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!

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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.

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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

 

 

May Newsletter

Yellow Egg Spansion Instagram-2Thank you for a great start to the season! Our crowdfunding campaign was successful due to your support. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on our progress throughout the season. Several of you asked about the nest box technology we’ll be using. One of the companies that makes the “Roll-away” nest boxes we’ll be using made this neat video that explains how they work and the benefits for both hen and farmer.

 


We, along with the animals are impatiently awaiting the April showers to give way to the May flowers. We had a group of ewes escape their winter paddock over the weekend and that taste of grass has ruined their appetite for hay! Since our animals are used to be out and moved around, you can imagine that being in their winter paddock for the last few months has gotten really boring. The goat nursery is anything but with 25 kids running around. Rainy days find the kids jumping on overturned tubs, on their mom’s back or snoozing in the hay. Its a great place to spend a few minutes relaxing at the end of the day. IMG_6260We had our final lamb of the season and he has joined one of the most varied and personable groups of lambs I’ve met. One stand-out is Bill, his mom Barracuda is pretty infamous as she is loud and bossy. But any complaints I’ve had about her have been silenced by the sweet presence of Bill.

IMG_6177We are launching a Market Share CSA. The program is modeled after a traditional CSA where the farmers receive payment upfront in return 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. So a $110 market share will be priced at $100, a $220 market share for the price of $200 and so on.  When you purchase a Market Share you’ll receive a card loaded with your share amount to use on whatever products you’d like throughout the 2017 season. The card can be used at any of our markets including the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust’s Farmers’ Market and the Brunswick Farmers Market.  More details and the sign up for can be foundhere.

PATE NEW FLAVORSWe have TWO new pates in our line-up! Our new beef liver pate and chicken liver mousse, like all our value-added products are made by Jenn Legnini of Turtle Rock Farm using ingredients grown here in Maine. We plan to have fresh chicken mousse available weekly and frozen beef pate throughout the summer.

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.