What’s In Season?

If you’ve seen our display at farmers market you know that the “Whats’s In Season” sign is part of it! This is our way of sharing with you when certain products are available. This chart is unique to our farm!

Many of you have been asking about chicken. For Apple Creek Farm this is a seasonal product. We begin raising our meat birds (broilers) in late March so they are fully feathered and ready to go out onto pasture when the grass is green. We raise broilers March – September (when there is fresh grass) and offer them fresh each week through the summer and frozen throughout the winter.

Each year we raise an increasing number of these chickens for weekly processing and the last two years we’ve sold out of our supply before our processing begins in Mid-May. So our lack of chicken is not because of the corona virus, rather due to it’s popularity!

FRESH CHICKEN available each week beginning mid-May

We’ve also sold a great deal of beef this winter. We’ll be restocked in two weeks and look for both greater variety AND the return of your favorite cuts including chuck roasts, meaty soup bones, stew meat and more!

What about Spring Lamb? Isn’t that in season?

Nope! Our lambs are born in February and March allowing them to nurse from their moms (our ewes) until May. This gives them time to learn to eat hay and then head out to pasture with their moms to learn about what plants are good to graze and how to be model farm residents by responding to our claps and daily moves to fresh pasture. We train the lambs to come when we clap so that they can easily be moved from one field to the next.

The lambs spend their summer growing while grazing. This is a slower way to finish them (by this we mean prepare them for eventual harvest) and is what makes our lamb lean yet tasty (never gamey). Our lambs stay on the farm until September or October when we choose which ewes (girl lambs) will be kept for our breeding flock (moms) and which will be harvested. This is why lamb generally isn’t available until September at the earliest.

Our goat kids are born in early to mid-May. They spend six months with their moms (our does) out on pasture and in the woods eating lots of deep-rooted perennials and invasive plants such as bittersweet. At six months the kids are weaned and join the lambs in their daily pasture moves. Our goats take a full two years to finish and as a result goat cuts are generally not available until September or October.

We're Here For YOU

Thank you for the outpouring of support, it has been heartening to hear from you!

Our dedication to raising the best tasting, highest quality meats and eggs for our community remains unchanged. As we grapple with tough decisions and conversations, as we weigh the options of feeding our community alongside the advice to stay at home- we are thinking of you.

Our conclusion is that the best thing for our community (wonderful eaters, fellow farmers, your family and ours) is to remove ourselves from spaces, indoors or out, where 10 or more people might gather. As of this morning, Brunswick Winter Market is closed for at least two weeks as the steering committee evaluates how to better serve both member businesses and customers. 

CAN I BUY DIRECT FROM THE FARM?  YES!
Apple Creek Farm will continue to take orders via our email- info@applecreekfarm.meVisit our website for our list of products and pertinent details. Please share this with your neighbors and friends.

Wishing you our best,
Abby & Jake

Bonus!

Imagine Jake’s surprise when he found an “extra” lamb! Freshly cleaned off and “baaing” for its mother.

Sunday mornings are generally when we let ourselves sleep in a little bit and last Sunday was no different. But, upon waking we realized with a groan that it was daylight savings time! Already feeling late, we rushed out to begin chores. We arrived at the barn and Jake went over to check the nursery, the area where we put ewes and lambs after their time in individual lambing pens. Everyone in the nursery has bonded and know who belongs to whom. Imagine Jake’s surprise when he found an “extra” lamb! Freshly cleaned off and “baaing” for its mother.

Immediately we suspended normal chores and with the lamb tucked into my jacket, began a search to figure out who the likely mother might be. We assumed one of our first-time moms had this lamb and somehow (as unlikely as it seemed) it had made its way from their adjacent paddock into the nursery. To do so, the newborn would have to maneuver through multiple locked gates. After twenty minutes of “hind-end” reviews and doing a full headcount of ewes, we concluded that none of the first timers had given birth. I returned to the nursery area and noticed that a pretty brown ewe, named Peppercorn was stretching her neck over the nursery fence and calling to the lamb. “Just being friendly” I thought.

At this point, knowing the lamb had been out in the cold for at least an hour and unsure if it had eaten, we decided to take it indoors and get it some packaged colostrum. Inside I trudged with the little lamb who by now was quite cozy in my jacket. I tubed the lamb as Janet and Pete stood by scratching their heads; as confused as us. Once he got the warm colostrum in his belly, he was quite happy. By this time, Jake had examined all the ewes in the nursery and determined that Peppercorn had blood on her tail, a sure sign she had given birth. The only problem was that she had already given birth, a week prior and had delivered twin lambs!?!?

Jake came into the house to let me know. Janet then produced her iPad and did a quick google search, turning up results in the British Isles of this condition called (without much flair) “delayed birth.” It is not unheard of in other species and with sheep it generally results in death for “delayed” lamb.

Still dumbfounded, we returned the lamb to its mum, Peppercorn. She was removed from the nursery with her twins and placed back into an individual pen. The twins seemed delighted to have a new playmate rather than grumpy with their new, younger sibling. Triples are not uncommon in sheep but with only two teats on a ewe’s udder there always tends to be one of the three lambs that doesn’t grow as well as the others. Survival of the fittest I suppose.

I am proud to say that little Bonus is doing well. He gets supplemental milk daily from a ewe that lost her lamb at the start of the season and nurses vigorously from his mother. Despite his age difference he is bouncing around with his brother and sister enjoying being a lamb and Peppercorn continues to be up for the challenge of caring for her triplets.

Are YOU a Local Foods Investor?

Chances are good that you are!

Whether you know it or not, choosing to do any one of the following more than once a week means you are a local foods investor!

Buy Direct

This means you buy products directly from the person(s) that produce them. If you buy our organic eggs each week then you’re buying direct!
Buying directly from a farmer means that you get the greatest value for your dollar AND the farmer receives the greatest return.

These purchases happen at the farmers’ market, an on-farm store, through Community Supported Agriculture or a buying club. When you purchase directly from a farmer know that you’re getting the freshest products and that the majority of your dollars stay at the farm to be recirculated through wages and purchases from other local businesses. On average we retain about 48 cents of every $1 our farm produces.

Photo by Liz Clayman

Buy Local

Maybe you bought our eggs at Morning Glory Natural Foods or another local foods retailer.

Perhaps you did so because you saw on our carton that the eggs come from a place nearby, a town you know. Indeed this is a perfect reason to buy our eggs. Purchasing local foods from a locally owned grocer means that your dollars stay in that community up to five times longer than if you shopped at a locally managed grocery chain.

Social Capital

Influence and connections are social capital. A person or entity who has ‘good social capital’ can ask favors, influence decisions, and communicate efficiently. Social capital is of primary importance in politics, business, and community organizing.

Ethan Roland, 8 Forms of Capitalism

Another means of local investing doesn’t cost anything at all! Social capital is one of the 8 forms of capital that help explain how value can be exchanged through means other than physical currency. Every one of us hold standing in our community that we can leverage to benefit local businesses.

One of the most straightforward examples of this is “word of mouth.” Even in this digital age making a referral or endorsing a product to your friends can have a sizable impact.

Every week at the farmers market we have at least one new customers who heard about our farm from a friend, or co-worker – that’s amazing!

This effect can be multiplied when you share one of our social media posts or when you “tag” our farm in one of your own posts. The same is true when you provide feedback or a testimonial, you’re contributing social capital!

Social capital and the other 7 forms of capital are used in combination with holistic management. The trust we build with you is important to us and that’s why we aim to be consistent with our market presence and quality of our products.

And the return on this investment?

In a traditional sense any investment demands a return. So how do farms provide a return on your investment? GREAT FOOD!

In addition, farms employ local people, purchase supplies locally and support other small businesses. When we buy shavings for our chickens they come from the feed store just up the road. Our favorite nest boxes (pictured at top) come from a small business that is thriving due to the support and growth of small farms just like ours!

Farmers collaborate so much! We order seeds, minerals and other supplies together. Our eggs are included in CSA shares, in on-farm stores and in value-added products around the state- all because we want to support other farms and farmers.

All these farms keep your neighborhood looking beautiful by retaining open space and habitat for wildlife and building community through weekly events such as farmers’ markets. Creating these spaces for us to connect over food may be the best return we could anticipate.

Open Farm Day 2019

We’re really excited to be part of both Bowdoinham’s Open Farm Day & Art Trail & Maine’s Statewide Open Farm Day again this year! Our farm will be open on Sunday, July 28 between 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. We hope you’ll join us!

Let’s us know you’ll attend by visiting the event page.

What type of activities can you expect?

  • Self guided farm tours all day
  • Farmer led tours at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Farmer led tours are about an hour, involve walking over uneven ground, will include visits to all our animals and cover various aspects of farm production.
  • Children’s Activities including feeding the chickens, adventures in the “Grasshopper Field,” grasshopper ID and coloring.
  • Meet & Greet with our canine crew including Ida & Rye
  • Get to know our friendliest goats & sheep
  • Delicious snacks and treats from Turtle Rock Farm
  • Shop at our Pop-Up Farm Store (All sheepskins & goat hides ON SALE!)
(this is a photo from last year, I promise they are still adorable)

Be sure to pack a cooler to pick up some meats for the grill, or stick around for the Barbecue, 3-6pm at the Mailly Waterfront Park. The meal will include Apple Creek Farm chicken along with veggies and strawberry shortcake made with ingredients from Bowdoinham farms.

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 children. 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 three on-farm dogs, we ask that you make other plans for your canine friends.

Summer Reading: Top 5 Books by Farmers

When I was a teenage my favorite summer activity was reading. Whether on a rainy day like today or out on the beach, I usually had a book in hand. Now that we farm,  I rarely have time to read during the growing season, but come winter I try to pack it in and read everything I can.

Some of my favorite books from the last few years have been written by farmers. This list, in no particular order includes some of those I’ve most enjoyed. Whether you are interested in growing your own food, aspire to be a farmer in the future or  read to understand a different perspective, I think you’ll enjoy the following books. You’ll find most at your local library or independent book store.

Gaining GroundGaining Ground
Written by Forrest Pritchard of Smith Meadows Farm in Virginia this is a tale of English major turned farmer. Pritchard’s casual and endearing way of writing will have you sympathizing with the challenges he faces turning a multi-generational crop farm into a grass-based livestock operation and you’ll laugh out loud at his misadventures. Jake worked at Smith Meadows back in 2008 during a year-long apprenticeship that brought him back to Apple Creek.

The Shepherd’s Life
If you’re a farm newsletter subscriber then you’ve had the bookreview_shepherds_lifechance to read excerpts of this book. The author, James Rebanks describes his home in England through a historical context that weaves together land conservation, modern challenges and a perspective of shepherding that stretches back through multiple centuries. Rebank’s captures the essence of farming and the relationship between shepherd and sheep in a powerful way. I’ll let you read it and see how well he puts it!HSC

Turn Here, Sweet Corn
This book follows a family farm, Gardens of Eagan through its formative years. Author, Atina Diffley does a delightful job of writing a memoir that is as much about her own development as that of her farm. Along the way, Diffley shares the struggles farmers contend with- land development, resource extraction, natural disasters that are well out of their control and illustrates just how important communities can be during these events.

Locally Laid
If you want to know how it feels, sounds and smells to start a large-scale pasture based Locally Laidegg operation then read this book! Author, Lucie Amundsen writes with humor and wit that belies the difficulties she and her husband Jason have faced in becoming the largest pasture-based egg operation in the upper Midwest. In her book, Amundsen introduces readers to the important concept of “middle ag,” which she believes can be a key economic driver vital to the revitalization of agrarian communities across the country. The book follows Lucie and Jason as they hatch the idea for their new business and through the first year or so as their plans get scrambled (puns all intended). This book made me laugh out loud and if you’re considering starting a farm, I’d consider it mandatory reading.

Dirty LifeThe Dirty Life
In many of the books included in this list you’ll begin to understand the powerful pull of farming. For some, it is a life they were born into and for others it is an adventure that may feel a bit like falling down the rabbit hole. Kimball does an elegant job of describing how she went from big-city reporter to living in the Adirondacks and operating with her husband one of best known and largest “full-diet” CSA farms in the country. The book follows the farm’s first couple of years as Kristin and Mark find land and begin asking neighbors to commit to purchasing all their food from the farm, by buying a share per person. I won’t spoil the ending too much to tell you- it works and the farm now sends shares as far south as New York City.

Open Farm Day 2018

Open Farm Day 18 (1)We’re really excited to be part of both Bowdoinham’s Open Farm Day & Art Trail & Maine’s Statewide Open Farm Day again this year! Our farm will be open on Sunday, July 22 between 9:00 am – 1:00 pm. We hope you’ll join us!

Let’s us know you’ll attend by visiting our event page.

What type of activities can you expect?

  • Self guided farm tours all day
  • Farmer led tours at 9:30 am, 10:30 am and 11:30. Farmer led tours are about an hour and will include visits to all our animals and cover various aspects of farm production.
  • Children’s Activities including adventures in the “Grasshopper Field,” coloring and games
  • Meet & Greet with our canine crew including Ida & Rye
  • Get to know our friendliest goats & sheep
  • Delicious snacks and treats from Turtle Rock Farm
  • Shop at our Pop-Up Farm Store (All sheepskins & goat hides ON SALE!)

Be sure to pack a cooler to pick up some meats for the grill, or stick around for the Barbecue, 3-6pm at the Mailly Waterfront Park. Catered by the Texas Barbeque Company the meal will include Apple Creek Farm chicken along with veggies and strawberry shortcake made with ingredients from Bowdoinham farms.

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 children. 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 three on-farm dogs, we ask that you make other plans for your canine friends.

What’s a Pullet?

Pullet comparison
Our eggs are always labeled as a dozen of “mixed sizes” and with good reason! With three groups of hens of different ages the size of the eggs we collect vary on a daily basis.

If you’ve visited Apple Creek Farm’s booth at your local farmers’ market lately then you’ve seen a stack of egg cartons labeled, pullet. Enough visitors have looked across the table at me and wondered, “What’s a pullet?” that I figured a public explanation is in order.

According to the dictionary, pullet is a noun meaning a young hen, less than one year old. The origin of the word is from 1325–75: the Middle English polet; the Middle French poulet, diminutive of poul cock; Latin pullus chicken, young of an animal.

IMG_4754Our 500 organic pullets (nicknamed “The Laceys” for their lacy white tail feathers) were purchased at 16 weeks of age. Since pullets begin laying anywhere between 16-24 weeks of age, our girls are also called a “point-of-lay” hen.

We use the word pullet on our egg boxes to communicate that our young hens are laying, yet not quite producing a full size egg. Why is that?

Well, making an egg is complicated and the whole process takes 24 hours. This short video gives a concise overview of chicken anatomy and helps explain why.  A variety of factors (including nutrition, weight, and genetics) influence how quickly an individual hen will lay eggs of normal size. It’s interesting to note that the older a hen the larger the eggs they will lay and the fewer in number they will lay.

So, whether you love these tasty little eggs or choose to pass until they size up– you’ll know exactly what pullet means! For the backstory on how we found ourselves with 500 pullets check out our previous post, Hatching An Eggs-Pansion!

Nest Box View.jpg
Our new “roll-away” nest boxes allow for easy egg collection. Note the various sizes.

 

 

InstaChicken

As many of you know we love to eat! And, we love it when you share recipes with us.

A few weeks ago one enthusiastic eater shared this recipe with me. It is a simple yet foolproof way to cook a moist, flavorful whole chicken. I tried the recipe myself and found that yes, it as straightforward and tasty as promised.

But, I love the crisp skin of a roast chicken and wondered could I have it all?
Moist, flavorful chicken and crispy skin?
Then I wondered, could this recipe be made even easier using an Instant Pot?

Our friend Jenn of Turtle Rock Farm took on this recipe testing “mission” to find out! Below is her recipe for a delicious, roast chicken in roughly 30 minutes!

static1.squarespaceJenn says, “Let this be a base for any chicken recipe – pot pie, enchiladas, and BBQ chicken come to mind, or serve whole chicken atop roasted vegetables and with a side of gravy, recipe below. ”

InstaChicken

InstaChicken

Ingredients

4.5 to 5 lb Whole Apple Creek Farm chicken – over 5 lbs may not fit in your Instant Pot but anything under this size will be perfect.

2 stalks celery, chop to 1 inch pieces

1 medium onion, chop to 1 inch pieces

2 medium carrots, chop to 1 inch pieces

1 bay leaf

1 tsp Sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

  • Setup up the Instant Pot according to the manufacturer’s instructions, being sure there is no food or liquid on the heating element underneath the cooking basket.
  • Place chopped vegetables, salt and pepper in bottom of pot and cover with 3 cups of water.
  • Place chicken, breast side down, atop vegetables.
  • Cover pot according to instructions, lock and set steam valve.
  • Choose Poultry setting and adjust time to 25 minutes. Keep pressure settings to High.
  • Allow Instant Pot to work its magic, coming to heat, cooking and releasing steam on its own.  If you are needing to release steam earlier, carefully follow instructions and keep face and hands away from steam valve when releasing pressure.
  • The chicken will now be perfectly cooked and ready to pull meat for any recipe.
  • To serve whole with a crispy skin :
    Place bird breast side up on a roasting pan or in a roasting dish on rack.  Lightly pat skin dry and place in oven under Broil for 3-6 minutes, watching carefully to cook to your desired crispiness.  Serve whole on a platter atop roasted vegetables and with gravy jus.

IMG-4197Chicken Gravy

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 cups of strained chicken stock

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

  • Strain liquid left after braising chicken in Instant Pot.  Measure 2 cups and set aside.
  • In a small saucepan over medium, melt butter with salt and pepper.
  • When warm and melted, add flour, whisking constantly.  Continue to whisk at a steady pace until thick and pulling away form bottom of pan.
  • Slowly whisk in chicken stock until smooth and fully combined.
  • Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.
  • Serve warm with roasted chicken or over potatoes and cheese curds

    Thanks to Jenn Legnini of Turtle Rock Farm for this recipe!
    We’d love to hear about it if you try this recipe, cooked in a dutch oven or in your Instant Pot.

Farm Dogs

Dogs are an iconic part of American farms. Border collies may be the first breed you picture and while these hard-working athletes are common, they aren’t the only useful ones. As a dog lover, I especially enjoy looking through Jan Dohner’s recent book, Farm Dogs. The sheer variety of dogs and their historic uses is inspiring. At Apple Creek we’re keen to keep two specific types of working dogs; terriers and livestock guardians.

IMG_20131023_162850Terriers
Fiercely loyal, tenacious and energetic the terrier is well-suited to farm life. These dogs are useful in keeping squirrels out of the barn, catching nesting mice in the hay mow and digging up burrows of ground hogs. Ever watchful, it is difficult to get anything past these dogs!

Terriers come in a wide variety of sizes based on their use.  The largest I’ve met is the Black Russian Terrier . These dogs weigh as much as 140 lbs!

Our first terrier was Chicory (pictured at left). Also called the Blonde Coyote, he lived to the ripe old age of 13. His years were spent on various farms across New England where he learned about farm life alongside Abby. Chicory weighed 35 lbs, large enough and tough enough to intimidate the livestock, but small enough to join us on the couch. We miss Chicory the most at lambing season. He wasn’t always at ease with people, but was an amazingly attentive nursemaid to our lambs. He loved to lick the lambs clean after they drank their bottles or to encourage them to drink up by licking their behinds.

 

 

IMG_1691Many readers know our newest terrier, Rye. He came to us in the summer of 2016 as a rescue from Arkansas. He is a mix breed and though his coat says “terrier” his behavior indicates he may have an equal mix of retriever. Ever playful, Rye loves a good ball toss and was described by our nephew as a, “real boy’s dog.” Rye only weighs 20 lbs and so he isn’t much for interacting with the livestock. He prefers cruising the fields looking for mice and voles. Like all terriers, Rye has a surprising bark which he loves to use. Often, he uses it to bring our attention to a piece of equipment that has changed location in the dooryard or to scare off potential threats. Both Rye & Chicory have proved they are more brave than brainy.  Rye has met several possums in his time here in Maine and he has to be convinced not to tangle with them!

Livestock Guardians
IMG_20140702_053034_673Ochi is a Pyrennees / Maremma cross. She joined Janet and Pete’s household about 10 years ago and has slowed down the last few years. Ochi walks the perimeter of the farm every morning with Pete. This keeps large carnivores like coyotes out which keeps our animals safe. There are a wide variety of livestock guardian dogs from locations worldwide. Several studies are underway to use dogs to guard large sheep flocks in the American West.

Though the farm hasn’t had a coyote attack in more than 10 years, we’re sure that having Ochi around has helped. That’s why we’re adding a new member to our farm dog crew this season. We’ll be picking up a Great Pyrennes pup very soon! She’s been raised alongside goats at a farmstead in Massachusetts and we look forward to introducing her to the farm. This photo of the whole litter (below) may give you the same sense of excitement we have. We visited the breeder last week to identify a couple of prospective pups. The breeder will be watching each as they get introduced to their goats to find us just the right temperament– a independent and confident pup that will be up for the job.

Our new girl will have her work cut out for her. In a recent blog post, Who Else Lives on the Farm we describe some of the recent uninvited guests who have been calling on our hens!  Our new pup will be trained as an LGD or Livestock Guardian Dog in order to spend her days (and nights) patrolling the fields and deterring owls, hawks and other would-be predators.

This will help us sleep better and eliminate the need to lock up our broilers and turkeys every night.  We’ve been reading our copy of Jan Dohner’s other book, Livestock Guardians to be sure we’re prepared and know how best to support our new pup as she learns basic obedience and how to trust her instincts. Breeds such as the Great Pyrenees don’t need to be “trained” how to protect their stock. For centuries they’ve been bred specifically for that purpose, so our instruction will mainly be corrected undesired behaviors such as chasing livestock. Stay tuned for more on this topic!