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!

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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.

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

 

 

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.

August Newsletter

We’ve almost crested our summer peak! Our final groups of chickens will be harvested over the next two weeks with geese and summer turkeys following soon behind. This is welcome news as another hot, dry summer has left us wishing for more grass. We are turning those wishes into action by using the Maine Grass Farmers Network (MGFN) no-till drill to seed our newly cleared 12 acres.

 

A no-till drill is a piece of equipment that allows you to add new species of plants to an existing field or to seed a brand new field (like ours) more effectively. The drill rolls across the ground, uses coulters to slit open the soil, drop in a seed and then another set of coulters and rollers close up the slit over your seed. The advantages of using this tool are that the seed goes just where you want it and the chances of germination are much greater given that it is in contact with soil.

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Just after clearing
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After clearing and sub-soiling

As many of you know we own 70 acres adjacent to the home farm. Over the course of just 4 weeks we worked with Comprehensive Land Technologies to open up two existing pastures, the area for our new barn and to selectively thin for silvopasture. We are thrilled with the results and very excited to see the grass grow. Stay tuned for a blog post that will chronicle the clearing.

What’s in Season?
Goat is back in stock!  If you haven’t tried it, I encourage you to do so. You can find recipes here. Our cashmere goats are raised on pasture and browse for a lean, mild flavored meat very similar to our lamb.

By the first weekend in September we will have additional beef and turkey. Our beef sold in record time this year, so if you are waiting for steaks, thanks for your patience. For now, enjoy the burgers! If you prefer a turkey burger then you’ll be in luck too.

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Since we’re talking turkey-  you can now order your Holiday Birds!

Your thanksgiving turkeys just went outside and are enjoying a summer forage crop of millet. We call the turkeys the “goats of the poultry world” meaning they are always scheming about ways to upend our expectations. Whether by escaping from their brooder, roosting on the cords of their lights or chirping with delight – these birds are never boring!

The first group of geese will head to harvest at the end of the month, so if you’re contemplating one for the holidays we encourage you to test one now. These birds are raised on grass, supplemented with certified organic grain and local delicacies like our just ripe green apples. The geese are gorgeous and we’re looking forward to sharing them with you.  To order, follow these links to reserve your turkey or goose.

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