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EMPTY PALLET BOXES AWAITING CLEANING. Once planting is complete we shift over t…


EMPTY PALLET BOXES AWAITING CLEANING. Once planting is complete we shift over to Summer tasks which include cleaning and disinfecting with bleach hundreds of hardwood pallet boxes. The disinfection is a Best Management Practice (BMP) aimed primarily at stopping the spread of the dreaded Bacterial Ring Rot (BRR).
Today was yet another wet, gray day in Aroostook County. With that rain that fell since last night, we now have had over 7″ of rain in the past four weeks.
There are still some local farmers who have not yet planted all their potatoes – despite planting all day and up until 10-11pm at night during dry weather – because of wet ground problems.
In wet Maine Springs it can go like this: You plant potatoes on a Monday. Then it rains Tuesday. It drys out some on Wednesday. On Thursday you get another day of planting in. Then it rains again Friday into Saturday. Now with the accumulating moisture and with little to no evapo-transpiration to help out, you need the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday for the ground to dry out again. With each rain it takes longer to dry back out. This is how one week can qucikly degenerate into just two good days of planting.
If you’re tempted to be impatient and work the soil too wet in the Spring, you run the risk of compacting and crusting over the soil. Then you’ll be plagued for the rest of Summer and into Harvest when you dig up big clods that accompany the potatoes coming out of the ground.
Wiser to sit and wait. Caleb, Megan & Jim




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WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM GETS DONE PLANTING POTATOES! With another half-inch of…


WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM GETS DONE PLANTING POTATOES! With another half-inch of rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow, the crew came in today and we finished planting first-year-in-soil Potato Minitubers. The Minitubers will be housed in a 600′ long ‘Caterpillar’ tunnel covered with special aphid-excluding netting.
At the far end of the field we began setting in place and bolting together some of the thirty 20-foot sections which make up the Caterpillar tunnel. After this rain we’ll finish re-assembling the Caterpillar sections and then spread over and secure the skin of heavy-duty netting.
In this shot taken mid-afternoon today, Caleb (straw hat) is in his blue Jeep bringing materials. Megan & Amy are working together using the solar-electric Lithium-battery-powered ‘Ro-Hand II’ Picking Assistant. The Ro-Hand is a great invention (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfTSrVREPu8)! It saves backs by eliminating stoop labor and is a great advantage in getting this intensive manual planting job done efficiently.
After a dry Spring, since the weather pattern shift beginning May 15, we’ve had 5.75″ of rain. Caleb, Megan & Jim




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NEW EDITION OF ‘WOOD PRAIRIE SEED PIECE’ NOW ONLINE! Save 25% with our Closeout …


NEW EDITION OF ‘WOOD PRAIRIE SEED PIECE’ NOW ONLINE! Save 25% with our Closeout Special! Plus a brand new ‘Maine Tales’ which solves the mystery of our 4-Acre field. Plus More Farm Photos, Planting Stories & More!
Find the new ‘Seed Piece’ here: https://www.woodprairie.com/newsletters/061022.html
Caleb, Megan & Jim Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
(207)429-9765
www.woodprairie.organic




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HOW WE PROPAGATE OUR RARE POTATO VARIETIES ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM. We are …


HOW WE PROPAGATE OUR RARE POTATO VARIETIES ON WOOD PRAIRIE FAMILY FARM. We are now patiently waiting out the rain, looking for dry weather in order to plant our Potato Minituber seed plots inside our portable 600-foot Long ‘Screenhouse’ Tunnel (covered with aphid-excluding netting).
Yesterday we finished planting inside 3000 tiny tissue-cultured potato plantlets (each the size of an Alfalfa sprout) from their Petri dishes into home-made Soil Blocks. In a week or so, once the roots grow out strong, we’ll transplant these Soil-Block-Plantlets into grow-tubs of organic compost located inside our second ‘Short Screenhouse Tunnel.’
Our harvest from the Plantlets this Fall will be the disease-free Minitubers we’ll plant next year out into the Long Tunnel. Then we’ll multiply up for one or two more years before we sell the Certified Seed Tubers to customers like you in our mail order seed business. https://www.woodprairie.com/category/the-organic-garden/certified-organic-maine-certified-seed-potatoes/
In this photo, Amy is bent over with clipboard, recording final count of trays of Soil-Block-planted Plantlets laid out on the five pallets. Seated and finishing up planting Potato Plantlets into Soil Blocks are (L>R) Kenyon, Megan and Cassidy. Caleb, Megan & Jim




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“PICKING ROCKS” – AN AGE-OLD PRACTICE IN AROOSTOOK COUNTY, MAINE. As reliable a…


“PICKING ROCKS” – AN AGE-OLD PRACTICE IN AROOSTOOK COUNTY, MAINE. As reliable an Aroostook institution as Saturday night Baked Beans, ‘picking rocks’ is a task performed with a hand crew and Rock Cart immediately after potato planting is complete.
Here, Amy is driving the Farmall tractor pulling our rugged, red rock-filled homemade hydraulic-powered dump cart. We bought it at a local farm auction 25 years ago for $600. It has been worth every penny.
Rocks bruise potatoes and bust-up equipment. After all is said and done, once potato planting is completed there will always be some maverick rocks laying atop potato rows dastardly committed to creating mayhem for farmers.
After many decades of rock removal efforts the number of rocks left to pick in Aroostook County is now only a small fraction of what the glaciers left behind.
However, despite the mega-mechanized world of modern potato farming, post-planting rock picking is still one job that no one has invented a way to avoid hand labor. So, the need to ‘pick rocks’ remains to this day a universal affliction, impacting all from the smallest of fry – like us – to the most megalithic of potato farming operations. Caleb, Megan & Jim




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MAINE TALES. THAT ODD COLD SPRING. BRIDGEWATER, MAINE. Circa 1992. That …


MAINE TALES. THAT ODD COLD SPRING. BRIDGEWATER, MAINE. Circa 1992. That odd Spring thirty years ago had been cold and dry. Without the benefit of warm Spring rains, Winter’s penetrating frost persisted and remained as deep-buried, unthawed-ground. In the weeks ahead of planting, we had gotten ensnared into a mushrooming project of rebuilding and converting over a 2-Row Iron Age conventional-pick-style potato planter into a unique Tuber-Unit-Planter with segmented-conveyer-belt feed. Our new planter would be styled after a prototype we’d seen invented by a ingenious seed farmer over in Canada. Like most projects, this one was taking a lot longer than anticipated.

Come the middle of May the weather abruptly broke out of its stubborn cold pattern. All of a sudden we were gifted with four unprecedented and consecutive days of sunny, hot weather into the 90s. On the second of those days every farmer in Aroostook County – except us – was going great guns planting their crop of potatoes. It would be another full week before we got our refurbished planter up and running. It is a lonely, sinking feeling when everyone else around you is planting but you aren’t because you weren’t ready.

One farmer in the next Town north got stuck when the tractor pulling his heavy and loaded 4-Row Lockwood Potato Planter couldn’t turn around on the sloping grassy headlands. The rubber lugs on his tractor’s tires couldn’t get traction on that Spring’s icy permafrost located just beneath the sod layer. In hindsight, that slippery ordeal might have served as a harbinger of trouble ahead.

A week after everyone else got going, we had completed the building of our ‘new’ planter and started planting our own potato crop. The weather held until early June giving us enough time to get our crop fully planted.

Then the pendulum swung. The rest of the entire Summer turned cold and wet just like an Irish Spring. Thankfully, we had done a good job greenspouting the seed for our entire crop. Those primed and sprouting tubers, once mechanically planted into the soil, progressed in rocket-like-fashion and emerged quickly with outstanding germination. In farming, timing is everything and as it turned out our potatoes loved that cool, moist Summer. That year we grew one of our best organic potato crops ever, both beautiful and bountiful.

On the other hand, most of Northern Maine was in store for a multi-pronged potato disaster. The crop growing from seed planted too early in the thawed layer over frozen ground had in a great many cases become afflicted with a non-disease physiological disorder known as incipient Hollow Heart. The Hollow Heart malady had been triggered by the adverse cold soil conditions when new developing tubers were nothing more than match-head-sized swellings on potato stolons. One neighbor, made a valiant but in-the-end ineffectual attempt to arrest cavity development in a crop of Atlantic seed potatoes he was growing to sell to chipstock growers in Florida. He gambled and top-killed his potato crop record-early on August 2 when the tubers had only bulked up to the size of Clementines. Unfortunately, however, those Atlantics did not escape the bane of Hollow Heart.

In many other area fields potatoes came to be afflicted with a disease that at first blush had been misdiagnosed by experts as Pink Rot. Eventually, affected tubers were sent out West for DNA fingerprinting and weeks later the verdict came back that the problem was in-fact a brand new-on-the-scene Mating type of Potato Late Blight known as “A2.” Farmers the world over had been dealing with PLB Mating type A1 since the days of the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s. Then in the late 1980s this new and aggressive virulent Mating type A2 had been first identified in East Germany. After erratic worldwide journeying for a decade A2 had eventually found its way into Mexico and is believed to have hitchhiked into the USA on infected Tomatoes.

Sadly, in the fullness of time a third of that problematic ’92 Maine potato crop succumbed to its woes, was found to be worthless and unmarketable and was unceremoniously dumped.

Sometimes, going against the flow turns out to be good for us, even when we may have been clueless to the protection that we were actually being afforded at the time.

Caleb, Megan & Jim
https://www.woodprairie.com/newsletters/050622.html#Article_1




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HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY! Today we remember those before us who made that ultimate s…


HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY! Today we remember those before us who made that ultimate sacrifice in order to defend our country, our democracy and the American way-of-life.
Paul Cyr took this photo of the flag-festooned small town Main Street (aka US Route 1) here in Bridgewater, Maine (Pop. 532).
Professor and historian Heather Cox Richardson shares again her remembrance of the legacy of one such selfless young Mainer, Beau Bryant. However, this telling comes with a new and fitting ending. Caleb, Megan & Jim https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/may-29-2022?s=r




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WOODPRAIRIE AMY REACHING FARMING NIRVANA. Home and fresh from her successful fi…


WOODPRAIRIE AMY REACHING FARMING NIRVANA. Home and fresh from her successful first year of college, Caleb’s sister, Amy, has been helping us get our Organic Certified Seed Potato crop planted.
Amy is brewmaster and carefully mixes the array of biological soil inoculants we apply to the seed rhizosphere while we plant. She leads the seed cutting crew on the back of the Potato Planter. And she stays ahead of need harrowing with our 19-foot-wide IH Vibrashank pulled by our 92 HP 1966 Oliver 1850 Diesel tractor. This is the 1850 Caleb and Justin completely rebuilt some years back.
On our scale harrowing is satisfying work. As one can see, taking care to properly prepare a seed bed so that it can produce abundant and healthy organic crops can lead an aspirant to a blissful state. Caleb, Megan & Jim




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WOOD PRAIRIE ROADSIDE POTATO PLANTER FILLING STATION. After completion of every…


WOOD PRAIRIE ROADSIDE POTATO PLANTER FILLING STATION. After completion of every planting round-trip we pull the tractor with the Potato Planter up to this station for a refill.
On the green home-built 16-foot hay wagon is the red Fertilizer Hopper containing a field specific custom-blend of organic ground rock fertilizer.
The (2) Caged Water Tanks (275 gallons each) supply the carrier water for a recipe of organic biological seed inoculants. We apply the slurry of inoculants in-furrow near the potato seed piece while we are planting to the tune of 200 gallons solution per acre.
Wooden pallet boxes or palletized ‘Tulip Crates’ of warmed-up seed potatoes sit ahead of the ‘red hopper.’ Another pallet holds the various liquid and powdered seed inoculants which fill the stainless steel drums mounted on the tractor.
The Clark Forklift has been outfitted with a hydraulic ‘Box Rotator’ which allows us to unload a pallet box of seed into the planter’s seed hopper with minimal human effort
The resting Oliver tractor at left is outfitted with a narrow Brillion Cultipacker Roller with which we prepare the soil for turning strategically-located sprayer-alleys into planted Flowers Beds with esoteric flower varieties selected for abundant nectar and pollan. The Flower Refuges will nourish Beneficial predatory insects which have the valuable habit of feasting with relish upon harmful Potato insect pests. Caleb, Megan & Jim




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