Dick Broom

Bringing in the Sheaves

Dick Broom
Kirsten Stockman cooks tomatoes for canning at her home on the Crooked Road in Bar Harbor.

Don’t bother Kirsten Stockman right now. She’s rather busy.

It’s “putting by” time at her house on the Crooked Road in Bar Harbor.

She and her husband, Tom Crikelair, with the help of their daughters, Lily, 9, and Eva, 6, grow nearly all of the food they eat all year.

What they don’t eat when it’s fresh, they freeze or can or store in their root cellar.

“I think there are still a lot of people who put food by, a lot of older Mainers,” Ms. Stockman said. “But I guess it’s less and less common these days.”

She and her husband have been doing it for more than two decades.

They grow corn, beans, peas, eggplant, carrots, onions, beets, summer squash, winter squash, zucchini, broccoli, kale, cabbage, peppers, cucumbers and lots and lots of tomatoes. They also grow potatoes at a large garden at her parents’ house in Trenton.

The family has two ancient apple trees, one that produces sweet fruit, the other tart. They also raise chickens for meat and eggs. Lily and Eva take care of the chickens and collect their eggs, and Mr. Crikelair butchers chickens for freezing.

Lately, they have been spending a lot of time canning tomatoes, which they often use for making pasta sauce that they use all year. They freeze most of the other vegetables they grow.

Potatoes, carrots, and cabbages go into the root cellar, which has a dirt floor and keeps the vegetables at just the right temperature all winter.

Last year, Ms. Stockman didn’t plant nearly as much as she usually does, and the result was quite a shock.

“I couldn’t believe how often I was going to the store and how much I had to buy,” she said. “It had been so long since I had to purchase vegetables. I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t realize how much we had been producing because I was so used to it.”

This year has been much more typical, which means she has spent most of the last few months in the garden.

“I don’t see a lot of my friends in the summer,” she said. “I almost feel like, from May until the end of September, don’t bother calling Kirsten because it occupies most of my time.”

She said,  “It’s amazing how much you can create out of just a small piece of land,” she said. “It’s constantly giving us things, and that makes me feel really connected to it.”

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Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]