November Newsletter

 

The fall has been downright gorgeous with so many colorful trees around the farm! It has been a glorious backdrop for all our late summer and fall activities. We’ve been raking up huge bags of leaves to feed the goats through the winter. They delight in the crunch so much we call them goat “chips.” We’ve also been putting ewes into breeding groups and have incorporated a new, Clun Forest Ram. If you recall Sam our bull then you’ll want to check out the photos on the farm’s Facebook page to see his calves. We have had two so far and are waiting on three more. Our goats spent the end of summer grazing at Six River Farm, helping to clean up some woods edges and cover crops. We are so glad for the collaboration with other farms particularly when grass was in short supply. Because of this, it was fortunate that we are not raising geese this year. We will resume raising them in 2017. If you had been planning on a goose for your holiday table let us know, we can help you choose another one of our delicious options.

If you haven’t seen us at market recently then you’ve missed meeting our new canine ambassador, Rye. He is a rescue pup from Arkansas who has filled the giant holes in our lives and hearts left by our previous dog, Chicory. Since Rye won’t be able to attend Brunswick Winter Market inside Fort Andross be sure to stop by on Tuesdays at Brunswick Farmers Market or on Saturdays at Brunswick Topsham Land Trust’s Market at Crystal Spring Farm. We are still taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys and our market schedule is below.

 

 

 

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.

 

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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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.

March toward Spring

March is always a busy month on the farm with lambing being our primary focus. This particularly March though we find ourselves in the midst of several really exciting projects.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 10.00.54 AMWe’re helping MOFGA spread the word about a survey to better understand why Mainers choose to “Buy Organic” and what can be done to increase the amount of Maine grown organic food on plates around the state. We’d love for your voice be heard! Follow this link to complete the short survey.

After spending some time in the fall writing grants and we are thrilled to report we will be receiving funding from Northeast SARE and from (FACT) Food Animal Concerns Trust’s Fund-A-Farmer Grant program.

food-animal-concerns-trustFACT awarded nearly $41,000 in grants to family farmers across the country to help them transition and/or improve access to pasture-based systems. Seventeen farms located in 11 U.S. states received grants through FACT’s Fund-a-Farmer Project. This innovative project awards grants up to $2500 and facilitates peer-to-peer farmer education to increase the number of animals that are raised humanely in the United States. Since 2012, FACT has awarded 67 grants to deserving family farmers across 26 states, directly impacting more than 54,000 animals.  At Apple Creek we will be installing above ground water lines in two of our of our primary pastures. This will help to increase soil fertility through more grazing (particularly by poultry) and provide fresh water more consistently and with less labor ensuring animals stay hydrated and healthy.

SARE_Northeast_RGBWe’re really excited about our SARE  Grant. The project titled, Using Forage Radish to Combat Compaction in Hay & Pasture Land will evaluate the impact of applications of manure and forage radish on soil compaction in an established hay field and pasture. The project will include on-farm-research conducted over two growing seasons to to understand whether using forage radish to break up hardpan,“mop up” excess nutrients low in the soil profile and increase organic matter can improve the productivity of the farm by reducing costs for mechanical tillage and increase the farm’s net income through improved forage production. Included in the grant are several outreach components including an on-farm field day to share our findings with other Maine farmers!

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We’ll be talking about the farm at the Slow Money Maine Gathering on Thursday March 17th, 12-4pm at Christ Church located on Dresden Ave in Gardiner.
Regular gatherings (1-4pm ) AND focus groups (12-1) are free, require no advance notice to attend. The Slow Money meetings are a favorite of this farmer as they include a wide cross-section of the “Good Food Movement” from eaters to investors. The conversation is lively, the networking unpretentious and the snacks are delicious! Abby & Jake will be sharing the farm story, plans for expansion and what the farm will produce in 2016. We hope you can attend!

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 8.53.57 AMFor several years Maine biologist Gerri Vistein has been organizing talks and events around the state to help farmers better understand often under-appreciated members our ecosystem- carnivores. Through Vistein’s work Apple Creek farmers have learned how to manage the presence of local coyotes, fox and even great horned owls. This information is now available through the newly established Farming with Carnivores Network. The network, made up of farmers from the Northeast like us is designed as a space for sharing the opportunities and challenges posed by farming with carnivores.

 

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.