April into May

by Cari Balbo


Now that spring has finally sprung, it's been a balancing act between getting the farm up and running and managing all the details of starting an herbal products business.

Because the long-term investment in the medicinal herb garden is key to the success of our farm and business we've been devoting much of our efforts in getting ground ready for herbs, as well as expanding and preparing our kitchen garden and planting trees and plants we picked up at Fedco Trees last weekend

We had prepared our new kitchen garden last fall and planted this year's garlic in it. By the time this spring came around, however, we realized we wanted more planting area. We also needed to break ground for the medicinal herb garden and for a raspberry and rhubarb patch. As soon as the ground could be worked we needed to hustle. Of course that's when our rototiller (that we had paid a pretty penny to have serviced at the end of last fall, grrr...) decided not to work. Mike tried everything he knew and my dad's tricks as well with no luck. Thankfully my kind farmer cousins from Crooked Door Farm let us borrow their BCS machine, a small-scale farm walk-behind tractor that I like to call a rototiller on mega steroids. With the BCS Mike was able to break ground easily. With that and my father lending us his smaller rototiller to prepare the newly broken ground we got the ground ready for planting.

The kitchen garden before we could get into the soil and expand.

The kitchen garden before we could get into the soil and expand.

The same view, just a few weeks later. 

The same view, just a few weeks later. 

Cleaning up trees and getting some more light on the future herb beds.  

Cleaning up trees and getting some more light on the future herb beds.  

The twin pines got a haircut.  

The twin pines got a haircut.  

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Mike and the BCS making quick work of the sod to clear room for the herb garden and the raspberry/rhubarb patch.  

Mike and the BCS making quick work of the sod to clear room for the herb garden and the raspberry/rhubarb patch.  

Expanded kitchen garden.  

Expanded kitchen garden.  

Taking in the view.  

Taking in the view.  

The garlic a few days ago, growing by leaps and bounds seemingly every day. 

The garlic a few days ago, growing by leaps and bounds seemingly every day. 

The other time-sensitive project we worked on over the past couple weeks was getting our chicken coop rehabbed and ready for the arrival of ten Silver Laced Wyandotte chickens. The girls arrived on a cold and rainy Monday night last week. They've settled in and are already giving us between 4-6 eggs daily. We purchased twenty-ish week-old pullets (young laying hens) so that we wouldn't have to wait for eggs. Having immediate access to our own fresh backyard eggs is better than I imagined it would be. Watching the chickens is wonderfully distracting and thanks to our generous friends at Blackbird Rise who lent us some electric poultry netting the girls have their coop, a covered run, and a good patch of pasture to explore.

The once and future chicken coop pre-rehab.  

The once and future chicken coop pre-rehab.  

Hello ladies! 

Hello ladies! 

Love the black and white look of these birds. They had a stressful trip up from Scarborough and some, like the girl on the right, had some feathers plucked by the others. Since arriving, however, every one appears in great health and they get along fine with each other. 

Love the black and white look of these birds. They had a stressful trip up from Scarborough and some, like the girl on the right, had some feathers plucked by the others. Since arriving, however, every one appears in great health and they get along fine with each other. 

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Most of the eggs we've been getting so far are adorably small pullet eggs. Occasionally we'll get full-sized beauties like this one. 

Most of the eggs we've been getting so far are adorably small pullet eggs. Occasionally we'll get full-sized beauties like this one. 

May 1st brought another project that included picking up and planting our trees and plants we ordered from Fedco Trees. We spent our last 5 years in Portland turning our small house lot into a jungle of gardens and edible landscaping. Practically everything we grew there came from Fedco, a local cooperative that offers tree, seeds, tubers, and an organic growers supply division. This being our first year getting back into growing after the past two summers of moving and house renovations it was hard not to order everything in Fedco's catalog. With some discipline we prioritized long-term investments in things we love most, need first, or that take the longest to produce

We grew this variety of raspberry in Portland and they were incredible.

We grew this variety of raspberry in Portland and they were incredible.

Asparagus is something we've wanted to plant for years. Once the kitchen garden is fenced in, the asparagus beds will be inside the garden running along the sides and back. And then we wait at least three years before we can actually eat any...I hate waiting. 

Asparagus is something we've wanted to plant for years. Once the kitchen garden is fenced in, the asparagus beds will be inside the garden running along the sides and back. And then we wait at least three years before we can actually eat any...I hate waiting. 

Rhubarb, one of my favorites.  

Rhubarb, one of my favorites.  

When these baby conifers grow up I plan to make lots of use from them. I discovered the joy of eating and using spruce tips last spring and knew we had to plant more for future benefit. 

When these baby conifers grow up I plan to make lots of use from them. I discovered the joy of eating and using spruce tips last spring and knew we had to plant more for future benefit. 

The new elderberry hedgerow.  

The new elderberry hedgerow.  

Gratuitous wheelbarrow shot.  

Gratuitous wheelbarrow shot.  

I love May and not just because it's my birthday month. May does its best to help you forget about the ridiculously long, cold winter and gray days of early spring. May implores you to hurry up and get everything done (and do it yesterday!) but simultaneously begs you to sit for a minute and enjoy being in the sun with a lovely breeze blowing, swallows playing overhead and chickens clucking softly in the background.

The pear tree is budding.  

The pear tree is budding.  

Birch catkins, creepy cool.  

Birch catkins, creepy cool.  

I've been enjoying the flowers that have been popping up around the farm planted by previous owners. My favorite is the big happy patch of daffodils in the driveway island.

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A dried reminder of last fall's hydrangea blooms, caught on a brush pile.  

A dried reminder of last fall's hydrangea blooms, caught on a brush pile.  

Last Saturday we spent the morning helping friends and neighbors Rebecca and Matt plant rootstock for their 200+ tree heritage apple orchard at Freedom Village Farm. It was a gorgeous morning and lots of folks turned out to help transform this field into the beginnings of a new orchard. 

Many holes to dig and trees to plant in this lovely spot just outside of Freedom Village.  

Many holes to dig and trees to plant in this lovely spot just outside of Freedom Village.  

I had the good fortune to have been able to take part in the Maine Development Foundation's Leadership Maine program (Chi class) over the past year. The final retreat of the program took place over the past two days at Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake, not too shabby a place to be in. It's been an incredible experience to have had the opportunity to travel to different parts of Maine (Aroostook County, Rangeley, Bar Harbor, Lewiston...) over the year and learn a little about the economy, culture and identity of each place. We spent a day taking a crash course on Maine's legislative process, a day touring BIW, and had the luxury of multi-day retreats under the most magnificent pines both on the shores of Damariscotta Lake and Sebago Lake. Moreover, I shared this experience with 40+ fantastic people from around the state and made connections I would never have been able to have and I am so grateful. I credit Leadership Maine and my classmates with playing a role in my decision to make Ridge Pond Farm + Herbals a reality. 

The view from the main lodge at Migis. My heart exploded a little when I first saw this. 

The view from the main lodge at Migis. My heart exploded a little when I first saw this. 

Evening entertainment.  

Evening entertainment.  

Sunset on Sebago

Sunset on Sebago