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.

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!

Who Else Lives on the Farm?

These days the farm is a blank canvas, a landscape draped in snow. It might be easy to only see our animals, content in their winter quarters but to do so would ignore all the wild animals who share our farm. We’ve seen the tracks of the smallest residents, red squirrels on up to the biggest, a moose!

 

We’ve had a number of unwelcome visitors over the last few weeks. One was the only North American marsupial, the possum.

I regret that we didn’t inspect this one further to determine whether male or female. If female we could have checked its pouch for joeys, but when you look that face…. you change your mind about getting too close!

 

And while opossums are a fine addition to your yard, (here’s why) they are not permitted in our chicken yards! Rye bravely crawled under the hen house and sniffed ever closer until we decided he should probably observe from a safer distance.

On of our other visitors has been around since last fall. An adult red-tailed hawk has spent much of its time scanning the big field for rodents. But, perhaps since our Rye is such a competent mouser or because the snow is now fairly deep the hawk has turned to other prey – chicken!

This series of photos documents his flight into the pasture, through his successful hunt and departure (click for larger images). The neat part about this visit was that the hawk sat and watched from the tree in the background for over an hour before flying into the pasture. Then, once on the ground inside it waited another 30 minutes for its opportunity to strike. I have to admire that patience.

 

One of our other frequent visitors is another avian carnivore, a great horned owl. We caught this owl’s photo on our game camera. In the photos below you can see an owl arrived, saw that we’d left him a dead chicken (set up as bait) and then returned an hour later to dine on the leftovers. The game camera helps us get a positive ID and to better understand the animal’s behavior and habits which in turn can help us to deter it.

 

For the past few years we’ve been using our Emden geese as guardian animals. Since geese don’t normally sleep at night they have worked well for us. However, they aren’t 100% effective and our regal avian predators seem increasingly undeterred. So, we’ll be adding a livestock guardian dog to the farm this season. One of these rugged and adorable Great Pyrennes pups will be joining us in March!

IMG_2005

Photo courtesy of Peter Sannicandro, Guardians of the Honey Hive. We found Peter through Geri Vistein founder of the Farming with Carnivores Network. Geri is a wildlife biologist who has helped us to understand the benefits of biodiversity on our farm. Geri and I were joined by Deb Perkins and Mort Moesswilde in a recent presentation about this very topic. You can read more on Deb’s website, First Light Wildlife Habits.

 

 

 

In our house, dinner is often discussed over breakfast. The dreaded question, “What do you want for dinner?” usually elicits a heavy sigh. Despite being farmers and enthusiastic cooks with access to seasonal vegetables and a wide variety of meat on hand, meal planning isn’t any easier for us than it might be for you.

Don’t wait for the perfect tool! We use a weekly calendar to identify daily activities on the farm, including tasks for the week and supplies we need to purchase. This tool takes that one step further, with space to note what you’ll be cooking and the ingredients you need – meat, vegetables, etc. Simply print one each Friday and bring along to your favorite farmers market on Saturday.

Begin defrosting meat on Sunday to avoid meal prep panic. Pull all the meat you’ll be using in recipes throughout the week and corral it in a shallow glass pan or bowl on the lowest shelf in your fridge.

Choose recipes that use what you may already have on hand or in your freezer. Rather than selecting yummy recipes at random consider what the recipes have in common. For instance, you could cook a whole chicken that is served first with roast potatoes, then as a chicken pot pie and later in the week as an egg drop soup. Ideas by type of meat can be found here.

Prep as you plan. As you look at your week’s menu identify items that you can prep on Sunday afternoon. These might include chopped or sauteed onions or garlic, grated cheese or the whole roast chicken that will be the mainstay of your week’s menu.

Make Mondays easy! In order for meal planning to work, make it achievable. Having Monday’s meal be one that is simple to put together or has been prepped on Sunday will increase your likelihood of success.

Consider using themes to inspire your recipe selection. Sometimes called “meal themes” this is one way to give your meal plan some structure and familiarity without becoming as mind-numbingly predictable as the school cafeteria.

Meatballs
Mini Turkey Meatloaves – not quite a meatball per se, but pretty darn close!
Jumbo BBQ Beef Meatballs

Related imageEggs
Shakshuka – as easy as breakfast for dinner, but with a bit more adventure.
Baked Eggs with Spinach & Mushrooms – can be 100% local year-round in Maine.

Soups
Green Curry Pho
Egg Drop Soup – one of my favorite ways to use local, seasonal veggies and cracked eggs.

Low & Slow
Classic Roast Chicken – Ideal for making chicken the keystone of your week’s meals.
Chicken in Milk – My “go-to” recipe to change my approach to roasting a chicken.

Meat Lite – eating more better meat is our goal.
Stuffed Burgers
Turkey Shanks – versatile to work with a variety of shanks from lamb to turkey.

Spicy Turkey Tacos VerticalTacos & Nachos
Spicy Turkey Tacos
Three Cheese Chicken Nachos 

Burgers
Italian Turkey Burgers
Cheddar and Onion Burgers

Building from any one of these ideas consider pairing prep for two meals. Plan-overs can also ensure you have a meal ready for the next night. See Christine Burns Rudalevige’s delightful cookbook, Green Plate Special for more ideas!

October Newsletter

October weather has run the gamut from typical frosty mornings following bright, clear nights to balmy, tropical feeling days. It is strange to have the varied hues of fall while the temperature feels like July. Like every fall, I have to retrace my steps at the day’s end to collect cast off long sleeve shirts or the lightweight down jacket that seemed necessary when I first stepped out the door. Another hallmark of the season is that the light fades early, this allows us to get inside hours earlier than in the previous four months and for me it means a return to books. I just started, The Shepherd’s Life which chronicles the life of the author, James Rebanks in England’s Lake district. I’ve included a brief excerpt here that I think captures the essence of why I farm.

There is no beginning, and there is no end. The sun rises, and falls, each day, and the seasons come and go. The days, months, and years alternate through sunshine, rain, hail, wind, snow, and frost. The leaves fall each autumn and burst forth again each spring. The earth spins through the vastness of space. The grass comes and goes with the warmth of the sun. The farms and the flocks endure, bigger than the life of a single person. We are born, live our working lives, and die, passing like the oak leaves that blow across our land in the winter. We are each tiny parts of something enduring, something that feels solid, real, and true. Our farming way of life has roots deeper than five thousand years into the soil of this landscape.

Calving continues and we have three healthy bull calves out on pasture. Evening chores now include a few minutes to watch the calves frisking around together, tails straight up and long legs stretched into an ungainly gallop. We have four more cows to calve and hope all arrive as healthy and without incident as the three so far.

IMG_9568

Jake has been busy with all sorts of projects including groundwork at our new property for our walk-in cooler and freezer, setting water and electric lines for the hoop house and egg washing area in the garage, and building a third moveable hen house for our growing flock. After a week with the excavator the property has gone through another stage of transformation, bringing us closer to having our hoop house and cooler/freezer completed by year’s end.

What’s in Season?
We’ll have LAMB & GOAT this weekend at the BTLT’s Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm. It has been a wait and thanks for your patience. Our pasture-raised lambs are slow-growing and with the warm fall we wanted to maximize our opportunity to keep them on pasture as long as possible. Our goats spent their 18 months with us browsing on the field and road edges of the farm. They visited Whatley Farm in Topsham to do some work clearing up the gullies bordering their crop fields. Knowing these animals will nourish your families reassures us as we let them go. We’ll miss the individuals in each of these groups while taking solace in the bonds of trust and care with the animals who remain.

We’re nearing Halloween and this has traditionally been the deadline for ordering your holiday birds. Having scaled up the number of turkeys we produce, there are still birds available. Enjoyed yours? Spread the word to your friends and family by sharing these links to reserve turkey or goose.

IMG_3511MARKET SCHEDULE
Tuesdays through November 22nd
8 AM-2 PM Brunswick Farmers’ Market on the Mall Brunswick
Saturdays through November 4th
8:30 AM- 12:30 PM BTLT’s Farmers’ Market  Brunswick
Saturdays beginning November 11th
9:00 AM – 12:30 PM Brunswick Winter Market Brunswick

 

 

Turkey Time

After a great season here with plenty of grass, sun and blue sky we are looking forward to the cooler days. With that in mind, it is time once again to order your holiday turkey. All turkeys for Thanksgiving will be available FRESH!

Pick-up dates will be Saturday, November 18 inside Fort Andross at the Brunswick Winter Market or on Tuesday, November 21 downtown on the Mall at Brunswick Farmers Market. As always our birds are raised outdoors on certified organic grain and pastures.

We are no longer taking orders for turkeys, if you’d like to add your name to our wait list please contact us. Any extra turkeys will be available  on November 21.