Issue of The Seed Piece:
Christmas in Maine.
Katahdin (elev 5268'). View from the East.
Maine's highest peak and nothern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Wishing you and your family
a merry and warm Christmas.
Click here for the
Wood Prairie Farm Home Page
Megan Gerritsen & Family
Katahdin: A Land
Sherman, Circa 1937.
undisputed monolithic icon of northern
Maine is Katahdin. The coast has lighthouses as their
from the Maine woods we have Katahdin. Both
are there to guide. While Katahdin is seventy miles southwest of
Prairie Farm, the mountain is so prominent that it's top can be seen in
on clear days from
our highest hills and peaks.
Last week I had an
organic meeting in central
Maine and drove south along I-95 past Katahdin to get there. This 115
stretch between Houlton and Bangor took ninety minutes to drive.
hundred years ago it took Indians and pioneers two weeks of canoe
complete a similar journey.
the week northern Maine had been clobbered with a storm that dropped up
to a foot or two of snow. As often happens, the
deepest snow fell in
the Katahdin valley – the sparsely populated townships near
Katahdin and the area
whose weather is seriously impacted by the impressive Katahdin.
down early, the morning was calm,
crystal clear and hovering around zero. The snow had been wet and the
since the storm had been uncharacteristically windless so clinging now
frozen to the boughs of the spruce and fir trees was a 4-5 inch layer
pristine white snow, every bit as perfect and unbelievable as a
painting on a
Leanin’ Tree Christmas card. The
the highway shoulder was piled deepest as I approached the southern
northern Maine – that would be the Penobscot River
– where our familiar land
ends and that different world begins. One
last towns this side of the Penobscot and staring right into
Katahdin is Sherman, Maine, a small outpost in the Maine woods.
One Room Schoolhouse
we had a
friend who as a new teacher taught in a one room schoolhouse in Sherman
shadow of Katahdin back in the 1920s and 1930s. Twenty five students,
K- Grade 8,
ages five to fifteen, three foot to six foot tall, all crowded into a
boarded mightily spare wood building, lacking insulation and outfitted
almost adequate woodstove. There was
nothing between the schoolhouse door and the breathtaking view of
except for some fast moving air. When it was snowing outside and the
wind was blowing a gale it was also snowing inside that bare little
most northern Maine towns Sherman was a
woods township with the cleared ground planted to potatoes and oats.
to northern Maine but common to the Katahdin valley, Sherman also had
where dairy was bigger and potatoes was smaller, due to the
that as you get away from the sandy loams up north comprising the
center of the
Potato Empire, the cleared ground was not as well-drained or early and
more fit for growing sod for hay and pasture.
pronunciation is independent and unruly. Subtleties
are embedded in local dialect. Take
“Katahdin” for instance. It’s
an Indian word which means “Greatest Mountain”, which
explains why we
don’t call it Mount Katahdin (Mount Greatest Mountain is way too
many words for a
northern Mainer). Maine is quite partial to bestowing its iconic names
creations that are a source of pride. Of course, there’s
Katahdin hair sheep. Then when the era’s best potato variety
came along, it
just seemed to make sense when it was released in 1932 to call it
(You’ll find our Onaway
potato has Katahdin in its parentage).
are particularly brutal when it comes to handling
down along the coast tend to lose them
(Bar Harbor sounds out as "Baa Haabaa"). Folks
up here in northern Maine tend to grab them floating
and stick ‘em onto words to make the process of speaking go
(“Goin’ down to Auguster,”
“Headin’ up to Madawasker”). The upshot
is we have a
short season in northern Maine and there’s no point wasting
time saying out real
long words when a short version would do just fine. Nowadays,
we’d allow that
Katahdin is still spoken every day in Maine potato country
me a load of Katahdins to put up the fore noon,” “Naw,
them Superiors not nearly as late as a Katahdin,”
thar don’t take to blight near as quick as Katahdins”).
So for many reasons
there’s a pile of practice and daily experience behind the
northern Maine pronunciation of Katahdin.
of mastery the original Katahdin of three syllables has been reduced
down a tad to about one and a half. A well placed ‘R’ shortens up
that tedious (‘tedjus’) long
middle syllable. Phonetically speaking, 'Ktardun'
(Note: no pauses; quick start with a forceful ‘Kt’
be spoken fast, as though you’re in a hurry, after all
winter is always
on the way).
before World War II, schools started up in November after cold weather
brought the farming
season to an end. School continued through winter ‘til mud
season in the Spring,
allowing families to gear up for the farming season once the mud dried
the 1920s had been real good years and then the thirties were very very
tough. To help
their families make ends
meet most of the boys in Sherman school ran traplines for beaver and
tend these traplines
before school and show up at the schoolhouse laden with pack baskets
and traps and of course snowshoes, rifles and knives.
pelts and snowshoes were parked outside leaned up against the
negotiation and mutual
agreement the guns, knives and traps were stowed under the
teacher’s desk. These
were an outdoor people and these
were outdoor kids. Katahdin was their constant companion. Katahdin
was their guidepost in the woods and
the center of their frigid world.
The Outside World
in places like Sherman, electric power lines to farms were still
decades away. But the
invention of battery powered radios
brought to folks in Sherman and rural America the new option of a
glimpse into the wide outside world through radio broadcasts. Three
generations ago the most famous radio
personality was the renowned world traveler and story teller Lowell
in 1930, his regular national radio
broadcast “Lowell Thomas and the News” carried on
NBC and CBS, continued for
almost five decades. Lowell brought into view
places like Cairo, Cripple Creek and Katmandu. To backwoods Maine
who’d never imagined venturing away from home, adventurer Lowell Thomas
came to possess
god-like status and gravitas. That is,
until the day Lowell's story telling brought him to northern Maine.
Blow after Blow
of Lowell’s listeners didn’t realize it but he was
what’s known as a “cold
reader”. He would
most often read scripts
live on the air that someone else had written without ever having
text. And most times he performed impeccably as the master story teller.
one day Lowell’s subject turned out to
be the wilds of northern Maine. With
Sherman ears attentive like never before, his story unfolded. He soon
reference to Katahdin, royally mispronouncing it repeatedly as
Cat-ta-din’ and kept right on a-readin' the script in complete
oblivion to his
stunning blow after blow of error. At the first blunder every jaw in
Sherman dropped. From five
year old listener on up there was instantaneous
shock in Sherman: this god of the radio waves rambling along
didn’t know what the
heck he was talking about.
Cold Winter Day
had been a cold winter day in Sherman. The
in Sherman got a big real world education they hadn’t
bargained for when they
crawled out of bed that morning. At
end of the day some of their innocence was left behind. Yet they were
now a notch
wiser to the ways of the outside world. And maybe just a little more
to cross over to that far shore of the Penobscot River.
[A version of this 'Maine Tales'
originally appeared in the Dec 17, 2010 Seed Piece]
|Jim Gerritsen to Give Keynote at
Slow Money National Gathering
friends at Slow Money
are putting together
an event that many of you will not want to miss on April
29-30 in Boulder, Colorado. Slow Money is
focused on fixing the economy from the ground up... starting with food.
The April event will be their fourth National Gathering and the first three have
national activity that holds great promise for all of us who want to
food system transformed. At their first three national gatherings, $6
was invested in 21 of the presenting enterprises. In addition, 17
around the country have facilitated $15 million of investing at the
Slow Money in Maine.
Money Maine is one of the most active Slow Money chapters
and it has
become an effective game-changing network.
Since it was founded just two-and-one-half
years ago, over $4 million has
been used to help develop farming in Maine
including $1.9 million in loans, $1.5 million in grants and $600,000 in
investment. That $1.9 million loan
figure distills down to twenty-one loans (Disclosure: we are one of the
21 farms) in amounts ranging from
$2,500-$55,000. What’s more, steady
progress is being made in creating a brand new member-owned non-profit
state-chartered Maine Farm & Food Credit
Union to serve members of the Maine
Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assn and Maine
Farmland Trust by providing working capital to farmers and food
enterprises, and a means by which Mainers can deposit their savings
insured institution and know that their money is being used to support
activity in their local food community.
Speakers At Slow
Confirmed speakers include Carlo
Petrini (founder of Slow Food); Mary Berry
(Wendell Berry's daughter
who is leading the charge for the newly established Berry Center); Wes Jackson (MacArthur Fellow and
founder of The Land Institute); Winona
LaDuke (Renowned activist and Executive Director of Honor the
Clements (author of Corporations
Are Not People), Joan Gussow
(Author of This Organic Life);
(MacArthur Fellow, prolific author, and leader of the local
food movement.); and Jim Gerritsen
(co-owner of Wood Prairie Farm and President of Organic Seed Growers
Association, lead Plaintiff in OSGATA
et al v. Monsanto).
Make Your Plans To
first 100 tickets
sold by December 31st will be offered at a discount. So act now! Hope
to see you in Boulder!
here to find out more and to
register for the 2013 Slow Money National Gathering.
Jim & Megan
|Ever Wonder Where the Mercury in
Yes, most mercury pollution comes from the burning of fossil
fuels like coal, but some does come from the after effects of
mining. This accompanying graphic from Grist illustrates the
To gain further background you can read the article
The Source of
Mercury in Fish. Click to enlarge graphic.
Thomas Jefferson. Farmer
|Advice From a Former President.
Our third President, Thomas Jefferson, has some good advice we should
keep in mind.
“If people let the government decide what
foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be
in as a sorry state as the souls who live under tyranny.”
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for
people of good conscience to remain silent.”
for the latest on Organic Seed
Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto.
|Recipe: Christmas Cranberry Sauce
with Carmelized Onions
Yields 2-1/2 to 3 cups
1 T vegetable or sunflower oil
1 large yellow onion,
cut into medium dice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 12 oz bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, rinsed and
1 c granulated sugar
In a 10 inch straight-sided saute pan or skillet,
oil over medium heat. Add the onions,
cloves, a pinch of salt
and a grind or
two of pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring
until the onions are golden-brown and very soft, 20 to 25 minutes.
lid, increase the heat to medium high, and cook the onions, stirring
until deep caramel-brown, an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the cranberries, sugar, a pinch of salt
and 1/2 c water
and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for 1 minutes, then
turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.
This wonderful sauce may be prepared up to 3 days ahead and
delicious variation of traditional Cranberry sauce.
Photo by Angela Wotton
Offer: Maine Potato Sampler
of the Month -
In time for
time if you act now! Our organic Maine
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year we ship them out all over the country.
Offer. If you order an 8-Month or 5-Month club now - as a gift
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Please use Promo Code WPF1136. Offer
December 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm Eastern. Applies to the 48 states
only. Can not be combined with other
offers. Please call or click today!
Wood Prairie Farm Quick
& Megan Gerritsen
Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm