Time to Build: December ELC Progress

Construction of the Environmental Learning Center continues on, rain or shine or snow or cold snap! December saw us through one of the most exciting phases of the project where the building’s structure sprung up from the ground with visible progress happening every day. Here’s a peek at what happened over the past few weeks.

 


The first thing to sprout from our new foundation was the walls. In just one day, our crew from Chapman Construction/Design framed out the walls and got them up to vertical, meaning we could finally see exactly what the silhouette of our new building looks like. We all love the way the building peeks over the horizon as you come down from the Nature Center, ensuring that our educational work will be apparent to Drumlin Farm visitors as soon as they start walking down the hill to the farm.

 


As the building went up, work on the surrounding landscape continued. After rerouting the path around a particularly tough bit of ledge, the hoe ram returned to hammer out a bit more rock along the ADA pathway. The newly exposed ledge will be a great feature for kids to explore as they walk from the parking lot to the new building.

 


Our staff loved seeing some of the more beautiful features of the new building take shape, thanks to the great work of our design team at Maclay Architects. The laminated beams provide strength, as well as style, as they hold up the awning over the main building entrance way. We think the exposed hardware at the joints adds a great farmy touch, too.

 


The same beams are used throughout the main building as structural support. The pins for each joint were hammered in place through the knife plates that connect the beams. It’s satisfying to imagine that this structure will still be standing to shelter future generations of Drumlin Farm educators for decades to come.

 


The crew worked long days and weekends through December to get the building closed in before the worst of the snow and cold. Our site supervisor Bob has been here every single day of the job, keeping the project on track down to the last detail. We will admire his handiwork on the skylights every time we look up through them – thanks, Bob!

 


The education staff ended their December staff meeting with a sneak preview inside the building. There’s a huge difference between seeing your office on a paper blueprint versus getting to walk inside it for real! With the walls in place and the windows framed out, we could start to envision the layout of the different rooms and imagine the creativity and learning that will take place inside. We can’t wait to share it with you in just a few more months.

Look for more updates coming soon. If you would like to learn more about the project, or get involved yourself, we invite you to learn more here.

Renata Pomponi

Sanctuary Director

2018 New Year’s Resolution: Be a Nature Hero

Start 2018 with a resolution that is achievable and benefits yourself and the environment – resolve to be a nature hero! Nature heroes are people who, in big and small ways, make a lasting, positive impact on the natural world. They don’t wear capes and fly, but instead work on making the world a better place by taking responsibility for their actions. As we look to the new year ahead, you’ll find there are many ways you can do your part and join the mighty Mass Audubon nature heroes:

  1. Ride your bike or walk to close locations instead of driving. Added bonus if this helps you meet a health related resolution!
  2. Conserve water by taking shorter showers.
  3. Only run the laundry or dishwasher when the load is full to conserve water.
  4. Use a reusable water bottle. Save money and plastic by not having to buy plastic water bottles frequently. Switching to a reusable thermos will also reduce your waste and save money from your morning caffeine fix.
  5. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store and decline bags when you’re not buying much and don’t need one.
  6. Conserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
  7. Take the bus or train instead of driving to work.
  8. Turn off the lights when you’ll be out of the room for more than 15 minutes.
  9. Look into reusable energy options for your heating and electric bills.
  10. Switch to LED light bulbs.
  11. Unplug chargers when not using them to reduce phantom energy. Even better, unplug entirely and charge your phone with a solar powered phone charger.
  12. Buy local produce. When buying local, the energy it takes to transport food is minimized and food waste is reduced. Drumlin Farm produce is grown using a number of sustainable practices including compost use and focusing on soil health.
  13. Reduce your meat intake to one meal a day, or once a week.
  14. Recycle glass, cans, and plastic whenever you can.
  15. Pick up and throw away any trash that you come across outside.

Can you think of any other achievable nature-based resolutions you can make? More often than not, the driving force behind making these changes comes from within. In 2018, try to get outside more and really engage with the natural elements – resolve to hike more, take a camping trip, or pick up birding. Learn how to forage in the forest, track animals, or ID plants and wildlife. The natural stress relievers of the great outdoors and physical activity of exploration will spark the craving to continue. You’ll start to walk through a simple woods and notice the landscape is not just a blur of green, but each tree, shrub, and sprout has a distinct signature that sets them apart. Inspiration and motivation to make big and small changes will blossom and a nature hero will grow.

From all of us at Drumlin Farm, we wish you a happy and healthy New Year and look forward to a positive 2018!

Drumlin in December

Amidst the colder days and business of the holidays, it’s important to take time out to enjoy the season. Here are some of our favorite activities to do at Drumlin Farm in December.

1. December Naturalist Walk – Learn about the habitats, wildlife, and plant life of the sanctuary through a naturalist’s eyes. There’s no better way to appreciate the start of the winter season than by exploring the property on a Naturalist Walk with Education Coordinator Tia Pinney.

Photo Credit: Ian MacLellan

2. You Can’t Catch Me, I’m the Gingerbread Man! – Get in the delicious holiday spirit and spend time with family during our Gingerbread Man program. Here, you’ll design and decorate your very own gingerbread man and hear about his exciting adventures escaping from cow, pig, goat, and cat. We’ll wrap up by paying a visit to his friends on the farm and enjoying the delicious treat.

3. Holiday Shopping at the Audubon Shop – Pick up a gift for everyone on your list! The Audubon Shop has beautiful holiday cards, home decor, children’s toys, and quirky accessories for everyone – birder or not! Alternatively, you can get some shopping done from the comfort of your home through the Online Audubon Shop. The Audubon Shop will be open every day of December, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, except for Sunday December 24 when we close at 2:00 pm, and Monday December 25 when we will be closed all day.

4. Ode to Evergreens – Traditional Christmas trees tend to be evergreen conifers such as spruce, pine, or fir. Drumlin Farm is host to a number of different species of evergreens; practice your tree ID skills by taking a walk around the property and try to identify as many as you can.

5. Taking Photos – Drumlin Farm offers many picturesque scenes perfect for taking holiday card photos. There are also many opportunities to practice your nature photography and hone your skills adjusting to winter lighting.

6. Wildlife Winter Adaptations – Did you know red foxes use their bushy tails to cover sensitive areas, like their nose and eyes, from the cold in the winter? Visit the farm animals on site and wildlife in our New England Wildlife Explorations exhibit to see and learn different animals’  methods for adapting to the winter cold.

Photo Credit: Henrietta Yelleoktouse

7. Winter Birding – The sanctuary hosts a wide variety of birds year-round. In addition to our on site animal ambassadors, you can bird around the sanctuary for winter wings and submit your findings to Mass Audubon’s eBird page. You can also print out this checklist to keep track of what you find while walking around!

Hard Hat Area: November ELC Progress

If you’ve been able to pay a visit to Drumlin Farm this fall, you may have noticed that parts of the farm look a little different these days! Construction of the Environmental Learning Center began in September, and we couldn’t be happier with the results so far. Replacing our current building, the 60-year-old winterized screen room, the ELC will be a major transformation of how our education team works at Drumlin Farm. With space designed to foster collaboration and creativity, plus room for our 15 full-time education staff and 100+ part-time teacher-naturalists, the building represents the next generation of environmental education, sustainability, and conservation brought to you.

Over the course of the project, we’ll be bringing you updates on the construction in progress, including the details of the state-of-the-art net-zero design that makes the physical structure of the building as innovative as the people who will work inside it. Here’s a peek at what’s been happening so far.

 

We held our official “ground-breaking ceremony” on October 15, but our top-notch crew at Chapman Construction/Design had already beaten us in starting in on the excavation! Tree clearing around the site was carefully designed to leave as many mature trees as possible while maximizing the solar availability for the photovoltaic array that will be located on the roof. Much of the plant material that was removed consisted of invasive species with low habitat value. At the conclusion of the project, we will be replanting the entire area with native trees, shrubs, and grasses that will significantly improve the habitat for wildlife.

 

Once the site was clear, it has been amazing how quickly things happen. First up was the foundation work. The high levels of organic matter in Drumlin Farm soil is great for farming, but not so great for putting a heavy building on, so we had to dig down to glacial bedrock before pouring the foundation walls.

 

The inside of the foundation walls are lined with 5” thick foam to insulate the building from the “thermal sink” that is Planet Earth. This level of insulation allows us to minimize the energy needed to heat the building in winter.

 

Definition of the entrance roadway and sidewalk took place in parallel with the foundation work. Our excavator uncovered this “nugget” of ledge that will take a little drilling to accommodate the location of the walking path, but the remainder of which is going to become a really beautiful feature for kids to explore on the walk from the car before or after their Drumlin Farm program.

 

This is probably the only time we will get to see an excavator INSIDE the building! Once the foundation walls were set, the interior was refilled with compacted earth.

 

We’re thankful to have such a terrific crew working on the project. We can tell that being part of Mass Audubon’s mission is important to them, and they are always willing to wave hello to young visitors peeking in through the fence.

 

As November closed, the slab was poured on top of more foam and a thick plastic vapor barrier. The insets for the supporting columns let us get a first glimpse into where the rooms in the building will be and how much space our educators will have to do their work.

Look for more updates coming soon! If you would like to learn more about the project, or get involved yourself, we invite you to learn more here.

Renata Pomponi

Sanctuary Director

Crops Update: Vol. 25

Last Farm Stand of the Season!

Yesterday we harvested from all fields for the last farm stand of the year. If you drop by Drumlin today you’ll be greeted by a colorful assortment of carrots, beets, radish, collards, kale and chard along with lettuce, cabbage, squash, potatoes and onions, and bags of spinach and arugula at the stand.

 

Thanks to all who have shopped with us throughout the season. And thanks to the volunteers and staff who kept the stand up and running and conducted Know Your Food programs (complete with samples) all season long!

Fall CSA Spots Available

If you want access to fresh Drumlin veggies year-round, it’s not too late to sign up for the Fall CSA. The program runs throughout month of November with the first pickup today. Get in touch with Farmer Sarah Lang if you want to join.

Root Veggies for Winter

We still have three more Saturday markets to attend in Somerville, as well as a Winter CSA and regular deliveries to our restaurant and school partners through spring. That in mind, we’ve moved more than ten thousand pounds of potatoes into the root cellar and have just begun bringing in the carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, celeriac, storage radish and rutabaga.

Your Farmers

Welcoming Our New Red Fox

Drumlin Farm recently welcomed our newest animal ambassador: a curious and rambunctious red fox! This male kit (young fox) was found alone in an Illinois cornfield last spring. After being examined by a vet, it became clear that his vision issues make him unable to survive on his own in the wild, but a wonderful candidate for Drumlin Farm. Our animal care staff drove to meet the wildlife rehabilitation center at a halfway point—in Ohio—and brought him back to his new home in our New England Wildlife Explorations exhibit (NEWE).

We’re happy to announce that the fox is now healthy and active, settling into his new home well. While he was originally found dehydrated and malnourished, he’s now enjoying quick scurries through his enclosure, along with a full omnivore diet of mice and veggies. Our Wildlife Care Staff did their usual amazing job in slowly introducing him to his pen using positive reinforcement. He’s joined the team of animal ambassadors at the farm, where his presence acts as an educational tool for visitors to learn about local wildlife.

Red foxes are generalists, so they’re found in a large variety of habitats and aren’t picky about their food. They adapt very well to new environments and can be found in forests and grasslands, as well as in cities like Boston. Check him out, along with other native animals, at the NEWE exhibit, where you can learn about the interrelationships of native wildlife in a New England forest/field edge habitat. You’ll see animals that the red fox would normally come across in the wild, like our cottontail rabbit, box turtle, and house mice.

The exhibit also features a “FoxCam”—a video stream of the fox’s inside pen, where you can speedily rewind and fast forward through the footage using a computer-controlled dial. This footage allows us opportunities to study the fox’s behavior as he adjusts to his new environment. Plus—it’s really fun to play with! He is in his “teenager” phase, so you’ll also see how much he loves to sleep.

While he would not have been able to survive in the wild on his own, he’s now thriving at Drumlin Farm. As an animal ambassador, he’s been given an opportunity to teach us about local wildlife and the natural surroundings we share. Stop by NEWE to say hello and welcome him to the farm.

Crops Update: Vol 24

AER Volunteer Help

On Thursday of last week, a large volunteer group from Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) of Lexington returned to the farm to lend a hand again, after helping us with the fall harvest last year. They are great fun to work with because they model weather for a living and really enjoy seeing and discussing the relationship between the conditions of a season and the impact on crops. They worked diligently and longer than we expected, harvesting 3,100 pounds of potatoes and 200 pounds of carrots. They then helped us break up over 100 pounds of garlic heads for seeding. Thanks so much to all of our AER volunteers!

Garlic Planting

Thankfully, it seems like rain is finally coming. The late summer and fall has been exceptionally dry, and the soil has turned powdery, reminding us of last year’s drought. However, these warm and dry conditions have been perfect for planting next year’s garlic crop and for harvesting potatoes. Over the weekend, we finished planting next year’s garlic crop with help from community volunteers Mimansa, Phuong, and Susie. We set aside 400 pounds of our largest garlic heads from July’s harvest and have been planting a few beds at a time over the past week. Our hands are usually stinging from the cold as we try to finish this job before the ground freezes, but it’s been a treat to plant garlic in 70 degree weather this week. In November, we’ll cover the garlic beds with straw to protect the seed.

It’s a good thing our garlic is doing well, as it’ll be an important deterrent for potential vampires at our Tales of the Night event this week!

Farm Stand

Even though we are filling the root cellar with potatoes and carrots, we still have beautiful field crops for the stand, market and CSA. Today at the farmstand you can find heads of lettuce, spinach, bok choy, tatsoi, radish and bunched beets and carrots.  We’re fortunate this year that the beets and carrots still have nice tops at this point in the season—the cold has usually damaged them by now. The last plum tomatoes of 2017 are also at the stand today. They’ve been ripening since we saved them from the freeze and are sweet enough to be sliced and eaten raw or cooked into sauce—yum! You also still have some time to sign up for our Fall CSA and Winter CSA to keep getting delicious, fresh crops throughout the colder seasons.

Your Farmers

Remembering and Celebrating Our Volunteers

Drumlin Farm relies on the energy and hard work of our many volunteers to accomplish our goals . In recognition of the importance of this vital community, the Drumlin Farm Sanctuary Committee recently initiated the Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions. Jonathan, a long-time livestock volunteer who passed away in 2016, and whose smile and friendship are sorely missed, diligently cared for our animals while using his impressive carpentry skills to make improvements to our barns.

Long-time Drumlin Farm volunteer Jonathan Leavy caring for a lamb

And the Award Goes to . . .

On September 23, at our Moon Over the Drumlin benefit dinner, we presented the first annual award in Jonathan’s memory to Fred Costanza. Fred has dedicated more than 14,000 hours of his time and hard work to Drumlin since 2006. He is a multifaceted volunteer who assists staff in caring for our livestock, crops, and property. On any given day you can find Fred plowing a field, programming the root cellar cooling system, fixing a tractor, mucking a barn, feeding the goats, or lending a hand at a special event.

Our staff turn to Fred not only for help with the everyday tasks that keep the sanctuary running smoothly but also for behind-the-scenes projects that we have come to rely on him for. Need a fence repaired, maintenance for the crops truck, a mobile chicken coop relocated, or someone to man the giant spider at Tales of the Night? Call on Fred.

Fred Costanza, first recipient of the Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions

The Jonathan Leavy Award plaque can be found in the tack room of our red barn—a fitting location where much of Jonathan’s handiwork can be found. Fred’s name is engraved upon it as the first recipient. Thankfully, his name will be joined by other wonderfully generous Drumlin Farm volunteers in the years to come.

By Pam Sowizral, Drumlin Farm Volunteer Coordinator

 

New Additions: Meet Mick and Prince

Welcome, Mick!

We recently brought home two new rams, Mick and Prince. These woolly gents came to us by way of Kate Collins, who does the sheep dog demos at Drumlin Farm’s annual Woolapalooza celebration in March.

Drumlin staff prepared for their arrival by building a little shade shelter out of recycled materials behind the red barn and setting up an electric fence that extends from the equine pasture to the maple grove.

Over the weekend, 10 ewes joined Prince in the Maple Grove and five were brought to the equine pasture to accompany Mick. By Sunday night all were settled in.

Breeding season has begun! If all goes to schedule we’ll have new lambs in late March.

Crops Update: Vol. 23

Pounds of Potatoes to Somerville Schools

This week we delivered baking potatoes to Somerville Schools for the first time—around 1,800 individual potatoes, or 720 pounds, to be exact! We chose the Désirée variety because of its prized flavor and interesting appearance: smooth, pink skin and yellow flesh.

Josh and Andrew started digging the potatoes on Saturday with Drumlin’s 4-H program participants and two community volunteers. (We were so grateful the 4-H group chose to trek all the way to the outermost field to help us!) Working together, Josh and Sarah finished the job on Sunday afternoon before the rain arrived.

Volunteers helping out on the farm

It Takes a Village to Make it to Market

Late last week volunteers from Burlington’s 128 Technology and Wilmington’s Securadyne Systems helped us prepare for Saturday’s market in Union Square, harvesting sweet potatoes, baking potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant.

Demand for these veggies and our tomatoes remains high, even though ripening is happening more slowly now with the longer nights. It really helped to have many people combing over the plants to find the cherry tomatoes and miniature eggplants hiding under dense foliage.

Thanks all who helped make this past weekend’s market a success!

Your Farmers