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.

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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

 

 

June Newsletter

May seemed like an especially long month, with so many different things keeping us busy. We received chicks every week, transitioned from barn life to pasture rotations, took Sam (the bull) up to Penobscot for the summer and let our summer turkeys out of their brooder. Everyone is doing well despite the cooler (then much hotter) temperatures and wet pastures. It remains delightful to have the hot sunny days of summer and rain too (since last year we had so little!)

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Our goose, TW has hatched out 7 goslings! We stopped selling goose eggs in April so we could let her set and she did a great job. She and her mates are very protective parents but the goslings are sooooo cute, nothing will deter me!  You can see more photos and a video of the goslings on Instagram. I got to hold all 7 goslings in my shirt for their move down to our East pasture. There they will grow up with a stream and fresh grass to mow.

PulletsOur newest batch of laying hens arrived on Friday. This group features all white breeds including White Rock, Austra Whites and Delaware. We are excited to try two new breeds in this group and thrilled to keep having Delawares on the farm. They remain my (Abby) favorite chicken. The Austra White breed is a cross between an Australorp and White Leghorn, these birds will lay white eggs and will (we hope) combine the efficiency of the Leghorn with the laid-back temperament of the Australorps.  Having unique breeds in each group will make it easy for us to keep track of how old the hens are when they get mingled together in their winter housing.

What’s in Season?

This is a big week, on June 17th we’ll have fresh chicken, rosemary mutton sausage and chicken mousse at Saturday market! Fresh chicken season is just getting started, look for it most Saturdays from now until September. We will again be offering whole and half birds as well as a full-range of cuts.

Some call it, “deliciously addictive” and our rosemary mutton sausage is good in just about everything from chili, breakfast omelets to burgers.

Turtle Rock Farm, run by the unparalleled Jenn Legnini is pleasing OUR taste buds with a smooth as butter chicken mousse. It is life-changing!

Look for turkey and goat to return by the end of August. We appreciate your patience and thank you for purchasing so much grass-fed & organic meat!

SUMMER MARKET PROMO 17-2

IMG_6640We now offer a  Market Share CSA. The program is modeled after a traditional CSA meaning the farm receives payment upfront  for a share of the harvest throughout the season. In Apple Creek’s model you will receive a 10% bonus for every $100 share purchased. This means our $110 market share will be priced at $100, a $220 market share at $200 and so on.

You can purchase your share at market and upon doing so you will receive a swipe-able card loaded with your share amount. Simply bring the card to market, we’ll swipe it and you’ll draw down your share. We hope the CSA will make it even easier to shop at market, give you added value and reduce the fees paid to our credit card processor. Your card can be refilled at any time and is good for all our products.

Haying has begun! IMG_7283

April Newsletter

We’re just about done with lambing with a single ewe left. The goat kids have begun to arrive and we have 10 kids out of 5 does so far! The lambs are bashful and shy when they are born, while the goat kids come into the world willful and independent.

We give all our newborns a shot of BoSe, a selenium and vitamin E booster commonly given to goats residing in selenium deficient areas. Selenium is necessary to maintain muscle tone in adults, and prevent “white muscle disease” in newborn animals, read more. These shots are given under the skin and take less than a minute. However, in that time the average goat kid will emit 2-5 blood-curdling shrieks. Keep in mind these babies are roughly 4-6 pounds, half the size of lambs, which can weight between 10-15lbs. Size can be deceiving when it comes to these little ones!

Our first batch of broilers arrived on Thursday which to me is the OFFICIAL start of the season. We plan to start having chicken at market by the end of May with weekly processing through the summer. Part of our expansion plan includes having a walk-in so we are aiming for fresh chicken at both Tuesday and Friday markets. Stay tuned for a post on our processing schedule or follow the farm’s Facebook page where we’ll announce where you can find fresh chicken.

Our first batch of goslings also arrived! They are the sweetest of creatures. These are the only babies who are visibly excited to see US! These Emden goslings will be raised alongside our broilers this year to protect them from the avian predation we’ve experienced the last few years. A fellow farmer shared with us the tip to start them off together so that the geese learn to appreciate the chicks from an early age, otherwise some bullying occurs. We will be offering holiday geese again this year. Like turkeys we will start the reservation list in July and you’ll be able to choose when you’d like your goose in either November, December or January.

We have 10 DAYS left on our crowdfunding campaign. Our thanks for the donations we’ve received so far. We love growing happy, healthy animals and appreciate your recognition of our work. Your continued support means a great deal to us.

The funds we raise will be used to purchase a hoop house, nest boxes and related lumber and supplies for a larger and improved winter house for our hens. A year from now we aim to have 500 hens laying which will mean more of our great eggs and expanded availability at Morning Glory in Brunswick and as an “add-on” share to a local vegetable CSA. There are many benefits to be derived from this expansion. We’ll be using 4 moveable houses to rotate our hens through pasture which will add a tremendous amount of fertility to our soil. We’ll need it as we open up our new land and to ensure the continued productivity of our current acreage.

Please support our campaign and share it with your networks of friends, family and neighbors who are excited about new farmers and local, organic food. No pledge is too small and we’re glad to accept pledges at farmers market and answer your questions about the project. We created a detailed post about the farm’s expansion plans and in coming weeks we’ll share how the changes we’re planning will improve animal health, streamline management and allow us to grow the farm while maintaining the same high quality of products & our sanity!

We know that crowdfunding isn’t for everyone and we’ll be launching a Market Share CSA later this month. This will allow you to purchase a flexible sized “share” and give you a cash bonus based on the size you choose. Much like a CSA this will help us have operating funds during May and you’ll have the flexibility to use your share to purchase whatever you like throughout the 2017 season. Look for details at market and in the next newsletter where we’ll also talk about outdoor markets- just 4 weeks away!

Hatching An Eggs-Pansion!

 

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Update! We reached our funding goal!

Thank you so much to those that contributed, shared our campaign and let us know of their support for our farm’s growth. We are so appreciative.

IMG_3852 Though our hens produce more than 100 dozen eggs each week we are often sold out within the first 2 hours of our farmers’ markets. Our eggs, produced by free-roaming and adventurous hens are in high demand because of their golden yolks and unparalleled freshness.  We love our animals and want to provide them with the best possible living conditions. Through this project and others detailed in our “growing out” plan we can both improve animal well-being and create efficiencies. These changes will enable us to grow our business to provide more local, organic meats & eggs to the great Brunswick area and support us as full-time farmers.

We're Hatching AnLast week we launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $12,000. The funds are specifically to build housing to double the number of hens we keep from 250 to 500. We also see this as an opportunity to raise awareness about the farm, our products and kickstart the farm’s expansion. At present we lease the majority of our farm buildings. Over the last 3 years our business has grown, fueled by local demand, and we’ve outgrown our leased barns. We’re ready to begin expanding the farm to land we own in order to build the larger barns, processing areas and the cold storage we need to farm long into the future.

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We have great markets, unparalleled products and a love for our work- with your support we can make this vision a reality. Please pledge & share our campaign. 

facebook_-1554629396In the agriculture community the idea of “scaling-up” – whether it means getting big or “right-sizing” your operation- is frequently discussed. What “scaling up” commonly refers to is a farm diversifying its market channels to include not only direct to consumer sales (CSA, farmers’ markets, farm stands) but also wholesaling products to local foods stores, supermarkets or distributors.  I think many readers will be familiar with the phrase of Earl Butz, “Get Big or Get Out” which became the rallying cry for commodity agriculture and large scale farms. I worry that this “Scaling-Up” idea may be construed as the same idea with just updated marketing. It also concerns me that by simply saying we are scaling up our farm, our customers would think we’re just getting bigger, not getting better. So, I began to mull over how we might clarify increasing the size, scale and efficiency of our farm.

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 11.30.54 AMOur aspirations include marketing some of our products through wholesale channels, hiring apprentices or other help while providing an income to both of Jake and I to work full-time on the farm. But our pressing concern is supplying our existing markets in Brunswick. To do so, over the last three years we’ve been “growing out”- increasing our number of ewes and does for breeding, adding a 100 or so more broilers to our poultry. We’ve done this to such a degree that we’ve also grown out of our existing barns!

Between 2014 and 2017, all of the farm operations were based on land leased from Jake’s family.  In 2014, as part of our future farm vision, we purchased an adjacent 70-acre property that we call “North Ridge”. This property is where, this year we plan to build a hoop house for our chickens, a large barn for our sheep and goats, a hoop barn for equipment, hay and feed storage and our farmhouse. These plans also include renovating our existing two-car garage to include a farm store, egg processing room, walk-in freezer and cooler. Over the last year we worked with The Resilience Hub in Portland to design a site plan illustrating our vision.

Plan Including Bowdoin
Our entire property which is split between Bowdoin and Bowdoinham
Site Overview
Site Overview
Perm Plan Detail
Detail of Site Plan with buildings and labels

This plan is an extremely helpful tool, so let’s talk about what is included:

  • A clearing project that will remove trees from two existing, fenced paddocks as well as the sloped areas located along the road frontage. This will create additional grazing areas for cows, sheep and goats.
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  • A Hoop house will serve as a winter shelter for our chickens. At present, we are limited to just two portable coops (pictured below) which house 125 birds each. Building the hoop house will allow us to increase our flock to 500 hens. This means more eggs at market (HOORAY!) and the ability to supply new markets such as CSA and local food stores.  The hoop house will include such amenities as running water and electricity so that we can provide water indoors without having to carry 5-gallon buckets of water over mud, ice and snow. We are launching a crowdfunding campaign through the platform, Barnraiser to kickstart this project. To view the project in full please visit: http://www.barnraiser.us/projects/apple-creek-farm-hatching-an-expansionCopy of Egg Spansion 940x700
  • A Barn will provide more space for our breeding does and ewes. We need this to separate groups for flushing, breeding and lambing. As you can see in the photo above (Detail of Site Plan) there will be several paddocks where we can sort animals by their body condition, age or other factors. The new barn will allow us to feed everyone under cover which is particularly important as the Spring and Fall tend to be longer and wetter. Winter has come to include wider variations of temperature which are tough on the animals and making feeding outdoors (without wasting grain in the rain or wind) rather difficult.
  • A Hoop barn will create storage to keep our tractors, balers and other equipment out of the weather, stack round bales of hay under cover to reduce spoilage and work on equipment out of the rain.
  • A Farmhouse is a key component of having the farm infrastructure move to this location. The house will be modest and designed with aging in mind.  We look forward to having a guest room for friends & family to come and visit!
  • The Garage renovation will create space for a farm store, which we plan to open in Fall 2017. The store will be modest, open once a week and be the meeting location for farm tours and on-farm events (coming in 2018). We’ll also build an egg processing room where we can wash, grade and pack eggs. Perhaps my favorite addition to this space will be a walk-in freezer. Presently we rent very affordable and reliable freezer space in Bangor. Over the last three years we have used this space to store and build our inventory for Brunswick Winter Market. Though inexpensive, it has taken an increasing amount of time to manage inventory and transport product to and from the facility. Building a freezer on-site will help us spend more time on the farm and more storage for our products. A walk-in cooler will be used to store fresh product which is frequently requested at market. Building a walk-in will mean we can sell fresh chicken at both farmers’ markets during the summer and direct from the farm. It will also mean all Thanksgiving turkeys can be picked up FRESH!You may be asking, “what about the land you’ve been using?” We will continue to lease 70 acres of land from Jake’s family, the land that we call “the home farm.” Located there are the sheep & cow barns where we will continue to house our finishing lambs and kids and our cow/calf pairs. Since our farming methods won’t be changing we will still be using all of the land on both “the home farm” and “North Ridge” as well as leased land off the farm.

December Newsletter

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/e78a51caed3156f56ccbae5c2/_compresseds/4a177e2e-5cc8-431b-bd2a-846f0265777a.jpgWow 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!

Early August

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.

No GeeseDue 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 Turkey Promobirds 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?

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2016 Market Season

Market Schedule-3

We’re thrilled to be headed outside for another market season! You can find us twice weekly at markets in Brunswick.

Mark your calendars now for Bowdoinham Open Farm Day held on Sunday, July 17th. Apple Creek will be open from 9 am – 12 noon and an afternoon local foods barbecue will be held at the Mailly Waterfront Park.

What will we have? Check out our “What’s in Season” post here.

Starting in June we will have fresh chicken (cuts as well as whole & half birds). Due to our processing schedule they will only be available on Saturdays at the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust Farmers Market. Organic ChickenRaised on Pasture

In July we’ll start taking orders for our Holiday birds. We sold out of both goose and turkey last year so don’t delay!

New Products! We’ll be raising summer  turkeys this year in order to offer both ground turkey and drumsticks during the fall and winter. Like all our poultry these birds are raised outside on a diet of fresh pasture and certified organic grains. We take the utmost care in raising our birds to provide you with the healthiest food for your table.

Keeping Warm in Winter

When the temperature plummets we are often asked how the animals cope, here’s how.

20151226_105612Bedding
For each animal group we make sure there is ample bedding. For the hens that means fresh shavings on the floor of their coop and in their nest boxes. In the cow barn we put down several bales of shavings with bedding hay on top. For the ewes and does a fresh layer of hay in the barn is plenty. The kids like fresh hay in their houses and in their feed tubs (a favorite sleeping spot). The sheep are the most flexible. They love having hay in the barn so they can catch some rays, but they are also well insulated by their wool and many spend the storms outside. After the snow stops the paddock is full of sheep “snow angels” where their shapes are outlined. Sometimes they even lie so still they end up with snow caps, like in the photo of Sap Bat (below).

20151229_152606-ANIMATIONWater
Everyone drinks more water when it is cold and we often add molasses when it is windy, cold or rainy. The sweet water encourages sipping and adds some extra energy and trace minerals. We fill water at least twice a day, making sure that all the ice has been removed from buckets and troughs. The chickens need water for egg production. For every hour without water it is 24 hours without an egg! We have a heated waterer for the laying hens inside their coop as well as water buckets out in the cow barn so none of the hens have to walk too far. For the geese, water serves an entirely different set of functions. They use water for drinking, bathing and mating activities even in the coldest weather. 20160213_071528-ANIMATION
Feed, and more Feed

IMG_2859I’m always hungry this time of year and find even after a big hearty breakfast that I am ravenous at mid-morning. Likewise the animals like to snack as often as possible, particularly when it is very cold. For the chickens a generous helping of cracked corn is spread on the bedded pack of the cow barn. The ladies spend much of the morning scratching around and finding every last bit, while fluffing up the bedding for the cows.Since the cows, does and ewes are ruminants (or cud chewers) they need to keep their stomachs full to keep their bodies warm.

Unlike humans (as well as chicken and pigs) who are monogastric (one stomach) ruminants have a four-chambered stomach through which their cud is processed. For more on how rumination works visit this page for a detailed description of each chamber and its function.

Winter Market Opens Tomorrow!

Header-ImageAfter a glorious growing season and mild fall we are headed indoors on Saturdays, from now through April at the Brunswick Winter Market. With more than 40 vendor it is the perfect place to begin your Saturday morning with vendors selling everything from cinnamon buns to mead.

Apple Creek will be there with a full range of products including beef, chicken, eggs, goat and lamb. There’s  even still time to reserve your Thanksgiving turkey.

Below are a few suggestions to make your visit to the market even better!

Market Promo