Wood Prairie Farm                                                                                                                            In This Issue of The Seed Piece: 
 Seed Piece Newsletter                                                                                               Maine Tales: Maine Hurricanes.
Organic News and Commentary
                                                                                                     Recipe: Creamed Potatoes With Peas.
      Friday, August 26, 2011                                                                                                      Special Harvest Help Offer: SAVE 15% Now.                                                                                                                                                                Our Mailbox: Crop Failure and Crop Success.

Harvesting Winter Rye on Wood Prairie Farm August 2011. Jim is in the cab of our Massey Ferguson 300 grain combine. Megan is on back conducting real-time moisture content readings.  One farmer told us the Massey 300 was the best combine ever built.  He has seven, five are for parts inventory. 

Maine Tales.                                    Maine Hurricanes.                                           Bridgewater, Maine.   Circa 1927.

     Well Hurricane Irene may be well on its way to call on northern Maine come Sunday but there is still much work to be done before Harvest. Next week we’ll start killing seed potatoes to get them ready for ‘digging’.  Rye is harvested and under cover.  Cover crops need planting. Soil samples need collecting. Equipment needs repairing and so do some pallet boxes.
     Our younger kids have been back in school for two weeks. Peter, our main mechanic, heads back to college for classes ‘down to Bangor’ beginning Monday. He’ll be back weekends to repair what equipment we broke the previous week.  Yesterday, it was re-mounting, re-bending and re-welding the left boom from our 14-row sprayer which had met a tree beside the headlands and decided it wanted to stay and mingle.  These are the hazards of a farm surrounded by woods. But, intending to pass no judgment upon you folks who live where trees are sparse, we’ll take our trees along with the occasional attendant repairs.
  This reminds us of a story told many years ago by our old neighbor ‘Doss’ about an incident another neighbor had yet many years before. Seems this neighbor was mowing a field of hay with a team of horses.  Well a moose fly or something spooked the horses and in a flash they were off a-running’. Fortunately, at the first jolt, the neighbor had been tossed backwards off the mower seat and safe out of harm’s way, away from the sharp scissoring sickle bar mower-knife. The neighbor watched as his team galloped lickedy-split towards the woods pursued by that darned mower making its scary rhythmic clickety-clack noise at an ever increasing rate. This served to panic them even more as the horses galloped ever faster and faster to escape the menace behind them. The team was making a beeline to a couple of big trees just on the edge of the woods.
     Fortunately for 'them two hawses’ the gap between the trees was just wide enough for them to make it through.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t for the mower. The neighbor learned a couple of things about when a mower hits a big tree at thirty miles an hour.  First, the phrase ‘all stove up’ was invented for just this application and that shiny John Deere mower became a mangled parts machine in the twinkling on an eye. Second, it was probably pretty good planning that horse harnesses back then were made out of leather which did have some give before the fibers broke under massive duress and they were yanked off the horse’s backs to keep company with the mower and thrashed tree.
     Eventually, the horses did simmer down and were able to be rounded up.  And there was no more mowing done that day.  This runaway horse story has been told and re-told hundreds of times in our little farming town and has been part of the fabric of our community for almost a hundred years. Such shared memory is part of the ‘culture’ in agriculture and it is important that it survives even as the old-timers pass on one by one.
     Jim & Megan

Click here for theWood Prairie Farm Homepage.

Creamed Potatoes With Peas

Photo by Angela Wotton

Recipe: Creamed Potatoes With Peas.

Steam 4 small potatoes such as Carola until tender. Meanwhile, boil 1/2 cup half-and-half with 2 medium basil leaves. Add fresh peas and simmer until tender. Discard basil, add cooked potatoes, and heat through.

Adapted from A Passion for Potatoes

Serves 2

Once new potatoes and peas are ready this is a main meal in our family right up until 'digging'.


Click here for our Kitchen Potatoes

Special Harvest Help Offer. Save 15% Now.    

Right on schedule the nights have begun to cool off, the days aren’t as warm as they were just a few weeks ago, the sun is lower in the sky, and we’ve lost an hour on both ends of the day. This tells those of us in northern Maine that potato harvest (called ‘diggin’ in Maine) is just around the corner.
     This time of year farmers always need extra help.  Like other farmers, we now have our crew lined up. We all can use extra cash to pay for the labor of our neighbors plus there are expenses for fuel and equipment repairs.  Unlike other farmers, we have catalog costs for things like production and postage.  Our Harvest Catalog has just been mailed out. Look for it to arrive in your mailbox any day now.
     Now the fact is we could use some Harvest Help from you. You can help us in a very tangible way if your place an order right now.  As thanks for your timely order we are offering a 15% Discount for orders placed by 5pm Tuesday September 6.  We will send out orders as promptly as possible, as the weather allows us to harvest.
We are happy to hold holiday or seed potato orders here on our farm and ship them when you need them later this Fall or Winter or Spring.
   Orders must ship by 5/10/12. Because this is prior to harvest, orders are accepted based on anticipated supplies. Please use code WPF 1101.
     Market growers: if you know what you need this is your chance to save up to hundreds of dollars.  The selection will never be better so act now.
     Kitchen potato orders of  tens pounds per variety or less as well as seed potatoes, grains, and vegetable and cover crop seed will be shipped just as soon as they are dug in September.  Potatoes for kitchen use in quantities greater than ten pounds (i.e. 20s and 50s) will ship around November 1 when the potatoes are fully ready for Fall brushing.
      Help us harvest and we’ll help you save.  We appreciate your support and business.

Jim & Megan

Click here for our Organic Seed Potato section.

Our Mailbox: Crop Failure and Crop Success.


Dear Friends

I hope I find you well and that your summer has been nice and pleasant!

The reason that I am writing to you is rather sad – especially if you are a farmer and miller as we are. The thing is that the harvest has been nothing less than catastrophic in Denmark this year. This realisation has now dawned on everybody and people are panicking.... - and so are we....

The 250 metric tonnes of spelt we harvested before the rains were just perfect: 16.2 percent protein and more than 30 pct gluten. This is really good for Denmark! And then came the rain and the result is that the rest of our harvest – along with that in all of Denmark – simply cannot be used as bread flour. We have managed to find the rye we need in Denmark, but there is NO wheat to be found – at all!! And supplies are already running low in the rest of Europe.

So my question to you is this:
Do you think you would be able to help us find 150 metric tonnes of high quality organic bread wheat?
We are looking for wheat with 14 pct protein, a minimum of 25 pct wet gluten and with a falling number of minimum 250.
Our normal procedure is that my Dad, Jorgen, visits all potential grain suppliers to have a look at storage facilities, the grain itself and to take test samples. Should we be able to buy some grain from you/your contacts, then Jorgen would like to come and have a look at things as we normally do. He can leave anytime after our Bread and Food Festival, i.e., the 7th of September.

We know nothing about shipping costs, export rules, organic certifications etc yet, so if you have any experiences in this area please share them with us. We are also in contact with the Danish Authorities on the matter as there is naturally a rather big difference in importing grain from the States when you are a small-scale mill compared to the big industrial mills!

We really hope you can help us!!!

All the best! - and looking forward to hearing from you.

Marie-Louise Risgaard,
Skærtoft Mølle


     This email arrived today. Skærtoft is one of the farms and mills we visted in Denmark last fall. They need 165 short tons of organic bread wheat. If anyone can help please contact Marie-Louise or contact us and we will forward. Here is the reality of dealing with climate change.

Jim & Megan


We are commercial pumpkin farmers and decided to try potatoes this year for the first time and  purchased your seed potatoes.  We are happy with our learning curve with our first crop, however, being potato novices, we have a few questions:

1. Is it possible to plant potatoes in the fall with a harvest date prior to the first killing frost? Our average first killing frost is around November 11.  We are asking because we think the size of our crops would improve in cooler months.

2. Can we use the smaller potatoes that we harvested that were too small to market/eat for seed potatoes for our next crop?  If yes, is there anything different we would need to do in order to use the seed potatoes now for a fall crop?

3. We are trying to figure out a way to plant the seed potatoes earlier to help offset our hot summers.  What are your thoughts on us planting the seed potatoes in March under black plastic mulch to help warm up the ground and then removing the plastic mulch in late Spring when our temperatures start to climb?  We would add additional compost at the time we removed the black plastic mulch.

Thank you in advance for your advice and recommendations.

West Point, VA


1. Yes. Do check around locally for best date but we have customers in Virginia that plant a fall crop around mid-August. We have experienced organic farmer friends near Fresno California who plant in both mid-February and mid-August. The quality of the Fall crop is usually superior (harvest during cooler weather) and yields are good assuming a killing freeze of 27ºF doesn't kill the plants off early.

2. Yes. Many of our southern customers get certified seed from us for their Spring crop which is which is planted in mid-February to mid-March. They save back a portion of their crop from their Spring harvest in May or June and store it in a refridgerator/walk-in cooler until two weeks before expected Fall planting date, say mid-August. This allows the seed to warm up and wake up and be raring to grow. Our crop here in Maine is not ready for harvest until September plus newly dug potatoes must go through a dormancy period of 4-8 weeks before they will sprout and grow. In their case the potatoes' dormancy period is passed in the reefer. Using this technique they are never more than one generation removed from clean certified seed.

3. Yes. Sounds like that would work but it seems like a lot of extra effort too. If you have the time, go ahead and experiment with it. Up here in Maine, we like the ground we've selected for early Spring planting to be prepared rough and 'corrugated' by a chisel plow in the fall. We'll spin on cover crop oats which catch, grow up to six inches or so, and then winter kill in the late Fall. Roughed up ground dries and warms much much faster in the Spring than 'flat' ground. Another help might be to focus on short and midseason potato varieties which complete their growth cycle before the onset of hot weather. Potaotes are a cool season crop and they don't like steady temperatures into the 90s. Good Luck.


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