A little of this/A little of that: Sap, Cows and The Garden Begins

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

– Rachel Carson


I have been most delinquent with my responsibility of the blog. I’ve thought about it. I’ve jotted notes. I’ve even taken pictures thinking “This would look great on the blog!” but alas, it’s been many weeks. And even though there has been so much going on family wise, we haven’t forgotten that there are 3 DAYS left until EARTH DAY and our official kick off. Eek!

Let me fill you in on what you missed.

March 27, 2011

Having never braved the lines (or cold) before, Nate and I thought it would be appropriate to make an effort this year, so off we went to Harris Farm. Even at 8:45, the line for pancakes strung around the corner and as the wind found its ways in through out jackets, we decided to try the sugar house instead.

By some small miracle, there was barely a line and we quickly scooted inside to watch and learn about maple sugar. The system of making maple syrup is far more complicated than I thought. Tap the tree, out comes syrup, right? Silly me.  Basically, after tapping the tree and collecting all of the sap (on the right day after the right temperatures), it must be boiled down in multiple stages. Harris Farm has quite the system of sap stage boiling and it was fascinating to see the different steps.

Traditional Tree Tapping

Frozen Sap

Steamy Sap Boiling Goodness

And although we didn’t get any syrup, I ate the best maple sugar donut I’ve ever had. As a matter of fact, I’m still dreaming about it.

April 2, 2011

A major part of our preparation has been working hard to locate local sources of food, and in our research, we were led to a brilliant little butcher shop in Leeds, Maine. Farmer’s Gate Market is a small, but well-connected local butcher shop committed to the ethical, human and sustainable production and consumption of meat. Owner Ben Slayton could not have been more welcoming and so up we went, family of 5, in the little red Yaris to Leeds, Maine. The unassuming building is set off from the road and we were shocked when we realized we had driven past it many times and not noticed it was there. Ben welcomed our family in, even to the back butchering room, and showed us around. With a Masters in Environmental Policy, Ben then traveled to Italy where he apprenticed with a Butcher. Returning to Maine, he found a small butcher shop owned by Leon Emery (retiring butcher of Farmers Gate Market) and the two began to work in collaboration. Ben spoke thoughtfully and carefully about his families choice to settle in Leeds and transform the shop into a proverbial gateway to local meat sources. Working side by side with farmers, FGM is committed to only working with farms and farmers who meet their specific standards…”(1) pasture-based farming; (2) humane treatment of animals; (3) environmentally sustainable farming practices; and (4) good and honest people.” Ben has also been allowed to visit the only slaughter-house in Maine to ensure that the animals are treated safely and ethically through the slaughtering process. The meat is then brought back to FGM where it is carefully and deliberately cut, packaged and sold.

I have to say, the experience of stepping into the walk-in-cooler and standing next to a hanging side of beef with the two big girls beside me was pretty amazing and Ben was fabulous, as he pointed out the different cuts of meat. Later, both girls agreed that it was the “grossest and coolest thing, all at the same time”.

We plan on ordering the majority of our meat from Farmers Gate Market and Ben is willing, as with all of his customers, to cut, package and freeze according to our needs. It’s a worth-while experience to visit and eat from FGM… the bacon was simply delicious and the hamburgers were as fresh as they come.


We’ve gone back and forth on how to make the garden (raised bed? English style?), where to make the garden (containers? down the road on family property?) and when to make the garden (what do you mean you WAIT until May to plant?). After weeks of perusing the seed website of Johnny’s Seeds (which I strongly encourage you to visit!) we finally decided on a small order of about $100 dollars worth of seeds. (So much for that small first-year garden).

Within a few days our carefully sowed seeds began to look like this! (At this point, my previously described anxiety of not being able to feed my family slowly started to dissipate!)

At the same time, we decided to transform what was once a 14’x24′ granite lined, crushed gravel filled project that was never used by the phone companies on my mothers land into a 14’x24′ granite lined, 18″dug, quasi-raised bed garden. Please take note of the amount of crushed gravel!

So, doing what our family does best, we all pitched into make our garden…


Raking with a sleeping 7 month old. Hardcore…

2 hours later, winded and tired, we realized we hadn’t accomplished much.  (one corner of said 14’x24′ granite lined, crushed gravel filled soon to be garden).

So we decided to take the easier route and hired a local guy with a backhoe to dig it out for us.

Now, we’re getting ready to fill said dug garden with beautiful loam/compost mix from Blackrock Farm and hopefully begin planting and transplanting over the next few weeks.

I can’t forget to show the progress on our mushrooms. This is sort of Nate’s project but the bottom line is this– if it works out as planned, we’ll have Shiitakes, Pearl Oyster and  Phoenix Oyster mushrooms throughout the summer season. Holes were drilled and plugs were hammered in (with help from the girls!). Now we wait and see. (He’s also got some other crazy plan of growing mushrooms in coffee grounds- research based of course. I’ll keep you posted. I’m hoping those happen as fast as he says so that we can remove the buckets of coffee grounds from all over our kitchen!)



3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by lindseyestelle on April 19, 2011 at 11:16 am

    With all of that gravel I guess Finley was appropriately dressed for the occasion with her “ROCK” shirt!


  2. Posted by Mary Ann Folley on April 21, 2011 at 7:55 am

    LOVE it Sarah! Let us know how we can help in any way!!!! Cant wait to order some MEAT!!!!


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