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Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
 Volume 29 Issue 12

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   Ready for Winter.

Waterfall, West Branch of the Pleasant River, Gulf Hagas, Maine.  Circa 2020.

      Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the East’ Gulf Hagas is a hidden treasure in the North Maine Woods in the vicinity of Katahdin Iron Works.   After driving past Brownville, one can get to Gulf Hagas by tackling an enjoyable and beautiful five-to-eight mile round trip day hike. 
     Over the Summer we took a wonderful overnight ‘Farmer Vacation,’ hiked to Gulf Hagas and stayed in an only partially-full State Park campground not too far away from Gulf Hagas. Soon after you begin your Gulf Hagas hike you’ll need to ford the bridgeless West Branch which this July presented no problems.  However, during Spring runoff - or after heavy rains – it might be another matter different from our carefree crossing.
     Indications are that during this extraordinary Covid year many Americans embraced the great outdoors with new enthusiasm.  We hope you were among them. 
     Again, we want to urge you to order your seed early this year - especially the larger quantities - because we expect to sell out. Thanks!
     Wherever you are, we send your family our best  wishes for remaining well and staying safe during these tumultuous times, most especially now during this important Thanksgiving season.
Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
Our Best Selling Products!


     Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Kicking Up the Dust During Potato Harvest.  Our record dry growing season (a combined 5.65” of rainfall for June, July, August & September) reversed course towards the end of potato harvest.  With repetitive rains, October 2020 now ranks as one of Northern Maine’s wettest Octobers on record.  Here at the farm we received 6.52” of rain in October alone.  In this photo after completing a field repair, Caleb leaves a dust cloud behind during the extremely dry start to our Wood Prairie Potato Harvest.   Now, our unusual Maine drought is quickly fading from memory.

Bull Moose Headed East Across Wood Prairie Potato Field.   One afternoon this Fall we were digging potatoes on the south side of our main field.  We were surprised to observe  a very determined bull moose exit the North Maine Woods and make a beeline across our potato field about 150 feet from  us.  He acted oblivious to the considerable noise from our Oliver 1750 Diesel tractor pulling the clanky Juko Potato Harvester. Ken took this shot with his phone.  Our year-round co-worker Kenyon is a real outdoorsman, having grown up inside of Maine’s wilderness Baxter State Park where both of his parents were longtime Park Rangers.  Given the moose’s focused attitude, Ken allowed that the bull had picked out the scent of a cow moose and had romance on his mind.

Wood Prairie ’Big Pond’ Looking East. This shot was taken on the last day of September, a month which gave us a paltry 0.38” of total rainfall.  Over the dry Summer we had irrigated potatoes from this pond and drawn the water level down five feet from capacity.  Back thirty-five years ago we dug out the first corner of this pond.   Over the years we’ve enlarged it two times so that it now contains a surface area of one-and-a-half-acres.  When full, it’s 12 feet deep at the near end and, as is our pattern, we dug it right down to ‘ledge’ (bedrock).  Despite the water draw - and the droning noise from the diesel irrigation pump - a family of Wood Ducks lived on the Big Pond all Summer long.  This Spring a pair hatched out five ducklings.  By Fall, the fluffy babies appeared to be almost as big as their parents.

The Brook in Wood Prairie Cedar Swamp. Area waterways were at record lows this Summer because of our “NOAA D3 Extreme Drought.”   Our farm has a small year-round brook which flows through our woodlot and is a minor tributary to the South Branch of Whitney Brook.  Flowing eastward, the South Branch joins the North Branch about halfway towards the village of Bridgewater.  When you cross the bridge driving along U.S. Route 1 in Bridgewater, you are crossing over the united Whitney Brook.  Whitney Brook meanders for several more miles to a point very near the U.S. Border Port-of-Entry.  There the Whitney joins the bigger and longer Prestile Stream.  The Prestile immediately crosses the U.S./Canada border.  It continues on for miles in Canada before in time it spills into the St. John River.  The St. John eventually flows into the Bay of Fundy which is the part of the Atlantic Ocean which separates Nova Scotia from New Brunswick.

Fall Season Cutting & Splitting Firewood. One of the last outdoor jobs we get to every Fall is cutting up and splitting firewood for heating our buildings.  Going on ten years ago, one Fourth of July weekend our town had the misfortune to experience the wild remnants of an early season tropical storm.  It came through that Saturday with winds of 45 mph and quickly dumped 6” of rain.  With the ground saturated, the wind was more than the shallow-rooted Poplar trees could handle.  Big Poplars blew over and with their spreading crowns they each took down a half dozen nearby spruce and firs.  The woods in these parts became a mangled mess of toppled trees one could barely walk through.  We had loggers - using European–tracked logging equipment - come in to salvage the downed wood.  One result was we got a huge pile of hardwood logs out of the deal.  This pile has helped us keep a year or two ahead on firewood ever since.  Here we're splitting wood and Caleb is driving the skidsteer.

Three Wood Prairie Olivers. We are extremely partial to Oliver tractors.  It helps that for many years Bradbury Brothers not only grew potatoes but had an Oliver Tractor dealership right here in Bridgewater, just four miles from our farm.  That’s a big reason why there have been so many Olivers in this country.  Olivers are honest, hard-working tractors, providentially safe from complicated and short-lived modern electronics.  Their well-engineered design means that fifty years later they are still being worked daily and  farmer-mechanics can repair them as needed.  Olivers were in their heyday in the 1960s and that’s the era most of our Oliver tractors hail from.  Taking a rest after Fall work are (left to right) an Oliver 1650 Diesel, an Oliver 1850 diesel and another Oliver 1650 Diesel loaded up with front-mounted ‘suitcase weights’ which counterbalance heavy rear loads.

November Sunset on Wood Prairie Family Farm. This pretty sunset last week followed a morning with a quickly departing weather system which first arrived as snow, then shifted over to heavy rain and that erased all the snow.  This photo of clearing skies is looking southwest from our yard.  Our six-month-old Australian Shepard, ‘Oakley,’ is investigating scents found near an Oliver tractor.  That garden plot had been recently plowed and is now frozen over, awaiting a winterlong blanket of snow.  Harvest is complete.  Field work is done.  Firewood  is secured away and stored inside.  We’re as ready now for a Maine Winter as we ever are.  https://www.woodprairie.com/images/littlemoose.png

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