[Snakeroot Organic Farm logo]
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 • Snakeroot Poultry

 • About Our Farm
 • Annual Farm Tour
 • Community Supported
    Agriculture Plan (CSA)
Directions to our Farm
 • From a Run Out Hayfield to
    a Prosperous Organic Farm
    in Ten Easy Years

 • Get Real. Get Organic!
 • History of Our Farm
 • Pictures of the Farm
 • Where We Buy
 • Where We Sell
 • Our Yearly Work Schedule
 • Just Pretty
 • Subscribe to our e-newsletter.
 • Newsletter Archive.
 • What We Will & Won't Ship

 • Working Here
 • Our Apprentices
 • Our Farm Workers
 • Pictures of Us at Market

 • Fresh Vegetables
 • Fresh Fruit
 • Fresh Herbs
 • Perennials
 • Aloe - a magical plant
 • Our Bird Houses
 • Lupines
 • Rosemary Plants
 • Lovage, Tansy & Yarrow
 • Our Product Brochures
 • Dried Vegetables
 • Dried Culinary Herbs
 • Maple Syrup
 • Maple Syrup, p.2
 • Sugarin' Is Like Ice Fishin'
 • Our New Sugarhouse
 • Tomato Seedlings
 • Tomato Seeds We Offer
 • Tomato Seed Production
 • Paste Tomatoes
 • About Garlic
 • Garlic for Sale
 • Garlic Year Round
 • Mulching Garlic
 • Growing Rounds from Bulbils
 • Whole Bulbil Cluster Method
 • Planting Garlic

 • Using Mulches
 • Combatting Quackgrass
    with Mulch

 • We Want Your Leaves!
 • In Praise of Chips

 • Buying in Bulk for
    Storage, Canning & Freezing

 • Winter Storage Tips
 • How to Freeze Our Veggies
 • Building Techniques
 • Our Outbuildings
 • Evolution of the Farm Table
 • The Story of Our Cooler
 • Prepping Veggies for Market
 • Crop Rotations
 • Drip Irrigation
 • Low Pressure Water
 • Planting with Spreadsheets
 • Greenhouse Vegetable

 • Let-tuce Begin
 • Recipe Favorites
 • Our "Remay Roller"
 • Gardening Class Notes
 • Your Most Expensive Crop

 • Being Green
 • Digging Potatoes by Hand
 • Farmers' Markets in 2012
 • History of Pittsfield
 • Hybrids or Open Pollinated?
 • Making Websites
 • Open Source Software

    Our Retirement Plan
 • How Should a Farmer Retire?
 • Impediments to the want-to-be     farmer
 • Reducing the Value
    of the Land

 • Who Will Farm Here When
    We're Gone?

 • Apprentice Terms and Stages
 • From Apprentices to Partners
 • Transferring Farm Ownership

…and now for something completely different…

At dawn
Canoe bow waves are quickly lost
    on the shoreside
But go on out of sight
    on the lake side.


The constant swish-swish of skis
    On a day long ski.
The constant swish-swish of wiper blades
    On a day long drive.


My dog, trotting barefoot
Steps on a garden slug
And thinks
Nothing of it.


Word spreads quickly
as I approach the pond.
All becomes quiet.


Hidden in the vines
a large warted cucumber
jumps out of reach.
A toad!


Delicate puffs
of marshmallow snow
carefully perched
on a branch,
await the trigger of my hat
to melt their way down my back.

Deep in the tomato jungle
Fruits of yellow, purple and red
Tell of their readiness
To go to market.

Sugarin' Chores
Snowflakes hurry through my flashlight beam,
As my boots knead new snow with spring mud,
On my nightly Hajj to keep the boil alive,
For as long as possible until the dawn,
To match the power of the flowing sap,
With my meager evaporator and will.
The prize at the finish line are jars of syrup
And Spring.


Thoughts Thunk while
Digging Potatoes by Hand

by Tom Roberts, Fall 2004

Digging potatoes is not always just digging potatoes.

We don't grow a lot of potatoes. Twelve hundred feet of carolas for late summer and fall potatoes and six hundred feet of red gold for early summer new potatoes. Both are creamy yellow fleshed varieties that help set ours apart from industrial commodity potatoes that sell for 20¢ a pound. Were getting $1.50 a pound and sell about a little over a bushel a week at farmers' markets. When we run out shoppers ask for them and are sad when we don't have them.

Since we are only growing a small quantity and getting a premium price for them, it's worth the few hours a week I spend on my knees with a digging fork turning over the potato beds in search of the little gems.


Doing two things at once

When I walk out to the potato patch, I have learned to always bring two buckets, one for the potatoes and another for stones. I figure that since I'm turning over the soil anyway, I may as well toss the stones into one bucket and the potatoes into the other.

I have never looked at removing stones from my gardens as a necessary tiresome chore. Of course it's good to remove them so your hoe blade won't bounce around so much, and your tiller tines won't wear out quite so fast, and kneeling in your garden won't be a potentially painful experience. Removing stones does result in better and easier gardening. But these reasons are all narrowly focused on getting the stones out of the garden; they all say that once the stones are out of the garden the job is done, and the stones are a waste by-product of this operation.

A waste by-product on an organic farm? Perish the thought! If you can't see everything as a resource, you aren't really trying. Stones from my garden are never a waste product.

Once I have five pails full, I load them onto the tractor bucket and haul them down to the woods road leading to my sugarhouse, where they firm up the muddy spots and ruts. With just a few year's rock picking from all of our gardens, I have made the six hundred foot sugarhouse trail easily passable by tractor and woods trailer. No longer is the journey as stressful to the tractor and tractor operator as it was previously.

Stones larger than my fist I set aside to add to our rock pile, which we will use for building our next slip-form stone walls.

Moving down the potato row I am nevertheless pleased when the potato bucket fills faster than the rock bucket. Yet I am getting two crops for practically the same work as one harvest.


Why isn't there a Freeze Weeder?

Ever have purslane in your onions? Or galinsoga in your carrots? Or foxtail in your peas? In each of these all-too-common combos, the weed is frost-sensitive but the crop is frost-hardy. Reflecting on this led me to ask the question: Why not take advantage of this by using a "freeze weeder"?

To my knowledge, there is currently no such thing as a freeze weeder, but I don't know why there isn't. Think of it as a modified flame weeder. Flame weeders don't burn the weeds, they just flash heat them to burst the cells and kill the weed. Flame weeders are used to eliminate weeds without disturbing the soil, since disturbing the soil encourages new weeds to germinate. Plant your crop, let the weeds germinate, flame them before the crop emerges. Flame weeders use propane tanks, either tractor mounted or on a backpack, to supply propane to a nozzle at the end of a wand, where it is ignited.

To make a freeze weeder, why not replace the propane tank with a tank of liquid nitrogen, forget the igniting part, and go down your row of frost-hardy crop frosting the row with super-cold nitrogen gas. Like a flame weeder doesn't burn the weeds, the freeze weeder wouldn't be freezing the weeds as much as frosting them. And if you've ever looked with joy at the dead galinsoga, foxtail, purslane or other frost-sensitive weeds on the morning after a frost, you can imagine how effective such a gadget could be. Why isn't there a freeze weeder?


Your community's Balance of Payments

The term balance of payments is generally reserved for international trading. For example, we buy autos from Japan, and they get our money. We sell them soybeans, and we get their money. Our balance of payments with Japan is determined by totalling the value of everything we sell them and deducting everything they sell us. When the balance of payments is negative, it means we are buying more from them overall than they are buying from us. A negative balance means that we are transfering wealth from us to them. So the term balance of payments is an indicator of how wealth is being transfered. A negative balance of payments means an outward transference of wealth, an overall loss of our wealth.

It occured to me the same is true of our households, communities and state. Each of our communities, however you choose to define community, has a balance of payments with the rest of the world, with neighboring households, communities, states and nations. Buying carrots from California? You are transferring wealth to a California farm. Using AOL as your internet service provider? You are transfereing some of your wealth to the AOL/Time/Warner conglomerate. Shopping at a local farmers' market? You are transferring some of your wealth to local farmers. Anyone who spends money is in charge of transfering wealth; spending money is tranferring wealth.

Of course it gets a bit more complicated. Shopping at Wal Mart means you are supporting Chinese factory workers, but some of your wealth also gets send back to headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, some goes to truck drivers, stevadores, commercial marriners, and some to the folks who work at the local Wal Mart store. But almost all of it leaves your community.

But if you bought those sneakers from the New Balance outlet store in Skowhegan, you have the choice of Maine-made sneakers, which means you are transfering wealth to a Maine shoe factory (and its higher paid workers). Most of your wealth stays in Maine.

There are thousands of such examples, one for every time you spend a buck, and when you stop to consider where you are sending your wealth, you come to see you are part of the balance of payments of your community. The neat thing is that the smaller the community you consider, the more obvious it is how you are affecting it, and the greater the affect you personally can have on it.

Get a weeks groceries at the farmers market and you have made a noticeable impact on the income of several farmers. You have transfered some of your wealth to people who not only live less than an hour from you, but who are dedicated to producing your food and practicing in right livelihood. You have enhanced the balance of payments in the community that is your foodshed.

Digging potatoes is not always just digging potatoes.

27 Organic Farm Road, Pittsfield Maine 04967
owned and operated by
Tom Roberts & Lois Labbe
Tom: Tom@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5417
Lois: Lois@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5418

Gardening for the public since 1995.

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