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Friday, August 26th, 2022
Volume 31 Issue 10

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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.
   Maine Fall Upon Us.


Caleb Combining Winter Rye on Wood Prairie Family Farm.

In this photo, earlier this month Caleb is driving our 1973 ‘Massey Ferguson 300’ Grain Combine and harvesting our rarely-available-elsewhere crop of ‘Aroostook’ variety Winter Rye. ‘Aroostook’ may be the hardiest Winter Rye of all! It is renowned for its soil-saving ability to grow at low temperatures late into the Fall and then again early in the Spring. Here in Bridgewater, it begins growing in Spring while we still have patches of snow in our fields. In many research trials, ‘Aroostook’ has proven to be the earliest maturing Winter Rye. This makes ‘Aroostook’ Winter Rye especially valuable for Organic No-Till planting of warm-season crops such as Corn or Squash. In the new Organic No-Till system, land has been prepared for planting with a dense covering of ‘rooted-mulch’ - commonly tall Winter Rye killed with the use of an innovative water-filled chevron-pattern ‘Crop Roller.’

Now, the field in this shot grew our crop of Organic Seed Potatoes just last year. As soon as a plot had been dug it was planted immediately to ‘Aroostook’ Winter Rye and undersown to three types of Clover - Organic Medium Red Clover, Organic Yellow Blossom Sweet Clover and Organic Alsike Clover - plus Organic Timothy Grass.

The lovely Brown-Eyed Susan aka Organic 'Rudbekia’ Flowers you see are volunteers from a perimeter planting last year of annual Beneficial Insect Flowers. Those Flowers were planted to attract, nourish and sustain the Beneficial Insects which helped keep in check harmful Insect pests that aimed to feast on our Potatoes.

In this issue of the Seed Piece, back by popular demand, we are renewing a feature we’ve called Megan’s Kitchen Recipes. These favorite Recipes will highlight simple and delicious dishes which are centered around the bounty we may all harvest from our kitchen gardens.

Also, please consider taking advantage of this issue’s Special Offer on Fall-planted Organic Red Russian Garlic seed. This is a limited availability item so please, do yourself a favor and ORDER TODAY before we sell out.

Thanks so much! Stay safe & stay warm!

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Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine

 

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Special Offer! Red Russian Garlic.



Orders for Organic ‘Red Russian’ Garlic Seed are NOW being accepted!

Shipments begin mid-Sept 2022! Limited Availability! Please order soon before we sell out!

Special Offer! Buy 5-Pounds and SAVE 10%

When we delivered the last Wood Prairie Seed Piece our computer system buckled and became overwhelmed with the tremendous response for this superb Fall-Planted Rocambole, stiffneck Red Russian Garlic.

We don’t want anyone to suffer because of our computer mishap. So we’re repeating our Special Offer right now! But PLEASE HURRY! We are certain to SELL OUT SOON on Red Russian Garlic and we don’t want to disappoint you. ORDER TODAY! Thanks!


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Maine Tales. What's the Matter with Nebraska? Circa 1911.


Watson Settlement Covered Bridge.  This historic Covered Bridge spans the Meduxnekeag River and is located in the outskirts of rural Littleton close to the Canadian Border.  Built in 1911  and 150-feet long by twenty-feet wide, it was one of just nine Covered Bridges - and one of the youngest -  left in the State of Maine.  Last year in June, Caleb and Lizzi were married in a nearby huge old Maine barn which has been re-purposed into a spectacularly-stunning timbered wedding venue.  We passed by this beautiful bridge each time we drove from our Wood Prairie Family Farm to the barn where the wedding took place.


About forty years ago we got into a tussle over Covered Bridges. Our friend had moved to Aroostook County to raise sheep. He was from Nebraska and after farming in the town next door to us he eventually went back to western Nebraska to run a large 2500-ewe sheep ranch.

We kept a small flock of Rambouillet sheep at Wood Prairie at the time and our friendship sprouted from our mutual interest in the sheep biz.

Covered Bridge Controversy

We never came to blows over Covered Bridges, but we also never came to any reasonable conclusion as to why they were invented. Covered Bridges were fairly common in Maine and the snowy Northeast, but they were absent in Nebraska. Why was that?

Was the heavy snow in Maine a factor? In the old days before snow-plowing they ‘rolled’ the snow, so that horses with sleighs and sleds would travel during Winter on top of the packed snow. With a deep buildup of snow, were Mainers worried a horse might slip off the bridge into the icy waters below? Were horses scared by the sound and sight of rushing water?

Our friend argued that in Covered Bridge-less Nebraska it also snowed – though the wind blows the snow much more there in the vast treeless expanse – and while that country was dry they had at least some creek water which rushed by, doing so without scaring Nebraska horses.

Modern Re-Discovery

Turns out the debate about the long lost reason behind Covered Bridges has over the decades attracted a surprising amount of conversation and speculation in places far afield. There is now broad consensus and confidence that we moderns have miraculously rediscovered what our forebears understood, unlocking why they went to all that trouble of building Covered Bridges.

They were motivated by longevity and economy.

Here in the rainy and snowy Maine woods country everything was built from lumber because wood was so readily available and inexpensive. An uncovered wood bridge would last ten, or possibly twenty years before needing replacing. On the other hand a Covered Bridge, offering perfect protection to wood joints and truss timbers would last a century.

Frugal New England farmers understood it was in the end much less costly, and way more practical, to build right a single primary bridge every hundred years than to build five or ten bridges on the cheap in need of perpetual replacement.

So when Town Meeting rolled around every March, being careful and accountable with the tax dollars they assessed themselves, Maine’s rural citizens would vote to do things right and appropriate funds for the tried and true. That meant building Covered Bridges that would last and be an investment in community.

Caleb, Megan & Jim

The Sad Remains of the Watson Bridge.  Less than a month after their wedding day last Summer, the Watson Bridge was destroyed by fire.  Arson has been suspected and the investigation by authorities is ongoing.

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Megan's Kitchen Recipes:
Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup
1 large garlic head, unpeeled
6 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/4 loaf day-old baguette, cubed
3/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 1/2 pounds Carola or Baltic Rose (Creamy Mid Dry) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 fresh ground pepper
3 c chicken or vegetable broth
4 ounces Fontina cheese, cut into 1/4" cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice off top quarter of garlic head. Place on aluminum foil, cut-side up, and drizzle with 1 T olive oil. Add 1 bay leaf. Fold foil over garlic. Roast in a baking dish until garlic cloves are soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss together bread, 2 T olive oil and salt to taste. Bake, stirring once or twice, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat, heat remaining 3 T olive oil. Add onion, carrot, and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and carrot have softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Mix in 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 pepper and add remaining bay leaf. Add broth and 2 c water to vegetables, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow soup to simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Squeeze garlic head, from bottom up, to push out each clove into soup; stir. Simmer soup for 5 more minutes.

Puree soup in blender. Whisk Fontina into soup over low heat until cheese melts and is fully incorporated. Sprinkle soup with croutons and serve hot.

Serves 6

Source: Country Living Magazine, February 2011

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Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.



Fixing What’s Broke on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
Years ago when Caleb and his older brother, Peter, were still young they would often fret when some piece of our old farm equipment would break down. So, we’d then again remind them, “We’re farmers. Our job is to fix things that are broken.” They both had their own tool boxes and they relished being given, say, a radio which had been dropped one too many times and instructed, “Take this thing apart for me, OK?” The farming life has caused them both to become problem solvers. When they were in high school they would drive snowmobiles around with their friends through the woods and fields half the night until someone’s sled blew up an engine. Then, with a tow rope and the strongest sled still working they’d drag home the busted sled and swap out or rebuild the engine. After another night or two of repairing, they’d be back out in the Maine woods on their sleds living the dream, all the while becoming good mechanics through the hard knocks educational system called Equipment Breakdown. In this shot Caleb (left) and co-worker Justin weld a broken cast-iron piece from the grain combine which broke down just an hour before Caleb would have finished up combining all of our Aroostook Winter Rye. It's a tricky job to weld cast iron. It takes special cast-iron-welding-rods plus the broken metal pieces must be ground and heated up just right with an acetylene torch in order for the weld to hold and be strong for the rough and tumble field conditions.



Amy Getting the Ground Ready for Next Year’s Crop of Organic Seed Potatoes.
  Hours ahead of a Summer Nor'Easter, Caleb's sister, Amy, discs the last of next year's Potato fields. Justin & Jim had already spread barnyard manure on the fields. Then, Caleb had plowed and now Amy is completing the last step of smoothing out the plow furrows with our 92 HP Oliver 1850 Diesel pulling a 15-foot wide John Deere "Tandem Disc Harrow" aka 'Disc.' By dark that night - just ahead of the rain - Jim had seeded the field to a combination of Organic Buckwheat and Biofumigant Rapeseed cover crops. This is rich soil which we have been farming organically for almost 50 years. It has a high organic matter content of about 6-7%.


What Cover Crop Growth Looks Like Ten Days After Planting. In the warm Summer soil, it took the large Organic Buckwheat seed just six days to emerge after a perfect soaking rain. Executing seeding just ahead of a rain gets a cover crop off to a fast start and disadvantages weeds. The Organic Buckwheat has the larger, lighter green leaves planted in a row. Biofumigant Rapeseed, a kissing-cousin to Biofumigant Organic Oilseed Radish, has plants that are more highly scattered. The Rape leaves are smaller and darker green.

The Buckwheat sprouts and grows fast and will continue with its rocket-like growth nursing along the slower-growing Rape until warm-season-crop Buckwheat is cut down next month by the first Fall frost. After that frost, the hardy Rape will takeover and grow until the cold weather of early November, when heat units will have run out and growth will have ceased. Then, we'll plow down our mat of Cover Crop right before the ground freezes solid for the duration of the Winter.




Organic Crimson Clover – The Surprise Superstar of our 2022 Beneficial Insect Flower Beds.
This Summer, the Organic Crimson Clover we planted in the seed mix for our acre of Experimental Beneficial Insect refuges inside and around our Potato fields did absolutely AMAZING! We’re thinking the Crimson really appreciated all the rain we received this Spring and the absence of weed completion. After getting off to a fast start, the annual Organic Crimson Clover, alongside Organic Phacelia and Organic Cosmos dominated the Beneficial Beds. This year our Organic Flowers grew so lush that weeds never had a chance. We had taken a page from the days back when we used to grow Organic Carrots commercially. We prepared the Flower beds, waited seven days, then flamed the “Stale” beds with our propane Flamer immediately before planting to kill nascent weeds. Then we seeded right before a gentle rain. This photo was taken this week and the Crimson has remained in continuous beautiful bloom, attracting Beneficial Insects which eat insect pests harmful to Potatoes, for a full six weeks.


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Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox
www.woodprairie.com