Oct 132017
 

karen-gagne-web
Thank you to all the Granges and Grange members who set up Grange Exhibits at our Maine Agricultural Fairs.  The displays looked professional and they tell a story of who we are.  Congratulations to all!  Here is the list of Fairs, Granges and placing I have received back by fair.   And a very special thank you to all Grange members who judged Grange Exhibits this year.  I look forward to tweaking criteria and working with judges to provide consistent judging in 2018.

Waterford Fair:

Agricultural Exhibit: Waterford Grange, 1st

Pittston Fair:

Combined Exhibit: Enterprise Grange # 48, 1st, Huntoon Hill Grange #398, 2nd

Monmouth Fair:

Combined Exhibit: Winthrop Grange, 1st, Enterprise Grange, 2nd

Topsham Fair:

Combined Exhibit: Waterford Grange, 1st, Enterprise Grange, 2nd

Union Fair:

Combined Exhibit: Evening Star Grange, 1st, Medomak Grange, 2nd, Union Harvest Grange, 3rd

Windsor Fair:

Combined Exhibit: Evening Star Grange, 1st, Enterprise Grange, 2nd, Branch Mills Grange, 3rd, Vassalboro Grange, 4th

Blue Hill Fair:

Combined Exhibit: Castine Grange, 1st, Arbutus Grange, 2nd, Verona Grange, 3rd, Schoodic Grange, 4th

Oxford County Fair:

Agricultural Exhibits: West Minot Grange #42, 1st, Danville Junction Grange #65, 2nd, Waterford Grange #479, 3rd, Rumford Grange # 115, 4th

Domestic Exhibits:    Danville Junction Grange # 65, 1st, West Minot Grange #42, 2nd, Waterford Grange # 479, 3rd, Rumford Grange # 115, 4th

Franklin County Fair:

Agricultural Exhibits: Farmington Grange, 1st, Chesterville Grange, 2nd, North Jay Grange, 3rd, Wilson Grange, 4th

Domestic Exhibits: Chesterville Grange, 1st, Mill Stream Grange, 2nd

Cumberland County Fair:

Combined Exhibits: Danville Junction Grange #65,1st, Mt Etna Grange #147, 2nd, Highland Lake Grange #87, 3rd

Oct 092017
 

Heather

Sometime mid-week, the changing colors of the leaves went from drought-stressed, washed out reds and oranges to bright, flaming scarlets and green-yellows reminiscent of springtime. Overnight, the harsh edges of the dry summer and fall appeared to soften, to warm, and to relax once again.

Phil and Ben brought Teeter and Leona, along with Fred, the bull,  up from the lower ‘dry cow’ paddock to the main pasture with the dairy cows. Bonnie, too would be in heat soon and ready to see Fred, and Teeter and Leona would soon calve and begin the walk back and forth to the barn with the milking cows once again. Teeter’s udder is filling with milk and we expect to meet her new calf this week. On Friday, Leona calved. Last year, she didn’t take well to milking at all–it was more of a wrestling match than seemed beneficial, so we let her raise two calves instead. This year, we’ve been hoping she might prove to have settled a bit, and become a milk cow after all.  She had a little red bull calf, fuzzy and rugged, already showing all kinds of curiosity and bounce.

Leona was born and raised right here on the farm. She is Cricket’s daughter and built an awful lot like her–sturdy and large-boned. She was a bottle calf and has always been something of a love–seeking out a nice pat, rubbing up from behind to induce us to scratch her under the chin, not one bit skittish. UNTIL…that is, she came into the milking parlor.  Phil worked with her some last year, but, in the end, decided that Leona would be a great candidate to nurse a few calves and he’d have a go at it again this year. Saturday evening was the moment of truth, the first try at it again.  It didn’t go well.  Leona is a kicker.  And, this time around, her hoof found Phil’s eye. He’s sporting a milking shiner for the first time I can remember. And, won’t be making a milk cow out of Leona after all. Some days you get it, and some days you get got. He’s been gotten. He’s doing just fine, however. On day two he reports no pain and that it simply looks worse than it is. It looks pretty bad.

Away from barn and pasture, far away in Omaha, Nebraska, where all things USDA are decided, that agency has decided that it doesn’t like our proposed amendment to the food sovereignty law, and will ‘neither approve or endorse’ it, which, doesn’t, as you may imagine, mean that it won’t meet the necessary requirements. But, they don’t like our “tone.” The legislature is set to reconvene on October 23rd to take it up. We’re working on building consensus with the Department and Committee before that date. This may all be a bit like working with Leona. It’s just fine out in the field, just fine in the barn, but when it comes down to business, sometimes you get a kick in the eye. The Department has shown itself to be a bit like that already. But, what can you do? Do good work, act in good faith, and get down to business. The rest is a bit beyond our control.  The time is soon coming to mobilize.  Just as soon as we know, I’ll pass on the good word.  Sometimes, a cow settles after one lactation and doesn’t kick. You just don’t know until you try. What’s true on the farm may prove true in Augusta.  You just can’t know until you try.

Happy Autumn!  May scarlet blazes and yellow-green glows soften any harsh edges in your week.

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.

Sep 162017
 

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Hatch Gagne, Director

The summer has flown by; I have been busy in my garden weeding, picking vegetables and canning fruits and vegetables.  Fair season has been in full swing for a couple months and will be winding down soon.

I worked diligently with judges, grange members, and committee members to create guidelines (using the framework from Piscataquis Fair) for Fair Educational Exhibits.  I worked with Sharon at State Headquarters to get information out to fair judges and all Maine Agricultural Fairs in preparation for the Fair Season.  As the Maine State Fairs are moving closer to the end of the season and I will collect data from them to use for making next fair season more productive.

The Ag Committee is now working on the Maine AG in the Classroom Annual meeting to be held November 2, 2017 as we will be prepping and serving the food to all MAITC participants.  We will be looking for pies to serve that night and people to serve the meal.  More information will be sent out on this.

Reminder there will be an Ag Luncheon on Thursday during State Grange.  Roast pork and the fixings for lunch and the speaker is Amber Lambke of Maine Grains located at the Somerset Grist Mill.  Get your reservations in as the reservation deadline is early October so don’t procrastinate too long.

Sep 132017
 

Heather

This week has marked much transition, gently lit by September’s slanting shadows and dappling light.  Carolyn returned to the fall soccer and cross-country field, Ben began high school for the first time, Zander continues ‘adulting’ into another season, the droughty spell has so stunted the grass growth and required an early start to the hay-feeding season; but, oh, this is cow weather!  The ladies do well in September air.  An unexpected transition back into heightened time and attention spent working on protecting food sovereignty meant many hours this week on phone and computer while making what sense there is to be made of the rapid developments in Augusta.

Early in the week, legislative leaders met with the agriculture commissioner and members of the governor’s staff to hear their reports of the status of the USDA threats to take over Maine’s meat and poultry inspection programs.  Much reading and thinking, phone calls and discussing, followed.  There is truly little, if any, wiggle room to be found…yet.  Later in the week, the attorney general’s office looked over the materials and met with the legislative delegation to determine how to move forward. Tomorrow may hold a meeting with the governor.  It weighs heavy, even as the light of September lifts and the abundance of the farm in the fall, restores.  Yet, still, little wiggle room to be found.

This week, it was the pears that called for our attention, and, one sunny day, while I stayed indoors, computer-side, working on wiggle room, Carolyn and Phil put on the fruit-picking hardware aprons and headed out with a basket to the orchard.  The branches are laden with small, round pears.  They’re knobbly things, and a little knotted, too, but sweet and small, and a gift of the farmers from generations past down through the decades right to us, this fall, brows furrowed with legal conundrums and shifting fall gears.  Pears, it turns out, have a fairly magical quality to un-furrow brows and bring past pleasures into the present day.  Who knows–one of those pears may just hold an inspiration for wiggle just in the nick of time.  With the sound of crickets rising and falling all around, sucking juice from a pear, untended for so long, is a September gift not to be missed for all the legislative battles in the capitol.

###

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.

Sep 082017
 

Each October, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control conducts a program to collect and properly dispose of banned and unusable pesticides from homeowners and farms. Pre-registration is required and collections are held at four sites across the state. More information about the program may be found below.

Next collection will be in October 2017, one day each in Presque Isle, Bangor, Augusta, and Portland. Registration by September 22 is required, no drop-ins will be accepted. Use the forms below to register.

The Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) and the Department of Environmental Protection provide citizens with a responsible, free solution to their obsolete pesticide problem. Once a year, these agencies collect obsolete pesticides brought to sites across Maine. The materials are then shipped to out-of-state disposal facilities. Banned pesticides and pesticides that have become caked, frozen or otherwise rendered unusable can be accepted. The program is available to homeowners as well as non-corporate farmers and greenhouse operators

How to participate

  1. Registration Form Instructions
    • Option 1: fillable PDF fileOpen the file, fill in the information, print it out, and mail it to the BPC (mailing address on the form).
    • Option 2: Word fileOpen the file, fill in the information, and
      • either save it to your hard drive, attach it to an e-mail, and send it to pesticidesatmainedotgov  (pesticidesatmainedotgov)  or
      • if your e-mail program allows it, send it directly from the open file to the BPC at the address above.
    • Option 3 Request paper copy: Contact the BPC (207-287-2731, or the e-mail address above) to have a copy of the form mailed to you.
  2. On the registration form, identify the common name of the pesticide active ingredients shown on each product’s label. Common names are often listed on the front of the label followed by the chemical name. If the active ingredient is not listed, or is unreadable, please describe the product using the brand name, EPA registration number, or any other identifying information you can find on the label. Unidentified products without labels or markings should also be described in as much detail as possible.
  3. Store obsolete pesticides properly until the next annual collection drive. The BPC will contact you several weeks prior to that drive to inform you of your local collection date and location. Can’t make an upcoming drive? No problem…the BPC will keep your name on file for the next collection.
  4. After your inventory form is received, the BPC will mail a map and instructions 10 days before your collection date.
  5. Bring your obsolete pesticides to the assigned site. Once there, stay in your vehicle and present shipping papers to officials. They will direct you to place obsoletes in an appropriate receptacle.
Aug 282017
 

We were contacted by Jeffrey Roth of Lancaster Farming asking for contact information of Maine farm families or organizations who are either going to help flood victims in Texas or who are providing support in other ways. The editors at Lancaster Farming are planning coverage of farmers and farm organizations which are mobilizing to help flood victims in Texas in some way. If you know of any such families or organizations, you may contact him directly:

Jeffrey B. Roth
jbrothsteratgmaildotcom  (jbrothsteratgmaildotcom)  
Lancaster Farming
207-319-8156

Note this is not just a request for Grange efforts… any individuals and organizations who are mobilizing to aid victims should contact Jeffrey. A secondary challenge in a situation like this is making certain folks know how they can help. Thanks to Lancaster Farming for making this effort.

I also contacted Amanda Brozana Rio, National Grange Communications Director, who advised she is “coordinating with our National Junior Director who lives in San Antonio about how our Juniors may take this project on and invite adult members to be part of the process. At this point, I think we’re all waiting for the rains to stop and figure out what the need is that could be most adequately met by our members.”

As additional information becomes available, rest assured we will share it on the Maine State Grange website!

 

Aug 172017
 

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Hatch Gagne, Director

Summer is going by fast and the Maine Agricultural Fairs are in full swing.  Thank you to all the Granges who have taken the opportunity to exhibit at your local fairs.  I have seen some fantastic displays, many focused on the 150th year of the Grange.  The summer and fall season of fairs provides you with more opportunities to exhibit at fairs, please consider setting up a display.

I want to thank all the Granges and individuals who have sent in money in support of the Maine State Grange Agricultural Scholarship.  We are pleased to be awarding four post-secondary scholarships this year.

The Agricultural Committee is working on the Ag Luncheon at the Annual Maine State Grange Conference.  Our luncheon will be held on Thursday noon and the speaker will be  Ms. Amber Lambke, President and CEO of Maine Grains and co-founder of the Maine Grain Alliance located at the Somerset Grist Mill in Skowhegan.  More information about luncheon tickets and location will be available when Maine State Grange information is sent out.  Save the date and join us at the AG luncheon on October 19.

Our committee is also working on the luncheon in support of the Maine Ag in the Classroom Annual dinner meeting to be held in November at State Grange Headquarters.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Aug 142017
 

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

Late summer’s observations blur together as we fall further headlong into August’s frenzied pace.  While the frenetic energy of the season surrounds us, we walk at placid cow speed up and down the fields to and fro from the barn for milking times, or at goat pace, measured and halting for select morsels en route.   One observation: stay at a safe distance from cow’s rear end.  Yes, for that obvious reason, but also at a good distance removed so the airborne stream of flying cow saliva won’t land across the face.  While swatting flies ourselves, we must attend to the cows flinging their massive heads and long tongues backward to swat flies in the bovine fashion, letting a long strand of cow spit fly with each ‘swat’.    Watch out for that.

Once at safe distance from cow spit and meandering alongside our bovine friends, the mind meanders a bit alongside, too.   It is hard not to notice with a growing amount of August angst how very dry, hard, and dusty the cow path is, how fresh the wild mint smells as we inadvertently trample it in certain spots of pasture, how sweetly the pineapple weed smells, damp in the morning, but, oh, too crisp–really, truly brown and crisp–by evening.  The goldenrod is a welcome sight along the fencerows, autumn food for bees, monarchs have returned again in noticeable numbers to the farm, still surprising me by fluttering by the cows, behind the chickens, in the upper and lower fields.  There is hope.  It has been a few years since we’ve seen more than one.  If they can return, overcoming long distances, glyphosate and other monarch maladies, there is renewed impetus to continue toward a more regenerative agriculture, allowing the milkweed to grow in the marginal areas of the farm.

Freddy the bull is occupying our conversations and observations again.  Though we do not always succeed, we do aim to manage the breeding cycles in a staggered measure, not only for our/your milk supply but for cow health.  So, when sweet Mary went into standing heat yesterday, Freddy the bull was kept in the barn behind his herd, as it isn’t yet time for Mary to breed back again.  Too soon.  Freddy enjoys a sweet window of time when he can be with all his ladies, a time when they are all bred and his presence doesn’t disrupt.  But, when they’ve just calved (remember FOUR last month) and we aim to manage the calving and milk supply so that it isn’t all from 0-60 in one week again next year, then, Fred has to stay up at the barn with the calves while the good dairy ladies return to graze after milking.  This sounds much simpler than it is.  A barn suddenly seems a fragile wooden thing, when farmers intervene with the natural desires of bulls and cows.  Freddy immediately found the weak hinges and door holds to ram to return to Mary and the others in the field.  Phil quickly found the screw gun–fortification–and the steel tube cattle gate.  Freddy acquiesced, stopped nosing his head through doors and…wailed.  Managing a cow brothel is tricky doings.  At day’s end, Mary is with the other cows, Freddy is in the barn, and, we hope, your milk supply and cow health will be orchestrated in good fashion.  Phew.

May rain fall again from the skies, may you remain at safe distance from flying cow spit, and may August find you steady.

And, may you enjoy the late summer scent of mint and pineapple weed wherever your walk to and fro brings you.

###

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.

Jul 142017
 

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Hatch Gagne, Director

Summer has arrived and it is a busy time for all.  Gardens are beginning to produce and the Agricultural Fairs have begun.  I encourage all Granges to think about putting together a Grange Exhibit at your local Agricultural Fair. I also want to thank all the Grange members who have volunteered to judge grange exhibits throughout the state this summer. The Grange rules/guidelines and judging sheets are available online if you need a copy.

The Agricultural Committee is disappointed we did not have a Farm Family application this year.  I would love to receive feedback from Granges on how to solicit applications for this award.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at the Agricultural Fairs and then at State Grange.  Enjoy a safe and happy summer.

Jul 132017
 

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

The farm in July is full of anticipation and field observations.  Now about 10 weeks into the growing season and regular paddock rotations, the animals are well into the routines of summer again. And, so, it must be said, are we.   In our rotational grazing system, we move animals from one paddock to another in rhythm with the needs of the pasture and of the animals–sometimes leaving animals in one place longer to trample and fertilize more, other times, like now, moving them so quickly as possible through all the forage.  The dairy cows have been ‘strip-grazing’, moving through small, sectioned strips of the pasture maximizing the use of the forage while concentrating their fertility in one area before moving on each morning and evening.  Goats and chickens move twice a week, pigs are in the woods and need new paddocks only once every few weeks.  The yearling calves, still a separate group from the mature herd, move twice a week, too.  The meat birds move every day one ‘pen-length’ forward.

At this point in the season, shifting animals from the old spot to the new fresh paddock is a pure joy (barring mechanical difficulties).  Each of these groups is tended by one or, sometimes, two of us, most of the time.  When three or four of us show up, they know it’s time to move, and they are all anticipation.  Whether goats, calves, cows or even the hens–birdbrains though they be–they line up on the fenceline just waiting for us to fence the new paddock already and let them into it.  It’s too good.   Seeing the ‘graze line’ can be equally rewarding, noting how the hens have done their ‘work’, thoroughly dispersing each cow-pie left behind to spread out the fertility, eliminating the insect pests, eating, trampling, and ‘re-seeding’ the grass seedheads, and evenly fertilizing an area.   The goats are choosier, but have a delightful habit of devouring burdock and even browsing thistle!  They clean up our marginal ‘buffer’ areas between woods and fields.  The cows are the queens, of course, and get the prime pasture.    By July, all of us are getting used to the orchestration of our summer dance through time and space, and the routine and the anticipation are grounded guideposts to farm days.

Even while we appreciate the summer routine, the farmers’ anticipation is a little different than the critters.   We have fewer dairy products just now as we await calves from 3 cows all due in the coming weeks.  It’s strange timing what with the peak of summer demand upon us, but, breeding and calving don’t always translate perfectly from the cow realms to the human realms, and now is such a time.   In human terms, it means that we have 25-30 gallons less per week than usual.  No small amount.  The young heifer, Dandy, due first by our records, shows the least signs to date of pending labor, while Bonnie, Too and Mary are showing full udders and ripening each day.  We expect calves this week, more milk and more cheeses and yogurts again in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, we’ve had great cow weather, cool breezes on sunny days, and our expectant mamas couldn’t look more queenly as the calving days approach.

And, then there is the wildlife on the farm, whose motions are so much less predictable than our farm critters and whose cycles we know less well.  The wild turkeys have been moving through in flocks with little ones behind them.  Oftentimes, they’ll take up and follow the cows in the rotation, serving the same function as our domestic hens, scratching up cow pies and eliminating parasites.  Other times, they take up in the woods with the pigs, hopeful of leftover grain.  This year, they’ve just been moving on through.  The hawks and vultures have been regular fixtures this summer as the deer population collides with the travelers on the highway.  And, this week, I was startled by a snapping turtle in front of the onion bed, just imperturbably laying her eggs, one small plop and clink at a time, until she buried them all up and quickly, yes, even for a turtle, quickly moved away again.

Wishing you wonder in observation, and plenty to anticipate.

###

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.