In This Issue of The
Wood Prairie Seed Piece:
|This edition of the Seed
Piece may be
found in our Wood Prairie
Seed Piece Archives.
Onto a New Year.
One of Our Best Selling Potatoes!
Bred by our friend, the now
retired AgCanada Potato Breeder Dr. Hielke De Jong, Organic
Caribe’ is year-in, year-out one of our
most popular varieties. Caribe’ is High Yielding
and Extra Early making it a great choice
everywhere but most especially valuable in locales
where the Spring warms up quickly to hot. With the
ability to size up delicious tubers quickly, Caribe’is
a real winner. As we have said in our Catalog for 30
years: "‘Caribe’ should be planted in EVERY
In this issue of the Seed
Piece we bring back our classic feature we
call Notable Quotes. Please scroll down to see
what good advice Thomas Paine has for us!
Also, our NEW
section called How-To Gardening Resources this
week features two Brand New Video Podcasts by Lazy
Dog Farm. Lazy Dog’s Travis Key offers a 2-Part
interview with Jim drilling down to interesting nitty
gritty about growing Potatoes. This is Potato Growing
content you won’t find anywhere else!
For the 35 years we’ve run
our Farm-Direct Mail Order business, EVERYTHING
we grow and sell has ALWAYS been Certified Organic. We
are your Organic Experts! Organic
Seed Potatoes, Organic
Vegetable Seed, Organic
Herb Seed, Organic
Flower Seed, Organic
Cover Crop Seed, Organic
and Supplies and Organic
Thanks for your business! Stay Safe & Stay Warm!
Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Maine Tales. Proud
Mothers. Springhill, Louisiana.
Planting in the South.
This beautiful site was what
tree planters would call “gravy” and was absent the
slash, trash and logging debris which usually
confronted hand planters. “Hoedads” were specifically
designed for hand planting and are a tool refined from
the old heavy mattock. Hoedads are swung with a single
gloved hand. The other ungloved hand is constantly
reaching into the planting bag pulling out a bare-root
seedling from the bag’s five-hundred tree supply. The
tree is quickly whipped into the V-shaped hole created
by lifting up on the handle attached to the sunken
hoedad blade. The final step is to ferociously
‘heel-in’ the tree with your boot before stepping
ahead to plant the next tree. The typical forestry
target is 700 trees per acre at 6’ x 8’ or 7’ x 7’
eye-balled spacing. Hoedad planting encourages a
rhythm to planting and precise spacing becomes
effortless second-nature. Jim averaged planting 4500
trees per day. His career best was planting 9000 trees
one day on a field in Georgia which had grown Soybeans
the previous Summer. He was trying for 10,000 but he
didn’t make it.
all depends on your idea of having fun. For a Mainer,
sitting by a warm woodstove and looking out the window
at the cold world outside is pretty hard to beat.
Hoedad Tree Planting
Jim was part of a crew of
hoedad treeplanters spread out on the logging road
across a clearcut in northern Louisiana. "Hoedads"
are specialized mattocks swung with one hand while
the other hand repeatedly grabs out trees for planting
from a shoulder-strapped planting bag.
The weather had turned cold
with the onset of the record-busting “Great Freeze of
’83.” After going through a bout of a half-inch of
freezing rain, the area received another three inches of
insulating snow. The cold, ice and snow had shut
down the crew from hand-planting Loblolly Pine trees.
The only thing that could rescue that icy Lousianna
world was an above-freezing-thaw and that was not in
Three treeplanters on the crew
happened to be friends from northern Florida. Their idea
of fun was to scratch the itch, leave camp and
discover America up close by braving the roads.
That was before the days of cell phones and those three
weren’t seen again until the thaw ten days later.
In the 1970s and 1980s hoedad
planting became a way for independent nonconformists to
earn money by working hard. Planting season down South
occurs during the Winter when rain, cool weather and
moist ground conditions increase tree survivability
rates. Southern planting is high production planting
on ground too rough and ornery to plant by machine.
After paying your dues and
learning the how-tos of the trade, there was good money
if you had a strong back and the drive to work long and
hard. Hundred-dollar-days morphed into
two-hundred-dollar days and tree planting became
a good way to earn big bucks and then sink them into the
voracious appetite of a Maine farm getting going.
Most crews of Southern
treeplanters were young men and many came down from the
North. Forty years ago, in his bachelor days, Jim left
the farm and planted for three Winters from November
until April. During those three Winters he planted
over one million trees in ten southern States from
Texas to Florida to Delaware.
Southern tree planters lived in
rigs such as hollowed-out Ford and Chevy vans parked
right on the very clearcuts they were planting. They
were compensated for their repetitive stoop labor with
piece-rate pay. Forty years ago tree planting
reflected a raw, unbridled capitalist system.
Hardcore planters worked every daylight hour. Pay week
ran from Sunday through Saturday and by Wednesday
morning they would have the week’s first forty hours
under their belts.
In those laissez-faire days
every week or two they’d relocate to working/living on a
new clearcut which needed planting. Hitting the road
and moving sites provided the opportunity to descend
upon a town and restock their camper vans with
nonperishables, canned food and Gerry cans full of
water. That way they could lay in for the next siege.
Great Freeze of '83
The Great Freeze of ’83 hit
hard and fast. Treeplanting across the South screeched
to a halt. Our one company alone had twenty crews of
15-20 treeplanters spread across the South. In the
fullness of time, ten days later after our jail
birds had returned, we learned local icy roads had
been treacherous and impassable. With cars lacking
snow tires and trucks devoid of snowplows, officials had
elected to place barricades across roads to ‘encourage’
would-be-rubber-neckers to stay home until the sunshine
could melt away the mayhem.
Before leaving Maine, Jim
had installed a compact icehouse woodstove in his van.
Everyday, he would emerge from the toasty van and spend
an hour with a hand saw cutting up short chucks of
hardwood logging slash, collecting them into his
treeplanting bag. Once thawed and dried out inside the
van, the limitless firewood provided fine fuel for
warmth from the stubborn icy cold North wind.
Earlier that season at a
second-hand-store, Jim had scored for twenty-five cents
a hardcover copy of the classic livestock farmer’s
bible, Morrison’s Feeds and Feeding which
details every aspect of the myriad of types of livestock
farming. During that forced downtime he read that book
word-for-word cover to cover.
Reading Feeds and
Feeding was staycation fun, and Mr.
Morrison’s mother should be proud.
Caleb, Jim & Megan
2 Large baking potatoes, such as Butte.
Sea Salt Baked Potatoes.
Butter or olive oil
2 large handfuls of Arugula
1 T Champagne or tarragon vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Scant 1/2 c olive oil
2 T grated Parmesan
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400F. Wash the potatoes, prick them with a
fork and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Then bake until
tender, about one hour.
While the potatoes are baking, make the dressing. Whisk the
vinegar, mustard, egg yolk, and olive oil with a big pinch
of salt. Then whisk in the cheese and finally the lemon
juice. Taste, make any adjustments and set aside.
Slice a big cross in the potato and push in on the ends to
open the top. Scoop out a bit of the potato filling if you
like. Add a pat of butter/olive oil to each potato, or a
splash of dressing and a bit of salt. Toss the arugula with
a generous amount of dressing and then pile it into the
potatoes. You'll likely have some leftover dressing to enjoy
as needed with the salad and skins.
Family Farm Photos.
Logging on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
Here in Northern Maine thanks to Climate Change
we’re been experiencing higher winds than we used to get.
Last Summer a powerful storm brought down area trees. Then
a more recent Winter storm blew down some additional trees
including a big ‘Popple’ (Quaking Aspen) which just missed
our power lines but did snag our telephone landlines.
Since this early Winter has had less snow pack than
normal, we decided it was a good opportunity to cut
down big trees near buildings and power lines which
could cause trouble if they blew over. Here Caleb
(inside the ‘Case 125’ Excavator cab) and Justin work
together to twitch out logs. The Excavator came in handy
for convincing leaning trees to fall away from structures
and electric lines. So far we’ve cut 50 cords of semi-tree
length Popple which is headed to the mill to be chipped
and made into Maine paper.
A Sign of the
Times: Potato School Resumes.
For the first time in three years, in-person
Potato School has now resumed in Northern Maine. In
recent years, Zoom sessions and webinars tried to fill
in the gap left by Covid for educating Potato farmers on
the latest and greatest developments in areas of Potato
production and marketing. In this shot, retiring Maine
Potato Breeder and Agronomist Dr. Greg Porter gives a
presentation on promising new Potato varieties. The
University of Maine has already hired Greg’s Potato
Breeder successor. The two will work together for a year
until Greg’s full retirement kicks in on December 31,
ending a career spanning 38 years. One area of breeding
focus has been Russet Potatoes for the Processing and
Table market. Our outstanding mid-season variety, Caribou
, is one of Greg’s creations. The
letters “AF” in this photo depicting a promising
numbered Russet selection refers to “Aroostook Farm,”
Maine’s Potato Experiment Station in nearby Presque Isle
where the traditional Potato breeding work and trialing
is performed. It takes 12 years of testing after an
initial cross for a promising variety to fully prove
itself and earn a name and release. We were told that
one numbered Russet has trialed at the phenomenal yield
of 1000 “bags” or “cwt” per acre. That is 100,000
lbs/acre! For perspective, Washington State with its
long-growing-season boasts the highest average Potato
yields in the USA at around 580 bags/acre.
Beneficial Flower Organic Cosmos.
For half the year we are covered with white snow
and lots of gray skies. So it’s nice to think back to
the bright days of the growing season. This shot of
was taken last October. Cosmos
is adored by Beneficial Insects which find nourishment
and sustenance from the bright blossoms
are on patrol devouring insect pests which would like to
feast on our Organic
. It’s hard not to have tremendous
respect for flowers which provide both beauty and
Notable Quotes: Paine
Quick Links to
Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765 / 207
(429) - 9682
Certified Organic From Farm to Mailbox