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. To reserve yours follow this link.

September Newsletter

IMG_9282As the days get shorter the tempo of the farm keeps picking up. Though our daily chores take less time our project list remains lengthy. We’ll be installing a new walk-in cooler/freezer on the farm this fall as well as putting up the hoophouse for our laying hens. These pullets (at right) will be the first residents!

Despite the lack of rain in July and August we are feeling good about the season overall. Two major accomplishments are the amount of hay produced (3,000 + square bales and 175 round bales) and the clearing & seeding of 12 acres.

We are eagerly awaiting calving season, which should begin in another 10 – 14 days. The mama cows are especially loved. The corn husks from the garden and apples gleaned from around the farm are welcome treats. Unlike many of our other animals the calves are pretty elusive. After their first week they are wary of us and jealously guarded by their mamas and aunties. So, once they arrive we spend their first few days seeking them out and stroking their soft, clean hides.  Visit the blog for some calf photos designed to tide you over.


IMG_8702We had some excellent help in August and you may have seen us at market with our nieces and nephews who hail from Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. It as much fun to have help feeding birds as it having these visitors get us off the farm and out to have fun!

What’s in Season?
We’ll have BEEF this weekend at the BTLT’s Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm. It looks like there will be more grilling days in our future, so be prepared with some of our certified organic and 100% grass-fed beef. We will have a full range of steaks as well as roasts and slow-cooking favorites for the inevitable rainy days.  Our cows perfectly express our ideals of land management as they harvest sunshine in the form of grass and transform it into delicious, healthy meat.

Though the holidays seem a safe distance away, they will come sooner than you think! Please plan to reserve your Holiday Birds! Your thanksgiving turkeys are growing rapidly and keeping us entertained with their antics. Geese are ready now and will be available frozen for Thanksgiving or fresh the week of December 19th. These birds are raised on grass, supplemented with certified organic grain and vegetables. Follow these links to reserve your turkey or goose.

IMG_9064MARKET SCHEDULE
Tuesdays through November 22nd
8 AM-2 PM Brunswick Farmers’ Market on the Mall Brunswick
Saturdays 8:30 AM- 12:30 PM BTLT’s Farmers’ Market  Brunswick

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.

July Newsletter

Summer lasts only about a 100 days (and not all of those sunny) and so this is our busiest time of year. We’ve been busy making hay, watching our new farm emerge from the forest and moving animals to maximize the lush green grass. Hay has been slow and steady with great yields due to our application of fall manure and this spring’s mix of rain and warm temperatures.
IMG_7863The land clearing began just about 2 weeks ago and we’re looking at 13 acres or so of future pasture and silvopasture. Jake and I spent several evenings walking the land and choosing a mix of big and small trees to leave for shade and future timber. The result will be a mixed hardwood forest with enough openings in the canopy to allow grass to grow while offering some shelter for our animals. We have been very pleased with the crew from Comprehensive Land Technologies.

Moving animals is a daily activity. Not every animal group moves each day, but each day there is a group to be moved. Our goats have been doing their annual road crew work, controlling the bittersweet along the road edge and clearing along the stone walls. The cows, seven of whom will calve in the fall are getting wider and wider with all the fresh grass they are consuming.

We hope you’ll come out and see us this weekend for Bowdoinham’s annual Open Farm Day & Art Trail which coincides with Maine’s Open Farm Day. We will be open from 9AM-1PM offering tours (including a look at our newly cleared land) and a pop-up farm store. What should you expect? Check out our previous Open Farm Day post.

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You can now order your Holiday Birds! Our Thanksgiving turkeys arrived this week and they are the most feisty birds I think we’ve every had. In just a few short weeks they will head out on pasture where they will be eating a mix of clovers and grasses supplemented by certified organic grain until they are ready to grace your table. We are raising two groups of geese this year to expand availability. Our summer geese have been acting as night watchmen, protecting our chickens from a Great Horned Owl that lives on the farm. The owl’s nocturnal visits usually come at the cost of a broiler so putting a pair of geese in with the broilers scares off the owl.
Follow these links to reserve your turkey or goose.

Copy of Christmas in July-2-1Christmas in July! We are offering 20% off all our sheepskins and goat hides July 22 – July 29. You can visit us at market or order online– use code JULY17.

MARKET SCHEDULE
Tuesdays 8 AM-2 PM Brunswick Farmers’ Market on the Mall Brunswick
Saturdays 8:30 AM- 12:30 PM BTLT’s Farmers’ Market  Brunswick

moonlit-turkeys

UPDATE: We are SOLD OUT for 2016.
Please see us at farmers market to add your name to our waiting list. We thank you for your support of organic farming!

Our gorgeous organic turkeys are out on pasture surrounded by the colors of autumn. We are rotating these birds through a section of field we reserved just for them! This took some planning as the dry summer left us with less pasture for all the animals.

To be sure you’ll have an Apple Creek turkey for your Thanksgiving feast follow this link to reserve yours. Our birds are also available in the Portland area through Rosemont Market and in the greater Dover-Foxcroft area through Spruce Mill Kitchen.

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!

Summer Turkey

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Availability chart Updated

We’re adding new products to our current line-up of certified organic meats! These include ground turkey, drumsticks, wings and backs.  This will lengthen our turkey season which had been limited to whole birds for Thanksgiving.

One of our goals is to be able to offer all of our products year round. So, getting turkeys in the early spring to be finished in late summer is one way to do that.

Our turkey poults arrived in the same way as most of our poultry, as day old birds shipped via the US Postal Service. We had ordered all toms (males) in order to maximize their ability to grow out relatively quickly. Keeping the poults warm during a Maine spring is no easy feat! We used between 2-4 heat lamps at any given point during the day to ensure even heat of nearly 90 degrees. After 4 weeks, once the poults are fully feathered we allowed them outdoor access using small wooden fences. Each fence is constructed of strapping covered with chicken wire. An eye screw at each end allows us to use fiberglass poles to stake each panel. We build the panels at 4′ for the turkeys and then cover the outdoor area with shade cloth in order to protect them from predators and to keep them from flying out. The sound of a loose poult is very distinctive! After a week or so of the panels and tarp we began using Premier poultry netting to keep them contained. These fences are key to our operation and once electrified keep the turkeys in and other critters out!

Our birds grew a bit more slowly than in the past due to the lack of rain. The drought meant that new pastures weren’t as lush and rich so more frequent moves were needed.

 

Turkeys 2015

We are sold out of Thanksgiving turkeys for 2015. Thank you to everyone that ordered with us this year, we appreciate your support!  If you have ordered a bird you will be receiving a reminder about your pick-up date and location by email.

We wish everyone a joyous and delicious Thanksgiving!

Preparing Your Thanksgiving Turkey

turkey-tails.jpgThank you for purchasing a turkey from Apple Creek Farm. Below are a few tips to ensure your turkey is cooked to perfection. 

Bring the turkey to room temperature before roasting, this will ensure it cooks evenly.

Pastured birds cook faster, check frequently.

Use a meat thermometer- meat is done at 145 degrees. If the legs and thighs are not done, remove and finish in the oven while you make your gravy.

There are many opinions about whether high heat or low heat should be used, the following table can be used as a guide for cook time.
Start with oven at 325 degrees, after 1 hour lower heat to 300 degrees.
10-13 lb. – 1 ½ to 2 ¼ hr.
14-23 lb. – 2 to 3 hr.
24-27 lb. – 3 to 3 ¾ hr.
28-30 lb. – 3 ½ to 4 ½ hr.

Be sure to keep the turkey basted either in the traditional method with a baster or, by inserting plenty of butter (with herbs and garlic) under the skin.

To Brine or Not to Brine?  Here are some links to folks who brine and explain why.

Resources
American Grass-fed
Mark Bittman

Mother Earth News
Shannon Hayes

Turkey Time

IMG_20140627_194543      Twenty-eight years ago one of the turkeys on our, then, very small farm got a reprieve. That isn’t going to happen this month for the 47 who, from their tiny poult days in the warm brooder, developed into full-grown somewhat elegant (for a turkey) birds. They have even weathered that unseasonably early snowstorm, a bit like their wild cousins. But, now it is time for eating them. The farm isn’t Pete’s and mine anymore either. It is now a thriving, serious organic business that belongs to Jake and Abby. But, I still get to do the chores once in a while.

Turkey InstagramI can’t help, however, thinking back to an essay I wrote 28 years ago, one about AT, our turkey who survived Thanksgiving by ingratiating himself into my heart. Things have changed—most noteably the cost of buying a poult (now $7.08) and feeding a growing turkey ($28.00 per turkey). The 47 turkeys Jake and Abby are now raising have had, like AT, a fine life. They live in a large, rotating pasture area, so grass is always green and fresh. There are piles of logs and old stumps within all the enclosures they have inhabited (the panhandle field, as Jake calls it, is over five acres so there are plenty of new patches for the weekly moving of polywire fencing), and the turkeys delight in climbing, flapping their wings, sweeping back down to the ground. They have a covered roosting hutch, fresh water, and people who love hearing their constant murmuring sounds all day long. They are content turkeys. Also, smart.

I have been wondering why turkeys have the reputation which I wrote about. These fellows are bronze turkeys, not white. A difference? Closer relatives of wild turkeys, which apparently Ben Franklin loved and wanted for our national bird instead of the eagle?

Yet, some of this initial batch of turkey poults died, too. Perhaps it is their frailty at an early age that earns them the reputation of “not too smart.” Whatever that may be, feeding the current batch of turkeys is my favorite job on the farm. They talk to me the whole way to the feed trays, trotting along behind, jostling each other a bit, but respectful, too, something that clearly would not be said about the chickens.

I have a photo of my grandmother, over 100 years ago, standing, in a white dress no less, with a grain bucket in her hand feeding her turkeys. If she could only see me now.

grandma

November, 1986 Hatchet day
Hatching day was May 21. Hatchet day should be November 26. It is just that we can’t all agree if we really want to eat A.T. Not that we are squeamish. It is more that A.T., short for Attack Turkey, has wormed her way into the family, gotten herself a turkey-toehold in our affections, so to speak.

Last May, after we paid out a hard-earned $11.25 to the feed store, A.T. came to live with us along with three of her siblings, each of whom immediately demonstrated and confirmed all written instructions for raising turkeys. According to my homesteader’s handbook, “Turkey raising appeals to the least number of people… turkeys are the most difficult domestic fowl to raise… turkeys lay their eggs standing up… they are easily frightened… susceptible to disease… and are amazingly stupid,” or words to that effect. Cute though, at least at the beginning.

A.T. and the other three tiny, soft yellow fluff balls huddled in a grocery box refusing to eat or drink (my book warned me about this) because, as we discovered later that day, they couldn’t find the mash or water which was directly in front of their beaks. Arek spent the evening holding each poult in turn upside down and dipping each beak first into the grain, then the water, then the grain…

When we stood each of the four turkeys in a corner of the box, isolated from the others, each held her position, facing the blank cardboard wall with an equally blank stare. They would have died there if we hadn’t herded them together again. The next night one did die — just lay down and called it quits. After a week, the three remaining turkeys, who were faring a little bit better with the world, were moved from their kitchen home to the large upstairs bathroom where we organized a daily TET.

TET, Turkey Exercise Time, allotted 15 minutes of free-flying and romping on the bathroom’s vinyl floor. The poults were still much too tiny to be outside. Besides, turkeys catch every known disease from chickens so they couldn’t go anywhere near our barn. TET was a great hit until we noticed that two of the three turkeys each had a leg which would not stop twitching. Like miniature ballerinas, the little poults hopped on one leg while the other moved out from the body and back again, a turkey battement jete´.

When the turkeys grew larger and we moved them to a pen outside my kitchen window, the condition worsened. Their weight ended their dancing careers, and the hatchet, sadly, ended their lives. Our investment of effort and money was beginning to look like a mistake.

A.T., now worth the original price plus two bags of feed, didn’t seem to care, or even notice that she was alone. Why should she, when life under the old apple tree was good and relaxing? Best of all she considered herself a house pet with all the rights and privileges. Each day throughout the summer I would let A.T. out for a romp, a little like the old in-house TET, but now she was really free. I would find her walking into the kitchen when the door had been inadvertently left open, and, much to the frustration of the drivers in this family, she also left daily deposits on the hood of the truck or car.

She took great delight in following me. My summer gardening days are filled with memories of a great white turkey standing next to me as I weeded or tootling along behind me for a walk in the woods. She had grown into a big animal with heavy, sleek, snow-white feathers and a head that didn’t look too bad for a turkey. In addition, I thought her brain had enlarged slightly, getting a bit smarter, until the day she went to the garden alone and “got lost” on the other side of the house. Her cries — a half gobble which was snorted through her nostrils — brought us all running to her rescue. As soon as she saw us, she ran happily with outstretched wings to the arms of her keepers.

A.T. continued to cost us money as well. Feed disappeared at $6.08 per 50 pound bag, the most expensive medicated kind because otherwise turkeys develop blackhead, a horrid sounding disease. There were unseen costs, too. The day the tile-layer was working in our mud room (at $15 per hour labor cost), he disappeared. I found him supposedly cutting tiles but actually playing water-spray tag with A. T. in the front yard. More money down the old turkey tube.

When September arrived and apples fell, A.T. found a new diversion. Casey, our golden retriever, who comes close to A.T. on the intelligence scale, eats apples. So does A.T. She especially likes the apples that Casey is eating. That is nothing really new. All summer A.T. ate dog food, the big hunky-chunky kind. Casey, intimidated by strong wings and a fast beak, went hungry while A.T. strutted around with a bulging crop.

Once again Casey was never given a moment of peace. Fifty apples might lie on the ground and one would be in Casey’s mouth — the one that A.T. wanted. She would sidle up to the poor dog, make a lightning fast jab at the apple, and Casey would be yelping and running for the house.

Things haven’t changed one bit now that November is here, except that A.T. is plumper and better looking than ever. She still chases Casey. She calls to me every morning and actually seems to want me to pat her when she leans against my leg. Maybe she is smarter than I give her credit for. How unattached am I to this turkey now worth $6.50 per pound? Enough to eat her? Maybe I had better get busy and winterize her pen.