Jun 132017

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

This week, late spring gave us day after cloudy day perfect for working in the garden to transplant all that potential food when the bright sun and the wind wouldn’t stress out tiny seedlings.  The whole family had descended on the garden last week, five of us working for hours together to wage our annual witchgrass battle, free the asparagus, liberate the garlic, prepare for squashes and strawberries, potatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes.  Ahhh…tomatoes!    This week holds promise for hotter, sunnier days better suited to placing seeds in the warming soil, tiny packages of dormant life just waiting for activation.

Last Monday, just after evening milking–strangely, this is often when babies tend to arrive on the farm–Dewdrop kidded.  Phil and Ben called Carolyn and me up to our neighbor’s fields above our farm to ‘help them with the goats.’  With no signal from Phil of urgency or emergency, Carolyn and I headed north, strolling, really, up to the field, and…wondering.  With what could they possibly need our help?  Then, we saw.  Dewdrop’s tail was bright red, flagging in the waning light of day. And beside her lay two small, wet dark goatlings.  Dark, save for white markings on their heads–both have some sign of Dewdrop herself, with white patches on top or just below their foreheads.  Dewdrop had one doe and one buckling, both so tiny and soft as only newborns are.  Almost a week old, they are beginning to bounce that vertical kid bounce, running sideways just as often as forward, nursing, sleeping, nestled in grasses taller than they are, dwarfed by the growing blueberry plants in the fields.  Remarkably, though they have been Quill’s Endians for almost one full week already, neither has yet been named.  The doe seems quite intrepid, lowering her head to challenge the older goats within the first hour of being born.  The wee buck seems happiest when napping, is cuddlier, and all around slower to rise and follow than his sister.  They make a sweet pair.

While we tend the farm, I am also attuned to carefully tending food sovereignty over the finish line in Augusta.  Last week held a unanimous 35-0 enactment vote by the Senate, a curious development, as there isn’t usually a ‘roll-call vote’ on enacting a bill that has already been voted on (engrossed) earlier.  But, we certainly wouldn’t have expected a UNANIMOUS vote at this point.  Yet, there it was.  The bill is NOW on the governor’s desk awaiting action.  He can do 3 things: sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow it to become law without his signature after a period of 10 days.  He has indicated that he would veto the bill, has indicated later that he would sign it, and, after a meeting with our closest legislative ally, Rep. Hickman, that he would reconsider his intent to veto.  The governor also said he has only heard from a few of us about LD 725 An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems.  This is the week when taking the easiest step may also prove the most effective.  Flooding the governor’s phone line with calls encouraging him simply to sign LD 725 are just what’s needed now.  Dozens of calls will produce dozens of slips of paper on his desk at JUST the moment in time when he is considering what to do with the bill.    You can call his office at 287-3531 and leave a brief message with your name, your town and that you’d like him to sign LD 725 ( http://www.maine.gov/governor/lepage/citizen_services/index.shtml). If you have more words to share on why local control is essential to the vibrancy and health of our local food systems, you can also email him a brief letter this week at governoratmainedotgov  (governoratmainedotgov)   and copy his agricultural senior policy advisor: Lancedotlibbyatmainedotgov  (Lancedotlibbyatmainedotgov)   .  At this point, the more of us he hears from, the better!


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.

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