Friday, March 18, 2011

Problems & Solutions

Our kitchen manager, Regina, recently pulled off some officious freezer re-organization and the problem has been determined. We aren’t eating in sufficiently aggressive quantities. More specifically, gallon freezer bags of kale and collards persist in tremendous proportions, along with a surfeit of raspberries and a glut of garlic scapes.

At the most recent count, we had eighty (80!) bags of greens remaining – and winter’s almost behind us. 12 bags of frozen raspberries have made it this far, and a whole crate full of garlic scapes continues to commandeer the freezer’s left-hand side.

And that’s not all. Just the other day, pitter-patter down the steps Regina descended, her arms full of long-pie pumpkins. The black and fuzzy blotches were visible from across the room. Her plea echoed the unfortunate state of affairs as the suffering squashes rolled lopsidedly on the counter: “Ai! how can we not have this happen?!”

How long do we have before the fifty or so remaining winter squash and pumpkins meet the same fate? This is our S.O.S. – save our squash! We need to feed more food to more people.

This is, mind you, a first-rate problem to have. We are cultivating more food than ever before here at D Acres, and the next season looks to be all the more productive. With new greenhouse space to extend the growing season, soil that is more fertile and rich with each year, established techniques & methods, and committed staff whose skills & experience improve with the seasons…the prospects are certainly not dire.

We don’t, however, eat more just because we raise more. This is where we need you. Come out to food events! Join us for a potluck! We can turn our stored delights into such a myriad of platters and dishes. Kale is easily tucked into much, no-one quibbles over raspberries, garlic scapes are the jackpot of flavor, and the squash varieties my oh my – delicata, acorn, hubbard, kobucha, red kuri, baby blue, and all manner of pumpkins…the dinner options are stupendous (not to mention all the other vegetables we grow and preserve in less daunting proportions!).

But listen, we need visitors with whom we can share the abundance. Pick the meal that best suits your style: how about wood-fired pizza the first Friday of each month? Or try our farm feast breakfast the first Sunday of every month, all-you-should-eat! Prefer being out in town? Join us at Mark’s Eatery in downtown Plymouth for seasonal soup and live entertainment every third Saturday.

And that’s not all! Join us for our monthly potluck the final Friday of each month, or learn our secrets to the best food around: join us for cooking classes the second Thursday of each month, then stay for dinner!

Our wealth is in our closets, and for this month of March it’s squash, garlic, and kale, along with potatoes and sauerkraut. We prefer sharing to hoarding, so consider this your invite. We’ll look to see you soon.

as published in North Country News

Monday, March 14, 2011

What a wild week.

The ducks have been taking quite the beating this week. On Sunday, Josh noticed that two of them were getting roughed up by the other ducks so they were moved into the g-animal house for their own protection. So we thought. Two days later, one duck was dead and the other was barely clinging on to life. The culprit? A Stoat, otherwise known as an ermine or short-tailed weasel. The wounded duck was killed and prepared for dinner Tuesday night.

We also noticed that the rest of the duck population was in danger. More than one had been attacked though no more had been killed. They were relocated to a more secure chicken coop on Wednesday.

Yesterday was going along like most any day. I was doing some work on the the kiosk, updating it with 2011 information. Just before lunch, I went out to chip the ice away from the door on the sugar shack in preparation for boiling. Although we are still waiting on the sap to really start running. While walking back up to the community building, I could hear some strange noise. As I got closer, I saw Dustin running by and found out that it was the chickens this time that were under attack.

I made my way over to the g-animal house and began to witness the chaos.
There was one chicken inside, a group was huddling next to the door at the top of the ramp, one was under the ramp, a few more were out deep in the snow with the rooster, and one rogue had made it over the fence to the pig area by itself. Dustin, Regina, and I were stationed in various locations trying to figure out the situation. The ermine reappeared and started attacking the chickens even with us present. I watched the ermine chase a chicken into a corner of the fence. I was on the other side. It was very intense to see this little critter attacking a chicken, many times it's own size, literally no more than a foot away from me. I beat on the fencing and got the ermine off the chicken. It ran back and started chasing another one through the snow. As Dustin came around it eluded capture and found a hole down into the foundation of the g-animal house. We had the little bugger seemingly trapped. He would poke his head out, inside and outside of the building, but we were unable to capture or kill it at that time.

We rounded up the scattered and frightened chickens and got them inside and locked down. We had no fatalities, though one had a slight wound on the back of its neck.

We set a live trap inside the greenhouse with some food scraps as bait. Later that evening the ermine was successfully secured inside the trap.
Yesterday we also welcomed 10 new piglets to the farm. It was great timing being just two days after getting the pig house cleared and prepared for the pregnant sow. She gave birth to the first around 5:30pm and the rest came along in the following two hours. The sow and the piglets all seem to be doing well at this time.

My name is Matt. I am a new intern here. I’ve been here just over three weeks now. I’m from Wisconsin and have really been enjoying my stay. The work can be challenging at time but it has been well worth the effort.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Punxsutawney’s Partner

As I write this, it’s the end of February and I’m preparing for a night nearing zero degrees. Admitting that, it may seem like an oblivious and outrageous statement to say that that springtime is coming.

There are, however, the usual suspects that accompany this annual statement: groundhogs and their shadows, sugar buckets (which also cast shadows), brief thaws and the icy aftermath, the days lengthening by perceptible increments. And here at D Acres, we have another gauge to add to the list.

Duck eggs. Mmm-hmmm.

With our Indian Runners having taken their first swim on our backyard pond this past July, we’ve been looking forward to this particular milestone in our breakfast diet for some months now. It’s a welcome treat, and though our chickens continue as the backbone of our egg production, the duck eggs are a pleasant present for the palate. Large, creamy, and full of flavor, they have sufficiently quenched (at least temporarily) our interest in roast duck meat.

Granted, there has been a bit more sun, a bit more warmth, a bit more daylight, and whether it’s that or just coincidence…well, in some quadratic formula of animal instinct and optimal timing all of the above translates to: eggs.


How many have we had at this point? A dozen or two? Gathering just two eggs a day, we’ve got to wonder if it’s one over-achieving duck leading the pack, or are they each taking turns in a delicate sharing of the task? Perhaps it’s just one wacky bird with cabin fever, jumping the gun on spring and insisting that this cold and blustery end-of –the-month is propitious timing?

Rhetorical questions, merely, that gladly can be set aside as we tend to the practicalities of the situation. Nesting boxes, breeding possibilities, an expanded enclosure; now’s the time to make our plan, for once the snow has gone we must be ready to bound into action.

For the interim, though, it seems that Punxsutawney Phil may have a Dorchester duo when it comes to predicting, or at least denoting, the perpetual changing of the seasons. So despite the ponds still being frozen, and the ducks still paddling their webbed appendages through drifted snow; despite glaciers sliding off the duckhouse roof and bedding freezing to the edges of their suite; despite this evidence to the contrary it would seem that the first inklings of spring have begun.

At least in Duckland.

as published in North Country News