Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Local cows....

Charolais in Hampden - click
  There are many small or medium sized farms all over Maine, some have a few cows either for milk or meat, or both.  Some farms raise vegetables for a farmers market, and of course family run orchards or tree farms.  Today we're going to look at just the few town surrounding where I live here in east-central Maine.
Black Angus in Hermon - click
My personal favorite, the Ayrshire bull in Hermon - click
Holsteins at a medium sized dairy farm in Winterport - beautiful - click

Monday, May 30, 2011

Christmas Wreaths...

A wreath workshop
...believe it or not are a big part of the Maine economy.  There are two large companies and a lot of small operations.  It starts with "tippers" men and women who go tipping are people who take the ends or tips of brances from evergreen trees.  Careful works means not much damage is done to the tree.  It takes maybe a dozen, or more, tips to make a wreath.  Wreaths are assembeled by wireing the tips to a wire frame, then decorations may be added, pine cones, ribbons or berries. 
  Many wreaths are sold in roadside stands, one factory supplies L L Bean, and Worcester Wreath sells a lot the the mail or internet.  That company, Worcester, also supplies and operates Wreaths Across America which decorates Arlington National Cemetary.  Worcester makes and trucks the wreaths, and they are placed by volunteers from many towns and cities, it's a wonderful gesture.
Wreaths at Arlington - click

The finishing touch

Worcester Wreath


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Standardbred Horses

And...they're off and running!
  Standardbred horses are raised for Harness Racing, the only kind of racing in Maine, so there are some farms that raise them.  One of them, near where we lived a short time ago is the source of the photos (other than the above) taken by my lovely wife.
  The animals are beautiful to look at, especially the colts that run, and I believe hard to train.  They must pace or trot (different leg placement) and not run.  The front and back legs on the same side move forward or backward at the same time.  Given that they still are very fast.  The few times I've gone to the races it's always a fun time, but it's been a long time since I've been.
Hanging out with Mom.
Family time (Dad's aren't welcome - yet)
Roadside attraction

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Spraying for Potato Bugs
  I didn't think we would leave the farms until we talked about Maines' number one crop, potatoes.  At one time Maine was the largest producer in the country, that was about 50 years ago.  Now it's still the most important crop.  Crops are rotated, so last years field of 'taters is probably going to be canola or oats this year.  Broccoli is also grown but hasn't reached the point of being an "important" crop.
  Every year at picking time, or digging time, that years crop of rocks is piled up, Maines' rocky soil still presents a problem, even as the machinery gets larger those rocks are a problem, there are large piles at the edge of a lot of fields, large piles, small rocks (baseball size).
  Most of the crop from Maine goes to frozen french fries or for potato chips (they're called chippers), and important part of the crop are seed potatoes.  You just can't cut up any old potato for seed, those are grown, sent to Florida (mostly) replanted and then cut for seed.  That is the biggest part of preventing plant diseases - there's a reason for everything I guess.
Seed potato crop in blossom, there are white or purple blossoms.

Off the fryer

A lot of Central Maine farms raise chippers for Frito-Lay

Friday, May 27, 2011


A little variety
  Seafood is Maine to some people, and it provides a living for many.  There isn't, yet, a way to farm lobster, Maines' most famous seafood, but believe me it's being developed.  Right now, the products in that header make up the successfully farmed seafood.
  It started with salmon, it was being farmed overseas, mostly in Norway, and researchers got held from there.  Most of the Salmon farming is done in Cobscook Bay and near Eastport.  Oyster and Mussel farming got a start soon after, those are grown on ropes since they don't swim.
  These farms are all protected and use net fences to keep them where they belong, just like livestock on a farm on land, they just look different.  The University of Maine and some private companies are now working on a way to farm Cod, then it's on the Halibut, two very popular fish which could use a little help since natural sources have been over-fished in the past.

Mussels on a rope in Blue Hill Bay

Salmon pens near Eastport

Experiments with Cod farming

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Christmas trees were Balsam Fir..

...with natures' decoration
...and the tree of choice at our house when I was a kid.  Today it's not as easy, there are so many choices and so many ways to get a tree.  Most people can't just walk into the woods and cut one, so there are trees for sale, and there are a whole host of ways to buy a tree.  You can buy one at a corner lot run by a vendor for profit, you can cross the street to another lot where trees are sold to raise money for a charity.  A lot of people like to go to a tree farm and cut their own. 
  Whatever choice you make, most people's trees come from a Christmas tree farm, Maine has many tree farms, some of them raise Christmas Trees.  A typical farm in Maine plants Balsam Fir or Spruce, but if you look around you may find Scotch Pine.  Trees and types, or varieties, of tree vary from place to place, but whatever the choice, somewhere there is a farm to supply it.
These seedlings are about a foot tall.
Carefully trimmed and shaped, these are ready.
A visit to the tree farm for a Pick Your Own.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nothing tastes better...

Springtime in Maine - click
...with a donut than apple cider.  I can almost taste it now, and it's a little early in the year for fresh Maine apples.  Growing an apple crop is a year-round occupation and it requires a lot of time per tree; from some springtime planting of a new variety, summer spraying for insects, picking apples in the fall or pruning the trees in late winter.  Each and every things has a pretty specific time in which it needs to be accomplished.  It's a challenge to raise a special crop, poor weather in the spring and it's too wet for the bees to pollinate, early summer hail could make for a crop, that while good, isn't pretty; a long hot summer with high temperatures and little rain can stress any crop, and an ice storm in winter can tear branches from a tree until it's destroyed.  Weather is a farmers best friend or worst enemy, ask one.
A new row of trees, spring planting.
A good crop, Idared in this case

Pruning in late winter

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sweet stuff

The "old" way, or small scale taps - click
  When you have those pancakes, french toast or waffles, why not top them off with Maine Maple Syrup.  Maine is the second largest producer in the USA, after Vermont.  In early spring, when the days are a bit warmer, but the temperature at night goes below freezing, the sap in trees and woody shrubs begins to flow.  The sap of the "sugar maple" is what the producers tap.  In the photo above are the old kind of taps, a hole is drilled into the tree and a spout is pounded in, the sap is collected in buckets for processing.  The new and efficient way still requires a hole in the tree, but the spouts are of a different shape and are attached to plastic tubing.  The smaller tubes at attached to larger tubes, and the sap is delivered to a holding tank at the processing facility.  The sap is boiled and some of the water is evaporated - until the desired consistency is reached; you have syrup.  If the boiling continues the liquid is reduced to maple sugar, which is sold as is or processed further to make Maple Candy.  There you have it; sweetness and light early in the day!
Trees all connected to the tubing. - click
Boiling sap under a careful eye. - click
Filling jugs and bottles with the Maine Maple Syrup - click

Monday, May 23, 2011


As an example
...is a knitting pattern (above), it's also the name of a Town in Maine, near where we live.  So, you may ask, what do they have in common?  Well, Argyle, the town, is home to a small farm whose crop it fiber.  Fiber that is spun into yarn.  They raise sheep and Pygora goats, both of which can be sheared for their wool, spun into yarn and knitted into various patterns, some of which could possibly be argyle.
  Like any other kind of farm it's a lot of work, caring for the animals and planting and harvesting hay and/or other grains for the critters, and a garden for the family.
One of the prize Pygora Goats, a really different coat.
One of the does, a pretty girl
The product, Yarn

Sunday, May 22, 2011

When you plant....

Johnnys Select Seeds - click
...a garden, or a crop, you need seeds.  Many people who garden in the cooler parts of the country buy Johnnys Select Seeds from Albion Maine.  This is a Company with terrific growth, from two employees a few years ago to over two-hundred people now.  They not only produce seeds, but try to improve on varieties of plants, or even come up with entirely new varieties - that sells seeds!
  Growing plants for seed is like growing them to eat, or to look at - your harvest is just different, and a lot more time consuming.  Some employees plant and care for the plants, while others take and prepare orders for shipment, it's a busy place.  Acres of gardens, greenhouses and a huge warehouse.
Test Beds, trying out new or improved varieties - click
The Research Farm - click
A "human bee" pollinates squash in a test bed. - click

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blueberry muffins...

A Blueberry Barrens with ripe berries (the blue)
...have to start somewhere, nine times out of ten (for wild berries) it's Maine wild blueberries, along with some good North Dakota wheat.  Blueberries are one of Maines' "Big Three"; Lobster, Potatoes and Wild blueberries), it's big money in other words.
The Barrens are leftovers of the last ice age glaciers, right along with our rocky soil and granite coastline, the 'till' created by the glaciers caused bogs in some places and barrens in others.  The crop is generally in Hancock and Washington Counties.  There are some mechanical harvesters but most are picked by "raking", stooped at the waist and pulling the rake toward you, it's kind of like a dustpan with the handle on backwards.
Person using a blueberry rake.
Unloading the bees, lots of blossoms to pollinate
Close up of the bushes with ripe berries.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A new direction...

...since Pete has been most states and provinces you can travel by car; he will stay closer to home.  We'll start with a look at the variety of agriculture in Maine; there are almost more types of "crops" than there are farms.
                                            Backyard Farms, Madison Maine
The farm is in the 27 acre greenhouse, the two "green" areas behind (or adjacent) are fresh water and waste water treatment.
Backyard Farms grows tomatoes, not for canning but to eat fresh, they are sold all over New England.  A second greenhouse is under construction that will double the size of the "farm".  Tomatoes all year round, nice fresh ones, are no longer a dream. 
  The plants are grown with hydroponics - growing plants in water; in a regular garden the dirt just holds up the plants, nourishment always comes from the water, and plant food or chemicals added that are water soluble.  There are bee hives throughout the greenhouse - to do the bee stuff that pollinates the blossoms.  About 200 people work planting, caring for or harvesting those nice tomatoes.
Long rows of plants, these are bearing fruit, while some have just been planted.
On the outside looking in.  All of those lights are on 24 hours a day.  Madison was selected because the town has it's own Electric Company, and the rates are much lower.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


...is resting up.  He should be back on Friday, May 10th.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Medford, home again....

...headed home...
...flying back to the roost,
that old back road gave my heart a big boost,
now it's time to think about something new,
only time will tell us the next thing Pete will do.

He's got a few ideas, but time is in a crunch,
he may not appear tomorrow, don't get your skivvies in a bunch;
Pete will return, in just a few short days,
when his mind is clear and not clouded in a haze.
The Piscataquis River, right where we left it....
...it's been thawed out now, but not for long.