Three Rivers monthly site visit/meeting took place at Side by Each Greenhouse and Crop Share, located at 19 Higgins Lane, Albion for our August 2015 meeting. Sarah and Mark are finding much to learn from attending our meetings and interacting with our group members. They are excited to share their information with others interested in experimenting and exchanging ideas. Sarah and Mark Squire own seven acres of a larger parcel passed down through her family from her grandfather. Her grandfather was an organic dairy farmer, one of the largest in Maine in his time with 300 cows. The “farm house” is a modern super insulated home built below tall trees in the 1990’s. The deciduous trees surrounding the home create dense full shade in the summer which keeps the house temperature as low as 68 most days without the need to use air conditioning. Sarah and Mark have been growing crops for three years together. They use a small double insulated and heated hoop house greenhouse to extend their spring season to grow a spring cash crop of ornamental flowers. Sarah offers custom made preordered flower baskets. She made up 25 baskets of herbs last year but they didn’t sell. She and Mark are open to the idea of making container based edible foods and herbs for people but question where that market might exist. They offer a successful seven person crop share. It serves to provide a market for the garden excesses and yet it still doesn’t absorb all their abundance of vegetables. They preserve and can a year’s worth of vegetables and meat each growing season. They have four chest freezers for storage – two of them are for meat. Sarah offers people in her crop share the option of canning their shares if they help her with the process. Mark and Sarah are working on building a cold cellar or some form of cold storage but haven’t finalized the how of it yet. Their property is ledge and doesn’t allow for basement storage or underground storage to much depth. They are working on increasing the size of their productive land. In particular they are considering savannah forest forage for their future plans on raising beef cattle.
Sarah cans an impressive array of vegetables and fruits each season as pictured on her kitchen counter. Peaches, strawberry and raspberry jam, carrots, green beans, pickled beets, various pickles, dry beans, beets, jalapenno peppers, relish, tomato soup, pears and stewed tomatoes. She told me she had canned 80+ jars of beans this season. She and Mark just consumed their last jar of cabbage this week from last year’s crop. Since they don’t yet have their own peach trees they bought a bushel of peaches which they have already canned for the upcoming winter season. Sarah and Mark can beginning mid summer and welcome the opportunity to share their knowledge of canning and preserving with others. They would like to offer classes to three or four of us at a time. They will post such events on the Sustain Mid Maine Permaculture page on Facebook to announce such opportunities to 3 or 4 people at a time.
This picture illustrates the Squire’s choices about using this three acre field to raise two beef cattle next year. Sarah shared with us the land had been her grandfather’s and that he had used only organic methods on her 7 acre spread. This field is filled with lots of clover. Michael Donahue (behind Bonnie) asked about her plans to raise bees since the field has so much clover. The man Michael acquired his beehives from is located in Albion on the next hillside over from the Squires.
Here is a snap of the chickens before they scooted away as we approached the vegetable beds. Sarah let us know they are free range at times when she is home. They weed and feed from the beds during the times they are released. Sarah and Mark don’t use a tractor because they prefer to allow them to roam freely.
This is the chicken coop with double hung windows for air flow in the summer and insulation in the winter. The chicken coop is located completely in the shade of tall trees. The chickens voluntarily return to the coop once it gets dark which makes it easy to close them in for the night.
I admired her use of palettes to use with pelleted carrot seed to both space and mulch her carrots at the same time. This is a second planting of carrots.
The squash bed showing her use of wood shavings.
Garlic chives in the herb bed of sage, dill, rosemary, basil, stevia, various mints, oregano, lavender and annual flowers.
Lush romaine despite the hot summer temperatures.
Sarah grows flowers for a cash crop in the spring inside her hoop house 14×32 greenhouse. She uses the leftovers to provide pollinators for the bees.
They are expanding their garden behind the squash bed. They use a tractor with a 4 foot wide tiller. The soil looks nice and soft.
Stacking function example. The greenhouse is used to dry beans now that it is too hot for plants. It was hot in there!
Looking out over more beds of swiss chard, green peppers, and tomatoes.