May 152017

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Hatch Gagne, Director

The Agricultural Committee has been busy this spring.  Following the Agricultural Legislative Luncheon, the committee has judged Agricultural Scholarship applications and applicants are being notified by June 1, 2017.   We have finalized information and criteria for the Grange Exhibits at the 2017 Agricultural Fairs and letters to our Grange judges is being sent out momentarily.  Criteria for the Grange Educational Exhibits have been completed and will be posted online.  If you need a hardcopy please contact the State Grange Headquarters.

We are now working on arrangements for the Agricultural Luncheon at the State Grange Conference in October.  Once a speaker has been confirmed I will be sharing the information out to all.  Please plan to attend this luncheon we are pleased to have this opportunity to offer an Agricultural Luncheon again in conjunction with the State Grange Conference.

We are looking for donations to use in our silent auction to support our Grange Agricultural scholarship. Anyone who has items to donate please contact me so I can arrange for pick up.  Thank you!

Hope your month of May brings sunshine and warm soil and garden plants!

May 142017

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

This week passed again in a soggy mist. When the skies cleared periodically, we worked at spring things. Phil and Carolyn and Ben worked at training the piglets to electric fence. We raise them in the woods as it’s just the best place for them to root and revel and run and croodle and do all things expressing their full pigness. But… first, comes the sometimes difficult task of fence training. When they come to us, they are little and sweet and aww-shucks piggledy cute. They are not yet at all cognizant of any kind of boundary. Up until last year, we had a fairly reliable pig training method. We stayed close. We observed. We fetched them out when they hit the fence. We made sure they didn’t get tangled. We made sure they went backward and not forward. They learned to avoid the fence and we knew they’d be safe and sound in the woods.

But, last year, there were long hours of pig chases in the woods. Long, tense hours. So, this year, extra precautions were taken–visible, physical barriers were added to the offset electrical one inside a smallish training paddock. The day to train them came when the sun shone again. I was out of commission for the day, so the brave three headed to the woods, fairly confident, hopeful leastwise, that the new and improved system would return us to our happier pig training days of yore. At day’s end, the pigs would be trained and we could work on getting the barned and cooped up animals turned out. Phhht. Carolyn returned from the training session exclaiming that these piglets are just crazy. Phil concurred–they ran kamikaze style right into the electric fence, two squeezed through the hog panel (so named presumably because it’s effective at fencing pigs!) and out into the woods. Thankfully, they wanted to return to the safe and sound hut-home Phil set up for them with some herding help from the pig crew trio.  But, with rain coming, the crazed pigs would have to be trained on a different day. There were fences to tighten up, water lines to run and check for leaks. This week, the cows would be turned out, never mind the pigs just yet. For now, they could cozy up in their piglet hut until another day.

Two days of mostly dry skies gave Phil time to mend fences and water lines in anticipation of Friday turnout day. Running water that won’t freeze in hoses and lines means we’re not dragging hoses and buckets to animals. Ahhh. Cows on pasture means so much less shoveling. Cows out of the barn means winter is finally over. Release. Relief. Contentment for farmers and cows for the growing season to come. This part of the work week went smoothly and come Friday, the dairy mavens were released from barn and dry hay to green pastures in the fresh, albeit moist, air again. Winter’s not really over ’til turnout day. When the cows go back out onto pasture, a little corner of the heart goes galloping along with them. Udders swingin’, heels kicking up, heads rubbing the good green earth again, the cows just let go of all the weight of long winter. They kick it up, they thrash it out, they test each other again. Our settled dairy queens act crazed and spring-feverish for a few short moments, but once a year.

Then, there was the duck. The determined duck. Last year, she had a habit, a way of getting up into the hayloft without, naturally, climbing all those stairs. There’s a good deal of loose hay in the loft at any given time and it makes a very desirable, quiet, out of the way, nesting spot for any fowl so inclined. IF said fowl can get up there. Last year, one duck would stand on the partially built shed beam at just the right distance of rise over run, well, rise over fly, to work her way up to flying through an open window. However, you might remember that Phil has done a substantial amount of work on the barn since last fall. Her old launch pad has been enclosed into a bonafide shed closing off her access to that window opening. Mid-week, I came out for morning tending to find her perched on the deck railing, looking longingly at the new hay loft opening. The rise looked too steep to me, but I was curious to know what she’d do. I went about my usual rounds. Next time I passed by, she had given up the deck railing approach and moved to perch on the upturned garden cart in the new shed that gave her access to the old windows. Only that was really a steep rise. I couldn’t imagine she could quite get into flight in that short, steep space. But, I was curious to know what she’d do. Next time I passed by, she’d moved over against the wall in the new shed up onto two hay bales stacked on top of one another that were, more or less, where the old beam had been. The rise looked about right from there. How she made me smile. From there, I could guess just what she’d do. Next time I passed by, she must’ve done it, because she wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Oh, such duck-ed determination!  I haven’t yet checked, but I’d bet a few dollars that she’s found herself a nesting spot up in the hayloft again.

Whether piglets, cows, or the good old duck, these critters are teaching all sorts of lessons at the Quill’s End Farm School this week. I know I’m taking them forward into the next season. Hope you can as well.


Heather and Phil Retberg together with their three children run Quill’s End Farm, a 105-acre property in Penobscot that they bought in 2004. They use rotational grazing on their fifteen open acres and are renovating thirty more acres from woods to pasture to increase grazing for their pigs, grass-fed cattle, lambs, laying hens, and goats. Heather is Master of Halcyon Grange #345 and writes a newsletter for their farm’s buying clubs for farmers in her area and has generously given us permission to share some of her columns with Grangers throughout the state.

Grange members are invited to submit guest columns to Views from the Farm for consideration by emailing the webmaster. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in contributed articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Grange.

May 102017

The following invitation has been issued by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.


Please provide proper attribution when using material.

Don’t miss your chance to participate in the 28th Anniversary of Open Farm Day scheduled on Sunday, July 23, 2017! We are looking forward to this opportunity to promote Maine’s diverse agricultural community.


Open Farm Day is the perfect way to connect with neighbors, your town, interested visitors and tourists and teach them about how their food and fiber is produced. Many who attend bring children to learn and connect with local farms. If you would like to participate, please sign up online at this link and complete the online form. Please mail or email a copy of your Certificate of Insurance, to:

Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, ATTN: Open Farm Day, 28 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0028 Or Fax: (207) 287-7548.

The completed form and certificate of insurance must be received NO LATER than Friday, May 19th. If we do not receive your materials by this date, your farm will not be listed in the promotional materials used to showcase this event. Farms that do not provide a Certificate of Insurance are not eligible to participate.

All new participants who meet the requirements and deadline for promotions will receive an official Open Farm Day Participant flag, while supplies last, to help promote your involvement in this annual event. Other promotions for this year’s event will include press releases, website promotions, posters and inclusion in a supplemental newsletter listing all the participating farms. The supplement will be distributed to all tourism information centers throughout the State of Maine and will be inserted in daily newspapers throughout the state prior to this event.

Again, please put Sunday, July 23rd on your calendar and plan to join us for the 28th Anniversary of Open Farm Day! We look forward to working with you on this exciting and worthwhile event. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry at (207) 287-7620 or samanthadothowardatmainedotgov  (samanthadothowardatmainedotgov)  .

May 092017

by Glenys Ryder
Vice President of the Educational Aid Fund

On behalf of the MSG Educational Aid and the Howe’s Nurses Scholarship Fund, I am issuing a plea for your support.  This goes out to non-members, as well as to members of the Grange.

The cost of a college education is increasing each year, and our funds to help these young people are limited.  Any donation, however small it may be, made by individuals, Granges, or any other organization would be so appreciated!  You do not need to be a Granger in order to donate to this worthy cause.

There are many creative ways that a Grange can use to raise money, such as a supper, a raffle, or a program.  Think outside the box!  Come up with an activity that would be lots of fun for those participating as well as would raise the funds for some young person’s dream to come true.

Last year, the Maine State Grange was able to award ten $500 scholarships to ten deserving students.  With your generous donations, perhaps we can do even more this year.

Please send your donations to J. Patrick Elwell, Secretary/Treasurer, Educational Aid Fund, 136 Quaker Lane, Smithfield, ME 04978.

Thank you for doing your part in helping young adults, who will be our leaders of the future.

Apr 282017

Webmaster’s Note:  The following article is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter published by Paul Davis, State Senator for District 4, reprinted with permission. 

Next week dozens of family-owned greenhouses and nurseries will kick off this year’s growing season with special events for Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day on Saturday, May 6. Festivities planned for the day include demonstrations, workshops, personal tours, expert speakers, refreshments, giveaways, door prizes, raffles, container-planting demonstrations, and plants and balloons for children. Participating facilities will also share gardening expertise, tips and information on plant varieties and garden design.  For more information about Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day, go to:


Apr 182017

Heather Retberg,
Ag Ed Committee Director

Click to view larger image.

Even though you haven’t heard much about us yet, I’d thought I’d offer some examples of the kind of programming Granges can offer to promote Agricultural Education. This upcoming event might be of interest to share outside of our home community as an example of what our newly formed committee might be interested in at the state level. This event makes me so happy to host as we aren’t even organizing it, but a few of the local garden clubs reached out to us (I think through one of our member’s “cross-pollinating”) to see if we’d like to be involved.  YES!

We’re also having our last farmer-homesteader potluck of the season on the April 22 and will have a short talk about our newly built CoolBot that we’ve constructed to add another component to our community food security network and augment our shared-use kitchen space with food storage!!

All you need to create a DIY walk-in cooler is a well-insulated room, a CoolBot, and a standard window or mini-split air conditioner with digital controls. The CoolBot works with several major brands of air conditioners. One source of additional information is

Farmer-Homesteader Potluck w/CoolBot Talk at Halcyon Grange

April 22, 2017  Talk at 5:00 p.m.  Supper at 5:30 p.m.

Our last farmer-homesteader potluck of winter is coming up this weekend.  If you raise food for your community, for your family, for friends & neighbors, OR…if you just like to be around people who grow food, you’re invited to join us at Halcyon Grange for a potluck.  Bring a dish to share, a food growing tip, your best farm story, planting tips, or tales of animal husbandry.  We’re breaking bread and nourishing each other before we run headlong into another growing season.  At this month’s potluck, we’ll be showcasing our new CoolBot completed with a grant from Maine Farmland Trust’s Community Food Grant.  We’ll share how we did it, pass along what we learned and head down cellar to have a look at the finished space for food storage.  Family friendly event.  All welcome.  Free.

Halcyon Grange is located at 1157 Pleasant St., North Blue Hill, Maine

Apr 142017

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Hatch Gagne, Director

March was a challenging month as winter was clearly still here in Maine.  The snow is finally melting and we have had some delightfully warm weather these past few days.  Time to be getting ready for gardens (I still have snow on my garden though).  The Agricultural Committee was busy gathering Maine-made items for our scholarship basket and preparing for the agricultural luncheon for the State Legislators.  Special thanks to Agnes and Bob for heading up the food preparation, Sharon and Jim for purchasing what was not donated.  A special thank you to those who donated food for this annual event: UMaine/High Moor Farms donated apples; Maine Blueberry Commission donated placemats, magnets and Wyman’s blueberries; and the True North Salmon Company donated the salmon.

Thank you to all state officers and directors who made and delivered fudge for our statehouse table and pies for the agricultural luncheon.  A special thanks to Chef Heidi Parent, Director of the Culinary Arts Department for the Capital Area Technical Center and her students from the culinary program as they prepared all the salmon for lunch.

Currently, I am completing a score sheet for State Grange Educational Exhibits and will be contacting Grange members who have been willing to judge our Grange Exhibits at our Maine Agriculture Fairs.  The Agricultural Committee will be judging Agricultural Scholarships next month and gearing up for High School graduation and celebrating our scholarship recipients.

The Maine Agricultural Fair Season will be upon us soon, I encourage our Granges to plan to set up one Grange Exhibit at your local Agricultural Fair.  Let’s make our presence visible in our communities.  If you are unsure how to make the connection with your local fair you can look online or call me and I am very willing to assist you through this process.

The Agricultural Committee is also working on providing an agricultural luncheon and speaker during our State Grange Convention in October.  There will be more to come in the near future.

I welcome any questions or suggestions!  Call me at 207-592-6980, email Karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu  (Karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu)   or text me.

Apr 132017

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

This week, Zander and I headed out into the world beyond the farm, to the realms of college visits and highway travel. We left the pine tree state, still frozen and cold, and found much of the same next door in the granite state, but snowdrops peeked up out of the ground in New Hampshire, where snow pack was still deep in places and winter holding on tightly. Then we went up, up, up into the Green Mountains, still covered by snow and blowing and sleeting as we drove up and over. As we came down out of the mountains, we were in a land where spring had really begun–the grass was green, some farms had cows out on the pasture again, the waters were open and rivers running hard, though the air was still cold.  We left those mountains yesterday afternoon, holding so much information about college programs, student life, possibility, and potential. We held it as we drove, and gathered still more to hold–mountains of skeletal trees and white snows, rushing waters of winter letting go, red, painted covered bridges. There was so much to take in over such a short amount of time.

What a joyful surprise we had on arrival back at the farm so close to midnight on (another) birthday eve, to see that our small farm pond was released from ice and snow. There was a small choral group nearby–woodcocks chittering and peenting, too, but also a sound that seemed most congenial. The conversations of spring have begun. Carolyn reports that today’s sunshine brought out the daffodils around the farm. After holding and holding, listening, engaging, and…preparing, arriving home to this beautiful release was a welcome thing. Birdsong in the morning is becoming normal again, an eagle and two eaglets have taken to flying (practice?) over the farm, the kildeer returned this week, and a pair of woodcocks bobbled about under the maple trees, grubbing. Life returns.

Thoughts of life and water and food advocacy merge together as the public hearing on LD 725 An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems, takes place tomorrow morning in Augusta.  I’ve included our fact sheet on the bill.* If any of you would still like to submit written testimony and are looking for more info, please do. You can borrow freely from the paragraphs provided to help answer three essential questions for legislators: what does LD 725 do, why is it necessary and why is it beneficial.

Thankfully, for all of us, while Zander and I went college visiting, Phil made fresh batches of vanilla Greek yogurt, plain Greek yogurt, and Farmstead cheese.

Today, we celebrated Zander’s birthday and pulled out the ‘Best Birthday Cheesecake’ recipe again. What a silky, delicious use of eggs, yogurt, and cheese. Then, just because gilding the lily is somebirthdaytimes a nice thing to do, we topped the best cheesecake with Ruth & Nicolas’ blueberries and white chocolate curls. A good start to #19 and, a boost for some of his first big decisions to come.

*Webmaster’s Note: You may view the 2015 Maine State Grange Resolution and 2016 Maine State Grange Resolution that relate to these issues by clicking the links or visiting the Program Books and Information Page. There is also a “Fact Sheet” regarding LD 725–in the new “Agriculture Education” section of the page!


Heather and Phil Retberg together with their three children run Quill’s End Farm, a 105-acre property in Penobscot that they bought in 2004. They use rotational grazing on their fifteen open acres and are renovating thirty more acres from woods to pasture to increase grazing for their pigs, grass-fed cattle, lambs, laying hens, and goats. Heather is Master of Halcyon Grange #345 and writes a newsletter for their farm’s buying clubs for farmers in her area and has generously given us permission to share some of her columns with Grangers throughout the state.

Grange members are invited to submit guest columns to Views from the Farm for consideration by emailing the webmaster. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in contributed articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Grange.

Apr 042017

Public Hearings have been scheduled for two bills supported by Maine State Grange Resolutions passed in 2015 and 2016:

The public hearing for LD 725 will be on April 10, Monday, at 10 am in Room 214 of the Cross Office Building (right across from state house). LD 725 is An Act To Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems.

The public hearing for LD 835 An Act to Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers will be the same week on April 13th, Thursday, at 1 pm also in Room 214 of Cross Office Building.

Grangers who would like their voices heard are encouraged to attend these hearings and offer testimony! For additional information and assistance, you may contact Heather Retberg  (quillsendfarmatgmaildotcom)  , Master of Halcyon Grange.

Apr 042017

Webmaster’s Note:  The following article is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter published by Paul Stearns, State Representative for District 119, reprinted with permission. 

The Maine Senior FarmShare Program entitles eligible seniors to receive a FarmShare, $50 worth, of first-quality, fresh local produce from a Maine farm for a core eight-week period during the growing season.  Seniors sign up directly with a participating farmer each year in April.

Different farms participating in the Senior FarmShare Program offer different types of fruits and vegetables.  You should check with the farmer before signing up to be sure a farm’s offerings will meet your needs.  The fruits and vegetables will be available at different times during the growing season.

To learn more about this Program, please click here.  If you are uncertain about your eligibility to participate, you should contact your Area Agency on Aging by calling the ELDERS-1 toll-free number at 1-877-353-3771.