Thursday, July 26, 2012

Beet Sorbet, Ideas from Maine, and Bread Oven update

Wild low bush blueberries are easily "raked" along the coast of Maine. 

Late July marks the start of blueberry season in Downeast Maine, and the Benner family is fortunate enough to be able to spend some time in this glorious part of the world each summer.

Recently Al Benner paid a visit to an off-grid hostel/farm on Deer Isle, where virtually all the structures, food, and energy are produced right on site by the proprietors.  This experience touched a nerve with Al as he found the simple, yet elegant structures and grounds to be very much in line with the vision he and Dave Campeau share for Old School Farm.

Deer Isle Hostel - Hand built from stone and wood on site

Thanks to Anneli and Dennis for the wonderful tour and all the information they shared about their experience to date.  To find out more about the hostel, visit:     

The new "hut" made of cedar and oak

Hand carving tools on bed and view to the outside world
Here are some  photos and brief descriptions that show the progress since Dennis began clearing the land just a few years ago.  It's amazing what some patience, craftsmanship, and vision can produce...
Hand sculpted oak beams and medieval joinery
Anneli's garden - seaweed is a key ingredient

Reclaimed hardwood shipping skids - idea for compost bins

The modest home is completely off grid

A wood fired cedar hot tub for those cold Maine winters!Here are some
Chickens get lots of vegetable scraps and clippings

Dennis shows his simplistic log mover with min-mill and locust logs behind

Hot showers using a sprinkling can and pulley

Hand pumped Maine spring water

A Useful Wild Plant

Colt's Foot is a common low growing ground cover -type plant that has been used by Native peoples for centuries to help with Asthma.  Our son Owen experiences pre-asthmatic conditions and has bad allergies, so we will be trying this plant in lieu of inhalers.  Simply dry the leaves and then crush to make a tea.  Look for leaves with the black spots - the plant's oil that is medicinal is more prevalent in these leaves with the fungus present.
Colt's Foot Leaf - A native plant useful as a tea for treating asthma 

Beet Sorbet Donation

Old School Farm recently donated several pounds of beets to a local PASA food tasting even at the Silk Mill near Hawley, PA.  The sorbet was prepared the well known Settler's Inn also in Hawley. The feedback from many was that this was a very delicious and refreshing dessert.  Beets can also be used to make beet ice cream.

Farm Updates

In Al's absence, Dave has been hard at work with several projects that will ensure the long term success of the farm.  These include:  Starting to construct the wood fired bread and pizza oven, completing the solar powered drip system for the garden, and getting our six Icelandic sheep moved over into our twelve acre pasture.  
For the sheep to thrive and be healthy and to minimize parasited load, we need to constantly rotate their pasture area ever couple of weeks.  We will be doing this by using portable electric netting that keeps them contained and prevents predators like coyotes from coming in.  When we are ready to move to "greener pastures", we simply hook the towable hemlock shelter with a tow strap to our '66 Ford  pickup "Hoss" and easily move the structure to the new location.  The fence and sheep are then maneuvered to the new location.

The water line from the pump house to the spring fed stream
Getting the water flowing properly was a bit more challenging.  The soaker hose that we had been graciously donated by a neighbor had a few clogs and not knowing this at first created some confusion as to why water wasn't flowing properly, but in the end, we are now able to easily water several rows of our garden simultaneously by mid to late morning when the sun is shining.  If the power goes down for some reason, our crops still get water.  Best of all, pumping it costs us nothing.

The Pump House with solar panel, pump, pressure tank, control panel and water feed line

Soaker hoses extend over newly planted rows of rutabegas, carrots and parsnips

The wood fired bread and pizza oven is starting to take shape.  Dave is collecting stone from our old fieldstone farm walls in areas where they have fallen down, and we are using these w/ mortar between and behind for our base for the oven.  This stone base will finish at waste height.  We are planning on having friday pizza nights at the farm beginning this fall, with a large screen movie to follow in the barn.

We'll be in touch again soon with more news from the farm, but until then, enjoy some more photos...

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