Wood Prairie Seed Piece
             Organic News and Commentary
                   Friday, August 12th 2016
                       Volume 24 Issue 14


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

    Rocks From Here to There.

     Maine Rock Art.  With all of our glaciers from eons past, it is hard to avoid rocks here in Maine.  Above, our daughter Amy is sitting atop a boulder-turned-into-work-of-art located just past Millinocket beside the road to the South Entrance of the 200,000-acre Baxter State Park.  What is now Baxter Park took former Maine Governor Percival Baxter thirty years to buy and horse trade and piece together and then donate to the State of Maine with the directive to manage it in a “forever wild’ state. 
     Today Baxter State Park is one of Maine’s greatest and most beautiful treasures.  Earlier this week, we paid a visit and camped at the Abol Campground on the southwestern base of the mountain beside Abol Stream.  Early the next morning we hiked up the Abol Trial to the highest point in Maine – Baxter Peak on Katahdin.
     Rockslides in recent years have caused park officials to re-build the bottom section and re-route the trail away the “Slide.”  Switchbacks have been built which make that lower section easier – and a bit longer - to navigate than it used to be.  The roundtrip up to the summit is now 9 miles and the elevation gain is still almost 4000 feet.  Our trip took ten hours including breaks and an hour spent on the windy summit.  The temperature on top of Katahdin is typically twenty degrees cooler than where one starts by the Abol ranger station.
    In this issue of the Seed Piece we’re sharing a Maine Tales we wrote about iconic Katahdin one winter a few years back.  Accompanying it are some photos (click to enlarge) we took on this week’s hike.  If you come to Maine we suggest you visit Baxter State Park.  There are many hikes to many different destinations for you to choose from.  If you decide to hike up Katahdin get an early start (no later than 7am) and be prepared for an authentic above-timberline mountain experience.

 Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 Bridgewater, Maine
Click here for the Wood Prairie Family Farm Home Page.
Maine Tales.               Katahdin: A Land Apart.                        Sherman, Circa 1937.

     Without question, the undisputed monolithic icon of northern Maine is Katahdin.  The coast has lighthouses as their beacons.   Rising from the Maine woods we have Katahdin.  Both are there to guide. While Katahdin is seventy miles southwest of Wood Prairie Family Farm, the mountain is so prominent that it's top can be seen in this region on clear days from our highest hills and peaks.      

Katahdin Travels
    Last week I had an organic meeting in central Maine and drove south along I-95 past Katahdin to get there. This 115 mile stretch between Houlton and Bangor took ninety minutes to drive. Back two hundred years ago it took Indians and pioneers two weeks of canoe paddling to complete a similar journey. 
     Earlier in the week northern Maine had been clobbered with a storm that dropped up to a foot or two of snow. As often happens, the deepest snow fell in the Katahdin valley – the sparsely populated townships near Katahdin and the area whose weather is seriously impacted by the impressive Katahdin.
     Driving down early, the morning was calm, crystal clear and hovering around zero. The snow had been wet and the days since the storm had been uncharacteristically windless so clinging now solidly frozen to the boughs of the spruce and fir trees was a 4-5 inch layer of pristine white snow, every bit as perfect and unbelievable as a painting on a Leanin’ Tree Christmas card.  The snow on the highway shoulder was piled deepest as I approached the southern boundary of northern Maine – that would be the Penobscot River – where our familiar land ends and that different world begins.  One of our last towns this side of the Penobscot and staring right into Katahdin is Sherman, Maine, a small outpost in the Maine woods.

 One Room Schoolhouse
     Years ago we had a friend who as a new teacher taught in a one room schoolhouse in Sherman in the shadow of Katahdin back in the 1920s and 1930s. Twenty five students, K- Grade 8, ages five to fifteen, three foot to six foot tall, all crowded into a thinly boarded mightily spare wood building, lacking insulation and outfitted with an almost adequate woodstove.  There was nothing between the schoolhouse door and the breathtaking view of Katahdin except for some fast moving air. When it was snowing outside and the wind was blowing a gale it was also snowing inside that bare little schoolhouse.
     Like most northern Maine towns Sherman was a woods township with the cleared ground planted to potatoes and oats. While unique to northern Maine but common to the Katahdin valley, Sherman also had farms where dairy was bigger and potatoes was smaller, due to the fact that as you get away from the sandy loams up north comprising the center of the Potato Empire, the cleared ground was not as well-drained or early and therefore more fit for growing sod for hay and pasture.

 Pronouncing Katahdin
    Now, most any place pronunciation is independent and unruly.  Subtleties are embedded in local dialect.  Take “Katahdin” for instance.  It’s an Indian word which means “Greatest Mountain”, which explains why we don’t call it Mount Katahdin (Mount Greatest Mountain is way too many words for a northern Mainer). Maine is quite partial to bestowing its iconic names on creations that are a source of pride. Of course, there’s Katahdin hair sheep. Then when the era’s best potato variety came along, it just seemed to make sense when it was released in 1932 to call it “Katahdin” (You’ll find our Onaway potato has Katahdin in its parentage).
    Fact is, Mainers are particularly brutal when it comes to handling ‘Rs’.  Folks down along the coast tend to lose them (Bar Harbor sounds out as "Baa Haabaa").  Folks up here in northern Maine tend to grab them floating ‘Rs’ and stick ‘em onto words to make the process of speaking go along faster (“Goin’ down to Auguster,” “Headin’ up to Madawasker”). The upshot is we have a short season in northern Maine and there’s no point wasting time saying out real long words when a short version would do just fine. Nowadays, we’d allow that Katahdin is still spoken every day in Maine potato country conversations (“Got me a load of Katahdins to put up the fore noon,”  “Naw, them Superiors not nearly as late as a Katahdin,” “That one thar don’t take to blight near as quick as Katahdins”).  So for many reasons there’s a pile of practice and daily experience behind the northern Maine pronunciation of Katahdin.
    Without any pride of mastery the original Katahdin of three syllables has been reduced down a tad to about one and a half. A well placed ‘R’ shortens up that tedious (‘tedjus’) long middle syllable. Phonetically speaking, 'Ktardun' (Note: no pauses; quick start with a forceful ‘Kt’ sound; must be spoken fast, as though you’re in a hurry, after all winter is always on the way).

 School Days
     Here in Maine back before World War II, schools started up in November after cold weather brought the farming season to an end. School continued through winter ‘til mud season in the Spring, allowing families to gear up for the farming season once the mud dried up. Well, the 1920s had been real good years and then the thirties were very very tough.  To help their families make ends meet most of the boys in Sherman school ran traplines for beaver and fox pelts.  They’d tend these traplines before school and show up at the schoolhouse laden with pack baskets full of pelts and traps and of course snowshoes, rifles and knives.  The pelts and snowshoes were parked outside leaned up against the schoolhouse. By negotiation and mutual agreement the guns, knives and traps were stowed under the teacher’s desk. These were an outdoor people and these were outdoor kids. Katahdin was their constant companion.  Katahdin was their guidepost in the woods and the center of their frigid world.

The Outside World
     Back in the 1930s in places like Sherman, electric power lines to farms were still decades away.  But the invention of battery powered radios brought to folks in Sherman and rural America the new option of a revolutionary glimpse into the wide outside world through radio broadcasts.   Three generations ago the most famous radio personality was the renowned world traveler and story teller Lowell Thomas.  Beginning in 1930, his regular national radio broadcast “Lowell Thomas and the News” carried on NBC and CBS, continued for almost five decades. Lowell brought into view foreign places like Cairo, Cripple Creek and Katmandu. To backwoods Maine school kids who’d never imagined venturing away from home, adventurer Lowell Thomas came to possess god-like status and gravitas.  That is, until the day Lowell's story telling brought him to northern Maine.

 Blow after Blow
     Most of Lowell’s listeners didn’t realize it but he was what’s known as a “cold reader”.  He would most often read scripts live on the air that someone else had written without ever having pre-read the text. And most times he performed impeccably as the master story teller.
    Well, one day Lowell’s subject turned out to be the wilds of northern Maine.  With Sherman ears attentive like never before, his story unfolded. He soon made reference to Katahdin, royally mispronouncing it repeatedly as ‘Mount Cat-ta-din’ and kept right on a-readin' the script in complete and total oblivion to his stunning blow after blow of error. At the first blunder every jaw in Sherman dropped.  From five year old listener on up there was instantaneous shock in Sherman: this god of the radio waves rambling along didn’t know what the heck he was talking about.

Cold Winter Day      
     It had been a cold winter day in Sherman.   The kids in Sherman got a big real world education they hadn’t bargained for when they crawled out of bed that morning. At the end of the day some of their innocence was left behind. Yet they were now a notch wiser to the ways of the outside world. And maybe just a little more hesitant to cross over to that far shore of the Penobscot River.


Special Offer: FREE Organic Winter Rye Cover Crop Seed.

     A couple weeks ago, after the last cultivation of some organic seed corn we spun on a cover crop of Winter Rye in order to protect the soil and choke out competing weeds.  Now with our Maine heat and our timely summer showers it’s growing well.
This article from SARE offers some good background on the many benefits of Winter Rye.

     We want to make it easy for your to try out Organic Winter Rye. Earn a FREE 2 ½ lbs. sack of our Organic Winter Rye Cover Crop Seed (Value $9.95) – Enough to Plant Over 500 Square Feet - when your next order totals $49 or more. FREE Organic Winter Rye Cover Crop Seed - offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday, August 15, 2016, so please hurry!

     Please use Promo Code WPF493. Your order and FREE Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed must ship by 9/30/16. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please call or click today!

Click here for our Wood Prairie Farm Organic Cover Crop Seed Section.

Organic Winter Rye.
Awesome cover crop.
Theirry Vrain on Corporate Fallacy.

Recipe: Zucchini-Oatmeal Muffins.

1 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c chopped pecans
4 eggs
1 medium zucchini, grated
3/4 c salad oil

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease (12) 3" x 1 1/2" muffin pan cups.

In large bowl, mix together first 7 ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat eggs slightly; stir in grated zucchini and salad oil. Stir egg mixture into flour just until flour is moistened.

Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake 25 minutes or until golden and toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.


Zucchini-Oatmeal Muffins.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

 Jim & Megan Gerritsen
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 49 Kinney Road
 Bridgewater, Maine 04735
 (207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm