Lily Brook Farm

Nina Fuller is crazy. I mean, she’s a genius, a philanthropist, and a shepherdess, but she is also crazy.

Although I have spent more than my fair share of time at the ever-healing Lily Brook Farm, I spent one afternoon there this past summer just talking to Nina about her life and her sheep flock. Here is my take on Lily Brook Farm.

Farm Name:  Lily Brook Farm

Primary goods:  Fiber, lamb, eggs, art, healing, photography

Sell to the Public?:  Yes! 555 restaurant in Portland is a lamb-buyer, you can buy eggs and sheep right on the farm.

My personal favorite part of the farm: The window from the kitchen that opens right into the pasture.

Most interesting part of the farm/event: The sheer winging-it factor that the farm employs.

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In 2004, Nina bought a non-llama-occupied llama farm in Hollis after her children graduated from high school. Her two kids live in the jungle of New York City, which couldn’t be more opposite to the lifestyle that Nina leads.

Nina has since turned the non-working farm into a non-profit organization, which provides equine therapy services, farm therapy services, and also she raises sheep, which is why I was visiting her farm. On top of all of this, Nina is a renowned professional photographer who has shot photos of rock stars and National Geographic pages alike.

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She is as gentle as she is hilarious, and as hilarious as she is adventurous. Her sheep are a breed that are not yet popular to the area. They are called Scottish Blackface. Her particular flock-genetics hail from an island off the coast of Cape Elizabeth, where the sheep are left in relative isolation for most of the year. They are an extremely hardy breed, bred for their meat and also their world-renowed tweed-wool.

They are characterized by their hardy nature; ewes of this breed very rarely need assistance in lambing, although Nina has a few harrowing stories about playing midwife to several of her sheep, as well as nursing dying lambs back from the brink of death, and sadly burying some as well.

Nina’s flock is roughly 34 sheep strong, depending on the time of year. Her ram is co-owend by Lily Brook Farm and another flock of Blackface in Monmouth, Maine. The most beautiful thing about Blackface, in my opinion, well… there are two things I love about them: First, their wild faces which are bordered by gorgeous, wily horns, and also their shag-rug type wool.

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This is a lamb, so her horns aren’t quite as impressive as her mother’s, but look at her face!

Another thing I cherish about the farm is the mingling flock, consisting of: Several very mischievous goats, a couple therapy horses, and two donkeys; Jenny and Go-Go. I absolutely love the donks. I wanted to snag one and bring it right home with me, but I assumed she would notice.

The below photo was taken by Nina as I somehow did not get a good shot  of her.

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The farm is willy-nilly in the best, most homey sort of way possible. There are chickens of all sorts running amok, and the goats tend to get onto her porch and eat her flowers. But Nina, who is finishing up the capstone to her Masters in Equine Assisted Mental Health, isn’t bothered by the unorthodox pasture set up, nor by the free spirited nature of the goats. Nina, I haven’t mentioned, is in her 60’s. She is one of the most inspirational people I know, because there is nothing that stops her from pursuing her dreams, and helping others.

The thing I admire most about the farm is that Nina is a beginner; Her flock is just beginning, and so is her knowledge. Her many, many years of experience with horses and farmlife has translated into a rockstar of a beginner shepherdess.  And YET, this does not hinder her. It does not stop her from pursuing education in the realm of sheep, it does not stop her from reaching out and finding the answers to questions she has, and it does not stop her from continuing to pursue her goal. I am just absolutely blown away by how brave she is.

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Her sheep, which are sold for either breeding stock or as lamb to local restaurants, are part of her family. She has spent nights sleeping in the barn with a laboring ewe, and has worked this enormous farm all by herself, with some help from others along the way, but honestly… she does it herself. It is terribly admirable.

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On top of the sheep, there is a healing aspect to this place. There is art everywhere: In the barn, in the stalls for the sheep, in the woods surrounding her barn and pastures. This is a place many people, from those who are familiar with Nina to those are complete strangers, come for healing through talking to her, sitting with her animals, or visiting  her famous Blue Bench. (You can check out the Blue Bench Facebook page here)

All in all? I realize this post was less about how to raise sheep and more inspirational, but sometimes these posts have to be a little inspirational rather than educational. This place is beautiful, and it is a wonderful place to visit for education, for buying sheep, or for just having a cup of tea and talking about art and life. Nina can be contacted here:

https://www.facebook.com/LilyBrookFarm

Pip pip,

The Maine Farm Chick

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Search Term Superlatives

My blog has been up for a year! This inspired me to do some analytics on it.

So, Google tracks all the search terms used to find my website. Here are the superlatives for the last year:

Most Searched Phrase: “Maine Farm Chick”  (68 times)

Longest Search Phrase:  “i want to buy a small run down farm in maine for under $40,000.00” (1 time)

Most Popular Person Searched For Which is Completely Unaffiliated with Maine Farm Chick: Elise Bothel (4 times)

Most Hilarious Search Phrase: “lion with a wooly maine! – medium hand made in germany” (1 time)

My Personal Favorite Search Phrase: “who is the maine farm chick?” (10 times)

Most Searched For Alcohol: “Jack Daniels” (22 times, one of which was “Jack Daniels girls”)

Search Term That Confused Me The Most: “mfc ebony girl with gap between her front two teeth” (2 times…?)

Search Term With A Question I Would Like to Answer: “wats 5 things a farm chick can eat?” (1 time) Answer: Chocolate, red wine, spinach, salmon, granola

Search Term I Wish I Could Help With: “508 364 8576 rochelle” (1 time) I am not Rochelle, nor is this my number, I hope you find her, Mystery Google Man.

Search Term I Want to Give Advice To: “I want to go barefoot” (1 time) Advice: Just do it, it feels so right.

Search Term I Was Most Disturbed By The Fact That It Led to My Site: “chebeague island naked chicks” (2 times)

Pip Pip,

Maine Farm Chick

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MoonShadow Farm Profile (Best “Oops” Discovery EVER.)

Do you ever have those moments where you LITERALLY fist-pump with victory? I did that last weekend when I went to visit a farm in Winthrop.

You see, I didn’t know I was going to be visiting a farm. It was pretty much an accident. I mean, it really was an accident.

Long story short, I decided to buy a couple of chickens. (Don’t underestimate how much cost/benefit analysis has to go into buying laying hens…) and found the phone number for a lady in Winthrop who had some available. I called her, and got her voicemail.

“Hello, you’ve reached MoonShadow Farm…” I literally stopped listening and started getting super stoked. A farm! Not just people with chickens!

Of course, I snatched up my camera and enthusiasm, and ran out the door.

Farm Name:  MoonShadow Farm

Primary goods:  Beef, rabbit meat, goat meat, eggs, chickens, meat birds, guinea hens, vegetables, etc.

Sell to the Public?: Yes, right on premise.

My personal favorite part of the farm: The fact that the farm space was organized for maximum efficiency.

Most interesting part of the farm/event: The Highland skulls scattered about.

When I showed up, I had the NBC (Neurotic Border Collie) in the back with the dog kennel for picking up the chickens. I had my camera. I had my boots.

I did not prep Christine (One of the two farm owners) for the fact that I was going to invade her farm for the next hour and a half, and bombard her with questions. She was insanely good-natured about it.

I noticed a pasture just before the farm with several Scottish Highlands in it. I put two and two together when I pulled in the driveway and there was a skull on a post in the garden. I thought this was fascinating, and a great way to pay homage to the animal you’ve eaten. It looked pretty rad.

Christine met me out front and promptly brought me into their farm stand. I call it a farm stand, but in fact, it’s a store. On the freezers, all of the meat pricing was written. From goat to rabbit to chicken to pure-bred Scottish Highland beef to fresh eggs, it was all laid out.

We meandered around the barnyard. The Belz family has a young daughter, who has a fairy garden in the midst of out-buildings, a hot-house, chicken coops and a grape trellis. I was surprised to find out there were rabbits in one of the mini-barns.

Christine noted that the first time they processed a rabbit, she couldn’t eat it. I asked her how she dealt with caring for animals, and then having them processed for consumption and she thought for a moment and said, “You just have to get over it.” Wise words, and it’s true. I found her to be very in touch with her animals, but also very much assertive in the fact that they are her livelihood, her family’s livelihood, and ultimately, meat.

I asked her what she did with the grapes, which were still clinging to the vines even in the cold weather. Grape jelly, possibly wine, I was informed.

(Is it just me, or are the squiggly parts of a grape vine the most adorable thing ever, or what?)

One of my favorite things about small-operation farms is the fact that every inch of space counts. MoonShadow Farm was organized to not feel cluttered, but to be efficient at the same time. No space was wasted.

You could tell her animals know where their food comes from. As soon as Christine walked me through the pastures, (there were several.) the animals wandered over. Goats and cows alike stumped through the grass over to us, waiting patiently.

Scottish Highland cows come from… You guessed it… the highlands of Scotland. This means they are extremely rugged animals. They can withstand great cold, and are considered a breed which does not require much help when they calve. They are well-adapted for the climate in Maine, even winters. This is why you will see the breed frequently in New England.

I asked Christine how many she had and she goes, “Oh, somewhere between fifteen and twenty, it varies.” I liked her answer. I also like her philosophy on raising the animals with minimal human interference. She doesn’t over-vaccinate them, she doesn’t over-anything them. They get food, water, and space. And respect. Even the goats looked pleased with their pasturemates.

The farm has been running for three and a half years. I was pleased at the amount of insight Christine was willing to give into anything and everything, she was happy to showcase her farm. The family encourages visitors, and embraces the idea of getting to know one’s farmer.

It was a bit sad to see the true turn of the season, however. As we walked around the farm, evidence of the harvest season was everywhere.

During the growing season, one can find all sorts of vegetables at the farm stand. If you’re in the Central Maine area and looking for beef or chicken during the winter, MoonShadow Farm is the place to go.

Oh, wait, did I mention? They have bees!

For some reason, I get super stoked with farmers have bees. And they have four very good sized hives. I asked how many bees she thought they had, but Christine told me her husband, Keith, was more of the beekeeper. I would estimate… many. Many, many.


So what did I get for an overall impression from this farm? In terms of quality meat, which has been respectfully treated and processed as cleanly and reliably as possible, I can not say I’ve been to a farm that has surpassed MoonShadow Farm. Small farms are well-known for being able to control how their animals are raised. I saw cows in huge pastures, free-range hens, and meat-birds with enormous amounts of room to wander around. (Even though they were inside, they don’t have enough feathers to want to be outside this time of year and I can’t blame them…) This farm affirmed how much I appreciate – and I hope everyone appreciates – how much work goes into raising one’s own meat.

Wait wait wait, did I mention? As the nicest parting gift ever, I was given a mug from the farm. Yet another reason you should stop over at the farm.

CONTACT INFO FOR MOONSHADOW FARM:

Chrissy & Keith Belz

563 Lewiston Road, Winthrop, ME

207.377.6437

Store hours: Weekends, 8-4; Weekdays, by chance or appointment

Want to see the rest of the photos from my trip to the farm? Click here!

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Epoxy

So, as I began writing about one of my farm escapades, I thought: Hey, everyone should know about what happens when one of your sheep has horns which grow into his face/neck/body/whatever.

In case you ever run into this exact situation, I’m going to tell you one way to handle it.

I bought a May ram named Elliot. He’s awesome. He’s half Cheviot, and half Scottish Blackface. Unfortunately, his horns grew too quickly and directly towards his neck.

I’ve been closely monitoring the situation, but this past week I came to the breaking point: His horns were rubbing his neck raw and I had to do something.

I called the vet. My local large animal vet happens to be mostly equine, but they said they’d take a look and fix something up.

So, this morning, I loaded Elliot into the truck. In a kennel. Beso’s kennel, in fact.

Elliot wasn’t overly concerned by it. Got him to the vet, left him in a stall, and pretty much crossed my fingers on my drive to work in hopes for the best.

And then I didn’t really hear from the vet until late afternoon. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do. I mean, they openly admitted they very rarely dealt with sheep, but that one of their vets did work on large sheep farms. (We can call this vet Dr. McDreamy.) My hopes were high, although I was fairly nervous.

What were they gonna do?

Saw his horns all the way off? Rasp them down? Cauterize him? Would there be blood? Something traumatic? Something easy? Would he end up with those badass brass caps on the end of his horns? (The sheep equivalent of brass knuckles, in my opinion.)

Turns out, they did this:

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Dr. McDreamy goes, “He’s basically got a horn piercing,” I snicker a bit at that.

So what they did first was saw a bit of his horn off, just about an inch and a half. (They saved it for me, my first instinct was sell it into the Asian black market as some sort of medicinal thing…) Then, they screwed two very heavy weights onto each horn in the hopes that as the horns grow, the weights will pull them outward.

Then, for good measure, to make sure that the weights (Which are screwed in) don’t fall out, they put about six pounds of epoxy on each of his horns.

So instead of like… brass knobs, (You know what I’m talking about.) he’s got epoxy knobs.

But hey, whatever, he went from this:

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To hopefully cured of this absurd horn ordeal. Really, it’s just tiring.

I was also very worried, and now I am not.

Farm profile to come this weekend, I know you’re all disappointed by my sheep chronicles and not a farm profile.

Pip pip,

The Maine Farm Chick

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RENAISSANCE!

Oh hey, Friends!

This is, first and foremost, an apology. It must seem like I’ve forgotten all about you readers! I have not. (There are far too many of you to forget!) I am sorry to have been off the radar, but what with a little person, some new farm additions of my own, and y’know… life, I haven’t been able to give you my full attention.

This is, secondly, a promise: I have got some Really Awesome Things  on my radar. And I mean, on the immediate radar.  I solemnly promise to get to every farm possible, and to provide you with witty feedback on it. And in a prompt manner.

Thirdly, I would just like to say, even though I haven’t been writing for the past two months, the blog views are still way up there. That’s amazing! And it tells me you want more!

And because I can’t give every one of you apology flowers, (Although I think that you all deserve them, and I must say, I have exquisite flower taste, so if I could give you apology flowers, you would love them.) I will give you many blog posts. Many.

And my fourth announcement? Well, I’ll just show you two samplings:


The sheep are from Lily Brook Farm, in Hollis, which is owned and operated by the talented, lovely, intelligent, and hilarious Nina Fuller. You can get in touch with her by clicking this link: Lily Brook Farm

Ok, ok, enough about me. More about the farms and the blog.

To summarize what I’ve said, please see the below bullet points:

– I have been unable to dote upon my readers, and shower you with blog posts. That’s going to change.

– I bought some sheep.

– My new deadline is every single Friday morning, you will be seeing a new post.

Pip pip,

The Maine Farm Chick

Frolicking at the Maine Fiber Frolic

There is something extraordinary about an entire fair ground that consists of only fuzzy things: Sheep, alpacas, llamas, goasts, the craziest looking rabbits you’ve ever seen, and fiber products with no limits on imagination. And everyone was wearing wooly things. Except me.

I spent three solid hours at Maine’s Fiber Frolic – which drew vendors from as far as Pennsylvania and Vermont – to a small fair ground in Windsor, Maine.

Farm Name: (In this case Event Name) Fiber Frolic

Primary goods:  Wool, felted goods, clothing of every sort, yarn, etc., etc.,

Sell to the Public?: Vendors of every sort were selling directly to the public, so yes.

My personal favorite part of the farm/event: This baby goat that was passed out on top of a bale of shavings. Or perhaps the felt hangings by Hope Spinnery.

Most interesting part of the farm/event: The absolute myriad designs for sweaters. I mean, you wouldn’t believe how many there were. FYI, they’re copyrighted.

CAVEAT: ALL DESIGNS ARE COPYRIGHT TO THEIR RESPECTIVE CREATORS. PHOTOS OF DESIGNS AND GOODS CREDITED AS CAPTIONS, A LIST OF ALL VENDORS CAN BE FOUND ON THE MAINE FARM CHICK FACEBOOK PAGE (LINK AT BOTTOM OF THIS POST)

So, my sister decides to invite me to the Fiber Frolic last week. After I enthusiastically reply with a yes, I wonder  what it is. When I think fiber I think of leafy green vegetables, so I was enthused. When I realized that it was heavily based upon sheep, I was ten times more enthused. In fact, I decided to make a MFC post about it.

So, we drive up to Windsor. By the way, if you don’t have a GPS, bring your sister who knows where it is. No map struggles this time! Although as we approached the fair grounds, they looked super empty. We almost thought we had the wrong date, but with a tiny bit of patience (AKA driving three hundred more feet) we saw an entirely full parking lot. Fiber people were swarming. YES.

Upon entry (Only $5 and well worth it, with kids under 12 being free.) the first thing one sees is a pasture with a small flock of sheep and a small herd of goats. I see a trailer with this sign on it:

So if I thought I was in sheep-heaven, I was ten times more excited at this point. The Neurotic Border Collie could learn a few lessons from these dogs: They were incredible. The shepherd was incredible as well. Was anyone else aware you can control a sheep “simply,” by inserting your forefinger into their mouth behind their teeth? No? Well, now you are, and now you can do amazing party tricks at farms.

It’s probably a lot harder than that, but this man made it look easy. He literally had a sheep sitting, looking ready to be shorn, with one fluid bodily motion and only two fingers.

Facts from this man about Border Collies:

1. Want a pet? Don’t buy a Border Collie. I believe his words, paraphrased, went something like this, “A Border Collie needs a job. If he does not have one, he will find one, and you won’t like it.” (I can vouch for that.)

2. A Border Collie should never be taught to sit. It is the least effective position in terms of sudden take-offs. (I count my failures as a Border Collie owner stacking up.)

3. As they get older, they get more stubborn. (Hard to imagine, The NBC only listens to me about 50% of the time as it is.)

4. Border Collies are independent thinkers, and you can’t let them get away with one thing or else next thing you know they’ve stolen your wife, kids, and you’re paying them rent. (He didn’t say that, but it’s true.)

Then he proceeded with a demonstration of how awesome his collies were. One of his dogs was 13 years old, no joke.

After making mental notes of all the things I need to do with the Neurotic Border Collie, I meander off in the direction of the vendors and display animals.

My first stop is at a booth inside a barn. The vendor, Hope Spinnery, caught my eye with the beautiful felted tapestries, done by a woman named Kate. The man was sitting there, knitting away, eyeing my camera and camera bag. I explained to him what I was doing, and he let me take a few photos.

He explained that his Spinnery is wind-powered, and sadly he was closing down his mill work.

Design Credit to Hope Spinnery

I also noted that the colors of his fiber were beautiful. To be frank with you, when I think of fiber and yarn and spinning materials, I think of neutral or VERY bright colors. This is just not the case, and is an entirely misconceived notion. Some of the wool colors were inspired by nature, and looked as if they could have been picked right from a flower or the ocean herself. My first vendor set the tone for the entire Fiber Frolic, and that was the idea that maybe there was a bit more to fiber than a group of ladies knitting, if you can pardon my awful stereotype.

I also wanted to do a bit of education on sheep. Some basic facts:

– There are meat sheep and there are fiber sheep. There are also multi-use sheep.

– Sheep have front teeth, a large gap, and then molars, which is why you can hook your finger into the back of its mouth and maneuver it around without getting bitten.

– Sheep, in terms of skeletal structure, are literally identical to goats, and archaeologically speaking, indistinguishable between one another.

– Below, see a few examples of the MANY breeds of sheep:

So while these aren’t terribly explanatory, you can see a slight (out of focus) difference between the three. I must be honest, when I saw the Merino, my heart melted. This guy was extraordinarily handsome, and while I was snapping away at him – he was highly photogenic – the lady next to me started getting a bit jealous. She stuck her nose right through the bars and stared at me until I finally took her photo. I’m going to assume it was a she as there is nothing to make me think otherwise. But anyway, here she is:

Angora rabbits. Did you know how incredible they are? Interesting fact: (Credit to Acker’s Acres Angora for this juicy tidbit…) From a 10lb rabbit, you can get 1lb of usable fiber. That’s a crazy ratio. That’s like saying… I weigh 115 lbs, and that’s like saying my hair weighs 15 lbs. (It does not, for the record.) They are space-efficient in terms of their yield compared to pasture animals.

There were some rabbit farmers there with twenty five angoras, and there were some with up to a hundred. Rabbits made up a substantial part of the Fiber Frolic, in fact. Their hair is incredibly soft, far softer than sheep’s wool. And good grief, are they cute. On top of that, you don’t have to stick your hand in their mouth to get control of them, you just pick them up. Easy as pie, no dogs involved. No hands in animal’s mouths.

I was told other ratios in terms of warmth vs. thickness with sheep and rabbits, but honestly I can’t quote the validity. It’s fairly safe to say that angora fiber gives you the most “bang for your buck,” You can wear an ear warmer made of angora that is probably 1/3 the thickness of a sheeps wool ear warmer and garner the same effect.

And they’re so CUTE. Look at the absurd ears on this thing:

Right, so onto an equally as fun looking animal: Llamas.

The person to come up with the most amazing caption for this photo wins a bumper sticker.

Now, llamas are big. You might think they’re funny looking, a bit of a pushover: NOT the case. One time, this is not a joke, our family inherited two llamas. First thing it did? Spit in my sister’s face. I laughed for a week.

Ok, but let’s look at the facts, shall we? Llamas and alpacas both originate in South America. This means they’re hardy creatures. South American mountains  are not cake-walks.

Alpacas and llamas alike (Now don’t you get the two mixed up, Alpacas look a lot more poofy around the head area…) are big animals. They produce beautiful, enormous fleeces which can sell for well over a hundred dollars a piece. Well over, depending on the quality.

Surprisingly, for their size, they’re somewhat easily controlled. Once you have their head in a halter, most of the time they’ll do circles around it and won’t go anywhere. They can also be used as pack animals, which is a main function they still serve in South America to this day.

That is the entire fleece. There were six of these laid out, and I must say, I was seriously impressed.

The things people do with fiber is incredible. I mean, you can use sheep and goats for milk, meat, cheese, yogurt, soap, and fiber. And of ALL of those virtues, if you pick ONLY fiber, here are some things you can make with it:

Mittens, gloves, scarves, sweaters, tunics, pants, linens, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, socks, blankets, jackets, tapestries, hooked rugs, any number of decorations, felted goods, dolls, hats, finger puppets, yoga mats, backpacks, bags, belts, etc., etc.,

Design Credit to End of the World Farm

Design Credit to Attic Heirlooms

Design Credit to Black Locust Farm

This is a tiny portion of the things you can make. I wish I could impress upon you how versatile fiber is. It’s like what you can do with Silly Putty but a hell of a lot more useful and cool looking.

Something else that struck me was the concept of color. I hate to bring up the fact that my only contact with yarn is the neutral color that everyone seems to favor, which is beautiful don’t get me wrong, but the color palette that I saw at the Fiber Frolic is somewhat astounding.

What’s your favorite color? The color of the ocean before sundown? The inner part of a sunflower? That funky color mushrooms get when you leave them in the fridge too long? The tail of a peacock? Well lucky for you, you can dye wool – with MANY different processes – to be any color you want.

You catch my drift? Gorgeous colors that pretty much go from entirely natural to entirely psychedelic, and pretty much everything in between.

I’ve kind of skimmed over the sheep on here because I feel as though I’ve schooled you children well in the past posts, what with vocabulary lists and reproductive habits, so I won’t bore you again with all of that. But there is much to be said for the presence of sheep at this event.

Sheep are what people think of immediately when you think of wool. You think of big fluffy sheeps running about in a field somewhere, and their wool being spun by hand and then lovingly knitted by your grandmother.

…. Well, that’s what I think of.

And speaking of spinning, there was a couple from Vermont who, if you are EVER in the market for a portable spinning wheel, will be able to help you out.

Yes, folks, these people figured out how to craft absolute pieces of workable art – spinning wheels – which fit into…

… a canvas bag.

I’m not even kidding, check out how small this thing is.

Spinning Wheel by The Merlin Tree

And let me tell you, this woman’s hands were twisting and feeding fiber about a mile a minute into this thing. She was so deft, it made me somewhat envious that she could do it. She also made it look super easy, which I know is not the case as I’ve completely botched wool before on my aunt’s spinning wheel.

Facts:

– Spinning wheels have origins in Asia.

– Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on one, which immediately sent her into a dragon-guarded coma, so I’d say be careful.

– The conceptual design of a spinning wheel has not changed much over time, it is still a very basic machine.

– Most spinning wheels won’t fit into a canvas bag. In fact, most of them are much larger. Some can have seats built in.

There are other methods of spinning, such as drop-spindles. In my limited experience, drop-spindles can be hard and simultaneously easy to use. One vendor hand-crafts beautiful, simple, beginners drop-spindles right at home. These are the MacBook Airs of spinning wheels in terms of portability, considering they’d easily fit in a purse.

Credit to Highland Handmades

So I really could go on forever about this event. I mean it, forever. There was a lady blacksmith there, a sleeping baby goat, and more things I could have bought than I could have fit in my car.

It was a great day, and I leave you with a few parting remarks.

A. If you are taking photos of people’s designs (Sweaters, tapestries, anything) make SURE you inform them you are going to be giving them credit. These are oftentimes copyrighted designs.

B. Llamas spit.

C. If you need to meet your daily quota of adorable, I will overdoes you with it here:

So what did I get as an overall impression from this farm/event?

People are very knowledgeable, and funny enough, oftentimes have fallen into being sheep/llama/alpaca/goat/rabbit farmers. They strive to explain to you processes and information about their animals, and many vendors seemed to have an extremely strong connection to their animals and the earth itself. No one was trying to make millions off their goods, but they did want to make sure you were well-informed.

What was the biggest impression?

The creativity displayed here was enormous. People had one medium to work with: Fiber. And the variety of goods and crafts being displayed was just astounding. I can’t say enough for the creativity and hard work these people put into their passion and livelihoods.

Ps. I wish I could have gone over ALL of the things and people I saw. For more, please see my photo album with links to various vendors here:

Fiber Frolic Vendors and Photo Gallery

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Upcoming Profile: Fiber Frolic

You got me, you got me. The Maine Fiber Frolic is not a farm, it’s true.

BUT! It’s a gathering of all things fibrous. And I plan on filling you in on all of it. So for all you spinners, sheep lovers, alpaca enthusiasts and otherwise, plan on feeding your addiction this weekend with a new post.

You can check out the website here:

http://fiberfrolic.com/

If I see you there, I’ll be passing out happiness and bumper stickers!

Also I would like to let everyone know there are two farms on Chebeague Island as well as the Blessed Maine Herb Farm coming up this month.  Oh yeah, and three veggie farms which are just now kicking into full bloom pretty soon.

Stay tuned, my friends.

Pip pip,

The Maine Farm Chick

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Stevenson Farm! A Month After The Fact!

STRAWBERRY SEASON IS NEARLY UPON US! 

I said that out loud, just now, and very excitably. The Neurotic Border Collie seems slightly alarmed.

But annnyway, strawberries! Soon! No more buying stupid California berries, thank goodness. Because honestly, I can’t live without strawberries, even mediocre ones.

And gee whiz, just in time for strawberry season kickoff, I’ve got a post that’s gonna make you all mouth-watery: Stevenson Farm, located in Wayne, Maine!

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Farm Name: Stevenson Farm


Operated by? 
Ford and Tom Stevenson

Primary goods:  Strawberries (Duh), corn, peas, tomatos, MUCH more (PS. They do pick your own strawberries and peas, beat that!)

Sell to the public? Chyah! Two farm stands to choose from!

My personal favorite part of the farm: The elaborate irrigation system.

Most interesting part of the farm: Watching Ford in the middle of the field talking on his cell phone seemed amusing/ironic.

Right right, so there are your details. Let’s get to the fun stuff.

Wayne borders the town I reside in. That being said, I didn’t know it really existed more than to drive through it on my way to Augusta. So when Ford was giving me directions (After I boasted my local housing situation…) I was just saying, “Yep, got it, sure.” Frankly, I didn’t want to sound ignorant but I had no idea where it was.

Luckily, it’s easy to find. The hard part was once I got onto the farm, I didn’t know where to go. So I called Ford.

“Hi, it’s (The Maine Farm Chick.) I’m on the farm, where are you?”

“I can see you! Just come straight down the road ahead of you.”

“Sure!” I look ahead, and there’s a fork. Swallow my pride and ask for clarification? I THINK NOT!

So after a bit of backtracking in my little not-farm-road-friendly car, I finally meet up with Ford.

And man, it is COLD compared to the warm days we’ve been having recently. I see all of the fields (acres upon acres upon acres) are glinting in the morning sunlight. They’re completely frozen.

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I think to myself, “Maybe this is a REALLY bad time for me to show up, right as their entire farm is frozen and probably ruined…”

This has, apparently, been done on purpose. Farmers anticipating a late or unseasonable frost will water their strawberries to protect them from the cold. Counterintuitive? You betcha.

But essentially, the water, once frozen, creates a protective cocoon around the small, just-forming buds. The way that Ford was testing to find out if they’d survived was by splitting open some buds with his pocket knife. If the inside was brown, they were in trouble. If it was yellow, most likely they’d be fine.

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As Ford is explaining this, his brother pulls up on a four-wheeler, hauling feed. I look around, having not noticed any animals aside from an enormous German Shepherd (A retired police dog Ford has taken on as a friend.) But as soon as the four wheeler shuts off and Ford’s brother gets out, I hear the unmistakable lowing of cattle who know their owner.

Cows, I’ve decided, are peculiar animals. They’re curious about everyone, but trusting of only their own people. These cows knew who had pulled up, and were eager to express their enthusiasm.

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Fords son, Tom, runs the corn operation. The two of them farm dozens of acres of produce. To me, that is insane. To them, it is their life.

Tom is obviously very busy. I’ve come to the farm at a time when they are attempting to save their livelihood. An unseasonable/unexpected frost, on top of a week of 80-degree weather, has totally thrown off the crops. Tom and two of his workers are covering the corn in black plastic, to act as a sort of greenhouse; Absorbing the sun, protecting from the cold.

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Oh, did I mention it’s incredibly windy and trying to put a sheet of 100×3′ plastic down evenly is about as easy as trying to take an elephant down with a spitball?

I steal just a few minutes of Tom’s precious time. (Paraphrased for brevity.)

“So are you finding that the demand for locally grown food has increased with the Buy Local movement?”

“I’m not entirely sure. But I have found the cost to raise crops has gone up, while the price of corn has stayed the same.” Story of our modern era, no?

We discussed how Tom is amused that his two farm stands, Stevenson Farm Stand and Levesque’s Farm Stand are supplied by the same farm, yet people swear the corn tastes different at each one. He snickers a bit at this.

Ford then tells me he’ll give me a tour, so I hop in his truck (Gratefully, because it’s freezing outside.) and we drive around the farm. He explains his irrigation system, which is extremely elaborate.

There are three ponds on the property which supply the irrigation systems. They are lines running underneath the beds of the crops, and they supply water underneath the plants as opposed to on top of them. It’s quite elegant, and I feel as though if I try to get too in depth I will misinform you.

Needless to say, there are tanks like the below picture all over the farm:

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After an explanation of how he rotates his fields so he can ensure proper soil nutrients for his crops, Ford  makes it clear he has work to do, so I walk around and snap a few more photos. The scale of the farm, when I consider two people do most of the work on it, seems incredible to me.

So what did I get as an overall impression from this farm?

Everything is neatly set up. This is not a farm where stuff just accrues and it looks messy and unkempt. This is a well-thought out, well-distributed farm. The veggie club *Yes, there is a veggie club, check out the website at the end of the blog post for info!* enables people to do a CSA-type deal, and the fact that they are able to bring such a varied spread is wonderful.

What was the biggest impression?

Frankly, Ford was incredibly knowledgable. If I were to type everything Ford told me, this would be a fifteen-page paper, and I would need to do a lot more transcribing. I tend to gloss over technical aspects of things because they take some time to describe, but Ford was a wealth of knowledge. He honestly cared whether or not I understood a concept. He was happy to tell me everything I needed to know and more. To me, that made an enormous impression.

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http://stevensonsstrawberries.com/

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Little Update on the MFC

HEY YOU GUYS!

Life’s super busy. It’s really no excuse that I haven’t posted in like 10 days, so here I am.

FIRST order of business: I’ve got a farm profile that will be posted on Monday. Keep your pants on, it’s coming!!

SECOND order of business: If you’re not on Facebook, I’m sorry. I had a little contest, the first five people to send me a farm suggestion would receive bumper stickers. Here are the winners!

– Elise Bothel

– Amanda Kaler

– Katie Doble

– Caroline Summa

– Graham Blanchette

**The bumper stickers are printing tomorrow, you’ll have them by 1st June!!

THIRD piece of awesome info is… I have bumper stickers! Soon to be some rockin’ t-shirts. You can either wait for another contest to win a bumper sticker, or you can buy one for $3.50. (The $0.50 is for the stamp…)

Here are the farms I’ve added to the lineup by way of you awesome folks sending me your ideas:

Balfour Farm in Pittsfield

Winter Hill Farm in Freeport

Hatchet Cove Farm in Warren

Salty Dog Farm in Milbridge

Goranson Farm in Dresden

Lone Goat Farm on Chebeague Island

Second Wind Farm on Chebeague Island

I just want to say, you guys are awesome.

Pip pip,

The Maine Farm Chick

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