New Adventures Await at Assabet River Camp!

2018 is gearing up to be the best summer ever! We are excited to announce new programmatic additions to Assabet River Camp that continue to make it a special and unique place for new and returning campers to explore nature, and learn survival skills they can use for life! All of our camps are now 5 days, Monday–Friday (with the exception of July 4th week), perfect for working parents and campers that want more to explore! Drumlin Farm Camp began our program at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in 2012, where campers could develop a connection with nature and learn about the complicated history behind the land we live on. With new themes and activities, it’s shaping up to be an amazing year at Assabet River Camp!

Practice makes perfect!

The Archery Range is Open!

Notch your arrows and draw your bows, because archery is coming to Assabet River! Our archery range is brand new for 2018 and is ready for action. Learn how to shoot an arrow and why archery is an important human tradition that goes back thousands of years. Hone your skills on the range and learn to successfully shoot a bullseye!

The best way to explore the river is by canoe!

Paddle Puffer Pond Each Week!

New for 2018, we’ll get out in our canoes every week of camp! Younger campers will learn paddle skills and the basics of freshwater ecology, while older campers will practice advanced maneuvers and pond-by-canoe. The scenic Assabet River is perfect for relaxing exploration and inquisitive adventures.

Fishing on Assabet River

Cast a Line from the Fishing Dock!

We’re bringing out the rods every week of the summer! Head out to the fishing platform on Puffer Pond with our knowledgeable counselors and do your best to hook one of the many species of fish that inhabit the pond (all fishing is catch and release).

 

Join us at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge for an amazing summer of fishing, archery, canoeing, and exploring the incredible 2,200 acre refuge. Learn from conservation biologists, meet live animals, and discover hidden worlds in the woods. Register today!

Crops Update: Week 5

Have you registered for a Summer CSA program yet? Will we see you at Strawberry Day?

Last night, CSA coordinator Veronica Gassert hosted a gathering where CSA members and farmers met and exchanged ideas. Nearly all agreed on the value of eating freshly harvested food in alignment with the seasons as a motivation for joining the program. By eating locally and with the seasons, you’re reducing the environmental costs that come with having your food travel thousands of miles to you. Many expressed interest in having access to more recipes and kitchen strategies for making better use of the bounty. Some noteworthy suggestions also included having a program where a chef teaches others how to use the various crops in their share; providing a recipe tab on the website organized by seasons; providing a forum, or in some way incentivize the sharing of cooking tips and tricks amongst CSA members. Along those lines, I shared my own tip and favorite way to prepare my CSA greens:

  1.  Start cooking rice in a rice cooker.
  2. While the rice is cooking, make a dressing of you choice to jazz it up
  3. Near the end, add in your greens (baby bok choi, broccoli raab, spinach–cram in a whole pound!)
  4. Drizzle dressing onto your cooked rice and veggies. Eat this over the sink (no dishes!) while listening to the Red Sox (optional). Voila, caveman’s dinner!

While that’s jone way to expand time in the kitchen, while in the field, the time to accomplish tasks shrinks as hands multiply. On Tuesday, volunteers from Harvard Business School’s IT department—many with a love of gardening and the outdoors—came to the fields despite a forecast for rain. All went well for about twenty minutes, but then it poured, and it wasn’t warm. On the bright side, they were so happy to be out from behind their desks that they voted to work on. The fields eventually became muddy to the point where we had to stop planting cucumbers and switch to weeding strawberries up on the straw. The resulting patch looks great, bravo and thanks again to all! 

On Thursday morning, Emma and the Crops team oriented all the camp counselors to the fields and to the upcoming weed-outs. We then weeded in the carrots before picking strawberries to sell at the farmstand. Thank you, counselors, for your good work! On Thursday afternoon, volunteers from Goldman Sachs planted rosemary, scallions, and basil before weeding carrots. This is the second group this season to make a donation to fund our purchase of rosemary plants, and we have been selling all we can harvest to Iggy’s Breads. Thank you Goldman Sachs volunteers for your good cheer and speedy work. On Friday morning, volunteers from Boston Scientific planted the dahlias they had helped us purchase, and then harvested four flats of strawberries (pictured below), all of which we sold the following day at market.

 2,500 sweet potato slips arrived in the mail from Tennessee on Thursday, and because The Boston Scientific volunteers had helped us finish the strawberry harvest before noon, we had time after lunch to plant almost all of them. Ten volunteers from the community helped us finish the sweet potato job, put away row cover, and, of course weed, on Saturday afternoon.

In Dr. Who, the spaceship The Tardis, because of inter-dimensional stabilizers (wink!) is in two places at once, and simultaneously small and enormous. At Drumlin, a police-box of a week becomes as roomy as Versailles, not because of weird science, but because of what we do together. In one antechamber of the week, Andrew Kelliher and volunteer Fred Costanza put electric fencing around the strawberries to keep deer and turkeys out. In another, Sarah Lang and Sarah Stockdale delivered veggies to our newest restaurant account, Eataly, in the Prudential Center.

There are two distributions remaining in the spring CSA, but the fun doesn’t have to end. The summer CSA program begins on June 27th and it’s not too late to join. With the summer brings options for Pick Your Own, Full and Half Shares, Flower Shares, perfect for enjoying the warm sunny season! You’ll find strawberries at the stand this week, with a broader variety of veggies becoming available this weekend. On Saturday, June 16th we’ll also be celebrating Strawberry Day on the farm, where you’ll have the opportunity to pick your own strawberries (while supplies last!) and take part in special activities throughout the farm.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 4

After four days in the 80’s with no rain last week, so we’re grateful for today’s cool and wet weather. We had been trying to stay out of the greenhouse on hot days, but by the end of last week, we had fallen more than a week behind schedule on indoor work—a problem considering most of our successional seedings are separated by 14 days. On Friday, despite the temperature being over 90 in the greenhouse, volunteers Francesca, Sheila, and Sandra breathed shallowly and repotted the second succession of tomato seedlings—1,000 plants in need of more room to grow. And on Saturday morning, the Crops team seeded over 70 flats in the muggy heat. Nice work powering through, all! We’re caught-up for the moment with only one large-scale greenhouse seeding project left for the season—40 flats of pumpkins scheduled for later this week. We’ll be moving 50 flats of winter squash out to the cold frame to make way for those pumpkins.

This procession of plants from greenhouse, to cold frame, to field, is our focus in May and June. All this transplanting and seeding is like laying hemlock boughs on a pyramidal bonfire—for a moment you see only smoke (radishes?), then the core grows hotter and becomes a mountain of flame—summer’s harvest. And toward that end, last week we transplanted cantaloupe, watermelon, the second round of sweet corn and cauliflower, and the popcorn we’ll be harvesting come October. We were helped with this from four master gardener volunteers on Tuesday and four community volunteers on Saturday. Volunteers also helped us weed in the onions—fifteen beds down with one to go! Thanks to all for helping us establish and maintain the plantings. Many crops are faring well this spring, but we are seeing more damage from leafminers in chard, beets and spinach than in any previous year. You can view the latest newsletter from May 24 2018 Vegetable Notes for more information about this and other pests. Next spring, we’ll have to consider covering those crops in addition to the onions and greens we already protect.

This coming Saturday, as part of the celebration marking the opening of the Environmental Learning Center, we’ll stock the farmstand for the first time this season. Stop envying those savvy spring CSA members and come get your own! Or, register for our Summer CSA and get regular, quality produce every week!

Your Farmers

Meet a Camp Counselor: Camy Olia

Name: Camy Olia

Age: 25

Entering 7th year as a Drumlin Farm Camp Counselor 

 

How did your relationship with Drumlin Farm start and how did you become a camp counselor?

I began coming to Drumlin Farm when I was around eleven years old. My grandparents had introduced me to bird watching so they brought me to Drumlin Farm. I loved watching the bluebirds fly over Boyce Field and the Drumlin. Their wings shimmered a spectacular shade from the reflection of the sun.

I became a camp counselor at Drumlin Farm because I had grown to love nature and remembered the few times that I visited when I was younger. Prior to Drumlin Farm, I was a visitor education volunteer at the New England Aquarium and had worked nearby at The Food Project.

We wouldn’t have Summer Camps without Drumlin Farm Campers! What’s your favorite part of working with the campers? 

My favorite part of working with middle school campers is that they understand that they can make a difference in their community and environment. A lot of campers end up educating their parents about sustainable farming practices and how eating local can reduce their carbon footprint. I also love building a sense of community among the campers. We do a lot of team building activities for the first few days of camp so that campers feel a connection to each other at both the individual and communal level.

Last summer, I created a lesson about the hidden animal parts that can be found in common foods, such as gelatin in candy. I bought some groceries and had campers try to figure out which ingredients were derived from animals. Campers were both fascinated and shocked by the lesson.

Another memorable experience happened while teaching a first grader how to figure out the amount of woven rectangular spaces there were between two fence posts. We walked along the fence together and I showed him how we can use multiplication to find the answer. I knew that I had made a lasting impression because he joined me and followed my schedule for the rest of the day.

Camy with campers walking in a funky chicken parade

Have you had any notable wildlife or nature interactions from your time at camp?

One of my favorite memories was watching a cicada killer paralyze a cicada near the Drumlin. It was interesting to see such a huge bug become incapacitated by an enormous wasp.

I also love looking at the stars during the overnight camps. Once I was scared by a deer in the middle of the night; all my campers were asleep and a shadow slowly moved towards me. As soon as the deer saw me, she made a sneeze like sound and bolted away. It was both starling and fascinating, seeing the deer in it’s natural habitat in the evening was breathtaking.

What are you looking forward to most for summer 2018?

I am looking forward to harvesting vegetables for the family night farm stand. I always love watching the campers experience the whole process–from harvesting, to washing, to sign making, and finally selling the vegetables. Field to farm stand to table!

Three cheers for garlic!

What don’t a lot of people know about being a camp counselor?

Drumlin farm is more than just a wildlife sanctuary for animals: it’s also a sanctuary for people to express themselves openly in an experiential learning environment!

 

Summer camp 2018 is starting soon but there’s still time to sign up! If you’ve like to meet Camy and the rest of our amazing camp staff, learn about and register for a variety of camp programs here.

ELC Update: April & May

As we zoom towards our June 9th grand opening, work on the Environmental Learning Center has been progressing with leaps and bounds! It won’t be long until we are able to welcome the public into our wonderful new learning space, but in the meantime, here’s a peek at what’s been happening.

April began with an auspicious beginning, when we discovered a very rusty but hopefully still luck-filled horseshoe deep in the ground beneath what will become our main garden area. We are definitely saving it to hang in the new building!

The highlight of the interior work was definitely the arrival of our millwork – stunning birch cabinetry, desktops, and countertops that were installed throughout the building. We love our benches!

All that shelf space made our ed staff’s eyes light up!

Our favorite feature is definitely the aquarium tanks that line the main greeting area. Look for turtles, tadpoles, or fish coming to this location soon!

As the painting began, the space took on a warm glow that really made it much easier to imagine the finished rooms. Who wouldn’t be inspired to collaborate in a warm rusty red great room like this?

Our FurnCom team has gone above and beyond in finding the perfect furnishings to bring the space to life, as evidenced by the beautiful organic coat rack that feels like art.

The little surprises that pop up over the course of a long project definitely make it all worthwhile. Imagine our delight when the final polishing of the concrete floor revealed the perfect natural feature for space devoted to environmental education? The concrete contractor offered to fill it in, but of course we immediately said this feature must stay with us forever!

May brought us to the major outdoor components of the project, beginning with construction of the path that will lead visitors from parking lot to the new building.

We all got a lesson in how to build a rain garden from the ground up. This beautiful feature in front of the building will channel storm water runoff from the driveway into a channel that allows it to serve native wetland plants as well as to recharge the groundwater.

On the roof, our array of 119 solar panels sprung up seemingly overnight, finishing off our most important feature of net-zero capability.

Even though our project is so focused on the future of Drumlin Farm education, there was still a small sense of loss when it was time to tear down the old Ed Building, home to so much discovery and learning over 60 years. Our staff gathered to say our goodbyes with a bittersweet cheer and thoughts of all the good work that is yet to come.

Within a few days, our thoughts were firmly toward the future as the foundation for our new outdoor classroom began to take shape. Sitting on four concrete piers, the Bluebird Pavilion will be larger than the entire previous Ed Building!

The structure for the pavilion arrived in one huge shipment of enormous beams, designed to hold up a roof that can shelter 10 picnic tables for gathering campers and school groups.

The aluminum knifeplate joints that will connect the pavilion beams to the foundation piers look like modern art – almost too beautiful to use!

And a day later – it’s almost done! Our Chapman crew is working double time to get the pavilion up in time for summer camp.

Remember those knifeplate joints? Just as beautiful when they are fulfilling their function!

As we enter the final weeks of the project, our staff is getting more and more excited to move in and start working in their new home. We can’t wait to see all the innovation yet to come.

Look for final photos of the finished Environmental Learning Center coming very soon! Our grand opening celebration will be held from 1:30-3:00 pm on June 9th, where we will be offering tours of the building as well as a variety of free educational programs to showcase the work that the building enables. We hope to see you there! If you would like to learn more about the project, or get involved yourself, we invite you to check out our project website at massaudubon.org/ELC.

 

Renata Pomponi

Sanctuary Director

From Our Learning Garden to Yours

With everything you already know about the history and current conditions of our global and local environment, you’ve probably wondered about what you can do in your own life to make a difference. For many, the first and most rewarding step comes in the form of fostering and caring for a healthy home garden. At Drumlin Farm’s Learning Garden, you can see first hand the possibilities of healthy home gardening. Our Learning Garden offers opportunities for visitors, including school and group programs, to see, smell, feel, taste, and touch veggies, flowers, and herbs that benefit their backyards, and the greater backyard of our shared communities.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Lincoln Cultural Council, we’ve recently added new interpretative signage to the garden on the power of pollination, composting, and choosing local. Our goal was to highlight the sustainable practices that we use in the garden and prompt our visitors to reflect on actions they can take, such as planting pollinator gardens, purchasing more local food, or starting a compost bin at home.  To spur the reader to deeply consider adopting an action, each sign’s message ends with a question about how you might implement similar changes at home. How can you help honeybees thrive? Could you start composting at home? How can you support your local farm? You’ll be surprised at how easy these changes are to make, and get to witness them in action in the garden.

As always, we strive to lead by example and teach our visitors how how a few, simple actions can make a big difference. We invite you to visit our learning garden, stroll through the wildflowers, stop and smell the fresh herbs, and observe how nearby honeybees and compost add to the productivity and sustainability of home gardening. How can you adapt these lessons at home?

 

Crops Update: Week 3

What a busy week! We’re halfway through our Spring CSA and gearing up for a bountiful Summer. We did a lot of planting and began weeding in earnest with much appreciated help from three volunteer groups. On Tuesday, thirteen volunteers from the insurance company AmWins planted our first round of broccoli and all of our peppers. Then, we ended the day by covering the broccoli to protect it from flea beetles. The next morning, we removed the cover from the first four beds of onions that we planted in the last week of April, as the onions have reached a size of maturity where they can withstand damage from the onion fly. Also, weeds had grown up so thickly in the warmth under the cover that it was difficult to even make out the onion plants!

The team did a great job hoeing between the onion rows and knocking down the majority of weeds. We were helped by twenty-one volunteers from Care.com who pulled the in-row weeds, which was a big job. Some volunteers also helped us remove the flowers from the first-year plants in our newly planted strawberry patch, while others began transplanting 4,500 leeks. The flower clippers joined the leek planters, and many stayed late to finish a bed.

Seniors from Middlesex School planted the last tray of leeks the following day, weeded two more beds of onions, and planted the next succession of basil and scallions—2,200 seedlings in all. Thanks to all the volunteers for your amazing help. With many different groups of volunteers working on different parts of the same project, your contribution allowed us to meet our goal for the week, which was to finish planting all the nightshades. Because of what we accomplished earlier in the week, we had time to plant the first succession of eggplant on Friday and tomatoes on Saturday.

While the rest of us worked with Care.com volunteers on Wednesday, Andrew Kelliher and Sarah Lang broke away to prepare a room for a meeting of area farmers. Farmers from Lexington Community Farm and Clark Farm in Carlisle gave presentations on crop planning and microgreens growing to an audience of beginning farmers, finishing with a tour of Drumlin Farm’s crop fields. Around dusk we saw five deer coming down the Drumlin and across the bobolink field. For now, they seem to be eating only cover crop but if they find the carrots, we’ll have to begin spraying Liquid Fence repellent, a natural product made from rotten eggs and garlic oil; deer hate the smell. In the week ahead, we’ll plant melons, the second round of sweet corn, and more flowers, as well as harvest cilantro and kohlrabi for the first time.

See you in the field, 

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 2

The Spring CSA is in full swing this week, as our shareholders enjoy a plethora of crisp greens and hearty root vegetables. The rain that fell this past Saturday and Sunday will help germinate the seventh round of greens, seeded weekly, and the fourth round of beets and spinach, seeded every two weeks. The potatoes we planted on May 3rd are up, and today we’ll drag the rake over that acre for the third time to stir up the soil and kill small weeds. We’re beginning to harvest head lettuce, dinosaur kale, spring turnips, scallions and dandelion greens. And we’re looking forward to the start of strawberry and pea season, still several weeks away. As the harvests get bigger and longer, part-time fieldworkers will be joining the team this week. We’ll have an updated team picture to share next time.  

On Thursday of last week, four volunteers from the tech company Cisco Systems helped us transplant the first cauliflower and cabbage of the year and the second round of celery. In the middle of the job, the tractor tire went flat, so the volunteers switched gears by jumping into the garlic patch to help pull weeds there. We normally don’t have to weed in the garlic patch since we mulch it with straw, but unfortunately, this batch of straw has lots of seed in it. Thankfully, it’s just cover crop seed, and the “weeds” pull up fairly easily. Earlier that day, Food and Farm Educator Emma Scudder led several groups of Nashua seventh graders in that weeding job. Emma received help organizing the students from amazing Crops Interns Hannah Zar and Lilly Bomberg—both high school seniors. Thanks to all for their important and much needed help! Teachers, there is more work to do battling weeds in the garlic patch, so please let us know if you need a chore or volunteer hours for your classes or groups.

In the wash station, thanks to volunteer Fred Costanza, we have a new screen for cleaning bunched roots (pictured below). It’s a great design because it makes use of the existing structure for support, has no center post on which to bump your feet and knees, the majority of the materials are plastic and metal to better withstand being wet from rinsing, and the height of the screen can be adjusted to match the size of the person spraying the roots. The tarp keeps the sprayer’s legs dry. Thanks Fred! 

Spring CSA shareholders will be picking up their share today at the farmstand 12-6 pm. Registration is open for our Summer CSA, where you’ll enjoy the height of growing season and a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables grown at Drumlin Farm.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Community Preschool Recognized with Excellence Award

From Drumlin Farm Sanctuary Director Renata Pomponi:

Earlier last week I had the pleasure of joining Jill Canelli and Lead Teacher Rina Zampieron at a ceremony at the Massachusetts Statehouse, where Jill and the Drumlin Farm Community Preschool were honored with one of the 2018 Secretary’s Awards for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education, presented by Matthew Beaton, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

These annual awards recognize achievement in environmental education, which is a testament to the many years of hard work that Jill and the DFCP staff have put into making our preschool a model of how to get kids outside and learning, tapping into their inherent curiosity and enthusiasm and guiding their creativity and passion for our earth. Mass Audubon is excited to see our nature-based preschool receive this statewide recognition, and we thank Jill and all of our teachers for creating such a special and meaningful place for our students to learn. Please join me in congratulating Jill and the Drumlin Farm Community Preschool!

From left to right: Kris Scopinich, Mass Audubon Director of Education; Rina Zampieron,Community Preschool Lead Teacher; Jill Canelli, Community Preschool Director; Renata Pomponi, Sanctuary Director; Mathew Beaton, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs

New Adventurer Trips for Summer 2018

Looking for a New England adventure this summer? Drumlin Farm Camp has added new trips to our Adventurer Camps! The Adventurer Programs are a great introduction to outdoor trip and travel programs, for middle schoolers entering 7th and 8th grade. They’ll enjoy scenic hikes, days on the beach, swimming holes, quiet paddles, and plenty of fun around the campsite. Campers make great new friends while discovering a new part of New England, making summer 2018 one to remember!

One to two weeks of nonstop adventure: spend the first week of camp getting to know each other on day trips to places like Purgatory Chasm, Halibut Point, and Mount Wachusett, then take off on a 5-day overnight adventure the second week! One week trips are also available where we’ll just focus on the 5-day overnight.

Adventurers hiking the white mountains.

Two-week Sessions

June 25-July 6

  • Backpack the White Mountains: Hike from hut to hut along the slopes of Mount Washington! This year, the Adventurers will head to the Lake of the Clouds and Mizpah huts and set their sights on the highest point in New England. Enjoy luxurious back-country camping as you sleep and eat in AMC Huts.

July 9-20

  • Hike Southern Vermont: We’re heading back to Vermont! Explore the southern part of Green Mountain National Forest. We’ll hike mountains, search for waterfalls, and relax at the end of the day with a dip in the pond at our home-away-from-home, Woodford State Park.

July 23-August 3

  • Farming the Connecticut River Valley: Believe it or not, there’s more to farming than Drumlin Farm! This very special new trip heads to the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, where we’ll get a closer look at different kinds of New England farming. Visit Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company in Woodstock, Vermont and learn about the process of cheese making from cow to wheel. Take a short hike up Mount Cardigan for panorama views of New Hampshire and Vermont, and head north to the Farm at Wood’s Hill to discover the secrets behind one of our local farm-to-table restaurants!

Adventurers exploring the coast.

One Week Sessions

August 6-10

  • Exploring Coastal Rhode Island: This brand new trip takes us down the western half of Narraganset Bay and right to picturesque Port Judith. We’ll spend some time on the beach, get muddy digging for clams at low tide, learn about the Rhode Island Audubon Society, and more! Every day will be a different adventure.
  • Hike the Berkshires: Due to popular demand, we’ve added a second trip to the Berkshires! This trip focuses on hiking some of the region’s most famous peaks. Summit Pine Cobble Mountain and Mount Lenox before setting your sights on the highest peak in Massachusetts: Mount Greylock. Relax each afternoon in the river at the campground and get ready for the next day’s adventure.

With so much opportunity, the last thing you’ll want to do this summer is stay indoors! Join Drumlin Farm Camps for outdoor, educational, fun activities throughout the state and New England. Make 2018 a summer to remember!