This essay is from Two Farms: Essays on a Maine Country Life by Janet Galle.
2006. It is available at Gulf of Maine Books, Brunswick or from Apple Creek Farm.
Winter quiet often inspires reflection and this winter is no different. These thoughts arrive during our daily work– feeding the animals, preparing meals or as we plan for the upcoming season.
Titans of the Forest
Trees are like the dinosaurs of the plant world but not in the sense of being extinct. It is the size that counts. They easily top Tyrannosaurus Rex — in sound, as well as height. I never look up enough when I am outside to truly appreciate the dinosaur-like plants that tower over me. Rather, my view is usually straight on, about six feet above ground level. In spring, in autumn, after a snowstorm, I see this picture: lacy, delicate trees, etched and painted by Mother Nature. I forget there is another — the view of giants.
In the middle of a snow-sleet storm this past week, Nell, our new pup, and I went for a walk with the wind swirling around us, tugging at her fur and my scarf, bringing tears to our eyes. There were no other distractions in this storm, only the elements and us. Near the ice pond we stopped for a while, stood still. Nell leaned against my leg as we were engulfed by the rage of the wind. Twigs and small branches flew through the air in a fury. Detritus from last autumn’s leaf fall was scooped up and hurled back to earth. Wind howled, and the trees above us answered in kind. They were not taking this beating like lambs.
Ice-covered branches and the slender tip tops of trees clinked together, jostling each other like fans at a football game. They pushed and shoved under the wind’s influence, always returning to their original position and then moving quickly in the opposite direction, all the while chattering and clanging. Ice in a glass. Tap dancers on stage. Horses on parade with their clattering shoes hitting asphalt. All of those sounds rained down upon Nell and me as we stood under the bare ash tree towering 50 feet above us. I crouched beside her, held onto her for comfort. The forest was filled with passions in a storm, and nowhere was it more violent than under the trees.
The more the wind pushed, the more the trunks swayed, groaning as if sick or injured, left to die along a path. Unlike their distant branches that reach the sky and greet the sun on brighter days, the trunks sustain the weight of the entire tree, limb to branch to stem to leaf. Theirs is the task of transporting food, minerals, and water. Here the sap swells, rises, freezes, and then slowly melts. Here the transportation system — switching terminals, platforms, and connections — carries out its work. It is a life of burden and responsibility — and endurance.
On the first farm by the ocean where we once lived, when my children were young and I was frequently awake in the dark, bewitching hours of night with a baby on my shoulder, I would watch the white pine and northern red oak along the shore. Throughout winter those trees moved like tyrannosaurs stalking along the ocean’s edge. Their entire bodies seemed in action except for their feet which were rooted and solid, the support that kept them from tumbling. Groaning, not from illness, but from exertion in the battle, the trees struggled to remain upright.
I am fascinated when trees have lost that battle, when I come upon the newly-split wood, splintered into daggers, of a fallen pine deep in a forest. The intricate web of roots and rootlets that have provided water and minerals, sustained a tree for a lifetime, are exposed. Death of a titan is dramatic. Sixty feet of fallen tree is not to be scoffed at.
At the university in Ohio where I went to school, an old red oak that once defined the center of the campus, now over 200 years old, was taken down this year. It did not lose a battle to a wind storm as the trees in my woods may, but fear of the consequences of such a defeat drove the campus officials to “remove” the tree first. Their comment, “It was only a matter of time before a storm blew it over…”
But just imagine. Sprouted about 1795, that red oak grew up in a forest which stretched from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. It watched over the birth of the university and the comings and goings of countless students who strolled beneath its branches. People do not take kindly to the loss of such a tree.
I wonder, then, about the lesser-known trees that tower over Nell and me, the ones complaining loudly about the strength of this particular storm. They will survive. They are still young in tree years and have flexible trunks and tenacious roots. Long after we have gone on our way, these ash and maple, hemlock and fir, pine and beech which inhabit our woods will have withstood the sting of sleet, the weight of snow, the pelting of rain. The titans of this forest may wail in response to the wind, but they will win the battle. From the viewpoint of giants there is no room for whimperers. Nell and I will do best to weather this storm under the protection of a roof.
Wow December! It has been cold!!
We can tell just how cold by how frosty an animal’s nose and whiskers are, or by how much ice is on Jake’s beard by the end of chores. We keep everyone warm with plenty of water, extra bedding and as much food as possible. Our 2017 laying hens arrived just as the temperatures dipped really low, so they are in the basement until we can add extra insulation to their brooder trailer. These gals (a mix of barred rock and black sex links) will be laying by summer. In the meantime our hens are laying surprisingly well despite having the weather and daylight against them. For us, the chief advantage of this cold weather is that we can pack for market on Friday night, enabling us to have a bit more time to linger over our coffee on Saturday mornings.
This Saturday, December 24th we will be at the Brunswick Winter Market inside Fort Andross. We’ll have all three types of pate made by Turtle Rock Farm— chicken, turkey and lamb. These are delicious (if we do say so ourselves) and handy during the holiday visiting season.
In addition we will have our inventory of sheepskins & goat hides. All sheepskins will be on sale, just in time for any last minute gift giving.
The farm has had a very successful year, thanks to our supportive community & customers! Look for our annual year-end report in the next few weeks. We’ll be sharing our plans for the farm’s expansion to our adjacent land!
The fall has been downright gorgeous with so many colorful trees around the farm! It has been a glorious backdrop for all our late summer and fall activities. We’ve been raking up huge bags of leaves to feed the goats through the winter. They delight in the crunch so much we call them goat “chips.” We’ve also been putting ewes into breeding groups and have incorporated a new, Clun Forest Ram. If you recall Sam our bull then you’ll want to check out the photos on the farm’s Facebook page to see his calves. We have had two so far and are waiting on three more. Our goats spent the end of summer grazing at Six River Farm, helping to clean up some woods edges and cover crops. We are so glad for the collaboration with other farms particularly when grass was in short supply. Because of this, it was fortunate that we are not raising geese this year. We will resume raising them in 2017. If you had been planning on a goose for your holiday table let us know, we can help you choose another one of our delicious options.
If you haven’t seen us at market recently then you’ve missed meeting our new canine ambassador, Rye. He is a rescue pup from Arkansas who has filled the giant holes in our lives and hearts left by our previous dog, Chicory. Since Rye won’t be able to attend Brunswick Winter Market inside Fort Andross be sure to stop by on Tuesdays at Brunswick Farmers Market or on Saturdays at Brunswick Topsham Land Trust’s Market at Crystal Spring Farm. We are still taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys and our market schedule is below.
UPDATE: We are SOLD OUT for 2016.
Please see us at farmers market to add your name to our waiting list. We thank you for your support of organic farming!
Our gorgeous organic turkeys are out on pasture surrounded by the colors of autumn. We are rotating these birds through a section of field we reserved just for them! This took some planning as the dry summer left us with less pasture for all the animals.
To be sure you’ll have an Apple Creek turkey for your Thanksgiving feast follow this link to reserve yours. Our birds are also available in the Portland area through Rosemont Market and in the greater Dover-Foxcroft area through Spruce Mill Kitchen.
Lamb is back! So many of our customers have been waiting patiently- thank you! Our lamb is 100% grass-fed which is part of the reason for the wait. We graze our lambs all summer and this year was particularly tricky with the drought to provide enough forage to help them grow.
We will have a full range of lamb cuts- including chops, ground, shanks, stew and more- available starting this Saturday at the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust market.
We have turkeys for your Thanksgiving celebration. Follow this link to order yours. Birds will range from 12-20+ pounds, are priced at $5 a pound and are certified organic. We are proud to raise our birds outside, on pasture supplemented by certified organic grains. Our birds are processed at Weston’s Meat & Poultry in West Gardiner one of our local processors who are now MOFGA Certified Organic. We thank the staff at Weston’s and in MOFGA’s Agricultural Services Department for their help in making this happen!
We are now able to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) & EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) at all our market locations. It has taken us a good long while to get there (we started the process in March) but are now equipped with a new EBT card reader and wireless printer. If you receive these benefits you can access the full range of Apple Creek Farm products. We’re really excited to be even more accessible!
We’re adding new products to our current line-up of certified organic meats! These include ground turkey, drumsticks, wings and backs. This will lengthen our turkey season which had been limited to whole birds for Thanksgiving.
One of our goals is to be able to offer all of our products year round. So, getting turkeys in the early spring to be finished in late summer is one way to do that.
Our turkey poults arrived in the same way as most of our poultry, as day old birds shipped via the US Postal Service. We had ordered all toms (males) in order to maximize their ability to grow out relatively quickly. Keeping the poults warm during a Maine spring is no easy feat! We used between 2-4 heat lamps at any given point during the day to ensure even heat of nearly 90 degrees. After 4 weeks, once the poults are fully feathered we allowed them outdoor access using small wooden fences. Each fence is constructed of strapping covered with chicken wire. An eye screw at each end allows us to use fiberglass poles to stake each panel. We build the panels at 4′ for the turkeys and then cover the outdoor area with shade cloth in order to protect them from predators and to keep them from flying out. The sound of a loose poult is very distinctive! After a week or so of the panels and tarp we began using Premier poultry netting to keep them contained. These fences are key to our operation and once electrified keep the turkeys in and other critters out!
Our birds grew a bit more slowly than in the past due to the lack of rain. The drought meant that new pastures weren’t as lush and rich so more frequent moves were needed.
For me the weather in July seemed more like August, so it feels a bit like we’re getting an extra month of summer! We’ll be busy this month with our last two groups of broilers, introducing the turkeys to pasture and hopefully enjoying a day or two at the beach with visiting family members.
We had a fun Open Farm Day and thank everyone that came out despite the rain. The day cleared shortly afternoon and we were able to enjoy the local foods bbq with family, friends and neighbors. We are hoping another such rainy morning will come along soon as our pastures are getting quite dry. If you have been to the farm you know we have many beautiful trees and this year there are distinct patches of dry grass around them. If you’re curious about where we stand with rain visit the US Drought Monitor. We are fortunate to have options to mitigate the dry conditions though this does mean feeding hay earlier and grazing what has in the past been an on-farm hay field.
Due to a variety of circumstances we won’t be raising geese. While this a big disappointment (they are the most adorable babies) it also a blessing as the dry weather means there is less grass coming up. The geese are fantastic grazers and grow best with plenty of pasture.
We will be raising turkeys for Thanksgiving again this year. These birds are available to order now, so be sure to make a note. Birds are priced at $5/lb with average sizes between 12-15 lbs. We sold out last year so don’t delay!
So what else has been happening on the farm?
THIS SUNDAY is Bowdoinham Open Farm Day! Apple Creek will be open from 9:30 am – 12 noon and we look forward to seeing you! Make it a day trip by staying around for the local foods barbeque happening at the Mailly Waterfront Park 3 pm – 6 pm, the meal will include Apple Creek chicken smoked to perfection by event caterer, The Texas Barbeque Company.
What Can You Expect?
Things to consider- Our farm is a working farm, we’ll mow the lawn but don’t expect everything to look picturesque! Please bring appropriate gear such as close-toed shoes or boots, a water bottle and snacks for your smalls. We’ll have a boot wash and ask that if you are coming from a farm with any critters that you wash up before you walk around. Likewise if you’re headed to another participating farm, we suggest you rinse off before heading out.
What won’t you see when you visit? Dogs! Having two on-farm dogs, we ask that you make other plans for your canine friends.
Summer is here in all its glory! We’ve been spending our days moving fences, watering animals and making hay. Our hay making game has improved this year with the purchase of a (new-to-us) round baler. Round bales which are roughly equivalent to 15-20 square bales have allowed us to take advantage of all the sun and get all but one of the 30+ acres of hay fields done! Now, we wait for rain!
Our new flock of hens has begun laying full-time and full-size! We are glad to have plenty of eggs at markets each week. No more awkward moments when there is one dozen left on the table! If you miss us at market you can also find our eggs at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick.
We hope you will all join us for Bowdoinham’s Open Farm Day on Sunday, July 17th. We will be open from 9:30 AM to 12 NOON. We will have a farm stand set-up and offer tours of the farm. A local foods BBQ will be served in the afternoon, so do be sure to visit the event website for all the details.
Thank you for all the support at markets, shopping with your local farm does make a difference! We are glad for your encouragement as we grow the farm.