It’s gotten really, grossly busy and I’ve neglected the blog…so this is one big purge of a post! So much has been going on in the last two weeks, it’s hard to pick one spot to start. Chronological order seems to make the most sense!
Two weeks ago, Dustin and I wrapped up the greenhouse chores, watered plants and fed the animals early in the morning. We packed the car and were off for a quick day trip to Cape Rosier where Four Season Farm is located. Dustin worked here apprenticing under Eliot Coleman for a year and has gone back to volunteer on busy weeks. We needed this trip. We needed a refresh button, to talk to Eliot and Barbara about farming and business and also we needed to step away from the farm for a minute. (Stepping away from the farm…not easy. Something is always unexpectedly happening and we don’t have any employees trained to stop in while we’re gone. We had thought about asking a friend or family member to stop in and water and check on animals but it’s much harder than it sounds to pass off these tasks to someone else.) So, by 11am we had arrived at Four Season Farm. It was as beautiful as always. We met the apprentices and began wandering the farm…it wasn’t long before we noticed many beds weren’t being grown in along with some of the greenhouses. The largest greenhouse which had housed the wash station, a walk in cooler and was the gathering place for morning meetings was completely empty. Puzzling… When we found Eliot he explained they’re putting half of the farm into growing feed for animals as well as green manure for the land for the summer season. The greenhouses that lay empty were being cleansed from weeds. By now, I’m sure everything is in back in full production as they get ready for fall and winter.
The farm still had all of it’s usual crops growing. Barbara prepared a beautiful farm lunch with the vegetables fresh from the fields and we all sat around their table. The farm hands were discussing their upcoming harvest dinner, which they’re doing all themselves! It was so nice to be back on someone else’s farm and see that everything we are experiencing for our first time is happening everyday, on every farm!
Before driving back to Dover-Foxcroft, we stopped at the ocean across from Scott and Helen Nearing’s homestead. The power of the coast of Maine is amazing. You look down and find life happening all over. A few steps down the rocky beach, I picked up a giant piece of purple sea glass. It looked like it was once part of an old bottle, and as sea glass always does, I wondered about it’s life. Before long, our hands and pockets were full of treasures; rocks, shells, glass and my camera captured some more memories.
The next week, we made up for lost time! Our garden beds have needed rain, but we got torrential down pour. Wednesday we had been harvesting for our weekly CSA’s all morning and we were inside preparing for deliveries when I glanced out the window to see a pig trying to get into the chicken’s pen. Immediately I yelled “Pigs are out!”, and we dropped everything, grabbed a scoop of grain and ran out to wrangle in the pigs. Luckily, only two had managed to take advantage of the unpowered fence which must have been tripped by sideways rain going into the outlet. The pigs came running up, happy to see we had brought them treats! We needed to get them back inside their area before the other four broke out and made it all worse. Dustin raised the fence and I climbed into their pen using the grain (and myself) as bait…Let me tell ya, having 6 large (probably at least 180 lbs by now) pigs chasing you isn’t fun. Funny yes, but at the time I was scared! What had been clean, presentable clothes which I had changed into to deliver CSA bags, were now covered in mud and pig snot. But we got the pigs in, fixed the fence and could now survey the damage. They didn’t go into the greenhouses, thankfully, but they did manage to find a row of freshly transplanted cabbage heads and destroy about 100. They left the melons and brussels sprouts growing nearby. I think we caught them just in time!
Another development around here has been building a commercial kitchen in our garage. Blood, sweat, tears and more resources than we had originally imagined have been poured into this project. Along with a lot of time and after hours by Dustin and our carpenter friend, Craig. It’s not completely finished but so, so close so I’ll wait for the ribbon cutting to share pictures. The purpose of the kitchen is multi. I’ve enjoyed making fermented breads for ourselves as well as preserving tomatoes and of course dilly beans, now I’ll do it on a larger scale Growing up my Mum was always resourceful like this, making fresh bread and canning from the garden. So, the kitchen will be used to make artisan breads, preserve food and develop added value products straight from the farm. We’ll take that ugly, unmarketable tomato and turn into something yummy!
The kitchen leads me to the next adventure, Kneading Conference. Once a year, Skowhegan, ME is host to some of the worlds most talented bakers. It’s a two day seminar on a series of topics from the Microbio-ecology of Sour Dough to Artisan Doughnuts! Skowhegan is home to Maine’s own grist mill where they take Maine grown grains and mill them into flours. Amber Lambke, president of the mill, organizes this amazing conference.
From the second I walked into the registration table, I knew this was exactly where I needed to be. It was hard to leave Dustin alone with no help for two days but he both encouraged and supported my attendance here. The woman registering people looked at me and I looked at her and we both had the same “I know you from somewhere…” look on our faces… We soon figured out she was one of my fine arts instructors from UMF. When I told her in the two years since graduating college I hardly picked up drawing charcoals, she said “You’re living in art”. And yes, it’s so true.
I found out a girl that had been sitting next to me all morning was Eliot Coleman’s neighbor and I had spent time in her cabin a couple years ago. I also got to meet the authors to one of my favorite baking books from A & J King Artisan Bakers. Beautiful coincidences all around me.
I was amazed at the presenters abilities to work with dough. Sour dough is meant to be wet (the wetter the better) and ciabatta is meant to be like soup. The art of fermenting bread is not only about taste, it’s about creating organisms that will help preserve the bread without the use of preservatives. And the gluten seminar was eye opening. Most people who don’t have celiacs disease may be sensitive to one type of grain but not all. And the act of fermenting bread has helped people with gluten sensitivities. One loaf is not the same as the other.
While there I made some great connections! I met Amy, from Crooked Face Creamery in Skowhegan who let me purchase some cheese to share with Dover-Foxcroft!
The conference was about so much more than just bread. It was about food, and how we all have that in common. Communities of people, gathering over a meal, sharing in the preparation and sacrificing their time and labor so others can eat. It’s an absolute beautiful thing. Living in central Maine isn’t always easy. As much as we try to stay community minded, there’s always something holding you back. If it’s not roads in the winter, it’s the endless work in the fields in the summer keeping you from going to a potluck. Regardless, no matter how busy we are, food is what brings us together with our family, friends and community.
So go eat and remember, your neighbors do the same thing and that should be enough to bring you together.