August 12th, 2022
Volume 31 Issue 9
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.
Unearthed Last Week from Wood Prairie Field.
It’s a good guess that this gigantic VW-Beetle-sized
boulder has been sitting at the edge of one of our
potato fields on the home farm since the last glaciers
melted. It’s so big Caleb didn’t think our 26-ton Case
Excavator would have budged it. He popped it out in
about 10 minutes with our old-timer gravel-pit
Michigan Payloader which has a 4.5 yard bucket. Caleb
judged the weight of the rock to be around 8-9 tons
since lifting it with the bucket caused the
Payloader’s rear tires to go airborne. After he pushed
the boulder out of the field, it took a 12-yard
dumptruck load of loam topsoil to fill in the hole
This is the biggest rock we’ve ever moved! It’s been
11 years since we unearthed another huge rock, but
that one was not even half as big. That other ‘big’
rock was located about 700-feet away, due north. Read
about our efforts to dislodge that ‘big’ rock in Richard
Horan’s great book, Harvest.
Richard and his daughter Kat helped us harvest our
Potato crop that Fall. He witnessed that rock removal
effort and like any good author would, he then wrote
We recently sent out a Customer Survey which many of
you received. To those who returned the Survey, THANK
YOU VERY MUCH! The overall response was OUTSTANDING
and dominated by very thorough and thoughtful answers.
As promised, yesterday we held the drawing for a $100
Wood Prairie Gift Certificate. And the randomly
selected winner from all of you who responded to the
Survey is…Michael from Cheshire, Connecticut!
Congratulations, Michael, and thanks to EVERYONE who
participated and helped us out!
Thanks, stay cool and stay safe!
Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Red Russian Garlic.
Orders for Organic
‘Red Russian’ Garlic Seed are NOW being
Shipments begin mid-Sept 2022! Please order
soon before we sell out!
Offer! Buy 5-Pounds and SAVE 10%
The fresh taste of this Rocambole type, stiffneck
garlic will broaden your view of this wonderful
vegetable which has been basking in a resurgence of
culinary interest. Plant Organic
Red Russian Garlic
in the Fall for harvest
next Summer. Our Organic Red Russian Garlic is a good
keeper, very easy to peel, and has nice large cloves.
Maine Tales. What
Are You Doing on the Fourth? Bridgewater, Maine,
Aroostook Potato House Worker Rolling a Potato
Barrel, Circa 1940.
Photo taken by Jack Delano, a photographer working for
the Farm Security Administration who was hired to
document how rural America worked during the Great
Depression era. Mr. Delano stayed in Aroostook
County for the 1940 Potato Harvest.
People in Maine are legendary for their work ethic.
Nowhere is this reputation more well-earned than in the
potato fields of Northern Maine’s Aroostook County. Aided
and abetted by a short growing season, each and every
day matters for Maine farmers intent on successfully
growing a crop between the last snow bank to melt in
Spring and the first snow flurries of Fall.
In Potato country, the heavy work load continues right
through Maine’s snowy and cold Winter, inside the
sprawling insulated, windowless Potato storages known
locally as ‘Potato Houses.’ Each Potato farmer and crew
have millions of pounds of spuds to clean, sort, bag
and ship. And this Winter’s work must be completed
before the next Spring rolls around, when the snow exits
and the cycle starts anew beginning with the annual rite
Now, the first European-American settler to land in this
locale was Nathanial Bradstreet in 1827. Along with his
sons John and Joseph, he left the safety and civilization
of the Central Maine Town of Palermo to search for a
streamside mill site to start and whittle down the
forested wilderness which in time would become the Town
of Bridgewater. Once the trees were removed the
forest was soon converted over to farm fields in which to
grow mighty potatoes. Jump down about four generations and
you come to Bridgewater Seed Potato farmer Dan Bradstreet
(1912-2006), grandfather to our friend, contemporary Seed
Potato farmer, Ryan Bradstreet.
Work in the Potato
Jim worked for Dan in his Potato House the Winter of
1976-1977. There had been a devastating drought in Europe
the Summer of ’76. The demand for the export of Maine
Certified Seed Potatoes to the Old World was strong.
In addition to hanging 50-pound paper sacks for domestic
trade, they’d fill and lug 50-kg burlap bags (110-pounds)
into rail cars bound for Winterport, where sacks were
reloaded onto boats headed to Europe.
The young men hung (filled), weighed and sewed the bags
shut. Dan and a couple of older helpers graded out Potato
culls on the inspection table portion of the grading line.
Dan’s son, Wayne, kept the hopper full with a mechanized
Potato shoveler and made sure the line was flowing well.
Whenever Potato varieties had to be switched – and at the
end of the day – it was time to clean up the floor of
spilled and crushed potatoes and dirt. They’d also roll
11-peck Cedar Potato barrels full of ‘Seconds’ (smaller
B-sized potatoes) separated out by a mechanical sizer to
an awaiting bin. Some of the men were so talented at
rolling barrels full of 165-pounds of potatoes that they
did it effortlessly with one hand while walking beside
the barrel. They could also skillfully and
efficiently roll a full barrel up a single 12-foot 3”x 8”
plank to a height of three or four feet, to allow the
barrel to be emptied into an awaiting bin.
The noisy grading machinery would shut down during clean
up and while moving about scores of barrels. It was a
group activity and that created the opportunity for
teasing one another. Of course, the working did not
stop. This good-natured joking or rapartee is what
Kentucky farmer and author Wendell Berry has called “labor
A Day Off for the 4th
Every so often Dan would take these dinless Winter
opportunities to call out something like, “Jim, what are
you doing on the 4th?” The “4th” was a
universally-understood reference to the 4th of July, the
one day – besides Sundays – a Maine farmer will take off
during the year’s growing season. Daydreaming about
the 4th no doubt served to shorten long Maine Winters.
When outside the windowless Potato House it might have
been a January morning of thrity-five degrees below zero,
or blowing a blizzard, thinking about a sunny and warm
‘4th’ became a pleasant escape while doing Potato House
Dan’s escapades on the ‘4th’ were so well known among
townsfolk that the topic rarely elicited comment.
Beginning when he was a young man, rising at 4am he
would toss a lunch into his pack basket and grab his
fishing pole. He would traipse by foot many miles
deep into the Unorganized Territory where our farm is
located. Along familiar paths he’d traveled all of his
life, Dan revisited the secret pools he had not laid eyes
on for twelve months. These hidden pools sheltered the
tasty Brook Trout that were the subject of this alternate
passion. He’d loop around the woods the long way and
completed his long circle back, arriving at home just
The next morning Dan was back in the Potato farming
business. If it had been a good Spring, he would
have just finished hoeing potatoes right before the
Holiday. Now he’d be all ready to shift over to making
hay, cutting Oats and getting ready for ‘Digging.’
Caleb, Megan & Jim
|Wood Prairie Family
Caleb Cutting Hay on Wood Prairie Family Farm. All that rain Northern
Maine received during planting – 8” worth – has made the hay
grow tall! In between rains we’ve had hot weather this
Summer. As not often happens, we timed it right when Caleb
cut this field of hay back in July. We got it baled a few
days later and put the hay away without a single drop of
rain falling upon it. This field was planted to Organic
Seed Potatoes two years ago and will be back in
Potatoes in 2024. In between Potato crops, we put our
fields into sod to build the soil and break up Potato
insect pest and disease cycles. Over the course of our
4-Year Crop Rotation, we take a single cutting of hay which
we feed to our own cows. So, we'll hay this field again four
years from now.
Organic California Poppy Growing in Wood Prairie
Potato Field. Right
Poppy was the second earliest flower to bloom in
our Beneficial Insect Flower Bed trials this year. The
Flower Beds are situated in and around our fields of Organic
Maine Certified Seed Potatoes. The Beds are comprised of
specific Flower varieties with the ability to attract and
nourish predatory insects which will in turn feast on
insect pests which damage Potatoes. Research from Europe
indicates that Beneficial Insect Flowers should be situated
every 150-feet or so amidst potatoes. That spacing is easy
to accomplish in a garden. It is a surmountable challenge in
a commercial Potato field.
Wood Prairie Crew Roguing Potatoes.
drives the red Farmall tractor which is pulling the
high-clearance Roguing Cart. Cassidy at left walks the
potato rows. Kenyon and Jim are out-of-sight working the
other side of the Beneficial Insect flower bed.
The prominent Beneficial Insect Flowers blooming in this
in-field Flower bed refuge are orange California
, prolific Insect-attracting workhorse
with lavender blossoms, and the white flowers of Tapmaster
. That single deep purple
blossom towards the lower left was the first of many Cosmos
To Megan's left, a lightly blossoming patch of Rose
Potatoes and single row of Elba in full
blossom. To her right are five more rows of Elba
then beyond them are many rows of Eliot Coleman's favorite
Puppy 'Rudy' Watching the Action. A
recent thunderstorm tempest snapped off a Poplar tree at
the edge of a field which will be in potatoes next year.
While we worked cutting up the tree for firewood, Caleb
& Lizzi’s new puppy, a now 47-pound, 16-week-old
Cane Corso supervised our work from the cab of our White
105 Diesel tractor. Rudy (‘Rutabega’) is best
friends with 14-month old Rottweiler ‘Ralph.’ They
have free run of the farm and during this hot Summer
Ralph has been teaching Rudy all his tricks. They have
both enjoyed cooling off by swimming in our ponds.
Coincidentally, where the tractor is parked was right
over location of that enormous flat topped boulder shown
at the beginning of this Seed Piece. We decided
it was a good time to finally dig out the rock we’d been
farming around for years. No one guessed it would turn
out to be anywhere near as huge as it is.
Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox