Wood Prairie Farm                            In This Issue of The Seed Piece: 
 Seed Piece Newsletter                           Maine Tales. Katahdin: A Land Apart. Sherman, Maine. Circa 1937.
  Organic News and Commentary                                         Jim Gerritsen to Give Keynote at Slow Money National Gathering.
        Tuesday December 18, 2012                                                                     Ever Wonder Where the Mercury in Fish Comes From?
                                                                                                   Advice From a Former President.
                                                                                                   Special Offer: FREE Maine Potato Sampler of the Month in time for Christmas.
                                                                                 .                 Recipe: Christmas Cranberry Sauce.

        Christmas in Maine.
        Katahdin (elev 5268'). View from the East. Northern Maine Icon.  Maine's highest peak and nothern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
        Wishing you and your family a merry and warm Christmas.

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

Click here for the Wood Prairie 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 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. 


[A version of this 'Maine Tales' originally appeared in the Dec 17, 2010 Seed Piece]

Jim Gerritsen to Give Keynote at
     Slow Money National Gathering

   Our friends at Slow Money are putting together an event that many of you will not want to miss on April 29-30 in Boulder, Colorado. Slow Money is focused on fixing the economy from the ground up... starting with food.

The April event will be their fourth National Gathering and the first three have launched national activity that holds great promise for all of us who want to see our food system transformed. At their first three national gatherings, $6 million was invested in 21 of the presenting enterprises. In addition, 17 Chapters around the country have facilitated $15 million of investing at the local level.

Slow Money in Maine.

Slow Money Maine is one of the most active Slow Money chapters and it has become an effective game-changing network.  Since it was founded just two-and-one-half years ago, over $4 million has been used to help develop farming in Maine including $1.9 million in loans, $1.5 million in grants and $600,000 in equity investment.  That $1.9 million loan figure distills down to twenty-one loans (Disclosure: we are one of the 21 farms) in amounts ranging from $2,500-$55,000. What’s more, steady progress is being made in creating a brand new member-owned non-profit state-chartered Maine Farm & Food Credit Union to serve members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assn and Maine Farmland Trust by providing working capital to farmers and food enterprises, and a means by which Mainers can deposit their savings into an insured institution and know that their money is being used to support sound right activity in their local food community.

Speakers At Slow Money Gathering.

   Confirmed speakers include Carlo Petrini (founder of Slow Food); Mary Berry (Wendell Berry's daughter who is leading the charge for the newly established Berry Center); Wes Jackson (MacArthur Fellow and founder of The Land Institute); Winona LaDuke (Renowned activist and Executive Director of Honor the Earth);  Jeff Clements (author of Corporations Are Not People), Joan Gussow (Author of This Organic Life); Gary Nabhan (MacArthur Fellow, prolific author, and leader of the local food movement.); and Jim Gerritsen (co-owner of Wood Prairie Farm and President of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, lead Plaintiff in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto).

Make Your Plans To Attend Now!

 The first 100 tickets sold by December 31st will be offered at a discount. So act now! Hope to see you in Boulder! Click here to find out more and to register for the 2013 Slow Money National Gathering.

Jim & Megan

Ever Wonder Where the Mercury in Fish
     Comes From?

    Yes, most mercury pollution comes from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, but some does come from the after effects of mining.  This accompanying graphic from Grist illustrates the story.

     To gain further background you can read the article in Grist.

The Source of Mercury in Fish. Click to enlarge graphic.

Thomas Jefferson. Farmer and President.
Advice From a Former President.

     Our third President, Thomas Jefferson, has some good advice we should keep in mind.

     “If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as a sorry state as the souls who live under tyranny.”

     “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

Click here for the latest on Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto.

Recipe: Christmas Cranberry Sauce
         with Carmelized Onions

Yields 2-1/2 to 3 cups
  1 T vegetable or sunflower oil
  1 large yellow onion, cut into medium dice
  1/8 tsp ground cloves
  Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  One 12 oz bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, rinsed and picked over
  1 c granulated sugar
     In a 10 inch straight-sided saute pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, cloves, a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden-brown and very soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium high, and cook the onions, stirring often, until deep caramel-brown, an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

      Add the cranberries, sugar, a pinch of salt and 1/2 c water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for 1 minutes, then cover, turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.
This wonderful sauce may be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.


Christmas Cranberry.
A delicious variation of traditional Cranberry sauce.
Photo by Angela Wotton


Maine Organic Potato Sampler of the Month Club.
Enjoy a new potato adventure every month.

FREE Offer:  Maine Potato Sampler of the Month -
          In time for Christmas!

     There's still time if you act now! Our organic Maine Potato Sampler of the Month Club is our most popular product and this time of year we ship them out all over the country.

     Special Offer. If you order an 8-Month or 5-Month club now - as a gift to a loved one or for yourself - we'll guarantee that your first Potato Sampler will arrive in time for Christmas dinner! FREE
Air Shipping upgrade to ensure your Christmas Potato Sampler will arrive safe and on time.

     Please use Promo Code WPF1136. Offer ends Thursday December 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm Eastern. Applies to the 48 states only. Can not be combined with other offers. Please call or click today!

Wood Prairie Farm Quick Links

Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(800)829-9765 Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm