I often find love notes in the cash box here at Runamuk Acres, and it never fails to make my day. It’s inspiring, and motiviating for this farmer, and I am grateful for it. Farming is not easy work, nor is it an easy lifestyle, but I sure love it and the appreciation folks show for it makes it worth every hardship. It’s been one hellova growing season here at the Runamuk Acres Conservation Farm─with the usual ups and downs. I invite you to get yourself a cuppa, and join this farmer for a seasonal update.
Runamuk has grown quite a lot this season─both literally and figuratively, lol. Having the farmstand open consistently has increased our presence within the community. We are selling more food to more households than ever before. People rave about the quality of our vegetables compared to that found at the local grocery store. They love my handmade bread, and stop into the farmstand in hopes of finding a loaf of Cinnamon-Swirl. With summer winding to a close, our list of available products shifts. I am spending more time in the kitchen again, baking all those seasonal favorites we love to eat when the weather turns cold. In addition, we’ll have microgreens available soon, with the pork and lamb harvest soon to be available.
The idea to do without housemates, however, set me back financially and I am still recovering. I guess it was a rather preposterous notion─to think I could scrape by without that extra income stream. I need to let the house work for me─to be able to live and farm here on my own.
One of my CSA members had been a guest to the farm a few years back, when I was still doing AirBnB farmstays. Lindsay Currier, with her little daughter, Saffron, stayed at Runamuk on their first foray into the area, and absolutely loved it. When they moved to Kingfield a short time later, they became one of the farm’s founding CSA members. They’ve been staunch allies ever since. For some time now, Lindsay has been gently encouraging me to make a return to hosting for AirBnB.
Shameless plug! Lindsay is an avid biker and just started her own guiding service. Check out www.stillpeaking.com for more info!
Then, I was into the Farmington Farmers’ Union a couple months back, when I chanced an encounter with another former guest. He told me he had also settled in the area after a stay at Runamuk! The encounter made a big impression on me, and I began to see the ripple effects that this farm has on the community. It was a pretty humbling realization, which led me to reconsider my position on letting space in my home. At length, I decided to return to AirBnB with at least one of the guest rooms.
Early in September, I listed the second-floor guest room on AirBnB─no breakfasts this time around, due to the insurmountable demands upon this farmer’s time. Yet, guests are welcome to purchase from the farmstand, where I often have breads, muffins, and other baked goods, in addition to whatever vegetables and meats are in-season.
Already we’ve welcomed several visitors to our farmstay, and Runamuk is receiving regular bookings. For the most part, the Runamuk farmstay attracts folks who are farm-curious, people who are in the area for myriad outdoor adventures, and those who seek a chance to find peace in nature. The vibe these folks bring with them is a breath of fresh air in my overworked and overwhelmed state. Seeing the farm through their eyes, reminds me of just how far my farm-journey has brought me. And how much I have to be thankful for.
Find our listing here on AirBnB to check it out. You can support this farm just by telling friends and family about our fabulous farmstay. Runamuk lives at the foot of Maine’s Western Mountain Region, where outdoor activities abound. Adventure awaits!
Ups & Downs
The Field: In other areas of the farm, I had some great success stories this growing season. The 10 acre field out back looked absolutely fantastic. The different forbes and grasses have benefited from the practice of rotational grazing that I’ve employed these last 4 years. The growth is lush and rich, teaming with a diverse array of wildlife, from tiny invertebrate insects, to numerous bird populations, and even a few resident deer. All coexisting on that field with the milling sheep, and their resident guard dog.
The Gardens: The smaller of the 2 vegetable gardens, I’ve managed to reign in, laying commercial-grade weed barrier over beds and pathways to combat weed-pressure. We’ve put a lot of work into amending the soil in this garden, resulting in some very robust crops there this season. Garden 1 gave us a bounty of broccoli, cabbages, zucchini, onions, big fat scallions, and seemingly unending cucumbers.
The Tractor: In the larger, 1-acre market garden, yours truly cover cropped half the garden with a combination of peas and oats. I had about two-thirds of the other half of the garden planted before the season began to unravel on me. It was at that point, when it was time to till in the cover crop and plant a fall cover, that my tractor went down. Before I could get the thing repaired, the window of opportunity passed me by. Crops will only hold in the field for so long…sigh.
If you’ve been following along with my story, you may recall how I sold my prized Farmall tractor to buy the smaller Bolens lawn tractor. I had decided that the Farmall was just too big for what I was trying to do. Unfortunately, after using the Bolens this spring, I’ve come to the conclusion that this machine is too small and under-powered for the kind of work I am trying to do with it. I’m at a loss. I don’t know what Runamuk needs to fill this gap, the finances are not available to support investment in another tractor─and I don’t want to be tilling anyway! I throw my hands up in frustration.
The Sheep: Meanwhile, I sold 6 lambs over the summer, sending my babies off to start new flocks on new homesteads near and far. The flock grew to more than 20 mouths this spring, making this farmer acutely aware of the fact that winter stores will only last so long. Runamuk can only feasibly support 10-12 sheep through the winter months. Sacrifices are a harsh reality in farming. 6 lambs went to new homes─including Big Man─the bottle baby who followed me around this spring, melting hearts everywhere we went. 6 sheep will go to freezer camp come November. Deciding who will stay, and who will go, is one of the hardest decisions I have to make as a farmer. Executing that plan is harder still, but lambing season 2023 is my consolation.
Spoils-to-Soils: The scraps collected through Runamuk’s Spoils-to-Soils program last winter yielded about 3 yards of beautiful compost. Unfortunately, I’ve had to disband the program due to the fact that I do not yet have an outdoor set-up for year-round use. Washing the 5-gallon buckets after we’ve emptied them of compost was a bit of an issue. Try as I might to prevent it, there was still quite a lot of fat, grease, and debris that accumulated in the pipes here. The gunk eventually caused a blockage, which resulted in a messy and disgusting repair job for poor Deron. We can still take any kitchen scraps or yard waste that locals would like to drop off, but─to keep my utilities working properly in the farmhouse─I am no longer washing and exchanging buckets.
The Orchard: Earlier in the spring, I managed to make time for pruning and training the 3 and 4-year old fruit trees that make up Runamuk’s little orchard. Then, I took the tiller between the rows in the front orchard to sow low-growing clover with the notion of creating a living mulch. I left it all season, avoiding mowing in order to give the clover a chance to take root, but grasses have come up, overgrowing the clover and now the whole thing looks like a hay-field. At the moment, I’m not sure if it’s worth it to try to hack it back. Perhaps I’ll let the winter snow pack it down to create a mulch layer, which would almost certainly benefit the poor soils there.
Season Extension: While I was able to invest in the supplies to erect a smallish caterpillar tunnel, and I did indeed get the ribs of the structure up, time got away from me. Weeds overtook the ground where I put my tunnel, making it a big job to reclaim the space. Big jobs take time that I do not have at the moment, which means that this project has once again been shunted to the back burner. It’s a disappointment, but you can bet that I will try again next season. Runamuk must have a way to extend it’s growing season if this farm is to feed it’s community year-round.
The Water Project: When I bought the property, the former owners had already pipes running to the pond. There was an existing electric pump and a blue pressure tank to feed water to the small garden. Try as I might, I could never get the pump to run. Eventually, the conclusion was that the thing had sat out in the elements for too long. As a result, we’ve been solely reliant on water from the farmhouse for irrigation and livestock. Town water─for which I am dearly paying. With local water authorities threatening to restrict water-usage, getting a secondary water-source up and running is a high priority for the farm. Yet, current finances do not allow for investment in a replacement pump to draw the pond-water. Thinking this was going to be another of 2022’s missed opportunities, it was a surprise when Deron’s eldest brother donated a pump and pressure tank to the farm. He had upgraded the system in his home, and no longer needed the older model. Come the 2023 growing season, we’ll be all set and ready to tackle this pivotal project.
My Book: It’s embarrassing to admit that I just could not make the time to gain headway on the book I’d announced at the start of the season. Between the demands of this farm, mothering and educating my teenaged son, going back and forth between the farm and Deron’s home in Solon─as well as working through some deeply personal issues─it was all I could do sometimes to write at all. Let alone write anything worth sharing.
All too often, we let talent fizzle as we age. We let go of the passions held so tightly in our youths, in order to meet the demands of adulthood. Time and energy are finite resources. We prioritize how we spend such precious assets, abandoning some dreams out of necessity. While I have sacrificed other dreams to be able to farm, I can not─in good conscience─ignore the call to write. I am afraid that if I were to give up on writing, I will lose a part of myself. I’m even more afraid that when I come to the end of my days, I will regret that I didn’t keep trying. So bear with me, if you will─keep checking in for farm-updates, and potential book releases. You can bet that I will make it happen. Some how, some way.
Farming is not easy work, and I’m certainly not making big bucks doing it, lol. Yet, I do it for love. It’s a blessing, I know, to be able to do all things with and for love. Different notes of love have guided my actions throughout life. Love has brought me here, to this scrappy patch of Earth. It brought me to this place where I get to live, eat, breathe, and work in all forms of love.
It’s curious─fascinating even─to watch the effect of that love rippling out over the community that Runamuk has built for itself. Kind words of encouragement, admiration, and love go such a long way in feeding the soul. You nourish me. Whether it’s a note on a CSA order, a comment on an Instagram post, or a love-note on the farmstand, you are fortifying and inspiring this farmer to keep working hard, so that─in turn─I might nourish and inspire you, too. Whether it is my wholesome, hand-made and hand-grown, local foods, or my authenticity that inspires you, lol, I am truly grateful for the appreciation. Thank you so much for the love notes!!!
Thank you for following along with the story of this female-farmer! It truly is my privilege to be able to live this life, serve my family and community, and protect wildlife through agricultural conservation. Check back soon for more updates from the farm, and be sure to follow @RunamukAcres on Instagram or Facebook! Much love to you and yours, my friends!