Thursday, September 27, 2012

Making More Dirt

The poplar leaves are falling, convincing the birch to follow suit, and the sugar maples are showing off their brilliant reds and golden hues. The evening breeze is reliably cool, and the mornings are laden with dew. The autumnal night is arriving quicker and quicker; the days, shortened, are filled with the hurry for winter. Even as the end of this growing season is suddenly, rapidly in sight, the preparations for the next one are in front of us. Compost. In these cool mornings, the steam from our scattered compost piles is easily visible, a wispy indication of the powerful, perpetual decomposition process transpiring within each mound of compost. Each pile is full of microbial action. Having been turned through the summer, our compost is active and alive. If we want to talk science, compost can be understood in terms of two elements: carbon and nitrogen. In layman’s speak, this is the “brown” and the “green.” Regardless of linguistic preferences, a healthy compost pile should offer a robust mix of woody materials (woodchips, straw, old hay, dry grass clippings, woody debris) and fresh matter (food scraps, weeds, manure, fresh grass clippings). In combination with oxygen introduced into the pile through frequent turning, a hot, active microbial environment is fostered, essentially “cooking” the pile’s contents. Decomposition happens fairly rapidly in this manner, providing quality soil for use in the gardens within a season or two. Which is exactly what we are preparing ourselves to go. As our garden beds are harvested from and weeded out this fall, a fresh layer of finished compost will be added, introducing new organic matter and increasing the fertility of the garden bed. This process is essential. Finished compost releases nutrients slowly over time, preventing soil from becoming depleted and helping to ensure plant health. But that’s not all. Some of our younger compost piles will sit over winter, awaiting use in late spring and early summer. Our spring planting of potatoes, in particular, is an event in which we incorporate significant quantities of organic matter into an agricutlural area. More importantly that that, however, is the sifting of compost this fall in preparation for our early spring starts. Between now and the freeze, we will sift compost from our best-looking piles, eliminating any woody chunks and woodchips that remain, then storing this within large drums in our basement. This will provide us with great quality dirt as we start seeds indoors in February and March, a time when compost piles outside our still frozen and unusable. Compost, therefore, is an integral, essential component in the health and longevity of our garden system. Rich, dark dirt: generating and promoting this essential fertility is our task at hand. ~Beth as published in North Country News

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rows of Basil

The basil is so big it’s almost hard to see. These once little plants are vigorously pushing aside tomatoes and overpowering cucumber vines as the heat of the hoop house fills them with an abundance of solar supercharge. Delicate herbs are not what you would find upon entering this greenhouse, but rather hefty plants in overwhelming quantity. It is certainly not an overly onerous problem to have. Of the hundred-plus basil plants in this particular locale, some were easily up to my chest in height, and threatening to flower beyond usefulness. Luckily, Plymouth State University freshman orientation service projects coincided with an ideal synchronicity. It was therefore with an enthusiastic posse of fresh area residents that I headed to the upper hoop house this past weekend, scissors and bushel baskets in tow. My cohorts were quick studies, and after a few tutorials about plant care and harvest techniques, we were moving down the rows, harvesting long limbs laden with pungent basil. Rather than harvesting single basil leaves, we were harvesting individual branches, cutting them down to where new growth was evidenced. This eliminated the immediate threat of flowering, and would encourage the plant to grow in a bushy habit, generating multiply basil branches where previously there had only been one. Our baskets quickly filled up with only a fraction of the harvesting completed. The act of stuffing (gently of course), piling, and heaping basil in a delicate balancing act ensued until the plants had all been sufficiently pruned. With our aromatic bounty in tow, we traipsed back to the D Acres Community Building: our work was only half done. These herbs, you see, were destined to be dried in the loft of our Red Barn. Once crisp to the touch they will be stored in glass jars, then used to flavor our meals throughout the winter as well as sold as culinary spices. To get to this end product, however, requires the tedious work of bundling and tying the freshly harvested basil into long strands that can be hung from the barn rafters. Thus we gathered round the table, and – four or five stalks to a bundle – slowly tied the basil with twine, forming long strands of sweet smelling herbs. In an excellent group effort, this was completed with good humors still in tact, and gracefully hung from nails affixed in the barn’s beams. With a week of two of decent weather, this basil will soon be dry. The processing will then ensue in reverse, stripping the crispy leaves from the stalks and storing it for the winter. Imagine the meals it will enhance! A taste of summer to last all year long, how excellent is that. ~Beth as published in North Country News

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Intern Frank's First Week!

I’m not sure what I expected my first week at D Acres to be like. I was attracted to the experience for many reasons, but the fundamental reason was an attempt to reconnect myself to our land base and to learn tools to build a more sustainable community. I am a fourth year medical student at Boston University and I have essentially been living in cities for my entire life. While I love being out in nature, it is usually in some sort of recreational setting. Over the past few years, I have become more cognizant of my ignorance of such simple necessities as food and where my food comes from. I found that I had hit a theoretical wall where I had learned what I could through books and discussions, but that I needed to learn first-hand about my basic necessities and the connection to sustainability. I started my stay on a Monday. I was somewhat familiar with the schedule and layout of the place from the readings online and my work-day experience in July. We started with a great lunch of heated leftovers (fresher and tastier than anything I would get in Boston!) and I picked out my own tree house. The tree house option was a nice surprise, because I had prepared myself for six weeks of sleeping in a tent. I chose the Lighthouse, an excellent example of alternative building using recycled materials. It even has two floors and my own Buddha statue. We had the Monday meeting during the afternoon, where I learned more about the day-to-day goings of the homestead and signed up for my tasks for the week. We had a relaxing afternoon, excellent dinner by Bill and Betty, and then got myself settled and ready for the work week. The work week goes from Tuesday-Thursday, although there is always work being done during the rest of the week. I volunteered to help harvest on Tuesday morning. My first time ever picking blueberries and green beans! It was interesting about the work, and I’ve noticed this through many of the different chores I’ve been given. It starts off as this exciting and new thing. Maybe what people feel when they go apple picking? It’s something new to pick berries or get your hands in the dirt. It’ll be a great story to tell back home. And then after the first hour, your back starts to hurt, the sun gets hot, your mind starts to get impatient, or whatever little inconvenience arises. The work stops becoming new and exciting and it becomes work. Having worked in manual labor in the past, I was not new to the experience, but it always amazes me when it happens. Personally, I begin to question why I’m doing what it is I’m doing. It happens to me when I spend an entire sunny weekend studying in the library, or I miss birthday parties because I’m stuck in the hospital. On the farm, it brings into question the larger issue of what I think they are trying to accomplish, which is to remove the convenience of what many of us in “modern” society have come to expect. It is easy to walk into Whole Foods and buy a quart of organically grown blueberries. You can then go home and eat as many as you want But how much harder is it to be mindless about food when your back hurts because of the time you spent gathering that food? One of the big lessons I learned in the first week is that to work towards a more sustainable life means sacrifice and work, but that when the work is geared towards providing healthy and safe food, or a way of living that is kinder to the environment , there can be no change without getting your hands dirty. With the focus on community and communal living, you’re not alone in your struggles. Everyone works and you work to support everyone else, otherwise no one eats. Overall, it’s been a great experience as I learn to garden, work with farm animals, compost, cook, live communally, and many other things I’ve never been exposed to. There is a learning curve as I sometimes struggle to learn alternative ways of doing simple tasks (i.e. having to ask how to make tea without the pre-packaged tea bags), but I’m excited to continue learning and working towards the common goal.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Full Table

September is almost here…and while that connotes many things – harvest, preservation, weeding – it also means that another round of community food events is about to begin. Yes, it’s that time again: the beginning of a month means First Sunday Farm Feast Breakfast & Open House and First Friday Pizza & a Movie Night. (And just a reminder – Final Friday is Potluck/Open Mic Night!) These events define our weeks and are the texture of our months. Each gathering is a celebration of neighbors and friends, an opportunity to showcase seasonal fare and homegrown taste. Farm-fresh deliciousness and permaculture production define our food philosophy, while these monthly breakfasts, pizza nights, and potluck gatherings build our community through full plates and all-you-should-eat spreads. Abundance is beautiful in the camaraderie of fine company. It is our salute to an agricultural ethic, and homage to local food flavor. What a joy to share a meal in the very place where the ingredients are grown, at a table with those who grew it, knowing the hands that prepared it. Health, well-being, and vitality are all offered in our farm-fresh meals. And this is your invitation to join us! D Acres’ First Sunday Farm Feast Breakfast & Open House is this coming Sunday, September 2 (always the first Sunday of every month, all year long, year after year). A convivial atmosphere of fun and neighborliness, you have your choice of eggs, pancakes, sausage, greens, and potatoes (except in summer). Second and thirds are encouraged! All we ask is a donation, $5-15 sliding scale donation, whatever you are comfortable with. Breakfast is served 10am-1pm; 1-3pm is a farm tour we’d love to take you on – free! Check out our new piglets, the beautiful flowers, the packed gardens, and the quiet of the woods. There’s something for everybody. Farm Feast is barely a memory when First Friday Pizza & a Movie Night is here – this month it’s Friday, Sept 7 (always the first Friday of every month, all year long, year after year). A fun, relaxing, and delicious way to end the week. We spend the afternoon making pizza, gathering fresh toppings from the gardens, grating cheese from nearby Bunten Farmhouse Kitchen, then baking the final product as the evening descends - hot in our wood-fired cob oven! Dinner begins at 6pm, and again all we ask is a sliding-scale donation $5-15 for all-you-should-eat slices! Pizza is then followed by a film screening at 7:30pm, free! Titles are different every month, please check out our website for each month’s screening. As fall descends, slow down from summer and put us on your calendar! We can’t wait to see you at the farm. Join us at the table for delicious, farm-fresh, seasonal fare. You won’t be disappointed. ~Beth as published in North Country News

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chicken Pioneers

Six of our chickens are feeling quite lucky – without announcement they find themselves in a brand new enclosure full of grubs, bugs, lush vegetation, a variety of grasses, and a natural bouquet of wildflowers. Mulberry trees reign overhead, and rouge berries drop their way to the ground like edible confetti. Shade from the old apple trees keeps the area cool in the morning, while a breeze through the hazelnuts mellows the afternoon heat. Yes, these White Island Crosses may just be thinking they’ve reached poultry paradise. From the human perspective, we’ve wanted to get these birds on new territory for a couple of reasons. The birds’ existing pen is well eaten, with bare soil dominating the topography. In the name of chicken well-being, we want to offer them more verdant habitat. In the name of soil health, we don’t want to exhaust the ecology of the existing paddock. Too, with our farming interests in mind, we are already anticipating the transplanting of rootstock next spring…and we need weed-free areas in which to do so. By placing chickens on this grassy patch now, in the height of summer, these birds will have ample months (now through the fall freeze) to eat this meadow down to dirt. At that juncture, we will be able to prep the area for future planting, applying compost followed by a cardboard & woodchip sheet mulch. This winter we’ll log some of the larger trees to the West, eliminating the heaviest of the shade. By spring we will be ready to transplant fruit trees, nut trees, berry bushes, and medicinal groundcovers into the area. So how did we go about this process of re-housing a portion of our chicken flock? Well, all told, it began with our oxen. See, the luxury suite in which these six chickens live is actually a wooden house atop wheels. We call this a “chicken tractor.” After re-filling the limp tires, this mobile home was hitched to the awaiting oxen, then pulled into it’s new location. A truck could do the same job…but the oxen are certainly more appreciative of the work. From there, postholes were dug for stability and durability of the fence-to-be. Some reconnaissance in our “resource pile” yielded more chicken wire scraps then anticipated – a fence was rapidly patched together, a minimum of five feet tall. Lower than this, and the birds’ sense of adventure may just impel them to fly beyond the enclosure on which we want them to focus. In the coming weeks, as they eat down the vegetation along the bottom edge of the fence, we will need to monitor the fence line for holes or uneven patches – the grass is always green enough on the outside to prompt the next great escape. In short order the tractor house was filled with bedding, a watering dish and food trough were placed inside, and laying boxes were filled with hay. The chickens were officially moved in. They jumped to the work at hand with eager excitement; there was much for these chicken pioneers to do. Anthropomorphic as it may be, they sure do seem content. And that is a beautiful moment to witness. ~Beth as published in North Country News

Chicken Pioneers

Six of our chickens are feeling quite lucky – without announcement they find themselves in a brand new enclosure full of grubs, bugs, lush vegetation, a variety of grasses, and a natural bouquet of wildflowers. Mulberry trees reign overhead, and rouge berries drop their way to the ground like edible confetti. Shade from the old apple trees keeps the area cool in the morning, while a breeze through the hazelnuts mellows the afternoon heat. Yes, these White Island Crosses may just be thinking they’ve reached poultry paradise. From the human perspective, we’ve wanted to get these birds on new territory for a couple of reasons. The birds’ existing pen is well eaten, with bare soil dominating the topography. In the name of chicken well-being, we want to offer them more verdant habitat. In the name of soil health, we don’t want to exhaust the ecology of the existing paddock. Too, with our farming interests in mind, we are already anticipating the transplanting of rootstock next spring…and we need weed-free areas in which to do so. By placing chickens on this grassy patch now, in the height of summer, these birds will have ample months (now through the fall freeze) to eat this meadow down to dirt. At that juncture, we will be able to prep the area for future planting, applying compost followed by a cardboard & woodchip sheet mulch. This winter we’ll log some of the larger trees to the West, eliminating the heaviest of the shade. By spring we will be ready to transplant fruit trees, nut trees, berry bushes, and medicinal groundcovers into the area. So how did we go about this process of re-housing a portion of our chicken flock? Well, all told, it began with our oxen. See, the luxury suite in which these six chickens live is actually a wooden house atop wheels. We call this a “chicken tractor.” After re-filling the limp tires, this mobile home was hitched to the awaiting oxen, then pulled into it’s new location. A truck could do the same job…but the oxen are certainly more appreciative of the work. From there, postholes were dug for stability and durability of the fence-to-be. Some reconnaissance in our “resource pile” yielded more chicken wire scraps then anticipated – a fence was rapidly patched together, a minimum of five feet tall. Lower than this, and the birds’ sense of adventure may just impel them to fly beyond the enclosure on which we want them to focus. In the coming weeks, as they eat down the vegetation along the bottom edge of the fence, we will need to monitor the fence line for holes or uneven patches – the grass is always green enough on the outside to prompt the next great escape. In short order the tractor house was filled with bedding, a watering dish and food trough were placed inside, and laying boxes were filled with hay. The chickens were officially moved in. They jumped to the work at hand with eager excitement; there was much for these chicken pioneers to do. Anthropomorphic as it may be, they sure do seem content. And that is a beautiful moment to witness. ~Beth as published in North Country News

Friday, August 10, 2012

Moving On

So as I am readying for departure from here, I prepare myself to get back to the grind of classrooms and textbooks. I am not leaving empty handed, however, far from it. I have learned incredible amounts and am taking with me every speck of knowledge that I have managed to soak up over the past 11 weeks. What is happening here is quite incredible and very different from what most people get to experience in their everyday lives. It is a much simpler way of life, where your worries aren’t about how much money your making or financial security, its about having what you need around you. Its about growing your own food for the good of the land and having a community of people to depend upon to be working there beside you. It is a model of communal living, not without its flaws of course, but incredible nonetheless. I feel privileged to have been able to live and learn here for the past two and a half months. A very warm thank you goes out to all here at D Acres who have taught me patiently and answered my many questions informatively. This was an experience that I will not forget.
Thank you to the crew of Summer 2012!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The NH Permaculture Gathering

The New Hampshire Permaculture Gathering is fast approaching! This is a chance to gather, to network, to learn, and to skill-share with fellow permaculturalists, sustainability enthusiasts, agricultural activists, homesteaders, small-scale farmers, and homescale gardeners within our state. Hosted by D Acres Farm (218 Streeter Woods Rd., Dorchester) and co-sponsored by NOFA-NH, Greater Seacoast Permaculture Group, & Central NH Permaculture Group, the event will be held Saturday, August 25 9am-7:30pm. The will be choc full with farm tours, networking opportunities, skill-sharing workshops, farm fresh meals grown and prepared by D Acres, and a keynote lunch presentation by Jonathan Bates. Workshop schedule includes Intro to Permaculture, Intro to Composting, Soil Fertility, Intro to Beekeeping, Intro to Urban & Suburban Permaculture, Intro to Handhewing, Bread Baking, Dandelion Wine Making, Soapmaking, and Mushrooms. A full agenda of the day’s events are available by contacting D Acres as or 603-786-2366. Pre-registration is encouraged; $20 suggested donation includes access to all aspects of the day’s events, as well as all-you-can-eat D Acres lunch. Folks are encouraged to stay into the evening, with live music by The Goodhues Band to cap off the day’s events. The agriculture learning process is a lifetime investment; with the New Hampshire Permaculture Gathering we are intent on sparking interest, community, and support networks to foster the learning journey in which we are all engaged. Whether this is your introduction to the permaculture model, or you are interested in expanding your projects, or are in need of a community in which to share and grow your enthusiasm, this first-time event is an unique opportunity to integrate and network all levels of practitioners. Thanks to our co-sponsors, the event is drawing participants from across the Granite State, representing an exceptional potential for collaboration, skill-sharing, and cross-pollination of ideas. Permaculture represents a lifestyle and a mode of thinking, not simply an alternative style of gardening and building. As such, the New Hampshire Permaculture Gathering intends to unite likeminded individuals and enhance the webs of knowledge, encouragement, support, and agricultural passion that exist across our state. By developing a community of enthusiasts and practitioners, we aim to develop permaculture knowledge and interest for the benefit and growth or our regional well-being. A better world can start here. Join us in our efforts at modeling the world in which we want to live. Connect with us Saturday, August 25: contact D Acres at or 603-786-2366. We look forward to seeing you at the farm! ~Beth as published in North Country News

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Busy Busy

Wow does time fly here. I’ve now been here for seven weeks, and I keep looking back and realizing on how much I have learned so far. Everything from the basics of permaculture to the fine details of spoon carving. Usually when I get somewhere I make elaborate plans to do a trillion different things, but before I know whats happened Im running out of time with a ton of stuff to still do. I have been trying to find time to work on this ongoing herbal remedies project I decided to take on a month back. On top of that I am also in the planing / design phase of a new edible forest garden onsite. Also finding time to read in the voluminous library, sit back and play music and just relax on days off is up there on the priorities list. All of this on top of more veggies that need harvesting, a house to build and gardens to weed Im only getting busier with less and less time... ....Time to kick things into gear and get work done! -Alex On a side note a lot of plants are in bloom this time of year and the echinacea is looking beautiful...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Trimming the Yard

Today was my day to take out the lawn mower. Sort of. Here at D Acres, our team of oxen - Henri & August – takes the place of large machinery. No pedals, gears, nor spinning blades, just a goad, plenty of practice, and time-earned respect. Fact of the matter is that a neighbor’s threat of a real lawn mower (the dandelion has been getting away from us, granted) has imbued the task with urgency. You see, what “lawn” we have here at the farm is kept up, not by gas-powered gadgets, but by hungry oxen and by the careful use of a hand scythe. Allow me to explain myself, please. Each morning, the oxen are walked about the property, trimming the edges of liminal areas, munching the clover, plantain, dandelion, and assorted grasses into temporary submission (these are their favorites of the daily selection, however, they’ll mischievously snatch at apple trees or a paw-paw leaf if you’re not careful…). The sides of paths and walkways, the edges of gardens, the field space we use for tents…each of these grow quickly. The oxen provide a check and balance to the system. Not only do August & Henri keep things looking presentable for us, they glean significant calories from the land. This daily hour-or-two walk provides a lush and reliable source of food for these large work animals during the summer months. For us, it’s about using all the available biomass that presents itself. The sun’s energy and the soil’s nutrients regularly produce a wealth of rogue weeds and persistent grasses. Our temperaments are much better off if we see this cornucopia of growth as free fodder, rather than troublesome invasives attempting to ruin our gardens’ growth. That being said, there are certainly nooks and crannies on the property into which the oxen can’t reach their sizeable frames. They are also picky, and obstinately turn their broad shoulders on patches of barbed grass and milkweed. The pigs and chickens, though, are not so discerning. Therefore, for these lower-grade weeds and hard to reach places, we make use of a hand scythe. A hand scythe is an excellent tool for edging. With a sharp, curved blade, a hand scythe is like a weed-whacker specializing in accuracy and precision. Using this tool to cut grass and weeds is part of our daily summertime chores, enabling us to feed significant quantities of biomass to our numerous pigs and many chickens. Not only are we converting the sun’s energy into “free” food, we’re also utilizing it in such a way that accelerates it’s conversion to a nutritive soil additive. As the animals eat through such “weeds,” they are actively transforming this biomass into a nutrient-rich compost. Thanks to this animal-powered conversion, we can then spread such compost back to our garden beds. By cutting these vigorous grasses and weeds, we are encouraging a healthy albeit controlled growth of these plants, ensuring that we will continue to have nutrient-packed fodder for our many animals while also guaranteeing that nothing goes to seed. (While that still leaves us to fight wily against the ever-expanding root system, it does, at least, prevent an all-out re-seeding of this not-to-be-cultivated flora in our garden beds). Farmer’s tactics, if you will. We are striving, as in most of our endeavors, to employ the resources we have at hand for as many uses as possible in a holistic, cyclical system. Thanks to our animals, we are able to turn less-than-useful lawn space into an integral component of our edible permaculture landscape. ~Beth as published in North Country News

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Weeding

We can take a deep breath. Garden fork in hand, harvest basket ready and waiting, food is emerging where once there were weeds. Our myriad of annual beds have been forked, weeded, seeded, transplanted into, edged, mulched, and watered. As the solstice passes, the urgency of spring has finally been satiated. Weeds still abound, mind you (indeed, nature’s persistent biology is the ultimate job security), but our focus has shifted. With the final bed weeded out last week, and the last of our seeds and starts in the ground, weeding has taken on a new purpose: maintenance. This is the pulse of the summer. Weeds continue to grow at an overwhelming pace, and our rapid work is now directed at staying ahead of these undesirable invaders in our garden space. To this end we take to the fields each day, our many hands maintaining our growing number of agricultural beds, patches, and rows so that our food crops flourish. Each meal is a testament to the work that dirties our nails and calluses our hands. As garlic scapes, peas, broccoli, herbs, berries, and a plethora of greens now fill our bowls, the vital nature of our work is continually demonstrated. Annual food crops, however, haven’t garnered our exclusive attention. The perennials have our interest as well. Flowers and groundcovers abound, as do herbals and medicinals; these favored species are encouraged to hold the weeds at bay. They don’t maintain themselves, however, and our efforts must be directed to these understory perennials, as well as the larger species. Even with weeds encroaching, fruit and nut trees have begun to form fruit, offering the first glimpse of the abundance that will be upon us come fall. Berries are swelling and gaining color – mulberries will likely be the first for pickin’, with blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries, and currants close behind. As we watch insects humming about the valerian, and notice birds evaluating the coloring of berries, we must work quickly to maintain such valuable rootstock against the competition of persistent, weedy colonizers. While perennials require less constant consideration than annuals, they do require maintenance, especially as younger crops. So there is no shortage of tasks to rapidly fill our hours, our days, and our weeks. From summer solstice to autumn equinox, we bask in the longest, warmest days of the year. With our hands in the dirt, we pull weeds…may our food prosper. ~Beth as published in North Country News

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What's on the Menu: Permaculture Weekend III

The summer solstice has quickly come and gone--the greens are growing faster, and all the other veggies are eager to catch up to our growing appetites. There's so much delicious food out there. For this particluar weekend, I wanted to enhance the freshness of herbs, the tender new chards leaves, and the early harvest of peas and garlic scapes. It all begins with a time-consuming, but well worth it Saturday lunch. Simple Saturday Lunch: Fresh Salad Hummus Bread Sprouted Lentil Salad Handmade Lasagna with Great Northern Bean Sauce and Swiss Chard Ever since my winter trip to Italy, I have been dreaming of making pasta again. I needed just the right ingredients to compliment the pasta, and the colorful Bright Lights Swiss Chard seemed the best fit. I pre-made the pasta dough on Friday and let it sit overnight in the refridgerator. I would normally prepare it just before making, but I needed all the prepe time the day of the meal in case things were running late. And I'm glad I prepared. Homemade pasta is nothing to be afraid of. It is realy quite simple: For every 2 cups of flour add about 3 eggs, a dash of salt, and water only if needed. It is important for the dough to be stiff. If the dough is too sticky, elastic, or soft, it will not move through the pasta machine at all. I found that preparing the dough ahead and letting is sit in the cool refrigerator allowed everything to settle together. Kneeding the next day, I had to add minimal flour, and it worked through the machine smoothly. Lasagna is the most simple of all pastas--no need for fancy shapes or perfect rectangles. Be cautious about putting it through the finest setting, for lasagna I would not go further than setting #5, for once the lasagna is cooked it becomes difficult to handle. But any less than #5 is too thick. Having a second person for this process is ideal (thank you George!). The pasta can be layed out, and let to dry--so don't worry about boiling it straight away. But there is no need to let is dry completely. For the white bean sauce, I thoroughly cooked the beans, until they were more than tender. After soaking for the the day on Friday, I cooked then that night at the boil for about 20 minutes, then placed them in our "Hay Box." This is an insulated box that allows anything to maintain a warm temperature, slow-cooking it overnight. No more simmering beans for hours over a hot stove! Once the beans could easily be squished between my fingers, they were ready. I like to add whole cloves of garlic to the beans while cooking. They are slowly cooked to super softness, blending nicley along with the beans into a smoth paste, as well as adding a mild garlic flavor (not as potent as sauteed in oil or butter). Adding freshly chopped parsley to the bean/garlic puree brings a freshness and light color to cream-like sauce. I like using the white beans because they are like cream without acutally using cream. To prepare the chard, I cut the stems away, reserving for the lentil salad, and cut the greens into about 1-inch strips. Lightly sauteeing the chard, allows for easier layering in the lasagna, and ensures that the greens can more easily be chewed through. To make the lasagna, boil the pasta for a short couple of minutes, not long. Drain and either run under cool water to cease cooking, and/or drizzle with oil to prevent sticking. Layer a baking pan (preferably glass) with the pasta, sauce and chard, then with the pasta again. You can make as many layers as you have ingredients, but I think three or four layers is plenty. Once this is complete, place in the oven to bake for 15-20 mintes at 350 degrees F. Be sure to cover the top layer with either a decent drizzle of oil or enough sauce, otherwise the pasta will be too dry and bake too crispy. Let the dish cool slightly before serving. Lasagna is versatile and can be made with any ingredients. Adding cheese, especially ricotta, to the layers would make this dish even more filling. For the Sprouted Lentil Salad, I started soaking lentils on Wednesday to ensure that I had sprouts by Saturday. Sprouts are also easy, and very nutritious. Lentils are especially delicious, maintaining a nutty flavor and a great crunchiness. To sprout simply let the beans soak in a jar overnight. In the morning, drain the water, then rinse the beans at least twice a day. What you want to avoid is the beans drying out. If you can shake the jar, and the beans clink against the jar like beads, then you need to thoroughly rinse them. While this meal required some preparation, in its ingredients it was simple and light. Great for an early summer day. It was served with a fresh salad, frsh sourdough bread, and hummus. The weekend continues, so check back for more great meals. Enjoy and happy cooking, Regina

Weekends Full of Fun

Along with the usual busy work weeks, the weekends have been packed here as well.  Last weekend was the third week of the Permaculture Design Class (PDC) and the first one that I have been a part of, and man it was awesome!  Steve Libby was here to talk about Polycultures, followed shortly by David Whichland; Mushroom extraordinare.  He started off talking about the history of mushrooms and how useful they are and we soon got into demonstrations of how to inoculate them into the landscape around the farm.  The amount of enthusiasm that David brought was truly inspiring and overall the workshop was very eye opening for even someone that knew a bit about mushrooms before hand. This all happened on Saturday, and needless to say, we were all a bit mentally exhausted from the amount of information that Dave threw at us.
The next day started off with Bryan Felice, a local builder in the area, who talked all about natural building techniques and processes.  After lunch Josh took the reins and we got to do some hands-on work with an age old method known as cob building.  This involved doing the cob dance to incorporate the right amount of clay, sand and straw so that it would be sculpt-able and dry strong.  We used this to repair the cob oven which has been in much need of repair, and will hopefully be up and running again in the next month or so after the cob dries....
If that wasn’t enough to keep us all busy here, the next weekend (this weekend) has also been packed.  There was an AWESOME blacksmithing workshop yesterday with Steve Ash.  He was an awesome instructor especially to people just starting out and really helped everyone through whatever project they wanted to complete.  After 8 hours of hammering away we all walked away with knowledge, coated in black and maybe a trinket or two.  

Instead of resting on sunday, however, we had the monthly farm feast breakfast to attend to.  With about 100 people coming through it was quite a busy sunday morning, although always a pleasure.  Serving all this fresh food to friendly locals and meeting new people is always enjoyable.  

Even though all these busy weekends have been quite tiring, they have been amazing and I have been learning SO much!  Hopefully more to come.
Until Next TIme!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hay Day

The oxen, Henri and August, are less than impressed: their springtime hay is not of the finest quality. Having wintered in the corners of our barn, it is dried out or, alternatively, molding. Compared to the lushness available just beyond the hay trough, they are picking through with royal attitudes the arid flakes we attempt to feed them. The oxen know we count on them as our yard-trimmers and lawn-mowers – and the succulent grasses, clovers, and weeds are their meal of choice these days.

But just last week the call came: fresh hay has been cut.

Which means that all other plans must be orchestrated around the pick-up of this essential commodity. The trailer is hitched up to our old Ford, and ropes of all colors are thrown in the cab. There is an urgency to this task – we need as much as we are able to stack, and must do so before the rain descends.

Stacking bales is like a game of real life tetris, it is training in practical physics. One hundred bales or so is respectable; one hundred twenty-something is the record. Criss-crossed and counter-balanced, the hay is piled high above each vehicle. As the outer limit of stability is reached, rope is thrown about the pile, securing our treasured bales. Itchy and sweaty, the drive home reflects the stacker’s ability – if a bale falls it often means two or three or worse.

Back at the farm, the process begins in reverse. We have various storage buildings – the ox hovel loft, the Open-Sided shed (no-longer so open-sided), the quonset tent, the barn eves, and unused animal houses. The first hay of the season, however, gets the primo spot within the ox hovel loft.

The loading process is facilitated with a human-powered pulley. The loaded hay truck is backed beneath the loft doors. A pulley and ropes are hung from the chain at the loft entrance; a bale is hooked on one end. On the other, is one of us. At a signal from our counterpart, the person on the ground starts running. A thirty or forty foot sprint is usually sufficient to launch the bale up to the loft, where a third member of the hay stacking trio awaits it, unclips the bale, and stacks it neatly. This process repeats itself until, bale by bale, the hay is stored.

With clouds lingering in the sky throughout the day, it is with relief as well as an itchy sort of tiredness, that the last bale is tossed in place. Dry and protected, the first cut is in. We’ll repeat the process as often as we’re able over the next few months, stocking up for the ensuing year.

In the meantime, Henri and August gratefully devour the fine hay that now fills their trough.

as published in North Country News

Monday, June 18, 2012

Changing Lifestyles & Herbal Medicine

This blog was written by recently arrived interns, Sydney and Alex.            

            We’re not sure where to start. Not just with this blog, not just with plant identification or the principles of herbal medicine. We’re not sure where to start with any of it.
            Not that we aren’t eager. We both have loads of enthusiasm, but the more we learn, the more we realize we have a lot more to learn. It’s funny how things work like that.
                For exposition, we arrived at D Acres at the end of April and May, respectively. Although one of us has a month of farm time on the other, we are experiencing the day-to-day here with the same fresh eyes. We have agreed that this transition, from colleges utterly dependent on technology, to rural, backwoods New Hampshire, has been quite a lifestyle change. At first, we were acutely aware of the things we were stripped of: cell service, high-speed internet, grocery stores, and school jeans. After accepting this new way of life, we focus more on what we’ve gained: simplicity.
            These days, all twenty-two hands at D Acres are needed for final bed preparations. We spend our days weeding, mulching, seeding and transplanting garden space after garden space. Our special project, however, is becoming what we like to call “potions masters”. With perhaps naïve fervor, we took on the immense task of familiarizing ourselves with thousands of years of traditional herbal medicine. Over the next few months, the idea is to synthesize this vast realm of knowledge and produce tangible results in the form of tinctures, salves, infusions, and decoctions. Not only is this a field we’ve both had interest in for years, but we get to feel like we’re in Professor Snape’s potions class, whipping up magical remedies for magical maladies.
This afternoon, we went on an herb walk to take stock of the medicinal plants on the property. It was overwhelming. We didn’t even make it to the end of the driveway, truth be known. We found it nearly impossible to move through the garden at anything more than a snail’s pace, because every step brought five new plant species to identify. Still, we feel like we learned something in our short walk. We identified a few of the most basic medicinal herbs, like plantain and valerian. Probably more importantly, we discovered this is not an art that can be learned overnight. It will require years of training to reach proficiency, but we are not working in that kind of time frame. We are not looking to become experts by the time we leave D Acres, but we want to acquire a basic knowledge base of herbal medicine.
With visions of Harry Potter in our heads, we are excited to don our house robes, grab our cauldrons and put into practice everything we will learn.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spring Harvest

When it comes to a discussion of seasonal meals, the following misconceptions are commonly offered up to me. First, it seems that the prevailing image is that the winter season is the most difficult time for people to sustain themselves from the land. The stereotypical winter diet is portrayed in gray, dismal colors, a mix of old and stale root crops with little flavor and starvation rations. Second, the common thought is that the arrival of spring marks instant abundance once again.

Well, let’s consider each. First, with regards to winter meals, let me be the first to say how extraordinarily delicious, varied, filling, colorful, and nourishing a winter diet is. This time of year is essentially what we are working for during the growing season. All our efforts to cultivate and store thousands of pounds of root crops – potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, and parsnips - is rewarded during the off-season. As we ferment, can, and pickle our surplus vegetables throughout the summer, we tuck quart after quart away on basement shelves. The freezer is stocked with meat, and the root cellar fills with eggs.

Winter, you see, offers a delectable selection for the palate.

Why bother saying this now? It is, after all, late in the spring. Because springtime, it must be said, is really the most challenging season. We finish off the last of our stores as we plant the seeds for the coming season.

Abundance must be sought in creative ways.

Here at D Acres we seed lettuces and other greens into greenhouses and coldframes as soon as the soil thaws. These first salads are an incredible burst of freshness that is eagerly devoured meal after meal. In no way, though, do we expect to subsist on greens alone.

And so we turn to perennial crops and “weed” species, some of the first plants to vigorously emerge from the winter slumber. Asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, and rhubarb are favorites, and subtleties of flavor are achieved with the harvesting of ox-eye daisy, dandelion, nettle, and sorrel leaves, not to mention fresh herbs such as chives and oregano. Plants such as fiddleheads, milkweed, and knotweed are also edible if harvested young. The list goes on: possibilities for foraging are significant, even in this region.

To complete a meal with the above selection, however, we continue to rely on eggs from the chickens (they quickly begin to lay more as the day length increases) and meat (pork and chicken) stored in the freezer. We have just finished the last of our potatoes, and are down to a final pint of our dry beans. These staples are the essentials that continue to nourish us as we approach the summer season.

The spring diet offers a burst of freshness, bitters and tarts dominating the palate as we – the people and the plants – awake from the winter. While spring meals can be challenging, the process of harvesting for and preparing a springtime spread is rewarding and appetizing. The spring season certainly demands a keen sense of creativity and inspiration: what can you do with your backyard?

as published in North Country News

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Plants Take to the Field

Last week, we were a team of five. Clad in muddy raingear, hunched against the persistent showers, we willed our chilled hands to continue pulling out the long roots of spring weeds. The garden beds before us were awaiting brassica starts – a morning’s worth of weeding ensured an afternoon’s worth of transplanting.

On this particular morning we were situated in our upper field, across the logging road from our largest hoop house. It wasn’t particularly cold, nor remarkably windy. Nevertheless, the rain was steady and our layers soaked well through despite the mismatched collection of ponchos, jackets, slickers, and rainpants. By midday our hands were stiff and the garden beds threatening to become mudflats. We called an end to the weeding and took lunch. Our morning’s work, in combination with other weed-free beds in our eastern field, would provide enough row footage to spend the afternoon transplanting.

Slightly more active than weeding, transplanting proved more manageable in the rain. Wielding trowels and hori-horis, hundreds of cabbage, broccoli, collards, kale, and kohlrabi went into the ground that afternoon. We were able to keep warm as we moved flat after flat of plants out of our “big coldframe” greenhouse, and smiled to see our collection of starts freed to the open air and fields of dirt. After weeks of careful care, we now had to trust to biology and climatic good fortune. With luck, each plant will grow into the best-case scenario.

To get to this point in the season, however, was the result of much indoor seeding work. Through February and March we seeded thousands of cold-tolerant plants into flats. (Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, collards, chard, and kohlrabi fill our seeding shelves early in the season; warmer crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash come later – contact us if you have questions on seasonal timing!) These were kept under lights in our basement and watered every few days. As seeds germinated, grew sprout leaves, and slowly developed their true leaves, we monitored them closely. As they sized up, we moved flats to our cob animal-house/greenhouse combination building. Here plants were introduced to natural daylight and the temperature fluctuations between day and night. As they began to outgrow their original cells, plants were potted up into 4” pots and shifted to our “big coldframe.” This building has less thermal mass than the cob greenhouse, and thus temperatures fluctuate to a greater degree. Moving plants into this building was another step in the process of accustoming plants to natural conditions. As time and space allowed, we shifted plants outdoors during the day and back inside at night for greater acclimation. Once plants are out in the field, we have prepared them as best we can for the vagaries of our climate.

These cloudy days and re-occurring showers are beneficial despite the wet clothes and cold hands. Both overcast conditions and steady moisture ease the plant’s shock at being in a new environment. When the sun does shine the plants are ready for growth, eased into their garden locale and ready for a healthy season.

Transplanting is an exciting step in the spring gardening process. It represents a turning point between the equinox and solstice, a phase of transition in which gardens shake off their dormancy and suddenly come alive with the colors and vibrancy of a lush season. Spring will lead us to summer in rapid fashion.

as published in North Country News

Thursday, May 17, 2012

D Acres from a Danish point of view

By Katinka Bjerregaard and Pil Jeppesen from Copenhagen

In the winter 2012 we decided to travel to New England to experience the beautiful nature and landscapes as well as the big city atmosphere. We found out about D Acres of New Hampshire on a work exchange website that led us to the farms own website that tells you pretty much everything you need to know. We’re both city kids with no experience in farming so our concerns were if we would be able to contribute with anything. But as it turned out, that wasn’t a problem at all. And also, we figured that it would be a good way to meet local people.

When we first got here we were amazed how quickly we felt at home and we got our own little tree house out in the woods. Now we wake up every morning to the sound of birds singing – nice!

At the first day we got our first mission to complete – the big pile of doom. A big compost pile had been sitting comfortable for too long and now, it’s world needed to be turned upside down. If we turned the pile in less than two weeks, we would get the super human award – challenge accepted! Starting turning the pile we thought: “Gee! Now were in the country!” Now the new pile is gonna be the Danish Legacy!

One of the many good things about D Acres is that they have a hostel with many people visiting from all over the States. There was a Brazilian couple visiting the hostel and they went to climb near by in Rumney. After meeting them, we got to spent Katinka’s birthday climbing rocks for the first time. We were scared like hell but it was really awesome!

On the farm there are lots of different animals. We had the pleasure to meet both Henry and August (the oxen) – they chill a lot. Apart from chickens and ducks we have met all the pigs and the piglets – they’re so cute! But after this Friday’s event we may not be at the top of their list, though. Oh yes, we helped castrating the poor piglets! Luckily, it was just bad for them for about a minut and then they just ran around their own little pig world like nothing had happened. Brave little fellas! For us to get over it, well... It took a while, but it was really interesting to experience.

Of course, we also need to tell you about the food they make here. Everything is from their own organic gardens so the food is really authentic, fresh and good! Yummie! But still, Pil has to confess that she has now officially potatoed out. The potato dishes are really good but one can only eat so much.

What we’re also really amazed about is the rural nature and the beautiful view of the White Mountains.

So all in all, we will leave D Acres with lots of farming experiences such as transplanting, weeding (sigh), turning piles, castrating piglets, getting honey and bread addicted - and last but not least we have had the chance to get to know all the great people who make this sustainable farm a reality.

Thank you so much for this opportunity!

Katinka works at the big pile...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What's on the Menu: Permaculture Weekend II

This time of year can be a challenge in the kitchen, but at D Acres we work with the ingredients of the season. While the garden may be catching up, the weeds are already far ahead, and some of those weeds are exceptionally nutritious. Such early greens like, dandelion, sheep's sorrel, and lamb's quarter are filled with Vitamin C, and qualities that can feel cleansing to the pallate and the digestive system.
This weekend, the Permaculture Design Course filled their bellies with foraged food and the very last vestiges of the root cellar.
Simple Saturday Lunch:
Turnip & White Bean Soup with Basil
Muti-Grain Sourdough Bread
Chive Pesto
Fresh Salad
Early Radish

In the morning, I started the the Glenwood in the Outdoor Kitchen. The day before, I had defrosted a pork shoulder and set of pork ribs to serve for dinner. After a night marinated with a delicious tomato-herb-maple syrup sauce, I set it in a pan to slowly roast in the wood cookstove. Taking advantage of the already hot stove, I decided to cook lunch outdoors.
The Turnip & White Bean soup is simple and delicious. The trick with soup is to let your vegetable cook in the pot prior to adding any water or stalk. Let them sautee with your oil (or butter) of choice, herbs, and a little salt and pepper. The flavors will begin to meld together. After they cook for about 10-15 minutes, then add just enough stock or water to cover the vegetables; let this simmer for a while, again allowing the flavors to begin melding together--imagine simmering a special sauce or gravy. I wanted to use white beans for this soup because the turnips we grew last season are white or a light gold color. I used two types of white beans for this soup, both of which we grew and dried at D Acres: A small white bean called Saturday Night Special, and a large lima bean variety called Limelight. The lima bean was not a successful crop for us for several reason, only yeilding maybe a pound for the 1/4 pound we put in the gound--but tasty nonetheless. The combination of the two different beans turned out to be delicious. The limas cooked to a nice soft and smooth texture, while the tiney white beans we plentiful and added body to the soup. The basil was picked from out greenhouse and added at the end to give the soup a bright green touch and taste.

Decadant Saturday Dinner:
Roasted Pork Shoulder with Special Sauce
Crispy Baked Potato Shreds with Chive
Sauteed Shiitake Mushroom with Collards
Roasted Early Garlic
Fresh Salad

Cooking large pieces of meat can be duanting, but if you get started early enough and have a good working meat thermometer, then the end result will be juicy and tender. Slow cooking meat at low temperatures is ideal, especially if the meat has been marinating in a sauce or brine for over 6-8 hours. The flavors of your special suace will integrate completely. My special sauces are often a concoction of what's in the fridge and maple syrup. This particular suace had homemade tomato puree, homemade salsa, cider vinegar, salt pepper, our D Acres Culinary Herb Blend (oregano, chive, parsley, thyme, sage), and maple syrup.
The potato shred idea stems from potato pancakes. I wanted to make something like a potato pancake without frying them or adding any egg. I simply used a food processor with the grating attachment to shred the potatoes. I then added sunflower oil, salt, pepper and finely chopped chives, layed it out on a sheet pan and baked the potatoes at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. The end result was not exactly what I had hoped for; nevertheless, the diners were delighted by the crispy, slightly salty shreds. And interesting side dish to compliment the meat.
We have logs lining pathways along a couple of forest trails that have been innoculated with Shiitake mushroom spawn. When the weather is just right, they pop out gorgeous mushrooms ready for the picking. After a week of rain, the funghi were ready. The collard greens were grown last year and frozen, ready to cook for any meal. I added only a little salt and pepper to compliment the sweet flavor of the greens.
At garlic harvest last summer, some of the bulbs were missed, so they have resrouted this spring. Pulled out of the ground, the early garlic looks like a very small leek, or a spring onion. This is a simple dish as well (after a little prep cleaning up the garlic bulbs and stems). Toss the garlic with your favorite oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees F. for about 20-30 minutes, until the whole stemm is tender and slightly golden in color.

Sunday Salad Lunch:
Bulgur Salad with Tomato, Spinach & Sheep's Sorrel
Agate Pinto Bean Salad with Mung Bean Sprouts
Potato Salad with Spinach & Tahini Dressing
Egg Salad with Homemade Mustard & Mayonnaise
Leftover Roasted Pork
Chive Pesto
Fresh Salad

Bulgur is wheat that has been steamed, then dried before being crushed into various sized grinds (fine, course). It is full of protein and high in vitamins since it has been minimally processed. I like using bulgur because you do not have to cook over the stove. Simply let it soak in water for at least 2-3 hours before draining and serving. Bulgur is the grain used in making the traditional tabouleh salad of the Mid-Eastern and Mediteranean regions of the world. The salad I created is based on tabouleh which used the combination of olive oil and the juice of lemon. This salad used sunflower oil and the tart lemon flavor came from the Sheep's Sorrel. Sheep's Sorrel is a menace in the garden, spreading by thin rubberband-like runner roots. But it nicely grows in easily harvested patches. The spinach is growing in our greenhouses and added more green color and flavor. I went to the cellar for diced tomatoes, canned in the fall of last year.
I happily incorporated bean protein with pinto beans we grew last year. I cooked the beans with whole cloves of garlic and a Spicy Hungarian Paprika pepper that was dried from last season. This salad was further flavored with a little toasted cumin seed, oil, and salt.
Making homemade mustard and mayonnaise is fun and easy. Using a mortar & pestle, crush mustard seeds (either yellow or brown) and add salt, and vinegar. Mix to a preferred consistency, and there you have mustard. Mayonnaise is best made with fresh eggs and a mild oil. We use sunflower oil at D Acres. A food processor is helpful as well. The trick to mayonnaise is a slight and steady stream of oil into your egg yolk, vinegar, salt mixture while the food processor is running. The oil is whipped fast and combines with the egg yolk to produce a smooth and creamy texture. I like to add a touch of paprika for color and spice. 

All in all is was a delicious weekend. If you would like to know more about these menu items and ingredients, please be in contact. Or join me in the kitchen every Third Thursday of the month for the Cooking with Season Workshop. We gather ingredients and cook dinner, then enjoy the meal together.

Enjoy! Regina

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Creating an Edible Landscape

As our gardens gradually resume their lushness and vibrancy over these spring months, we are busy tending to the many plants, bushes, vines, trees, (and weeds) which fill our acres of edible areas. Our greenhouses are packed with tiny annual seedlings and intrepid starts not quite ready to face the vagaries of weather unprotected, and our orchard zones and perennial beds are thriving with our hardiest of plants. Although our annual plants receive high profile attention, we spend significant springtime hours tending to our perennial stock as well.

While we have finished our spring pruning of established nuts, fruits, and berries, we have been in a flurry of planting new stock these past few weeks: chestnuts, buartnuts, hazelburts, currants, gooseberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries, apples, asian pears, mulberries, quince, rhubarb, and lingonberry fill out our list of recent plantings. We’ve also, however, been busy dividing and transplanting established species.

This is a long and varied inventory. Over the past couple weeks you could find us digging about in patches of chives, walking onion, rattlesnake plaintain, and black locust to name a few. Each year, though, we focus primarily on the following species: comfrey, lupine, ella campagne, valerian, and mullein. These species are hardy and plentiful, and do wonders for our garden system.

There is, of course, the aesthetic element – as each of these plants produce beautiful flowers. The bees appreciate this as much as we do; having such species in abundance promotes healthy habitat for our pollinator species. However it is the underground efforts accomplished by these species that is so important to us. With long taproots, they are able to grow deep into the ground, accessing nutrients that other, shallower rooted plants are unable to reach. Furthermore, the ability of plants such as lupine to fix nitrogen through their root system further enriches our soil chemistry. The vascular system of broad-leafed plants such as comfrey, for example, enhances the ability of the plant to maximize its use of solar energy and available soil nutrition. The result is a plant that is invaluable as animal fodder, a compost additive, and as garden mulch.

Attending to perennial stock in this manner, we are boldly working for the future. While annual plants will provide our short-term calories, perennials represent the long-term viability of our homestead: food production, soil fertility, and pollinator habitat are all provided by these species. Edible food forests are our goal and the drive behind our farmer imaginations. The potential of such an edible, perennial system is immense – for ourselves, for our landscape, for our community, and for future generations.

Want to learn more? D Acres, in conjunction with PSU’s Center for the Environment, PSU’s Common Ground Club, Thomas Roberts Salon (Plymouth, NH), and PAREI, are hosting Dave Jacke, renowned permaculturalist and author of Edible Forest Gardening. To be held at Boyd 144 (PSU Campus), 7pm, on Saturday, May 12, Jacke’s presentation will focus on the principles and processes of edible landscaping. Don’t miss this opportunity! Perennial stock is our insurance for the future.

as published in Northcountry News

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Turning off the Power

Our energy use – in terms of electric kilowatts - is rising. While our solar panels do generate power thanks to sunny days, we’re also drawing power from the grid. Each month I monitor the kilowatt hours used from both sources as a mechanism to understand our seasonal trends and energy dependencies here at D Acres. And this past month surprised me just a bit.

We could pat ourselves on the back and say that, nevertheless, the many residents of D Acres are only using the output typical of an average family. And, yes, there are a myriad of seasonal explanations that make the month of March energy intensive: numerous grow lights, for one example. But both those statements are false comfort. We want to be proactive models.

Consequently, the numbers have sparked personal examination. What are our own habits? Our preferred conveniences? Our energy addictions? And, how do our personal choices intersect with group uses? Ultimately, the quantity of power used or not used here at D Acres is a reflection of our collective body. No one of us can stand apart.

What are we doing about it? For one, our response is that of renewed vigilance. Turning off appliances such as printers and computers when not in use, leaving no lights on if a room is exited, transitioning young plants to greenhouse space as quick as possible. These details reflect our habits; being present for our own reflexive actions is simple to write and more challenging to enact. Conscientiousness is an ongoing process.

In regards to the larger picture of organizational energy uses, our discussions are considering the following energy saving strategies: computer free days? No power during daylight hours? Blackout days?

So here we go. This coming Sunday will be our first “power down” day. With a generator ready to provide water if needed for guests or visitors, we will turn the power off for the daylight hours. No lights, no computers, no shop tools. In what terms will we consider our experience? As an adventure? A burden? An inconvenience? Can we create new habits for ourselves?

This is a modest beginning. With refreshed motivation and each other for continued inspiration, we aspire to restructure our schedules and our expectations. No doubt it will be a process of adaptation, and of evolution – but are these ideas not synonymous with daily revolution? And so we embark on the transformation of our daily minutiae.

as published in North Country News

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ladders & Pruners

Pruning is spring work, a seasonal task that engages us in a flurry of perennial hairdressing. For a few quick weeks each year we are the barbers and tailors of our edible landscape. Pruners in hand, with ladders, loppers, shears, and saws at the ready, we methodically move through our orchards, hedgerows, and gardens. Spring has just begun, and we are busy tending to the many cultivated fruits, nuts, vines, and berries that are the focus of our food forest zones.

Granted, most years we are perched atop crusty snow, working quickly in the cold of a morning to avoid the post-holing challenges of pruning in the mushy slush of a late afternoon. This year, though, is certainly one of ease. With bare ground and mild temperatures, there is no balancing of ladders atop ice, no waiting for the melt to see the raspberries, no snow-covered limbs of low-bush blueberries.

Pruning is one of the first outdoor tasks that we undertake as the gardening season begins each year. As such, it is accompanied by excitement at attending to living plants once more and the fresh-faced glow of days spent outside. After a winter of cold, pruning on a sunny March or April morning can elicit a ready smile.

It is, in a sense, making order out of chaos. The goals of pruning are to encourage plant and tree health, and to maximize production. As such, we are striving to shape the tree with the future in mind, directing the plant to grow into the template we have imagined for it. While many fruit and nut trees will have a central leader followed by aerial branches, smaller berry bushes have a vase-like habit. An effective pruner must be cognizant of the species with which they are working and sculpt accordingly. “Extra” branches and limbs are eliminated to maintain an open form and to foster the arrival of sunlight and air to all aspects of the given plant. Dead branches are cut off, as are suckers and waterspouts.

In all pruning work, clean cuts are a must. Effective pruning comes down to effective tools. Blades must be sharp and function with precise alignment. Cuts that are jagged or torn are slower to heal. To minimize impact on the given bush or tree, cuts should always be made at a joint. Trees, like humans, form scabs; to prevent disease and distress, attention must be made to prune with foresight and care.

Think of yourself as a co-conspirator with your particular plantings. You are part of a partnership, maximizing the potential of your edible landscape. Fruit trees, nut trees, vine fruits, and berry bushes are your legacy to future generations. Steward them well; the work and the reward offer much to enjoy.

as published in North Country News

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Give Something, Get Something

If one were to read the history of my wardrobe, it would be a tale of hand-me-downs and lost-and-found items. It is a habit that is cheap and available. Practicality as a fashion statement is sprung from a preference for manual labor and a penchant for frugality. The abundance of glossy media advertisements provoking over-consumptive cultural patterns does not endear their relentless message to me either. There is a surfeit of clothes in the world, the product of social addictions to new items, a credit card economy, and vanity in personal appearance. In response, the dress code modeled by myself and the crew here at D Acres trends to simplicity, (repetition), and functionality.

Granted, we may represent an acute reaction to general social malaise compounded by a rampant cultural compulsion to shop. I – we – stand by it nevertheless. And this coming weekend, we offer you an opportunity to “shop” in a neighborhood way. March 31st and April 1st D Acres will be holding its annual Clothing Swap 10am-4pm.

This is an opportunity to both give something and get something. Have used clothing items that you, your family, or your friends will make use of no longer? Bring it here! Please don’t throw out apparel, please don’t stuff another landfill with useable goods – fill the tables at The D Acres Garage Mall and offer it to the public. By the same token, if you’re in need (or yes, in want) of some new items, swing on by! Someone else may have dropped off the very piece for which you are searching. There is no charge to drop off nor to pick-up; anything leftover at the end of the weekend will be brought to the Plymouth Community Closet Thrift Store.

So what’s the advantage to the D Acres Mall, open one weekend per year? Well, this clothing swap event provides the opportunity to extend the life of clothing items that would otherwise be trashed, recycled, or shipped overseas. It provides consumers with the option of items they need without fostering an economic dependency on sweatshop labor and distant resource extraction. And it’s free!

We are attempting to redirect the wealth of objects we each possess to benefit our community and replace the dominant social pattern of buying new and trashing barely used. Too, we are criticizing allegiances to brands, decrying the cultural need for new, and disparaging our cultural compulsion for consumption. And we’d like you to join us.

We’re offering a simple and practical start – come by the farm for the annual clothing swap March 31st -April 1st, 10am-4pm. Begin by redefining your understanding of need, want, consumption, and satisfaction. How, really, do you want to occupy your time, your mind, and your money?

as published in North Country News

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bread & Yogurt: A Tutorial for Beginners and Aficionados

In response to the success of our joint Bread Baking and Yogurt Making workshop last week, Scott and I have developed the following step-by-step instructions for preparing these staple foods. Not only will the newfound skills allow for greater culinary sovereignty and gustatory delight, but they provide the opportunity to share the knowledge and nutrition with family, friends, and neighbors. Enjoy!


D Acres’ Bread Recipe

This bread baking recipe is adapted from “Tartine Bread” which is a fantastic book. Here is a link to the book:​1-9780811870412-0

For this recipe, you will need the following tools – a digital scale, a large mixing bowl, a rubber spatula, a dough spatula, and a bench knife. For baking it would also be good to have a dutch oven or another oven-proof pot with a tight fitting lid.

Making this kind of bread requires three basic steps – first, you need to create a starter. Second, you manage the yeast and bacteria in the starter and third, you create the dough, shape it and bake it into a loaf of bread.

Making the Starter

Making the starter beings with making the culture. The culture is created when flour and water are combined and the wild yeast and bacteria that is present in the flour and the air begins to ferment. In order to make the starter, mix together 100 grams of white bread flour and 100 grams of whole wheat bread flour. Then combine the flour mixture with 200 grams of warm water and mix together with your hand until you have a thick, lump free batter. Then cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest in a cool, dark place until bubbles form around the sides and on the surface, about 2-3 days. A dark crust may form over the top. Once bubbles form, it is time for the first feeding.

To feed the starter, discard about 80 percent of it and replace with equal amounts of water (40%) and a 50/50 white/wheat flour mixture (40%). Mix it together, using your hands, until themixture is the consistency of a thick, lump-free batter. Repeat every 24 hours at roughly the same time of day for 2 or 3 days. Once it ferments predictably (rises and falls throughout the day after feedings), it's time to make the leaven.

Making the Leaven

When preparing to make the dough, it is best to use weight measurements. The night before you plan to make the dough, discard all but 1 tablespoon of the matured starter. Feed it with 200 grams of the wheat-white flour mixture and 200 grams of water. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest in a cool place for 8 -12 hours. By morning, the leaven will be aerated by the wild yeast activity and the volume will have increased by 20 percent.

Making the Dough

Gather the following ingredients for mixing the dough:




Water (around 80 degrees)

700 grams plus 50 grams



200 grams


Total Flour

1,000 grams


White Flour

900 grams


Whole Wheat Flour

100 grams



20 grams


It is best to think about bread baking in terms of weights and percentages. The flour, no matter what quantity is used, is the constant 100 percent against which all other ingredients are weighted and considered.

When you have gathering the ingredients together, pour 200 grams of the leaven into a large mixing bowl and add 700 grams lukewarm water - about 80 degrees. (The water should feel cool to the touch because our body temperature is 98.6 degrees.) Stir with your hand to disperse the leaven.

(Save your leftover leaven; it is now the beginning of a new starter. To keep it alive to make future loaves, do one feeding of flour and water and keep the starter in your refrigerator until you are ready to bake again.)

After you have dispersed the leaven, add 1,000 grams of flour – 900 grams of white flour and 100 grams of wheat flour – to the mixture. Mix the dough with your hands until no bits of dry flour remain. Let rest in a cool place for 35 – 40 minutes. Then add 20 grams of salt and remaining 50 grams warm water and incorporate them into the dough. Work the salt and the water into the dough with your fingers to incorporate.

Transfer the dough to a clean plastic container or a glass bowl. Cover it with kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes. The dough will now begin its first rise or bulk fermentation where it develops its flavor and strength. The rise is temperature sensitive; as a rule, warmer dough ferments faster. Ideally, the temperature should be around 80 degrees to accomplish the bulk fermentation in 3 to 4 hours. If your room temperature is cooler, you can put your dough in your oven next to a pot of boiling water. This will raise the ambient temperature of your oven.

Instead of kneading, you can strengthen the dough through a series of "folds" in the container during bulk fermentation. You should fold the dough every 30 minutes for the first two and a half hours. To do a fold, dip your hand in water to prevent sticking. Grab the underside of the dough, stretch it up, and fold it forward over itself. Rotate the container one-quarter turn, and repeat. Do this 2 or 3 times for each fold. After the 3 hours, the dough should feel aerated and softer, and you will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in volume. If not, continue the bulk fermentation for 30 minutes to 1 hour more.

When the bulk fermentation is complete, pull the dough out of the container using a dough spatula onto an un-floured surface. Lightly dust the dough with flour and cut it into 2 pieces using the bench knife. You want to incorporate as little flour as possible into the dough. Using your hands and the bench knife as needed, work the dough into a round shape. Tension will build as the dough slightly anchors to your table surface as you rotate it. By the end, the dough should have a taut, smooth surface.

After this first shaping, let both rounds rest on the work surface for 20-30 minutes. During this period, the dough will relax into the shape of the thick pancake.

Dust tops of rounds with flour, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest on the work surface for 20 to 30 minutes.

Slip the dough scraper under each to lift it, being careful to maintain the round shape. Flip rounds floured side down. The final shaping involves a series of folds. Each fold builds tension inside the loaf so that it holds its form and will rise significantly during baking. It’s a bit difficult to explain how to do this but I’ve found a video of it being done by the author of Tartine Bread. The baker does it quite fast so you’ll have to watch it several times but here is the link:​v=cIIjV6s-0cA

In a small bowl, make a 50/50 mixture of rice flour and whole-wheat flour. Line two medium baskets or bowls with clean kitchen towels and generously dust them with the flour mixture. Using the bench knife, transfer each round to a basket, smooth side down, with seam centered and facing up. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 2-4 hours before baking.*

Baking the Bread

Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake the bread, place a dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. The oven rack should be in the lowest position.

While the oven is pre-heating, gather the tools you will need for baking – heavy oven mitts, rice four or corn meal and a razor blade to score the top of each loaf before baking.

Dust the surface of one of the loaves in the basket with rice flour. When the oven reaches 500 degrees, put on the oven mitts and carefully remove the pot or dutch-oven and place it on top of the stove and remove the lid. Use caution when handling the pot – it is 500 degrees and you can easily burn your hands.

Carefully inverting the bowl or basket, turn the loaf into the heated pot. Score the top twice using a razor blade. Cover the pot with the lid. Return it to oven, and reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes.

Carefully remove lid (a cloud of steam will be released). The loaf should have risen significantly but the color should be pale and shiny. Continue to bake the loaf until it reaches a golden brown color – about 20 -25 minutes.

Transfer loaf to a wire rack or lean the loaf on its side so that air can circulate around the bottom. The loaf should feel light and sound hollow when tapped. Let it cool.

To bake the second loaf, raise the oven temperature to back to 500 degrees, return the dutch oven or pot to the oven and reheat it with the lid on for 10 minutes and repeat the baking process.

*The entire process from start to finish takes 8-10 hours. For many of you, setting aside this amount of time for bread baking will be a challenge. So here is a suggested schedule that might makes things easier. Mix the leaven on Friday morning before you go to work. When you get home from work, you can do the bulk fermentation and shaping and be finished by around 9:30 or 10 PM. You can then delay the final rise by placing the dough, in the baskets or bowls, in the refrigerator overnight – for 8 to 12 hours. The cool environment slows, but does not stop, the fermentation. After 8 to 12 hours, the bread develops more complex flavors and gives you, in my view, a better final product. First thing on Saturday morning, heat your oven to 500 degrees and do the baking then. That way, you will have fresh baked bread on Saturday morning and it won’t cut too much into your day.

Like anything else, it takes a little while to get the hang of this. If you have any questions or run into any trouble, please feel free to give me a call at 786-2366.

Good luck!




1. Obtain a starter culture. This can be yogurt from a previous batch or good quality, plain yogurt (preferably local and grass-fed) bought from the store.

2. Pour milk into a pot and heat GENTLY on low flame to 180ºF.

Monitor with a candy thermometer and stir often to avoid scalding or boiling. This may take 20-40 minutes depending on the quantity of milk, so remember to check back frequently!

3. At 180ºF, remove from heat and let cool to 110ºF.

4. Here's the ratio of starter culture to milk:

For every ONE QUART of milk, stir in ONE TABLESPOON of yogurt starter.

Adding more starter will counterintuitively result in a runny yogurt, so less is more in this case. To obtain a thicker, tangier yogurt, you can add only ½ tablespoon instead of 1.

5. After incorporating the starter, pour the milk back into a jar, cap, wrap with a towel to insulate, and place in a warm spot for 8-10 hours. Ideally and if possible, store the jar in an enclosed space (e.g., a cooler, hot box, or an oven with the pilot light turned on) to give the lactobacilli in the starter a consistently warm, insulated environment to proliferate.

6. After 8-10 hours, check on your yogurt. If the consistency, flavor, or texture is less than ideal, don't worry! There are many factors that take time to fine tune and adjust according to your preferences and the environment in which you're making the yogurt. The process is one of trial and error-you can follow the directions meticulously yet still obtain an undesirable outcome. The two most important elements to a successful yogurt are an active starter culture and temperature; consider these two factors when troubleshooting.

The yogurt is still edible even if did not amount to what you were expecting. Use it in soups, cereal, or chilled as a smoothie-it still contains the pro-biotic content of yogurt, but the microorganisms of the yogurt were outcompeted by those pre-existing in the milk, creating a thin consistency (this is why LESS starter is best!)

7. Refrigerate the yogurt and enjoy! It will keep for 1-2 weeks. If you're satisfied with the finished product, be sure to save a few tablespoons as starter for your next batch!


Contrary to popular belief, soured milk can be used to create a multitude of traditional dairy products. To make cottage cheese:

1. Leave soured milk at room temperature with a loosely fitted cap for

1-3 days, or until the solids, or curds (think Little Miss Muffet!) separates from the liquid, or whey.

2. After 1-3 days, strain the milk through cheesecloth (you can affix it with a rubber band or string around a pot) or a fine sieve for 8-10 hours, until most of the whey has been filtered.

3. Scoop out the curds and add honey, salt or dried herbs for flavor.

The whey is very rich in protein and can be used in cooking, lacto-fermenting vegetables and fruits, soaking grains and nuts, or drinking plain for a nutritious boost of enzymes, vitamins, and pro-biotics.


For more information, including a variety of recipes and the benefits of raw milk, visit​rawmilkoverview.html​faq/faq-dairy

or pick up a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.


Clare Eckert & Chris Woods

157 Fairgrounds Rd, Plymouth


Pretty Good Farm

Bill Kenney

63 Easton Valley Rd, Easton


Walker Farm

Chester Walker Jr.

2760 Smith River Rd, Bristol


Brookford Farm

250 West Road

Canterbury, NH 03224


Battles Farm ​ ​

Ed Erickson

328 Center Rd

Bradford, NH 03221

(603) 938-5668

Berway Farm and Creamery

Shirley Tullar

560 River Road

Lyme, NH 03768

(603) 353-9025/(802) 249-6107

Boggy Meadow Farm

Stan Richmond

13 Boggy Meadow Ln

Walpole, NH 03608

(603) 756-3300 f-(603) 756-9645

Bunten Farmhouse Kitchen

Bruce or Christine Balch

1322 NH Rt 10

Orford, NH 03777

(603) 353-9252/(603) 353-9066

Mack Hill Farm

Lisa Richards

35 Mack Hill Rd

Marlow, NH 03456

(603) 446-6261

Many Summers Farm

Heather Gallagher

112 Paget Rd.

Cornish, NH 03745

(603) 675-2200


On the River Farm

Kathy Barrett

91 River Rd

Lyme, NH 03768

(603) 795-2491

Robie Farm

Lee, Betty Sue and Mark Robie

25 Route 10

Piermont, NH 03779

(603) 272-4872

Stonewall Farm

Lindsay Taflas

242 Chesterfield Rd

Keene, NH 03431

(603) 357-7278

For additional farms supplying milk (including goat & sheep) throughout NH, visit​html#nh or

Best of luck! Any questions and/or troubleshooting inquiries are welcome; email or call 786-2366.