Titans of the Forest

This essay is from Two Farms: Essays on a Maine Country Life by Janet Galle.
2006. It is available at Gulf of Maine Books, Brunswick or from Apple Creek Farm.

          Winter quiet often inspires reflection and this winter is no different. These thoughts arrive during our daily work– feeding the animals, preparing meals or as we plan for the upcoming season.

img_3336

Titans of the Forest
January, 1996

        Trees are like the dinosaurs of the plant world but not in the sense of being extinct. It is the size that counts. They easily top Tyrannosaurus Rex — in sound, as well as height. I never look up enough when I am outside to truly appreciate the dinosaur-like plants that tower over me. Rather, my view is usually straight on, about six feet above ground level. In spring, in autumn, after a snowstorm, I see this picture: lacy, delicate trees, etched and painted by Mother Nature. I forget there is another — the view of giants.

img_3374         In the middle of a snow-sleet storm this past week, Nell, our new pup, and I went for a walk with the wind swirling around us, tugging at her fur and my scarf, bringing tears to our eyes. There were no other distractions in this storm, only the elements and us. Near the ice pond we stopped for a while, stood still. Nell leaned against my leg as we were engulfed by the rage of the wind. Twigs and small branches flew through the air in a fury. Detritus from last autumn’s leaf fall was scooped up and hurled back to earth. Wind howled, and the trees above us answered in kind. They were not taking this beating like lambs.

        Ice-covered branches and the slender tip tops of trees clinked together, jostling each other like fans at a football game. They pushed and shoved under the wind’s influence, always returning to their original position and then moving quickly in the opposite direction, all the while chattering and clanging. Ice in a glass. Tap dancers on stage. Horses on parade with their clattering shoes hitting asphalt. All of those sounds rained down upon Nell and me as we stood under the bare ash tree towering 50 feet above us. I crouched beside her, held onto her for comfort. The forest was filled with passions in a storm, and nowhere was it more violent than under the trees.

         The more the wind pushed, the more the trunks swayed, groaning as if sick or injured, left to die along a path. Unlike their distant branches that reach the sky and greet the sun on brighter days, the trunks sustain the weight of the entire tree, limb to branch to stem to leaf. Theirs is the task of transporting food, minerals, and water. Here the sap swells, rises, freezes, and then slowly melts. Here the transportation system — switching terminals, platforms, and connections — carries out its work. It is a life of burden and responsibility — and endurance.

        On the first farm by the ocean where we once lived, when my children were young and I was frequently awake in the dark, bewitching hours of night with a baby on my shoulder, I would watch the white pine and northern red oak along the shore. Throughout winter those trees moved like tyrannosaurs stalking along the ocean’s edge. Their entire bodies seemed in action except for their feet which were rooted and solid, the support that kept them from tumbling. Groaning, not from illness, but from exertion in the battle, the trees struggled to remain upright.

        I am fascinated when trees have lost that battle, when I come upon the newly-split wood, splintered into daggers, of a fallen pine deep in a forest. The intricate web of roots and rootlets that have provided water and minerals, sustained a tree for a lifetime, are exposed. Death of a titan is dramatic. Sixty feet of fallen tree is not to be scoffed at.
At the university in Ohio where I went to school, an old red oak that once defined the center of the campus, now over 200 years old, was taken down this year. It did not lose a battle to a wind storm as the trees in my woods may, but fear of the consequences of such a defeat drove the campus officials to “remove” the tree first. Their comment, “It was only a matter of time before a storm blew it over…”

        But just imagine. Sprouted about 1795, that red oak grew up in a forest which stretched from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. It watched over the birth of the university and the comings and goings of countless students who strolled beneath its branches. People do not take kindly to the loss of such a tree.

img_3378         I wonder, then, about the lesser-known trees that tower over Nell and me, the ones complaining loudly about the strength of this particular storm. They will survive. They are still young in tree years and have flexible trunks and tenacious roots. Long after we have gone on our way, these ash and maple, hemlock and fir, pine and beech which inhabit our woods will have withstood the sting of sleet, the weight of snow, the pelting of rain. The titans of this forest may wail in response to the wind, but they will win the battle. From the viewpoint of giants there is no room for whimperers. Nell and I will do best to weather this storm under the protection of a roof.

October Newsletter

Image result for lamb boardLamb is back! So many of our customers have been waiting patiently- thank you! Our lamb is 100% grass-fed which is part of the reason for the wait. We graze our lambs all summer and this year was particularly tricky with the drought to provide enough forage to help them grow.

We will have a full range of lamb cuts- including chops, ground, shanks, stew and more- available starting this Saturday at the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust market.

We have turkeys for your Thanksgiving celebration. Follow this link to order yours. Birds will range from 12-20+ pounds, are priced at $5 a pound and are certified organic. We are proud to raise our birds outside, on pasture supplemented by certified organic grains. Our birds are processed at Weston’s Meat & Poultry in West Gardiner one of our local processors who are now MOFGA Certified Organic. We thank the staff at Weston’s and in MOFGA’s Agricultural Services Department for their help in making this happen!

Image result for ebtWe are now able to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) & EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) at all our market locations. It has taken us a good long while to get there (we started the process in March) but are now equipped with a new EBT card reader and wireless printer. If you receive these benefits you can access the full range of Apple Creek Farm products. We’re really excited to be even more accessible!

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?

20160729_154429-ANIMATION20160703_11100520160704_09024420160718_17515820160722_06503620160703_10154420160728_07322320160804_174806

 

Sunday, Open Farm Day

THIS SUNDAY is Bowdoinham Open Farm Day! Apple Creek will be open from 9-1pm and we look forward to seeing you! Make it a day trip by staying around for the local foods barbeque happening at the Mailly Waterfront Park 3 pm – 6 pm, the meal will include Apple Creek chicken smoked to perfection by event caterer, The Texas Barbeque Company.

Farm Map Color.pngWhat Can You Expect?

  • You’ll see baby animals including our (goat) kids, turkeys and bantam chicks.
  • You’ll see our poultry operation which includes both Cornish cross and Red Bro chickens, our two laying flocks
  • You’ll see our ruminants including our cows, goats and sheep.
  • You’ll hear about how the farm was started and meet the whole farm crew including Abby, Jake, Janet and Pete
  • You’ll learn more about how the farm supports wildlife and the ecosystem
  • There will be an on-farm store set-up so be sure to pack a cooler to pick up some steaks for the grill or sign-up for a Thanksgiving Turkey 

Things to consider- Our farm is a working farm, we’ll mow the lawn but don’t expect everything to look picturesque! Please bring appropriate gear such as close-toed shoes or boots, a water bottle and snacks for your smalls. We’ll have a boot wash and ask that if you are coming from a farm with any critters that you wash up before you walk around. Likewise if you’re headed to another participating farm, we suggest you rinse off before heading out.

What won’t you see when you visit? Dogs! Having three on-farm dogs, we ask that you make other plans for your canine friends.

July Newsletter

Summer is here in all its glory! We’ve been spending our days moving fences, watering animals and making hay. Our hay making game has improved this year with the purchase of a (new-to-us) round baler. Round bales which are roughly equivalent to 15-20 square bales have allowed us to take advantage of all the sun and get all but one of the 30+ acres of hay fields done! Now, we wait for rain!

Our new flock of hens has begun laying full-time and full-size! We are glad to have plenty of eggs at markets each week. No more awkward moments when there is one dozen left on the table! If you miss us at market you can also find our eggs at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick.

We hope you will all join us for Bowdoinham’s Open Farm Day on Sunday, July 17th. We will be open from 9:30 AM to 12 NOON. We will have a farm stand set-up and offer tours of the farm. A local foods BBQ will be served in the afternoon, so do be sure to visit the event website for all the details.

Thank you for all the support at markets, shopping with your local farm does make a difference! We are glad for your encouragement as we grow the farm.

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.

Out Like A Lamb

Spring is a wonderful time on the farm when new life emerges daily! We have chicks arriving weekly, a batch of turkeys on the way and kids filling the barn. Someday I’ll get this lambing post done while we’re still at it! This year was one of our fastest lambing years. We used three different rams and all of them provided prompt service which meant that lambs arrived one right after another! With temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s it was a far cry from last year’s urgency to get lambs dried off, warm and out of the wind and cold.

Below are some of our favorite photos of lambing season 2016.

20160313_12131520160313_12142420160313_13563520160313_17021120160314_17164220160316_08244420160316_08314120160316_08315520160318_11531920160320_16182920160324_07581920160324_08025320160324_12345220160325_07373120160325_07545420160329_181105

Eggs of All Sizes

Sugar EggWith the increasing day light our hens are producing eggs of all sizes. Some of our pullets eggs are still getting larger and from time to time one of our matronly hens produces an egg that can only be described as “eggs-ordinary!” Though the weather has warmed the geese, whose eggs are most magnificent (and delicious) have not yet begun to lay.

Eggs are a traditional symbol of rebirth which corresponds nicely to the Easter holiday. In the Victorian era a  great deal of creativity was applied to Easter decorations with eggs at the center. From this time comes the traditional craft of eggs made from cast sugar called panorama eggs  or look-inside eggs which are filled with miniature dioramas paying homage to the season.

Here on the farm these eggs are a family tradition dating back to 1969 when Jake’s great grandmother, Lucienne Galle began to make them. Today Janet continues to craft these delightful objects, decorating them with seasonal hues of pink, blue, mint green and yellow then filling them with tiny animals, botanical finds and seasonal favorites. This year Janet produced a limited quantity for Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolates, located in downtown Brunswick. Each egg comes with a short narrative that describes what is happening in the scene inside and relates to a character or activity on the farm. These eggs are not made for eating, but rather for display. We hope they will become treasured parts of your family’s spring celebrations.

 

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.