Frith Farm

Sunday, April 28, 2013


It's been a lower-back heavy week! 

At times passing motorists may have seen two or more apprentices lying in the grass doing a yoga pose or two to stretch out. But all the effort has definitely been worth it as you look around at all the plants we have in the ground now.

 As I think back on the week, I see in my head a haze of beds in different parts of the farm. 

The kale and collards came first, as they were the leafiest and most ready to get out of the greenhouse.

Next came some kohlrabi and my first experience with Daniel's new dibbler contraption. Now we just roll this modified barrel down each row and the pegs create holes where we place each transplant from the greenhouse. 

Then, if memory serves me right, there were three straight days of onion planting! 

This year at Frith we will be offering five different kinds of onions in addition to shallots, all of which are already in the ground and reaching toward the sun.

It was a dry and sunny second half of the week, so we meticulously watered in each transplant. 

A new addition to the farm came in a chirping package from the postal service late last week. 

We now have baby chicks who are living in the hen house now that the layers are out on pasture. 

In just a few days the chicks are already noticeably bigger and will soon be out on pasture as well!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Few Honest Words

Daniel taught us a class this week on soil, which probably isn't the most thrilling of subjects to most of you.

Mounds of compost, adding nutrients to our soil!
Something he said though, has stayed with me throughout the week and has shifted the way I think about growing food. 

In a nutshell, he said that a farmer's primary goal is to create and maintain healthy soil. A never-ending task that has multiple components. 

It was really during this conversation/lesson on Monday night, that I realized what a unique opportunity it is for the three of us apprentices to have landed at Frith. Increasingly I'm realizing that not many farmers operate with the same principles and ideals as Daniel does. 

Though this makes the level of physically-exhausting work that we do a bit higher, it's also really great to learn that it is feasible to repair the damage done to soil. 

Let me give you a few details to make this post a bit more concrete. 

When Daniel bought his land on Ash Swamp Road, the soil was largely depleted of nutrients because the land had not been replenished each time hay was grown and harvested. 

Josh, gearing up for another afternoon of shoveling compost!
That's why Will, Josh and I have been shoveling compost into the hundreds of tiny mounds you see around the new fields we're bringing into cultivation this season. 

Will spreading Tennessee Brown, a rock phosphate. 
In addition to making sure that every inch of our beds has a rich coating of compost, we spread amendments like lime, phosphate, and green sand with the aim of increasing the soil's ability to maintain the most diverse biosphere possible. 

Some beds with lime freshly spread on them.
It also bears mentioning that though it would be much easier to spread compost, till and seed our beds by tractor-power, you'll only rarely see Daniel sitting atop his John Deere. To avoid soil compaction, the four of us more often than not push wheelbarrows and plant by hand. 

When we can we also use the chickens to spread our compost piles for us, which they gladly do, poking around and foraging for bugs and worms. 

Our chickens spreading the compost for us, how considerate!
Today we covered new beds with plastic to discourage quackgrass from overtaking any other plant from taking root. 

Rolling out plastic for these beds' first year in cultivation. 
Now all that's left is transplanting our leafy kale and spinach plants which have been thriving for weeks in the greenhouse!

Though I promise that there will be more fascinating topics in the future, soil, as the basis of all we do here at Frith, is something that deserves a bit more time and thought than most of us give it in life. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wintry Mix

Frith Farm is receiving a wintry mix of hail and rain on this gloomy Friday, so I'm taking this opportunity to introduce a bit of spring into a not-so springy day. 

This week on the farm has seen a number of hours spent in the greenhouse. 

Though Daniel had planted several dozen trays before the apprentices arrived, the greenhouse is nearly bursting at the seams now that Josh, Will and I have planted thousands of seeds this week. 
A lot goes into seeding in the greenhouse, mostly because at Frith we make our own potting soil. 

Will, on a seed-blocking shift
A combination of peat moss, compost, lime, fish meal, green sand and perlite must be thoroughly mixed and then compressed into seed blocks before any seeds ever leave their Fedco packages. 

After we measure out the seed blocks, each seed is hand planted and then covered with a thin layer of peat moss. 

Here are some seeds planted at the end of March.

Collards, a southern treat!
And here I have to note (just in case your attention is wandering after being confronted with pictures like the above) that I too normally find any post whose topic is seeding pretty boring and repetitive. They're just plants, right?

Endless onions...
Which is true. 
Except now I associate these trays with a lot of hard work by Josh, Will and me, and a lot of planning (and of course, hard work!) on Daniel's part. 

Liz, watering the air (?)
This year Frith Farm will be supplying not only a 60-70 member CSA (sign up for shares now!), but also we will be selling at both the Scarborough Sunday market and the Portland Wednesday market. All those crops and harvests must be synchronized to allow us to offer a wide selection throughout the growing season. 

Fortunately the greenhouse allows us to get a head-start even when there's a wintry mix in the middle of April!

In other farm news, the chickens have had a big, and slightly disruptive, week as they were transferred from their winter coop to the Egg Mobile. 

Home, sweet home
Overall, the transition went smoothly. 

I say "overall" because some chickens just did not get the relocation memo. 
If you happened to drive by the farm on Monday evening around 8pm, you would have seen Daniel, Josh and Will cornering upwards of 50 chickens, waving nets about, and at times making diving tackles after the wayward layers. 

Arthur, meticulously protecting every last one of his chickens.
Our youngest ladies have had no experience spending the summer season in an Egg Mobile and were understandably a bit skittish about roosting in an unfamiliar place. 

Although I missed Monday night's excitement by falling asleep on the couch, Tuesday night featured a repeat, albeit with fewer chickens refusing to cooperate. 

By Wednesday night all the chickens were used to the routine and enjoying being able to forage on new plots of land as Daniel readies the soil for new beds. 

We've rounded out the week by taking advantage of disadvantageous weather. 

Although I've been somewhat sidelined by a particularly nasty rooster run-in, the boys are out at this very moment attempting to burn brush piles in the relative safety of a rainy day.

Next week promises higher temperatures and more time direct planting in the beds....stay tuned!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring at the Farm

Welcome to the 2013 season at Frith Farm!
I'm Liz, an apprentice here and will be spearheading our attempt at dedicated blogging this year. 
Although the temperatures are still well below freezing most nights on the farm, Daniel and his team of three apprentices are already hard at work, preparing for the warmer days to come. 
First of all, I thought I'd direct your attention to the Team page of the website where you'll find short bios of this year's apprentices. 
We are all really excited to be learning about farming with Daniel here in Scarborough and we're also excited to meet our CSA customers. Feel free to introduce yourselves as the season starts up and ask us any questions that we can (most likely) be able to answer for you!

Our first week's big focus was the farm's new, mega-sized Egg Mobile, built by Daniel and painted, staple-gunned with chicken wire and outfitted with laying boxes by the apprentice team. 

Taking the Egg Mobile out for its first spin!

An Egg Mobile is really useful for several reasons. Because it is essentially a chicken coop on wheels, we are able to move the chickens around so that they can forage for worms, bugs, clover and grasses on different areas of the farm. This helps us out with feed cost and also produces a more high-quality egg. Chickens are also helpful in spreading out compost that we have added to the soil. 

This year we have around 275 laying chickens, who are already producing about 60 eggs per day. This number will increase with longer days and the maturing of our youngest layers. 

In other news, our first crop has made it to the surface! Garlic cloves planted in the fall and covered with leaves for the winter are feeling their first rays of sun. 
Garlic headed for the sun!

No post would be complete, of course, without some pictures of the farm pigs.

Though yours truly (Liz) has fallen in love with one pig in particular (Miracle!), they are all friendly, if perennially hungry, and always welcome a nice pat on the head or scratch behind the ears.

You'll know Miracle by her very feminine white eyelashes!