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13 Ideas to Steal from Maine’s Young DIY Farmers

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13 Ideas to Steal from Maine’s Young DIY Farmers

August 16, 2018

Maine’s newest farmers are doing it all: When thirtysomethings Katee Lafleur and Andrew White found a 35-acre property on Maine Farm Link, it housed a rambling 1835 farmhouse in need of an update and an early 19th-century barn in danger of falling in, all at the end of a two-mile-long dirt road, 24 miles from the coast in Maine’s wooded midcoast region.

Just two years later, High Ridge Farm is thrumming with activity: The couple has turned the land into a self-sustaining farm with produce, herbs, flowers, chickens, and pigs; they’ve shored up the barn (complete with a new foundation and root cellar) and updated the farmhouse room by room, with a new kitchen still to come and rooms for rent on Airbnb (see the full interiors on Remodelista). And they serve up taco nights on Fridays and Sunday night land-to-table dinners once a month, in which everything they grow appears on the plate, and the cider they press from old apple orchards fills the glasses.

Here are 13 ideas to take away, even if you don’t have a rambling farm in midcoast Maine.

Photography by Greta Rybus for Gardenista.

1. Leave it a little wild.

At High Ridge Farm the gardens aren&#8\2\17;t overly kept. Instead the farmhouse is surrounded by tall meadows. (Need advice? See Ask the Expert: How to Plant a Meadow Garden.)
Above: At High Ridge Farm the gardens aren’t overly kept. Instead the farmhouse is surrounded by tall meadows. (Need advice? See Ask the Expert: How to Plant a Meadow Garden.)

2. Cut and split your own wood.

Woodstoves are the house&#8\2\17;s only heat source through the cold Maine winters. In keeping with their do-it-yourself ethos, the couple cuts and splits all of their firewood themselves from the woods that surround the farmhouse.
Above: Woodstoves are the house’s only heat source through the cold Maine winters. In keeping with their do-it-yourself ethos, the couple cuts and splits all of their firewood themselves from the woods that surround the farmhouse.

3. Embrace works in progress.

Since moving in, Lafleur and White have tackled the exterior of the farmhouse piece by piece, as they can, between farming and serving as a popular gathering place for the community. &#8\2\20;We’ve just been chipping away at painting over the blue trim that existed—and still exists in all the places our ladder won’t reach—to move toward monochromatic white trim and white clapboard,&#8\2\2\1; Lafleur says.
Above: Since moving in, Lafleur and White have tackled the exterior of the farmhouse piece by piece, as they can, between farming and serving as a popular gathering place for the community. “We’ve just been chipping away at painting over the blue trim that existed—and still exists in all the places our ladder won’t reach—to move toward monochromatic white trim and white clapboard,” Lafleur says.

4. Add a standing-seam metal roof.

A major upgrade: the standing-steam metal roof, added last summer. “It’s a common, practical option in this climate,” Lafleur says. “In the winter, when the sun hits the roof, any accumulated snow slides down in these neat sheets.” (See Hardscaping \10\1: Standing Seam Metal Roofs.)
Above: A major upgrade: the standing-steam metal roof, added last summer. “It’s a common, practical option in this climate,” Lafleur says. “In the winter, when the sun hits the roof, any accumulated snow slides down in these neat sheets.” (See Hardscaping 101: Standing Seam Metal Roofs.)

5. Use everything.

A bleached jawbone greets visitors at the front door. In the spirit of using what they grow, animal bones and hides throughout the interiors—and exteriors—are remnants from the couple&#8\2\17;s own animals: a flock of sheep kept during the first year and a half at High Ridge Farm and, Lafleur says, “things raised or found on past ranches and farms I’ve worked at.&#8\2\2\1; (Their two dogs, Sola and Massimo, like to gnaw on the occasional bone once an animal has been butchered.)
Above: A bleached jawbone greets visitors at the front door. In the spirit of using what they grow, animal bones and hides throughout the interiors—and exteriors—are remnants from the couple’s own animals: a flock of sheep kept during the first year and a half at High Ridge Farm and, Lafleur says, “things raised or found on past ranches and farms I’ve worked at.” (Their two dogs, Sola and Massimo, like to gnaw on the occasional bone once an animal has been butchered.)

6. Give chickens free rein.

No cages here: The couple&#8\2\17;s meat birds are pasture-raised.
Above: No cages here: The couple’s meat birds are pasture-raised.

7. Raise pigs in the woods.

Pigs, too, are raised in pastures and in the woods, and spend &#8\2\20;365 days a year outside, on the land,&#8\2\2\1; the farmers say. &#8\2\20;As we rotate them from paddock to paddock, they regenerate depleted and marginal farmland while producing delicious, healthful meat at the same time.&#8\2\2\1; They eat, among other things, apple pomace, the pulp left over from the cider press. (Read more about the High Ridge hogs here.)
Above: Pigs, too, are raised in pastures and in the woods, and spend “365 days a year outside, on the land,” the farmers say. “As we rotate them from paddock to paddock, they regenerate depleted and marginal farmland while producing delicious, healthful meat at the same time.” They eat, among other things, apple pomace, the pulp left over from the cider press. (Read more about the High Ridge hogs here.)

8. Let the dogs have the run of the place.

Massimo and Sola have free reign and help to keep the pigs in line.
Above: Massimo and Sola have free reign and help to keep the pigs in line.

9. Grow what you want to eat.

In addition to birds and hogs, the couple tends an acre of vegetables, herbs, and flowers &#8\2\20;using a permanent bed, low-till system,&#8\2\2\1; they say. Among the crops: tomatillos for salsa and, soon, corn for tortillas.
Above: In addition to birds and hogs, the couple tends an acre of vegetables, herbs, and flowers “using a permanent bed, low-till system,” they say. Among the crops: tomatillos for salsa and, soon, corn for tortillas.

10. Restore old barns.

When Lafleur and White found it, the early-\19th-century barn was in bad shape. “It was teetering on a fieldstone foundation, the sills were rotted, the floor had caved in, and it had subsequently begun to lean,” Lafleur says. But the frame and roof were in good shape. “We decided to jack it up and pour a foundation and a concrete root cellar that now doubles as winery and walk-in cool space for vegetables and flowers,&#8\2\2\1; Lafleur says. The barn also houses the cider press.
Above: When Lafleur and White found it, the early-19th-century barn was in bad shape. “It was teetering on a fieldstone foundation, the sills were rotted, the floor had caved in, and it had subsequently begun to lean,” Lafleur says. But the frame and roof were in good shape. “We decided to jack it up and pour a foundation and a concrete root cellar that now doubles as winery and walk-in cool space for vegetables and flowers,” Lafleur says. The barn also houses the cider press.

11. Serve dinner where it’s grown.

Rather than cart their meats, salumi, and produce to restaurants or farmers&#8\2\17; markets, Lafleur and White believe in serving their food where it&#8\2\17;s grown. Hence: the community dinners in the barn, with taco nights every Friday and community dinners one Sunday a month.
Above: Rather than cart their meats, salumi, and produce to restaurants or farmers’ markets, Lafleur and White believe in serving their food where it’s grown. Hence: the community dinners in the barn, with taco nights every Friday and community dinners one Sunday a month.

“What you see on the land, you’ll find on your plate—and in your glass,” the couple says, and they mean it, down to the tiniest component. For example: “The taco is the vessel through which we sell everything we grow and raise, process, and put up,” they explain, including the meat (and the braise it’s cooked in), the tomatillos and jalapeños for the salsa verde, the lettuces and scallions, and, soon, the corn for the tortillas. (For more info, see the food and drink offerings here.)

12. Forage for wild cider.

 The couple also serves “foraged, wild-fermented” cider by the glass, made from &#8\2\20;wild and heirloom apple varieties&#8\2\2\1; from old orchards they happen upon in the area, which are then pressed in the barn and bottled. This year, they’re serving the bottling from their first year on the farm, called &#8\2\20;Feet on the Ground,&#8\2\2\1; also available in their tasting room.
Above: The couple also serves “foraged, wild-fermented” cider by the glass, made from “wild and heirloom apple varieties” from old orchards they happen upon in the area, which are then pressed in the barn and bottled. This year, they’re serving the bottling from their first year on the farm, called “Feet on the Ground,” also available in their tasting room.

13. Kick back (occasionally).

A hammock hung in the loft of the barn, for rare moments of rest.
Above: A hammock hung in the loft of the barn, for rare moments of rest.

More gardens and farms in the great state of Maine:

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