a farmer friend contacted us for the plans for this this easy-to-build Hand Grading Table. She had seen a homemade 'Hand Table' on another farm and that farmer had related to her he had lifted the DIY plans from our Seed Piece newsletter.

So, that takes us back virtually 25 years to our Spring 1995 issue of the Wood Prairie Seed Piece. With the Winter slow-down-season, we decided it was high-time we re-ran this popular article as a good inside construction project.

As we described it back then, "A simple-to-build, funnel-shaped, inclined grading table that we use every day. Handy for a multitude of jobs including grading, hosing down and bagging carrots, beets, turnips, apples, onions and garlic."

Materials List:

(2)Front Legs 2"x4"x36" (slant to 32")
(2)Back Legs 2"x4"x42" (slant to 38")
(2)Bottom Long Brace 2"x4"x54"
(2)Bottom Cross Brace 2"x4"x21.5"
(2)Top Long Brace 2"x4"x55.75"
(3)Table Slat Supports: 2"x4"x55.75"
     (this piece lays flat) 2"x4"x30"
(8)Table slats 0.75"x1.5" (1x2 clear wood)x60"
(2)Table Sides 0.75"x5.5" (1x6)x60"
(1)Backboard 0.75"x3.5" (1x4)x35"
     (Nails to Long Table Slat Support)
(1)Gate 0.75"x5.5"x19" (tapers to 13")
(4)Gate Slot Pieces 0.5"x1.5" (lathe)x6
(1)Single Bag Hanger (Optional)
6d, 8d and 16d Nails

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

National Farmer's Union Button.    We were recently at a farming conference and NEFU (New England Farmers Union) - the New England chapter of NFU - had a booth and was giving away old-time buttons so we grabbed one. NFU was founded by ten family farmers in Point, Texas in 1902. For many decades NFU has been the second largest farmers' organization in the United States. We have been members since NEFU was established. Jim served for several years on the NEFU Board of Advisors but stepped down nine years ago when his full attention was needed for the OSGATA et al v. Monsanto federal lawsuit. Jim continues to serve as president of the national farmer-run Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association.

Wood Prairie Farm Equipment Parked for Winter.
   It's often a scramble before the first snow to get farm equipment put away where it won't be in the way of plowing snow. We run 50% antifreeze in trucks and tractors year-round which saves us from having to drain radiators every Fall. We've learned to remove batteries and store them inside where they won't experience freezing conditions. Theoretically, a fully-charged battery will not freeze over the winter. However, if a battery is weak (a "Summer Battery" in Maine-speak), or shorts out and loses-it's-charge, it is liable to get frozen, ruined and need replacing in the Spring.

Snowy Tractor and Hay Wagon.
  Here, our old 1952 Oliver Super 77 Gas tractor is hooked up to a versatile 5-ton Hay Wagon. We use the wagon not only for hay but for everything including hauling seed potatoes to the field in the Spring and hauling back full pallet boxes of potatoes during harvest in the Fall. Twenty years ago - when brand new metal was just $0.35/pound (metal prices leaped almost overnight to $1.10/pound ten years ago and have never come down) - we bought two "Running Gears" (the underneath frame, tongue, wheels and tires). We wisely built this wagon entirely out of metal ("expensive" at the time) and painted it green. This green wagon is basically as sound today as the day we built it. On top of the other Running Gear we built a wood bed and painted it blue. That wood job lasted about ten years. As the wood deteriorated we repaired and shifted it to over light-duty work, such as hauling empty pallet boxes around. Whatever money we imagined we might have saved building with wood long, long ago disappeared. The lesson learned is it pays to do things right the first time and in this case that means fighting the urge to build with wood when you live in wood country and it rains alot.

Halle & Wood Prairie Front Yard.      In the Fall after the ground has frozen, Caleb will use our 10-foot V-Snow-Plow attached to our Ford F250 Diesel pickup truck to push the snow into piles at the edge of the yard and on the edge of our 600-foot driveway through the woods. From storm after storm, the snow may grow deep in the woods and in the fields but our yard and driveway are plowed smooth as a baby's bottom. In heavy snow years, mid-Winter we'll use our Cat D6 bulldozer to push the snow banks back to create elbow room so tractor-trailers will be able to turn around. Here, Halle our Great Pyrenees guard dog, is on patrol making her rounds. Our 132-foot long unheated "High Tunnel" sits in the background.

Empty Pallet Boxes Pushed Outside After Grading Potatoes on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
In the Fall our underground potato storage is filled up with full 4' x 4' x4' wooden pallet boxes (which each hold 2000 pounds of spuds) of field-run Certified Seed Potatoes. At this time of Winter we plug along with the long job of pre-grading (separating out crushed, misshapen or defective tubers which are then fed to our cows and pigs) all of our potatoes to get ready for Spring's fast-paced seed shipping season. A pallet box is dumped over onto our mechanical potato grading line - brushers to clean, sizers to size and a roller inspection table for a human to visually inspect for possible defects. Once emptied, the pallet box is pushed outside. The cleaned potatoes are graded into smaller, more maneuverable wooden pallet boxes, where the potatoes will be stored at 38F until needed for the filling of orders.

Harriet Tubman on Liberty.

Recipe: Carrot Beet Salad.

Grate in a food processor:
3 medium Chantenay Carrots
3 medium Sweet Dakota Bliss Beets

Whisk together in a separate bowl:
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T Maine Maple Syrup
1 clove Red Russian Garlic, minced
1/2 c olive oil

Add dressing to grated vegetables and gently toss to combine. Let stand 1 hour to marinate before serving. Garnish with sliced almonds or sunflower seeds.
Serves 8 as a side dish


Carrot Beet Salad.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

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