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VIEW FROM OFFICE WINDOW LOOKING OUT INTO NEW WOOD PRAIRIE PACING SHED. In order to ward off any sense of our north-faci


VIEW FROM OFFICE WINDOW LOOKING OUT INTO NEW WOOD PRAIRIE PACING SHED. In order to ward off any sense of our north-facing Wood Prairie office from feeling cloistered, Caleb decided to install a window in the office which allows viewing into our new Packing Shed.

In this shot taken at noon today and looking southward, much of the pallet racking and shelving has been set up. Caleb’s brother, Peter works in the background (blue hoodie). In the reorganized shipping area, Brad (gray hoodie) is boxing up orders of Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes heading south.

Enjoying a mild January day ahead of a storm, the garage door is wide open as corrugated boxes, Organic Fertilizer and Organic Garden Tools are moved in and placed onto their new pallet rack homes.

Meanwhile, many hundreds of sacks of Organic Seed Potatoes fill up individualized farm-fabricated-carts. Every Organic Potato variety gets its own cart. Best sellers like Organic Yukon Gold spill over onto multiple carts.

Stacked hardwood pallet boxes used in grading our crop of Organic Potatoes await their turn. This week, the crew is helping Jim grade Potatoes and has started on Baltic Rose, Keuka Gold and Elba.

Caleb, Megan & Jim



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DECIDING WHERE TO POSITION WOOD PRAIRIE PALLET RACKS. It was over a month ago that we poured this 5000-square-foot rad

DECIDING WHERE TO POSITION WOOD PRAIRIE PALLET RACKS. It was over a month ago that we poured this 5000-square-foot radiant-heat concrete floor.

Since then, in addition to continuing to pre-grade our 2023 crop of Organic Potatoes we’ve been keeping up with shipping orders. We’ve also been working on our new Packing Shed building project, tasks like installing insulation (got a good deal there, too!), walls and wiring.

Last week, we finally got to setting up pallet racks and shelving. That blue-and-orange racking we have been using for 25 years. Caleb (on forklift) utilized a Clark forklift to move the pallet-rack-sections over and down into position. Peter (left) and Justin (foreground) ponder how best to place them.

Over the years, we have been able to make good buys of miscellaneous used pallet racking at local auctions. We stored those good deals away for a rainy day. That rainy day came along for us last week.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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UNLOADING USED SHELVING FROM PORTLAND WINDFALL. Caleb’s older brother, Peter (right in photo, Caleb is sitting on forkl

UNLOADING USED SHELVING FROM PORTLAND WINDFALL. Caleb’s older brother, Peter (right in photo, Caleb is sitting on forklift), has been up this Fall and Winter lending a hand and helping us build our Packing Shed.

Normally, Peter would be down in Southern Maine building houses and doing carpentry work. Through his network of trades contacts, one day Peter learned that a local contractor had been tasked with the time-sensitive-clean-out of the storage portion of a big ‘Bed Bath & Beyond’ store in Portland. That store closure was the result of the brick & mortar chain going belly up a while back.

Fortuitously showing up with his trailer at just the right time, Peter was able to help the contractor and scored a phenomenal deal. Peter loaded up as much of the pristine and heavy two-foot wide shelving as could possibly fit on his trailer.

Guess where that shelving ended up and got itself installed this past week?

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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PUTTING UP THE LAST OF THE METAL SIDING INSIDE OUR NEW WOOD PRAIRIE PACKING SHED. Working on the new building has been

PUTTING UP THE LAST OF THE METAL SIDING INSIDE OUR NEW WOOD PRAIRIE PACKING SHED. Working on the new building has been a long slog ever since we got done Potato Harvest, but now we’re in the home stretch.

In this photo, Caleb (left) has just trimmed a sheet of Amish-made steel-roofing we are using for the inside walls. Beyond the strapped walls is our office.

In our application, the steel is indestructible, reasonably priced and fast to install. Justin is breathing the thin air up in the blue forklift bucket.

Last Summer, we placed the winning bid for that blue bucket at a local farm auction. Mainers are driven to pursue good deals, as is reflected in the success of iconic local Maine chain, ‘Marden’s Surplus and Salvage.’

A “good deal” is way more desired and important than forking over big piles of money for things shiny, new and full-priced. In Maine, frugality has always been king and is a way-of-life.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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MEGAN’S KITCHEN RECIPES: “Cornmeal Pancakes with Maple-Cranberry Butter.” A delicious variation which elevates pancakes

MEGAN’S KITCHEN RECIPES: “Cornmeal Pancakes with Maple-Cranberry Butter.” A delicious variation which elevates pancakes to a special Breakfast or Supper meal. Megan

6 T Unsalted Butter, softened
3 T Unsalted Butter, melted
1/4 c Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
3 T Pure Organic Maple Syrup
1 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2/3 c Cornmeal
2/3 c Spelt Flour
2 T Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 c Whole Milk
1 Large Egg

In a food processor, pulse the softened butter with the cranberries, maple syrup and 1/2 tsp of the salt until combined. Scrape into a small bowl and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk the spelt flour with the cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and the remaining 1 tsp of salt. Whisk in the milk, egg and 3 T of melted butter.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and brush with butter. Ladle in batter, cook until just beginning to set, flip the pancake and cook until just cooked through. Transfer the pancakes to plates, spread with the cranberry butter and serve with maple syrup.

Serves 4




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MAINE TALES. “Journeys and Destinations.” Bridgewater, Maine. Circa 1990. When it comes to construction, the fact


MAINE TALES. “Journeys and Destinations.” Bridgewater, Maine. Circa 1990. When it comes to construction, the fact is we’re farmers and not too likely to win a prize anytime soon as outstanding rural planners.

When we landed on this farm almost 50 years ago, no buildings of any sort were left standing. The last upright structure was a barn that had been hit by lightning and burned to the ground in 1962. Nearby where the barn had stood, there remained the remnants of a hastily-built horse hovel constructed back in the 1950s. The crude hovel had provided shelter for seven teams of draft horses used by loggers cutting pulpwood in nearby forestland owned by the titan Great Northern Paper Company.

So in the mid-1970s, possessing youth, ambition and very limited funds, the first build was a simple twelve-foot by twenty-foot camp for living in (outside of Maine, a ‘camp’ is called a ‘cabin’). The pragmatic camp was built over an underground four-foot concrete cellar. Then quickly following in rapid succession were built: a woodshed, barn, hay shed and icehouse. It would be two more decades before electric grid power lines were extended to our Unorganized Township on the edge of the North Maine Woods. Kerosene lamps were the order of the day, superseded by a modest solar panel array and battery bank which could power some lights and a weather radio.

In Aroostook County, Maine, potatoes have been grown for two hundred years and over time developed the habit of calling the shots. Early success in growing potatoes meant we needed more space to store our crop and a four foot cellar clearly offering several limitations. The logical next step then was to chainsaw out the old floor and raise the camp floor heavenward by a couple of feet. That alteration correspondingly reduced our living-head-space from eight to six feet. A fair trade. So, at that point potatoes rose in standing to reach full-vertical-parity with humans. The modification would offer more capacity for spuds and provided the added luxury that we wouldn’t have to be constantly stooped over when we worked down cellar.

Along came the 1980s and another building – this one made of rock and concrete – which cropped up just a stone’s throw away from the first camp. It made sense to live in new digs with a full eight-foot-tall ceiling above the solid concrete bunker destined for potatoes. The compromise would be that trapdoors would be strategically placed in the dwelling’s wooden floor. Those trapdoor-holes via the the magic of gravity allowed barrels of potatoes to be dumped through canvas potato chutes to the awaiting bins below.

The years passed and we grew. In 1990, the need for more underground became apparent. The plan was to pour an underground 20’ x 66’ concrete rectangle which would connect together our two existing but disparate potato storages. The new north-south unification would allow us to assemble and run the beginnings of an efficient potato cleaning and grading line. Our ragtag collection of potato equipment was powered by a worn-out second-hand Homelite gasoline generator which we would heft into the house every night in order to keep warm. Prayer and house warmth increased the odds of the Homelite starting up the next morning when it would be hovering around thirty-below-zero outside.

In time, atop this new long potato storage we built a second-floor packing shed. And then eventually a firewood-heated office. And then more add-on-connected insulated-sheds for carrots and root crops which needing colder storage temps – around 32oF – did not get along with prima donna potatoes.

With the new long, skinny potato storage, a predictable problem immediately presented itself. That was the need to cut through a rugged, fourteen-inch-thick concrete wall in order to gain access our new potato storage and grading area. We secured a utilitarian solution by creating a three-foot by three-foot-crawl-through entry. We carved the bear-cave-sized entry hole by first hammer-drilling into the concrete a close-pitch-series of 1 1/4” holes in a perforated-square picture frame pattern. Then we jack-hammered to smithereens the remaining isthmuses between each hole and removed the riddled concrete block.

New babies arriving in the 1990s competed for attention with potatoes as the years ticked by. We could never find the time to expand that access hole. At some point, our smarten-up pills kicked in and we figured out the best way to go big was to jettison the hammer-drill-technique. We discovered expanding the hole in the thick concrete wall was best achieved by renting a chain-saw-look-alike gas-powered concrete saw brandishing a pricy diamond-tooth cutting blade. Cutting through such hefty, solid concrete is hard work any way you go. But diamonds are a carver’s best friend and the grief was kept to a minimum. The resulting finished product was a stoop-free five-foot-wide by six-foot-high entry hole, big enough that even our battery-powered cellar forklift could drive through it.

But potatoes weren’t done with us yet. In 1999, crystal-balling the shrinking farmhand labor supply ahead, we decided to switch our potato-handling process from the age-old Aroostook system of barrels-into-bins over to four-foot-cube one-ton hardwood pallet boxes for both harvest and storage. The price you pay for getting by with less labor is that you need more room to work. This reality distilled down to needed concrete expansion into a different direction – westward – with a new 35’ x 50’ underground storage.

The fourteen-foot high ceiling would allow us to triple-stack pallet boxes, allowing six-thousand pounds of potatoes to sit in a single footprint four-feet-square. A mechanical pallet-box-dumper could then feed the mechanized potato-grading-line. That rendered obsolete the back-breaking job for a worker to shovel up with a potato fork into a hopper the potatoes which had illogically been dumped out of barrels down into bins the previous Fall.

The years went by and our Wood Prairie Organic Seed mail order business grew. As we entered the business’ fourth decade, we found ourselves bagging less-and-less potatoes into fifty-pound-cartons going out on full pallets. More-and-more we were funneling potatoes into more personal one-pound, two-and-a-half-pound and five-pound sacks dreamed of by home gardeners. It soon became apparent that to keep the potatoes from growing restless we needed to give them more elbow room.

So this time around, our expansion reversed direction and headed eastward. During the Fall of 2021 we completed the shell portion of a new 72’ x 72’ x 16’ high enlarged ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) Packing Shed and warehouse. After recovering from that first phase of the build, this Fall we decided to take the plunge and finish up the building’s inside. Since potato harvest, we have been busy with demolition and construction work including finishing ceiling, walls, wiring, insulation, a concrete floor with radiant-heating, and new inside access to the adjacent underground potato storage complex.

It’s taken us almost fifty years and potatoes have delivered us to where we’re at today. Yes, we may be slow, and in more than ways than one, but in our own roundabout way we’ve figured out that planning ahead must be a pretty good idea. And that’s good theoretical advice, most especially when you’re wedded to potatoes and you’re driven by a hankering to build with permanency-predisposed concrete.

Jim






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MAINE’S “WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM” WINS TOP FEEFO ‘PLATINUM AWARD’ FOR 4th CONSECUTIVE YEAR. A year’s worth of kind Rev


MAINE’S “WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM” WINS TOP FEEFO ‘PLATINUM AWARD’ FOR 4th CONSECUTIVE YEAR. A year’s worth of kind Reviews – submitted to the Review platform Feefo by verified Wood Prairie customers – have led us to receive the industry’s highest honor, the ‘Feefo 2024 Platinum Trusted Service Award’ for the fourth consecutive year.

Feefo is based in the UK and is one of the world’s largest and most-highly-respected independent Review platforms. Feefo carefully validates EVERY published Review. Feefo Reviews may ONLY be submitted by a real live customer who has made an actual purchase from the company. The squeaky-clean Feefo platform is built upon integrity.

Feefo Reviews stand in sharp contrast to the widespread prevalence of fraudulent Reviews generated by fake Review-mills and AI bots. Some of the web’s largest re-sellers – YES including that one! – fail to keep out a slew of fake Reviews generated by crooked pay-to-play ‘Click Farms.’

We’re grateful to our devoted customers for being reliable business partners. After 35 years of growing and selling ONLY Organic Seed we understand that it is your loyalty and support which allows us to keep farming. We in turn work hard to provide your family with the very best Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, Organic Seed & Organic Goods. Thanks so much!

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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LIFTING A POTATO CONVEYOR OUT-OF-CELLAR THROUGH NEW INSIDE ACCESS. The wind-drifted half-foot of snow received overnigh


LIFTING A POTATO CONVEYOR OUT-OF-CELLAR THROUGH NEW INSIDE ACCESS. The wind-drifted half-foot of snow received overnight here in Northern Maine has demonstrated the improved convenience of our new interior access to our Wood Prairie on-farm underground Potato storage.

In this photo, Caleb (left) in the Potato House on the stand-up battery-powered yellow Yale Forklift maneuvers for removal the red Fingerling conveyor up towards the ceiling. Up on the ladder, Justin uses a ratchet-strap to secure the nine-foot-long-conveyor to the lowered forks of a Clark Forklift parked on our new Packing House concrete floor.

We use the red conveyor as a Fingerling-by-pass for our Haines’ Potato Drop Sizer. The Drop Sizer, built many decades ago in nearby Presque Isle separates potatoes into three sizes. Now that we’re done grading Fingerling Potatoes for the season, it became an advantage to free up precious space and remove that conveyor from the underground Potato storage.

Historically, Maine has been known as a “Round White” Potato State. So, the equipment fabricated locally to move about Maine Potatoes has done a dandy job handling ‘Round’ to moderately ‘Oblong’ Potatoes. However, oddball long-skinny Fingerlings are maimed mercilessly by the action of the Drop Sizer. Long ago, we figured out we couldn’t live without a by-pass. So we had capable Freddie Haines, grandson of the ‘Haines’ Equipment’ founder, design and build us one. Twenty-five years later it still works perfectly.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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CALEB REWIRING ORGANIC POTATO GRADING LINE ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM IN MAINE. The new cellar-access-point detailed i

CALEB REWIRING ORGANIC POTATO GRADING LINE ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM IN MAINE. The new cellar-access-point detailed in recent posts resulted in the need to the rearrange our Potato Grading line.
That equipment relocation – after 25 years in its current configuration – was needed so we would have unimpeded access. It also led to having to revamp the electrical wiring in our underground Potato storage, as well as to rewire some of the pieces of our Potato grading and cleaning equipment.

Here, Caleb is sitting and re-wiring the grading-equipment-control panel. Beside him lie some nicely-graded Organic Dark Red Norland Seed Potatoes. These ‘DRNs’ are destined to become assembled into custom ‘Experimenter’s Special’ Collections in which one may select four varieties of Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes to experiment with. It’s one of our very best selling items!

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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CALEB FINISH-SAWING THE CELLAR ACCESS HOLE. Complimenting yesterday’s post, after the rough-sawing was done, we lifted

CALEB FINISH-SAWING THE CELLAR ACCESS HOLE. Complimenting yesterday’s post, after the rough-sawing was done, we lifted out and removed the old floor section debris with our Skidsteer Loader.

Here, Caleb is standing on some rugged cellar shelving which hung from the ceiling above the Potato grading equipment. He is using a circular saw with a demolition blade to cut back the upstairs-wood-floor and the downstairs wood-cellar-ceiling back to the nearest floor stringers which will be left in place.

In the cellar, it was necessary to relocate the Potato grading line so that it would not be in the way and we could enjoy unimpeded approach to our new cellar access.

This Potato equipment reorganization worked out well. However, it meant Caleb needed to stop everything and do some rewiring in the cellar so that we could get back to grading this year’s nice crop of Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes. That he did, and soon we were back in the Potato grading business.

Caleb, Megan & Jim




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