Frith Farm

Monday, May 21, 2012

Little Large Blacks

Our latest porcine addition to the farm is a pair of Large Black heritage hogs. They are the future mothers of Frith Farm piglets, currently betrothed to our young Tamworth boar. They are barely 40 lbs now, but by early next year should be pushing 600 lbs or more. Even at this size, Large Blacks are known for their docility (partly due to their large floppy ears that impair their eyesight), their forage ability, their mothering traits, and their excellent meat quality. Right now our little Large Blacks are known on the farm for their unequivocal cuteness.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mainely Lambs

While perhaps the state's most tired pun, 'Mainely' applies to our lambs in that they are Katahdins, a breed developed in Maine and named for the highest mountain. I will of course avoid all puns describing Katahdins as the pinnacle of breeding success, or the highest point on Maine's ovine landscape. The meat breed requires no shearing and is known for its natural resistance to parasites. We brought in 6 lambs this year, and hope to breed a few of the females this fall, with the rest for meat. They have the sweetest disposition of any of our animals, and bah with eagerness at their daily move to new pasture.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Herb Garden Expansion

We recently expanded our u-pick herb garden to accommodate our increase in CSA members this year. We sheet mulched the grass with cardboard and a thick layer of compost, then transplanted the herbs from our greenhouse directly into it. By the time the roots grow down through the compost, the cardboard should be decomposed. The result is an instant (well, several hour) transformation from sod to herb garden, with no tilling necessary.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Heritage Hogs

We are embarking on a pig breeding adventure this year, which has begun with the purchase of some heritage breed piglets. They are Tamworths, one of the oldest recorded pig breeds developed in Ireland and England, brought to the U.S. in the mid 1800s. Tamworth pigs are known for their cold hardiness, vigorous foraging, good mothering traits, and exceptional meat flavor and quality. Their instinctual intelligence has not been bred out of them, so they are alert, curious, energetic, and amazingly smart. It is wonderful to see them at work in the woods, foraging for roots, grubs, acorns, and mushrooms in their natural habitat.

Right now they are 30 pound piglets, but the plan is to raise up and keep a Tamworth boar to breed our Large Black (another heritage breed) females that will arrive on the farm in a few weeks. If all goes well, we will have our first round of Frith Farm piglets next Spring!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Baby Broilers

New meat chicks have arrived! They are 3 days old and correspondingly adorable. The livestock trailer serves nicely as their brooder, and is set up in the courtyard for easy viewing by all visitors to the farm. It's hard to imagine they'll be 5 pounds or more in 10 short weeks!

Friday, April 13, 2012


With warm April weather comes lots of hard work. For us the season begins with feeding the soil. We are expanding this year, so opening up some new plots from pasture. For this we use a Berta plow, after a generous covering of compost, rock powders, and leaf mold.

In beds that were formed last year, we use a no-till approach, simply spreading compost on top and planting into it. Avoiding tillage allows the soil structure to improve and earthworms to thrive, and of course requires less work and fossil fuel use on our part.

So far we have seeded carrots, parsnips, turnips, spinach, lettuce, mesclun, and arugula, with peas, radishes and many more on the way. Our overwintered spinach and kale is a bit battered from winter, but deliciously sweet from the cold, and our garlic is up and looking good!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Porcine Plows

Spring pigs have arrived! They are already hard at work, rooting up the plot where we will plant our winter squash come June. Their job is to mix in a truckload of leaves to increase the soil organic matter. We'll see if they're up to the task!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rhubarb & Raspberries

We recently planted rhubard and rasberries from cuttings generously donated by the folks at Edgewater Farm in Phippsburg. It may be a year or more before we are able to harvest much, but even the distant hope of rhubarb pie and fresh summer berries was plenty of incentive to get these in the ground!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Aya Alliums!

The other day marked the beginning of the season with planting of our first seeds in the greenhouse. We use soil blocks - compressed cubes of soil that allow for transplanting with little to no jostling of seedling's roots. This year I decided to make our own soil mix from compost, peat, vermiculite, and a potpourri of rock powders. As the chickens watched from their half of the greenhouse (separated by bird netting), we worked most of the day and mixed, formed, and planted 1800 blocks, which - if all grows well - will produce over 5000 onions by fall.

 We use a technique made popular by Eliot Coleman which consists of planting 3-4 seeds in each block. Rather than transplanting individual seedlings stripped from their soil, we transplant a third as many blocks without disturbing the roots. As the onions sharing a block grow, they simply push each other apart and show little difference in final size when compared to uniformly spaced single transplants. These pictures of last year's onions show the process.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chicken Salad

As we transitioned the greenhouse from winter greens to spring seedlings, we let our chickens help by cleaning off the mustards, lettuces, and spinach before we spread the ground cover in preparation for seed starting. It was a satisfying sight to see: ecstatic layers-to-be feasting on the fresh mesclun greens in a time of year when green is not a common color.