What’s In Season?

If you’ve seen our display at farmers market you know that the “Whats’s In Season” sign is part of it! This is our way of sharing with you when certain products are available. This chart is unique to our farm!

Many of you have been asking about chicken. For Apple Creek Farm this is a seasonal product. We begin raising our meat birds (broilers) in late March so they are fully feathered and ready to go out onto pasture when the grass is green. We raise broilers March – September (when there is fresh grass) and offer them fresh each week through the summer and frozen throughout the winter.

Each year we raise an increasing number of these chickens for weekly processing and the last two years we’ve sold out of our supply before our processing begins in Mid-May. So our lack of chicken is not because of the corona virus, rather due to it’s popularity!

FRESH CHICKEN available each week beginning mid-May

We’ve also sold a great deal of beef this winter. We’ll be restocked in two weeks and look for both greater variety AND the return of your favorite cuts including chuck roasts, meaty soup bones, stew meat and more!

What about Spring Lamb? Isn’t that in season?

Nope! Our lambs are born in February and March allowing them to nurse from their moms (our ewes) until May. This gives them time to learn to eat hay and then head out to pasture with their moms to learn about what plants are good to graze and how to be model farm residents by responding to our claps and daily moves to fresh pasture. We train the lambs to come when we clap so that they can easily be moved from one field to the next.

The lambs spend their summer growing while grazing. This is a slower way to finish them (by this we mean prepare them for eventual harvest) and is what makes our lamb lean yet tasty (never gamey). Our lambs stay on the farm until September or October when we choose which ewes (girl lambs) will be kept for our breeding flock (moms) and which will be harvested. This is why lamb generally isn’t available until September at the earliest.

Our goat kids are born in early to mid-May. They spend six months with their moms (our does) out on pasture and in the woods eating lots of deep-rooted perennials and invasive plants such as bittersweet. At six months the kids are weaned and join the lambs in their daily pasture moves. Our goats take a full two years to finish and as a result goat cuts are generally not available until September or October.

Bonus!

Imagine Jake’s surprise when he found an “extra” lamb! Freshly cleaned off and “baaing” for its mother.

Sunday mornings are generally when we let ourselves sleep in a little bit and last Sunday was no different. But, upon waking we realized with a groan that it was daylight savings time! Already feeling late, we rushed out to begin chores. We arrived at the barn and Jake went over to check the nursery, the area where we put ewes and lambs after their time in individual lambing pens. Everyone in the nursery has bonded and know who belongs to whom. Imagine Jake’s surprise when he found an “extra” lamb! Freshly cleaned off and “baaing” for its mother.

Immediately we suspended normal chores and with the lamb tucked into my jacket, began a search to figure out who the likely mother might be. We assumed one of our first-time moms had this lamb and somehow (as unlikely as it seemed) it had made its way from their adjacent paddock into the nursery. To do so, the newborn would have to maneuver through multiple locked gates. After twenty minutes of “hind-end” reviews and doing a full headcount of ewes, we concluded that none of the first timers had given birth. I returned to the nursery area and noticed that a pretty brown ewe, named Peppercorn was stretching her neck over the nursery fence and calling to the lamb. “Just being friendly” I thought.

At this point, knowing the lamb had been out in the cold for at least an hour and unsure if it had eaten, we decided to take it indoors and get it some packaged colostrum. Inside I trudged with the little lamb who by now was quite cozy in my jacket. I tubed the lamb as Janet and Pete stood by scratching their heads; as confused as us. Once he got the warm colostrum in his belly, he was quite happy. By this time, Jake had examined all the ewes in the nursery and determined that Peppercorn had blood on her tail, a sure sign she had given birth. The only problem was that she had already given birth, a week prior and had delivered twin lambs!?!?

Jake came into the house to let me know. Janet then produced her iPad and did a quick google search, turning up results in the British Isles of this condition called (without much flair) “delayed birth.” It is not unheard of in other species and with sheep it generally results in death for “delayed” lamb.

Still dumbfounded, we returned the lamb to its mum, Peppercorn. She was removed from the nursery with her twins and placed back into an individual pen. The twins seemed delighted to have a new playmate rather than grumpy with their new, younger sibling. Triples are not uncommon in sheep but with only two teats on a ewe’s udder there always tends to be one of the three lambs that doesn’t grow as well as the others. Survival of the fittest I suppose.

I am proud to say that little Bonus is doing well. He gets supplemental milk daily from a ewe that lost her lamb at the start of the season and nurses vigorously from his mother. Despite his age difference he is bouncing around with his brother and sister enjoying being a lamb and Peppercorn continues to be up for the challenge of caring for her triplets.

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!

 

Yellow Egg Spansion Instagram-2
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. 

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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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.

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.

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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.