Done! Reclaiming Ripley Farm in 24 photos

The first thing that we farmers do after the growing season ends is... AHHHH!  We take a much-needed breath of relief and rack out to reclaim our bodies and minds from the busy, busy summer behind us. 

The second is review our progress towards our goals.  And we had a very big goal this year: To reclaim one acre of 20-year-old trees that had grown up between our barns and our exisiting fields.  Do all this while you are cultivating 4 acres of organic vegetables for an 85 member CSA, a farmers market and a host of wholesales.  What did you say?  We had no idea if it was possible for us to get it all done during what turned out to be one of the shortest Maine growing seasons in many years. 

With last winter's snow load taking its sweet time to melt, we finally started cutting trees at the end of April.  We made steady progress and got to about half of the trees cut by the end of May.  Spirits were high and I made an enthusiastic blog, Reclaiming Ripley Farm part 1, detailing all of the progress we'd made in the first six weeks of the clearing project.  We had a long way to go from then but we pressed on over the course of the rest of the season.  However things began going slower and slower as our farm responsibilities of weeding and harvesting grew larger and larger...

Looking back, we accomplished a lot.  We met our goal of reclaiming what used to be farmland into what will be born again as fields of organic vegetables.  Now when I say we, I mostly mean Gene, his friend, and a couple of great local guys with machines.  I keep telling Gene, "It's amazing that you moved an acre of trees this summer in addition to the tens of thousands of pounds of vegetables you harvested!"  

Here's where my part comes in: farmer-photographer extrordinaire!  I took literally hundreds of photos of the progress of the project and have honed them down into a collection of two dozen images that tell the story so well!  Here it goes and I hope that through my photographic contribution you can share in the sweat, struggle, and sweetness of success that we felt when the first snow fell on November 1st and we were DONE!

Photo 1:  Ever so bleak, Gene digs in the soil to see if its dry enough to till.  None of the trees in the background have been cut, yet.

Photo 2: One chainsaw, two young guys, thousands upon thousands of small birch and fir trees ahead.

Photo 3:  Yes.  It has begun.

Photo 4: The first major break through.  Reuniting the crop field and the greenhouse/barn area.

Photo 5:  Firewood... Lots of firewood and even more brush!

Photo 6:  Brawny and cocky at six weeks in and half the trees down.  High on life in late May.

Photo 7:  The most quintessential photo of the entire project.  Blue sky, green grass, and... a half acre of tree tops!

Photo 8:  Brush begins to be hauled...

Photo 9: And at the same time we've got our crops in the ground for our sixth season at Ripley Farm.

Photo 10: Next step, stumps have to go.  Halfway through.

Photo 11:  The end of June and we've got the second half to come down. 

Photo 12:  The biggest tree, a 25-year-old poplar behind the barn, falls.  Definitely symbolic.

Photo 13:  Gene piles the brush in a windrow.  He did this with every single tree that was cut.

Photo 14:  Gene surveying the slim strip in the middle that's left as we're about to begin our busy harvest season.

Photo 15:  Three spindly trees left standing on June 24...

Photo 16:  Last tree standing...

Photo 17:  With the last tree down, the clean up continues.

Photo 18:  The team beholding a job well done.

Photo 19:  Stump removal on the second half of the project.

Photo 20:  The new view from the fields!  Our farm production fields and our barn area are finally reuinited!

Photo 21:  Same view in reverse from the upstairs of the big barn looking into the fields.

Photo 22:  Stumps getting hauled.  The grass has grown up where there used to be trees!

Photo 23:  Fall on the farm.  You can see the new driving lane that got seeded down to grass seed and covered with a light layer of hay.  This is where we'll access the fields next year with the truck and tractor for field work and harvesting.  (Compare this photo to #3 taken at the end of April.  Yes, I do think we've come a long way!)

Photo 24: Pigs came in this fall to start tilling up the ground for next season!  This was taken during the early November snow storm.


Yea!  We're so looking forward to seeing this additional acre of land as green growing cover crop next spring!