Another Bootfoot John Bean Mfg One-Row ‘Barrel’ Harvester Circa 1962. (photo credit: Ray D. Yerxa, Yerxa Family Farm). In addition to Grover Patterson, another farm on Bootfoot Road dug their potatoes with a John Bean Barrel Harvester. Yerxa Family Farm is halfway out Bootfoot, where the Whitney Stream crosses the road. But Yerxas are on the north side of Bootfoot in the ‘Bridgewater Academy Grant.’ In this shot taken by Ray, driving that Oliver Super 77 or early 770 tractor is Ray’s son, Bill. On the ‘Bean,’ Bill’s wife Irene is doing the waving. Bill and Irene’s son, Bo, is at left. Of the three remaining workers, one is a local woman from Town. The other two are a Micmac couple from the Big Cove Reserve in New Brunswick. They were the last of three generations from the same family who came over from Big Cove to work on the Yerxa Farm. That one fact says something significant about both families.
Some years, Winter
can arrive early in Aroostook County, during the
second half of October. Sometimes with snow and sometimes
So, Grover came by one late
October morning relating that he had virtually no crew
left and wondered if Jim could help him and Scott
get out the last of their potatoes. He could.
John Bean Harvester
Grover and Scott dug their crop
one potato row at a time with their old John Bean Mfg
‘Barrel’ Harvester. Dug potatoes exited the ‘Secondary Lag
Bed’ and funneled into sturdy 12-peck cedar Potato Barrels
which hold 165 pounds of potatoes. When the barrel was
full a foot-operated pedal allowed the floor to drop, the
barrel to then kiss the ground and gently get left behind
as the harvester steadily crept forward. The aftermath
was a straight row of potato-filled-barrels awaiting
their turn to be picked up later on by the flat-bed barrel
truck with its hoist and barrel grapple.
Fall to Spring
That cold Fall we
succeeded in digging every Potato we could get off of
Wilses Hill. The wet holes never dried enough to surrender
their cache. Rain that comes to Northern Maine in
October doesn’t evaporate, it just accumulates there in
Potato ground and gets in the way. The straggler
potatoes left behind got froze solid with Winter’s
approach. They thawed the next Spring and then decomposed
down to again become one with the earth.
Caleb, Jim & Megan
Dakota Bliss Beets
2 Sweet Parsnips
5 Chantenay Carrots
Wash, Peel and cut vegetables into 3/4" cubes or slices.
Prepare a heavy roasting pan by layering vegetables one layer thick and dotting with 2-3 Tablespoons of butter. Cover roasting pan with foil.
Roast in a 400 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Dress with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with sour cream or Penzey's Ranch Salad Dressing.
The Last Day of Potato Harvest 2022. After digging our main crop Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes from farm fields, the last step for us is to harvest the seed plots protected under our ‘Tunnels’ covered with special Aphid-Excluding netting imported from France. The extremely-fine-mesh netting prevents entry by destructive Aphids which can transmit yield-crushing Potato Virus. Here, Megan (right) and Cassidy finish up the harvest of our tissue-cultured disease-free Potato "Minitubers" which were grown out from lanky alfalfa-sprout-like 'Potato Plantlets.' The Plantlets were planted back in June into gray 'Mushroom Totes' filled with top notch 'Vermont Organic Compost’ and grown inside our hundred-foot-long ‘Short Tunnel.’ Harvest from the Plantlets consists of small disease-free Maine Certified Seed Tubers known in the potato industry as Minitubers. Next year these Minitubers will be planted into the soil inside our portable 600-foot 'Long Tunnel' which is similarly protected with Aphid-Excluding netting. It’s after further multiplication in our rotated Organic Potato fields that our Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes are offered for sale for you. In the background, the 'Lockwood' Rock Picker is hooked to our White 105 Diesel tractor. Beyond the Rockpicker, our Tarp Barn houses a winter’s worth of Organic hay and protects our small herd of Organic Dexter/Low-Line Angus cattle from the elements on stormy Winter days.
Winter Work Begins: Grading & Shipping Organic Potatoes. This week we had a wholesale 'Tablestock' (the potato industry term for ware or Kitchen Potatoes) order to put up. Because it was not long ago that these Organic Potatoes were harvested, they were still tender. At this early storage stage, tubers would be prone to skinning up if we ran them over our long brushing & sizing Grading line. So, instead we opted to use the necessarily more labor-intensive technique which required the help of most of the Wood Prairie crew. Here, Caleb (right) is using the 'Box Rotator' on the battery-powered Yale Forklift to gently pour the 'Field Run' potatoes from 4'x4'x4' hardwood Pallet Boxes onto our wide Haines 'Nylon Brusher (made by Haines Mfg in nearby Presque Isle). Justin (orange hat) alternates helping Caleb "grade" out the bad ones in between weighing the cartons and stacking them onto the pallet. Jim is the one sitting and he’s running the foot-pedal-operated Haines 'Single Bagger.' He and Cassidy (left) and Heather (right) are pulling off the 'Tops' (the largest 40% of tubers), leaving behind the smaller 'Strip' which are the tubers we will sell later in the Winter & Spring as Organic Certified Seed Potatoes. Those sorted-out Seed tubers are being placed into smaller hardwood pallet boxes like the one at right which hold 1100# of spuds. The variety we were grading was the popular and very early Organic Caribe'.
Irony on the Wood Prairie Road to Climate Change Adaptation. Farmers tend to think long term and that attribute benefits them and society both. The drought year of 1991 and the severe drought of 1995 convinced us to dig irrigation ponds so that we’d have reliable-on-farm sources of water. We kept a stiff upper lip when our pond digging was followed by a decade of wet weather. Then the pendulum swung yet again and over the past decade the growing season in Northern Maine has trended from dry to very dry. With farm help harder and harder to find, in recent years we’re investing in systems which make us more efficient, more productive and more resilient. For the past two years we’ve been installing underground irrigation main lines so that we can more easily and quickly get water to parched Potato fields. This week, in the photo above, Caleb (right) and Justin are making concrete “Thrust Blocks” at key pipeline connections. Thrust blocks securely anchor the weak links in irrigation main lines and prevent the system from blowing apart under the high pressures – about 160 psi – of modern irrigation pumps. We use 6” thick-walled SDR 21 Schedule 80 PVC underground pipe. In the photo below, Caleb is on the edge of one field pouring a thrust block for a spur-line irrigation hydrant. ‘Ralph,’ Caleb & Lizzi’s one-and-a-half-year-old Rottweiler watches from beside the gas generator needed to sump-pump-out some of the 4” of rain water we’ve had in the last week. Brindle-colored ‘Rudy,’ their six-month-old Cane Corso is in the foreground taking in the action. After all that rain, the ground was too wet and muddy for the Redimix concrete truck to get anywhere close, so Caleb had to ferry concrete over in the bucket of our New Holland Skidsteer Loader. Concrete has been in short supply and orders must be placed at least a week in advance. That morning the local concrete plant had called. Due to a cancelation they had an opening that same afternoon. Caleb & Justin jumped at the chance and rearranged their work day. So, on a brilliant, sunny October day in the 50s, they constructed thrust-block-forms. Late that afternoon they savored their reward enjoying the good fortune of unexpected concrete.
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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