Crops Update Vol. 10

By Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona

Farming Family

At the stand, you will find cherry tomatoes and string beans. Both crops were harvested by our newest team members, Jacob Hunter (pictured above) and Bodhi Becker. Jacob worked with us for a period last season when his tomato stringing skills earned our admiration. He will be with us for the next few weeks before starting his college career at Vassar.

My nephew Bodhi, who will be a sophomore at Milton Academy in the fall, will be spending the rest of this week helping out the team. It’s a treat for me to get to spend time with him, and we love having the extra help. When Bodhi was a little taller than my knee, I remember him picking sungold cherry tomatoes in my father’s garden. This morning, standing several inches taller than me, he picked sungolds for you.

Life is Sweet! And so is the corn.

We have white corn at the stand and will be picking more for the CSA. The fence seems to be keeping the coyotes out, and the birds are having trouble drilling into the tight tassels of this variety—sugar pearl. This year, we finally cut trinity corn—a delicious, early, bi-color variety—out of the crop plan after years of trying to fend off the birds. So far so good.

Slow Tomatoes

The gray weather is slowing down tomato ripening. We’re hoping to pick some slicers by the weekend, but that depends on the sun and the temperature. For now, we’ll have to satisfy our craving for color with yellow and purple beans, blue and red potatoes, and the lavender shades of eggplant.

Your Farmers

Crops Update Vol. 9

By Crops Manager Matt Celona

Serious Summer Harvest Time

Cherry tomatoes are nearly ready for harvest! Meanwhile, we’re continuing to harvest large quantities of eggplants, peppers, string beans, cucumbers, and summer squash. We’re also about to start digging blue and yellow potatoes in addition to the reds you’ve been seeing at the farm stand.

Flowers in Bloom

The annual flower patch is getting colorful with rudbekia, snapdragons, amaranth, strawflower, zinnia, ageratum, and celosia. The bees are deafening in the cerinthe, a blue flower that droops its bells over.

Coyotes Love Sweets

Fred and Sarah just finished putting an electric fence around the first planting of sweet corn as the coyotes seem to know where the sugar is and have started chomping it about a week before we’d want to do the same. But in general, all crops look great.

Rain Still Causing Weeds

Our biggest challenge right now is weeds. Camp Weed Out #2 just wrapped up – and at the perfect time. Thanks Emma, Jill and Laura for coordinating, and thanks to the campers and counselors for the help!

Hooray for Garlic

Our garlic harvest failed last season, so you can imagine how happy we are to have a healthy crop this year. Last Thursday, investors from Athena Capital of Lincoln started the garlic harvest. Together we harvested three of our nine beds, or about 3,600 heads. Thanks to the Athena volunteers for making light work of what is usually a heavy job.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update Vol. 8

By Crops Manager Matt Celona

So Many Crops

Here’s what you’ll find at the stand these days:

  • Cucumbers
  • Summer squash
  • Red-gold potatoes
  • White Vidalia bunching onions
  • Fava beans
  • Eggplant

And tomatoes and peppers are not far off!

Weed-Out #1 and Keurig Volunteers

Thanks to Emma, Jill, and Will for organizing Camp Weed-Out #1 last week, and thanks to all the campers and counselors who did such a great job weeding the brassica patch. On Thursday, accountants from Keurig Green Mountain weeded carrots, planted basil and lettuce, and harvested peas for market. Three of the Keurig volunteers are Drumlin CSA members, and it was nice to hear that they’ve been enjoying the peas in their shares.

Harvesting Potatoes with AMC

Avril, Andrew and Matt worked with 20 volunteers from the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). The group did some weeding and harvesting the first potatoes of the year. Thanks, Andy! A thunderstorm threatened but did not materialize, and we harvested 350 pounds of potatoes in about twenty minutes. The potato patch is looking great and promises to be seriously productive.

Thanks to all those who took part in farming the fields this past week!

Your farmers

Drumlin Farm Crops Update Vol. 7

By Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona

Strawberries Continue to Thrive
The team is picking strawberries right now for restaurant orders and for the farm stand. Some people came out during Saturday’s rain and humidity to take advantage of Strawberry Day and were rewarded with what one chef has told us are “best tasting strawberries around this season.” Last week, we had lots of strawberries ripening in the patch, and volunteers from Net App  helped us pick pints for the CSA. This is something we would not have had the people power to do on our own, so CSA members can thank Net App for the treat!

Volunteers Continue to Be Great
We are now scheduling a weeding job for each volunteer group because the weeds are really taking off with the rain and long days. Civil engineers from Green International Affiliates (one of our new Community Partners) weeded carrots, planted basil and picked sugar snap peas for Saturday’s market. Thanks for your focused work, Green International.

On Saturday, parents and children from Marathi Mandal of Boston volunteered in the field. We enjoyed weeding carrots, planting sunflowers, and harvesting peas with these volunteers.

And finally, we’re approaching the last big planting project of the year: One half-acre of pumpkins with the help of volunteers from Phillips Medisize.

Crops Team Continues to Plant and Harvest
Last week, Andrew, Josh, and Avril worked late to put the first line of twine on all the early tomatoes and planted the second succession of tomatoes. Thanks all for the extra time and effort.

We also have storage crops on our mind. We will soon transplant storage cabbage to the field and seeding carrots intended for the root cellar. Purple spring onions are just now reaching bunching size, and we will soon be harvesting the first summer squash and cucumbers of the year. Garlic scape season has ended, and the bulbs have a few more weeks to grow before we bring them into the barn.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

When a Hive Loses Its Queen

By Beekeeper Mel Gadd

Learning Garden Hive

Since our spring update, several people noticed that the activity at the Learning Garden hive has dropped considerably. Initial inspection indicated that the bees might have abandoned this hive, as the normal busyness we are use to seeing this time of year is not happening.

So I performed a full inspection—opened the hive, pulled out bars with comb, checked the comb—to figure out the status of the hive. This is what I found:

  • Number of bees drastically reduced (just a handful left).
  • Very little stored honey, but a large amount of stored pollen.
  • No brood (egg, larval, or pupal cells) in the hive.
  • A number of open queen cells in the middle of the honeycomb. (Workers create these “supersedure cells” when they need to replace the queen. On the other hand, if the workers create “swarm cells”—queen cells at the bottom of the honeycomb—the hive is overcrowded and getting ready to swarm. This hive has no such cells.)

All of this indicates that the queen died or disappeared and the workers were not successful at raising a replacement before she was gone.

What’s Next

Within the next couple of weeks, I will add bees from one of the Skinny Field hives and buy and install a new queen. Both Skinny Field Hives (5 and 6, if you’re looking at the map in the spring update) are doing extremely well, which would allow me to split the bees in one of them. I will then merge these bees with those in the Learning Garden hive and introduce the new queen.

Feel free to visit the Learning Garden hive and open the windows and see if you notice the change in activity.

Questions? Contact Mel.

Drumlin Farm Crops Update Vol. 6

Heatwave #1

Looks like the first heat wave of the year has arrived. It’s 95 in the field where volunteers Anne and Shelia are crawling along over the hot soil thinning beets—amazing! The heat will push the strawberries and peas along, and we’ve moved Strawberry Day to June 24 because not enough of the berries will be ready by this weekend. We do plan to pick strawberries for the first time tomorrow morning and bring them up to the stand.

Google Volunteers Planting Dahlias

This past week we got lots of great help from three large groups. On Thursday, volunteers from Google planted dahlias. Their company made a donation to help us purchase the plants from a nursery. After planting the dahlias, the volunteers thoroughly weeded four beds of celery and celeriac. Thanks for the help!

Thanks, Camp Counselors!

On Friday morning, Zach and Emma brought the camp counselors to the field to learn about our crops program and to get trained for the upcoming “Weedouts”—the mornings when campers get dirty and pull weeds. Thanks counselors for making camp a rewarding first connection to Drumlin for so many kids and families, and thanks for pulling those weeds in the radicchio and peas!

Storm Volunteers

On Friday afternoon, Care.com brought volunteers to the field just in time to plant the sweet potato slips. A thunderstorm passed through, but the gang brushed it off and happily set 2,500 plants in about an hour. Thanks for all your great work and for the donation!

Summer CSA Countdown

The summer CSA opens this week just as many new crops are about to come in. We are close to our first harvest of chard, beets, carrots and garlic scapes. We’re excited to see what’s ready come Wednesday morning. If you’re interested in grabbing a last-minute share, visit massaudubon.org/drumlincsa.

Your Farmers

Drumlin Farm Crops Update Vol. 5

By Crops Manager Matt Celona

Plantings for the Week

The continued gray and cool weather means we’re twiddling our thumbs waiting for the first peas, beets, carrots and strawberries to come in. In the meantime, we’ll continue planting: watermelons, sweet potatoes, and dahlias are all scheduled to go in the ground this week.

Last week, volunteer groups planted dahlia seedlings, the second round of sweet corn, and our only popcorn for the year—5,300 plants! Thank you to all of our volunteer groups who helped by donating both time and money to our planting efforts.

Those Pesky Potato Beetles

We’re hoping to delay our first spraying of the year by relying on some old-fashioned pest control (squishing them). But when the first round of eggs hatches, and the larvae start to munch on the plants, we’ll begin spraying our bacteria-based, OMRI-approved pesticides (Organic Materials Review Institute).

SNAP Dollar Approval

Mass Audubon has received approval to accept SNAP dollars (formerly Food Stamps) for Drumlin Farm’s CSAs and for our market loyalty program at Union Square Farmer’s Market. Improving access to nature and—in the case of Drumlin Farm—to locally-produced food, is an important component of Mass Audubon’s vision. We hope that more people will be able to enjoy our food as a result of the expansion of this program.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Spring Hive Update from Beekeeper Mel

by Drumlin Farm Beekeeper Mel Gadd

Slovenian hive located at the Farm Life Center at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary

Hive Health

Last year, we had 10 hives at 208 South Great Road: Eight on the Drumlin Farm side of the road, and two on the Mass Audubon Headquarters side.

Since last summer, we’ve lost five hives. Considering last year’s drought and the subsequent lack of blossoming plants by the end of the summer, our losses were less than the average in the New England region.

This season we have increased the total number of hives to 14. There are now 10 hives at Drumlin Farm and four at Mass Audubon Headquarters.

Drumlin Farm Hives

1. Learning Garden Hive (Warré): This hive is slowly building up its numbers. The bees have been active on the few warm days that we have had.

2. Nature Center (Warré): In early May, we installed a new package of bees in this hive and the numbers have been increasing steadily. The queen is doing her job. As with the other hives, the bees have been very active on warm days. Once the clover in the sheep pasture blooms, we hope this hive will take off as it did two years ago with the heavy load of pollen and nectar from the clover.

3. Beeline Trail (Warré): Both of these hives were lost last fall and the hives were removed. The Warré hive is back although it has been moved slightly to take into account groundwater issues. Bees were installed in early May and the hive appears to be doing well.

4. Boyce Pond Hive (Langstroth): We thought this hive was lost over the winter, but upon closer inspection it appears to have survived. We recently cleared some of the brush and growth around the hive to make it more visible and give the bees better access.

5 & 6. Skinny Field Hives (Langstroth)*: Both of these hives are doing very well—full of bees with good levels of honey stores.

7. Skinny Field Hive (Langstroth): The Langstroth hive that had been at the Beeline Trail was moved here, and bees were added in May. The hive is doing well and already required a second brood box as it has been expanding steadily despite the cool weather.

8. Sugarbush Field Hive (Langstroth): This is not a strong hive at this point. Hopefully, as the weather warms the hive will improve. If it does not, we may be able to add bees from some of the stronger hives. The other option could be to add a swarm, if available, to build up the number of bees quickly.

9. Drumlin Community Preschool Hive (Warré): This hive has been running for five years and is doing extremely well. The hive will need an additional box soon to forestall crowding, which leads to swarming. Since it’s a Warré hive with windows, the preschool children are able to look inside and see what’s happening.

10. Farm Life Center Hive (Slovenian): This Slovenian hive, installed in a traditional kiosk structure, is the newest addition to our hive collection. Bees were recently installed, and once they have been established we will teach staff about the hive. The bees are behind interior screening so visitors can be shown the operation of the hive.

We look forward to a good beekeeping year this season. Long-term weather projections for the summer indicate more precipitation and fewer high temperature days (above 90°F) then we had last summer. Hopefully, this will insure a sufficient amount of pollen and nectar sources for the bees as well as a better season for the output at the farm. We plan to start documenting the impact of the beehives on the output and success of the farm crops this coming year.

If you have questions about any information in this update, or anything bee related, feel free to contact Mel.

*I have been experimenting with mushroom extracts to treat varro mites and the viruses they transmit in both of these hives. Based on research done at Washington State University, I have been feeding both of these hives with two different mushroom extracts since last August. The WSU entomologists found 75% reductions in mite levels in the hives using these mushroom extracts and results from these hives are excellent also with extremely low mite and virus levels. I am very pleased with this non-invasive, natural approach to dealing with the mite problem and have started using the mushroom extracts to all of the hives.

One of these hives has an experimental Flow Hive box on it. The flow hive box system, developed in Australia, allows for capturing honey directly from the box without having to open and disrupt the hive. I did not attempt to capture honey from the flow hive box last season, as the box was added late in the season and drought limited the availability of nectar. The flow hive box has a window that allows you to see the plastic flow hive frames and sometimes the bees.

The other hive has an electronic monitoring device, Brood Minder, which will record hourly temperature and humidity levels within the hive. The information can be directly uploaded and used to assess hive maintenance and also is transmitted to a national database tracking the health of bee hives across the country.

5 Things To Do at Drumlin Farm (a.k.a. Your Summer Warm-up)

School is nearly out. Are you ready?

Here’s what you can do between now and next weekend to get used to the summer vibe:

1. Milk a cow at Dairy Day tomorrow, June 3. It’s our last one. Don’t miss it!

2. Get your kids to waddle like a duck and catch the pond treats these web-footed quackers love to munch.

3. Snatch one of the last Summer CSA shares, which starts up June 14. Before you know it, it’ll be late summer and you’ll have so many cherry heirloom tomatoes you’ll be eating them like popcorn.

4. Make sweet honey mead with our beekeeper Mel Gadd next Sunday. Hive-to-bottle is a thing, right?

5. Uh oh. Father’s Day is just around the corner. Whether he’s a birder or not, send him to the Rhode Island coast for a birding trip he’ll be talking about for years.

Drumlin Farm Crops Update: When Things Go Wrong

by Crops Manager Matt Celona

When it Rains, it Pours

Some days it seems that the earth, in churning around its perpetual corner, loses its grip on the lane and slides down into the gutter. This past Saturday was one of those days. Sarah called in from the Union Square Farmers Market to report that car’s brake line ruptured and sprayed an oily mess all over the veggie displays of several farms. C’mon, Somerville, hydraulic fluid is not a substitute for salad dressing! Health inspectors arrived and sent some vendors home, and the market was crisscrossed with police tape. Luckily, our display was unaffected, but customer turnout was low and we had lots of leftovers. Sarah contacted a bunch of restaurants and sold all the extras. Way to improvise, Sarah!

Back at the farm, a bolt broke on our seedbed maker just as we were preparing to plant 1,100 tomato plants. It’s an Austrian implement, and none of the hardware on any of our other implements could be swapped into place. Thankfully, I had made enough beds for the eggplant transplants, so Josh, Avril, and Will planted those while I got the seedbed maker operational again. Then everyone stayed late to get all those tomatoes in the ground. Thanks everyone for staying patient and focused when things seemed to be juddering down in the gutter.

Volunteers Helping With Farm Favorites

Volunteers from Dassault Systemes of Waltham helped us thin beets, plant peppers and weed peas and fava beans. Several people from this group had harvested beets and planted garlic with us last October. The volunteers seemed delighted to see the cloves they had planted were thigh high and vibrant green. Thanks so much, Dassault, for your good work!

Farmers Meeting Success

Thirty new farmers came to Drumlin Farm to attend a meeting on crop planning led by me and Lise Holdorf of Barrett’s Mill Farm in Concord. Attendees represented farms from neighboring towns, the North Shore, Needham and Dover. Thanks to the entire Crops Team for helping me present a picture of how we organize our year on paper. And a a special thank you to Avril who used Drumlin arugula, rosemary, hakurei turnips, spinach, and pullet eggs to make ten pizzas to feed all attendees. The pizzas were delicious!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

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