Author Archives: Kelly M.

Credit: Jocelyn Finlay

Crops Update: The Return of Flowers

Good thing we didn’t give up on the flower patch when we learned that selling ornamental flowers wouldn’t be permitted at Union Square during the pandemic. Volunteer Sheila continued seeding them in the greenhouse, the farm team kept up with the transplanting, and community volunteers and camp kids went after the weeds in the patch. Last week we learned that the rules had changed and we would once again be able to sell all types of flowers. Hooray! Volunteer Coordinator Pam had already arranged for volunteers to help us cut edible flower stems on Friday evenings, so we were in good position to ramp up and start cutting the previously underutilized zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, celosia, strawflower, gomphrena, rudbeckia, statice, amaranth, ageratum, grasses, and all the other flowers we have come to love growing. The flower work went on well into Friday evening, and the stage was set for a successful day of sales both at the farm and in Somerville.  

In addition to the moment of the full blooming of the flower patch, we’ve reached those magical few weeks when our fields are producing several summer favorites at once: melons, corn, and tomatoes. By next week, we’ll have harvested the last sweet corn of the season.  

Many thanks to Jill, Margaret, Jack, Highsmith, and Avril (plus more market volunteers!) for creating such beautiful displays at the farmer’s market, and for selecting and bagging the items for each customer. Pre-COVID, customers would wander around under the tents, pick out their own produce, and our work mostly involved ringing people up, restocking, bagging greens, and shifting the display as items sold out or needed more visibility. Despite our fears that the new system would hurt sales, weekly totals are now outpacing last season’s.

On Saturday, back at the farm, Paige, Nina and I worked with the second volunteer group of the year from the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). Once again it was hot out there, and the dry soil felt like sand. Together we finished this year’s onion harvest before planting lettuce, fennel, and the last summer squash succession of the season. Volunteers Kate and Lesley stayed late to help us get the last plants in the ground. Thanks AMC for the much-needed help! The unexpected rain that came on Sunday afternoon helped water-in those seedlings, and it would have hurt the keeping quality of those last onions—so, double bonus. That Sunday rain also arrived just after I finished seeding some fall turnips, beets, and carrots in anticipation of a potential soaking from the remnants of hurricane Isaias later tomorrow. We hope that still happens as all this sunny, 90 degree weather is rapidly drying out the soil.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Impeding Crop Pests

August arrives on Saturday, and we’ve mostly finished establishing crops for the season. What we’re thinking about now is the harvest—when to go after it, how best to move it, and where to put it all. We shifted today’s harvest session from the afternoon to the morning in order to escape the worst of the heat. By 10 a.m., we had lugged around 500 pounds each of potatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash!

Friends & Family Volunteering

We were joined by my sister’s youngest, Bea, and it has been a joy for me to work with both Margot and Bea over the past two days. However, it’s time for Margot to prepare for college, so after two months of some of the best volunteer help imaginable (more than 50 hours per week!), we need to say our goodbyes. It’s fitting that on Saturday morning Margot taught Paige how to install deer fencing around a crop. Over the years, volunteer Fred has taught many Drumlin farmers how to do this job, including Jill and Margot, and together, the two of them have done all the fencing of strawberries and corn this year. But on Saturday, with Jill at market, Margot took on the instructor’s role, and together with Paige, they made sure the second planting of corn got protected. Thanks Margot for all your great work since the end of May (and during the previous three seasons), and to Bea for your help hauling heavy crops on this the hottest day of the year! And thanks as always to the farm team for warmly welcoming my family members into our group.

Tomato Hornworm ©William Hottin

Combating Deer & Tomato Hornworm

All that fencing we’re doing is a response to the growing deer population on the sanctuary and the damage they’re causing. They’re even getting into the hoophouse through the side vents! We were installing a deer barrier around the second chard patch on Thursday afternoon when a lightning storm surprised us and delivered a much-needed soaking to the fields—the last significant rain had fallen on July 5. We admired the storm from the hoophouse where the cherry tomatoes have almost reached the ceiling. The plants are producing lots of fruit now, but are also being munched by tomato hornworms—snake-thick caterpillars filled with an alarming amount of goo. They are well-camouflaged amongst the vines, and finding and removing them has become a bit of competition amongst us. Jack got 13 today—impressive!

More Crops on the Horizon

We are half-way through the onion harvest thanks to the continued good work of the afternoon community volunteer groups. Friday’s group helped us harvest beans and mini eggplant for market before crating up the first storage onions of the season. Some of those volunteers then stayed into the evening to cut flowers for sale the next day at Drumlin’s farmstand. Saturday’s volunteers planted collards and storage kohlrabi—the last of the fall brassicas. They also weeded beans and carrots in addition to harvesting more storage onions. We finished the day’s work  by hoisting the shade cloth up and over the greenhouse where the onions are drying. By the end of this week, the greenhouse will be completely filled with onions, and we’ll be wondering where to put the last of the lettuce seedling trays. Also, by the end of the week, we hope to harvest the first watermelons and full-size Italian eggplant of the season.

Your Farmers

camper catching butterflies

Limited Camper Spots Still Open for Grades 2-5

A limited number of spots have just opened up for interested Drumlin Farm campers entering Grades 2-5. Enroll today to join us for a summer of safe and exciting farmyard fun!

Week 3 (July 27-31)

Explorers Entering Grade 2

Explore the homes and habitats of the sanctuary’s wild animals, from farm to forest to pond. Discover Drumlin Farm’s diverse habitats and why different plants and animals live where they do. (1 spot available)

Environmentalists Entering Grade 3 (Located across from Drumlin Farm at Mass Audubon Headquarters) 

Grab a hand lens and a pair of walking boots and get ready for an expedition every day. Hike trails looking for nature’s treasures, identify insects that dwell on the drumlin, and explore critters that live in the ponds. Enjoy up-close visits with our program wildlife, meet the farm animals, and taste our garden veggies. (2 spots available)

Naturalists Entering Grade 3

Grab a magnifying lens and a field guide, and practice being a naturalist. Learn how to identify plants and animals, perform basic science experiments, and examine the natural cycles of the farm and the nature surrounding it. (2 spots available)

Week 4 (August 3-7)

Naturalists Entering Grade 3

Grab a magnifying lens and a field guide, and practice being a naturalist. Learn how to identify plants and animals, perform basic science experiments, and examine the natural cycles of the farm and the nature surrounding it. (1 spot available)

Environmentalists Entering Grade 3 (Located across from Drumlin Farm at Mass Audubon Headquarters)

Grab a magnifying lens and a field guide, and practice being a naturalist. Learn how to identify plants and animals, perform basic science experiments, and examine the natural cycles of the farm and the nature surrounding it. (5 spots available)

Farmers Entering Grade 4

Experience life on the farm as you complete livestock chores and tend to our crops and gardens. Learn about the connections between humans, farm animals, and food.  (4 spots available)

Biologists Entering Grade 5 (Located across the street from Drumlin Farm at HQ) 

Be a Drumlin Farm scientist as you catch wild specimens in our fields and ponds, perform experiments to enhance your understanding of the natural world, and discover the natural history of Drumlin Farm. (1 spot available)

Garlic

Crops Update: Garlic Harvest

We’re at that moment in the season right before tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, cauliflower, and corn arrive. We’ll likely be picking the first eggplant and sweet corn by the end of the week.

Vampires Beware

Before extended harvest days begin—when we’re harvesting all morning and most of the afternoon—it’s time to bring in the garlic. Last Friday, volunteers picked green beans for market before pulling and cleaning a bed of garlic. This year, we’re cutting the stem and the roots in the field, and then power washing the bulbs on trays. Thanks to Margot, Jen, and Paige for handling the washing part of the process. Once washed, we crate the garlic and carry it to the barn loft where we spread it out on benches to dry (above). On Saturday, volunteers pulled and prepared another bed and a half of garlic. We still have over half the patch to go, and that’s what we’ll be focused on in the week ahead. That, and transplanting out the fall brassicas: kale, collards, kohlrabi, and Gilfeather turnips.

Squash Plants

This is also the moment in the season when the winter squash plants vine out and close the field to tractor access (above). We’ll wade out into the waist-deep vines to pull weeds if we have to, but the goal is to control weeds by preparing the beds in advance (known as stale bedding) and then cultivating regularly as the plants grow. Ideally, the next time we’re in the winter squash field will be for the September harvest. Beyond the squash, you can see a fallow field seeded to oats and peas, and beyond that, the first sweet corn of the season! This is also the point in the season when things start to break down—bolts come loose, ropes fray, plastic snaps. And it’s true that a roll of duct tape is often the most useful tool in the tool box!

Farmstand Open for Business

We’ve opened the Lincoln farmstand to visitors the past two Saturdays. Volunteers Richard and Nancy Allen have been running the show, and they’re doing this in addition to boxing CSA shares and cutting flowers on Wednesdays. We are so grateful to have their help! At market, Jill and Margaret have been doing a wonderful job selling to customers, and the new Square platform is giving us information about sales that we used to only guess at. We were surprised to learn that the top earner at this past market was edible flower bouquets: calendula, bachelor buttons, snapdragons, and dianthus.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: In the Scrape

We had the best kind of fireworks Sunday night—lightning, thunder, and rain! Three separate storms soaked the farm around 9 p.m., and after a very dry June, July is blessing us with plenty of water. On Sunday, wagering on nature to help us out in our no irrigation system, we seeded a half-acre of greens, carrots, beets, and beans. On Friday, with help from volunteers, we planted broccoli, lettuce, and cucumbers—over 3,000 transplants in all.

In the Scrape

Above, you can see Jill guiding the water wheel out in front of volunteers, and Margot, obscured behind the tractor “in the scrape”, as the team has taken to describing it–scraping mud from the marking spikes. It’s a challenging role because as the tractor is creeping along, there are three marking wheels with spikes spaced as closely as 6 inches apart, all of which need to be kept mud-free in order for water to flow through them and into the holes where the seedlings will go. On top of that, the flow of water to each separate wheel must be balanced by adjusting knobs on each of three hoses—open one hose too much and it reduces flow to the other two. The flow rate is also constantly affected by the amount of water in the tank, the shift in pitch of the bed, and whether the tractor is traveling up or down a slope. Never having pumped the bellows or thrown the stops on a pipe organ, with hands flying between spikes and knobs, I still think of the person “in the scrape” as Bach at the keyboard, mid-fugue.

Volunteers Needed

In addition to helping us plant all those seedlings, the Friday volunteer group also cleared weeds from our overgrown eggplant beds. We had left the Proteknet over the slow-growing eggplant since the moment of transplanting in order to exclude flea beetles and Colorado potato beetles. But we had achieved good control of beetles in the adjacent potato patch using organically certified sprays, so it was time to uncover the eggplant and get after those weeds. I’m not sure how long it would have taken us to complete the job on our own, but all those volunteers got it done in about twenty minutes!

We will need more volunteer help for some big upcoming harvest jobs including string beans, potatoes, garlic, and cherry tomatoes. We will start picking beans and digging new potatoes this week, and we usually start pulling garlic and harvesting cherry tomatoes by the third week of July.

New Potatoes & Spring Onion Bouquets

A “new potato” is the result of pulling the plant before it has fully matured. It’s like green garlic in that you’re sacrificing volume to enjoy the crop when it’s most tender and mild. The skins of new potatoes often flake off in the washing process because they haven’t fully set, and when you’re separating the tubers from the plant, you see some marble-size ones that would have become full-size. Farmers charge more for new potatoes to offset the reduction in harvest quantities.

Spring onions are the other exciting crop coming in from the field right now. They need to be eaten fresh as they don’t dry down and keep like storage varieties. Above, from L to R, Paige, Margaret, Margot, and Jen are making bunches of the spring onion variety Purplette. The soil has been loosened by the tractor passing by with the undercutting bar, and you can see their focus and attention to technique following the picking mantra we teach: “make each bunch a bouquet of flowers; make it for someone you love.”

It’s unusual not to see a single weed in a bed of onions—onions with their slender leaves don’t do a good job of taking up space and shading out competing weeds. Volunteers who had been helping us pick strawberries on Wednesdays and Fridays, rounded out their sessions by weeding in the onion patch. So helpful! Thank you.

Your Farmers

Array of veggies

Crops Update: Rain & Visitors Back on the Farm

Adapting to Rain

Wow, that was a lot of rain! Several sizzling thunder and rain storms have hit Lincoln, and below, you can see the before and after state of our soil. On the left, Paige and Margot proudly stand over the third succession of summer squash they planted into the dust on Saturday morning—just the two of them! On the right, Monday morning, the oats and field pea cover crop is breaking through the mud in a field that will lie fallow this year. While all this rain will reduce the quality of the remaining strawberries, all other crops will greatly benefit. We were able to maximize the value of this year’s strawberry crop thanks to the harvesting work of volunteers and the farm team.

Stop by our Farmer’s Market Stand

This past Friday afternoon, another group of volunteers helped us pick about fifteen flats of berries for sale at the Union Square Market. Margaret, Jill, Nina and volunteer Avril did a great job selling them, and to date, sales at the market are far closer to average than we had predicted heading into a retail environment greatly altered by COVID regulations.

Reopening for Visitation

Thanks to the hard work and careful planning of many Drumlin staff members, the sanctuary opened to the public (who registered ahead of their visit) for the first time this weekend. It was great to see so many masked families exploring the farmyard and fields, and several people stopped to watch us hurriedly planting before the rains came.

If you’ve been missing Drumlin Farm and are overdue for a visit, please reserve your spot here so that we can safely manage our capacity limitations. Stop by the fields to say hi and see what the farmers and volunteers are working on!

New Veggies on the Way

On Saturday, in addition to the 640 summer squash Margot and Paige planted, we also set 2,400 Brussels sprouts and 1,100 flower seedlings, and seeded the next round of greens and radish. The last four rounds of greens have been affected by high heat and lack of rain; we’re looking forward to having a renewed supply of them in about three weeks.

In the meantime, a new set of exciting crops will start to appear in your CSA shares this week. We’re beginning to harvest the March 23rd seeding of carrots; it’s about two weeks later than we had anticipated due to the cold spring and subsequent lack of rain. We’re also harvesting the mid-April seeding of red and gold beets (our thanks to Volunteer Anne for weeding and thinning them!) and the first spring onions, fennel, fava beans, and field cucumbers of the season.

Food Donations

We continue to donate food to area pantries, and this past Tuesday we made our first delivery to the Lincoln Food Pantry—dinosaur kale, scallions, and salad turnips for 90 families. We also continue to bring produce to Food for Free in Cambridge. All told, we’re approaching  $20,000 in food donations since mid-March! Thanks to all who are making it possible for us to contribute in this way.

Your Farmers

Local Citizen Science Club Builds Enrichment Tools for Wildlife

Nashoba Brooks School’s 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Citizen Science Club has recently made a creative contribution to our resident wildlife in the form of creating and implementing enrichment activities for our resident wildlife. Enrichment activities come in many forms and feature engaging challenges for the animals to complete, often to retrieve food, simulating the mental obstacles animals would need to overcome to earn food in the wild.

The Nashoba Brooks clubs visited the farm for a tour with our Wildlife Care Team and animals to learn more about their lives, enrichment tools, and the process of rehabilitating animals. They then designed their own enrichment tools for the animals at school and brought them in again for testing and feedback, before presenting their final designs to the animals.

Along with a deeper understanding of the animals that they are working with, the process of rehabilitation, and the need for enrichment tools, the students also practiced engineering and technical skills as they moved through the design thinking process.

Many thanks to the students of Nashoba Brooks School, from Drumlin Farm, our Wildlife Care Team, and our resident wildlife!

Camp Nature Photography Gallery

Nature Photography Camp has become a new favorite among teen campers. While learning about the ins and outs of their digital cameras, campers are encouraged to practice focus, composition, and aperture on the flourishing of life at the farm in the summer.

With our current closure, we’re looking back on a few fabulous images captured last summer and looking forward to the days we’ll see campers back on the farm.

Nature Photography Camp 2019

Goat, Dena, Grade 12
Garter Snake, Dena, Grade 12
Red Fox, Luke, Grade 11
Flower, Eve, Grade 9
Monarch Butterfly, Dena, Grade 12
Web, Eve, Grade 9
Frog, Izzie, Grade 10
Monarch Butterfly, Izzie, Grade 10
Goat, Izzie, Grade 10
Flower, Luke, Grade 11

Learn more about the exciting world of Drumlin Farm Summer Camp with us this summer!

lamb

Virtu-wool-apalooza!

While we can’t gather in person to celebrate our favorite fiber-festival of the year, we hope you can still join us virtually to learn more about the story from sheep-to-sweater, shop local fiber vendors, and enjoy some of our favorite Woolapalooza moments through the years.

In Massachusetts, sheep are raised on small family farms in flocks of varying sizes, ranging from a few ewes up to about 400 on the largest sheep farm. Sheep do well on Massachusetts land and require very little labor to produce a quality product that fits well with the New England climate. They’re also considered good for the environment and can help improve the ecosystem when managed with sustainable agriculture principles. Sheep are the perfect tool for controlling weeds and brush, helping land managers avoid mechanical and chemical means of control. They work so well that corporate and government land managers have adopted or hired flocks to help in reforested areas, watersheds, ski slopes and under power lines. You’ll often see our sheep in different fields throughout the year, doing their part to keep the pastures free of over-growth.

The Sheep-to-Sweater Process

Each year, master sheep shearer Kevin performs our shearing, removing each sheep’s wool with large hand-held shears. The wool is removed in one piece, called a fleece. Sheep are usually shorn in the spring, when they can survive without their warm coat. The fleece is then spread out and skirted, a process that removes large pieces of soiled wool, hay, etc. Each fleece weighs 8-14 pounds fresh off the sheep, and a 10-pound fleece might weigh only half that after it’s washed to remove the lanolin and soil!

After the fleece is washed, it’s then carded, which involves combing the clean, dry wool to straighten the fibers. Every wool fiber is a molecular coil-spring covered with microscopic scales. The springiness of the individual fibers can be seen in the curliness of a sheep’s fleece.  

The carded wool can then be spun on a wheel, where the fibers are drawn out and twisted together to form yarn. Wool clothing is highly durable, easily dyeable, breathable and temperature regulating, resists wrinkles and retains shape, flame resistant, and naturally water repellent. It truly is an amazing fiber!

Shop Fiber Vendors

Please support our amazing local fiber vendors who annually make Woolapalooza such a special event:

Our Favorite Woolapalooza Moments

Wool Crafts at Home

Get hands-on with wool and learn something new! Try out these step-by-step tutorials on wool-based crafts:

Lambing & Kidding Updates

As lambing and kidding season begins, so far we have had two baby goats and one lamb arrive on the farm. Like and follow our Facebook and Instagram pages for more updates as the season progresses!

Child stepping over log

Home-based Activities for Families

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things in our daily lives. For young children, this change in routine can be unsettling and confusing, but creating some predictable structure in the day can provide a sense of safety and security for the whole family. As we all adjust to balancing the many aspects of our world from home, our Drumlin Farm Community Preschool Team would like to share a variety of fun learning activities that you can do with your child(ren) and family which you may find helpful and inspiring. Engage with nature where you can, create some art for your community, design experiments, or find a new recipe to cook together–there’s something for everyone!

Wishing you and your family wellness and health,

Jill Canelli

Drumlin Farm Community Preschool Director

© Emily Haranas

Be a Nature Hero

  • Conduct a bird count of what you can see/hear in your neighborhood. How many of each kind of bird do you observe?  Can you find one new bird each day?  Learn how to identify common birds in Massachusetts at this time of year.
© Patrick Rogers

Think Critically & Get Active

  • First brainstorm a list of sounds (ex: bird songs, wind, water, insect songs, frogs, dogs barking, cars, planes, people’s voices, etc.). Then, listen closely and see how many you can check off and hear on a walk or just outside your door!
  • 3 Changes Game: closely observe your partner, before they leave the room and change three things about their appearance (might be putting their hair up, untieing a shoe, or taking off a sweater). When the partner comes back, try to guess what is different.
  • Mapmaking: make a map of your room, house, or garden. Try to make it as accurate as possible. To take it a step further, hide a treasure somewhere and try to find it with the map!
  • Plan, prepare and cook a meal with your child. Whether your child helps you make that first cup of coffee or you pick a recipe to make together there is so much fun and learning in these everyday activities. Measure ingredients, practice cutting skills, discuss the farm-to-table journey, and enjoy something delicious you made together!
  • Give children the opportunity to help with jobs around the house, a great way to use fine and gross motor skills, and also contribute to meaningful work in the family: sweeping, dusting, folding laundry, and loading the dishwasher, or any outdoor tasks such as raking, collecting sticks or trash in the yard, or weeding also are also great ways to use their muscles. Try making a game out of the task or listen to music while working to keep them engaged!
  • Obstacle Courses: create them inside or in your backyard using cones/yogurt containers for zig-zagging, boxes for climbing through or over, buckets for filling with water, hard-boiled eggs with spoons for balancing, chalk for paths on the driveway–you name it! Use your imagination to create different challenges.
  • Create stacked rock cairns in your yard or garden. Gather a variety of rocks, and stack them in a pile, using a larger, flat stone for the base. Experiment with different shapes and stones and see how high you can stack them.

© Patrick Rogers

Get Creative

  • Make cards, write notes, and draw pictures to mail to friends and family or safely drop them by your neighbors’ house. Now is a great time to start communicating with a pen pal!
  • Bring sketch pads or clipboards with watercolor/crayons/colored pencils outside for nature drawing. Flowers, bugs, bird feeders, and trees all make great inspiration! 
  • Flower Printing/Dying: press flowers and plants between books to flatten and preserve them–they can be used in papermaking or bookmarks!
  • Book Writing: put together your own short story! To make it more fun, pose the story around a question about nature, such as “Why do skunks smell?”  Or “why do bears have a short tail?”
  • Paint rocks to make a rock garden.
  • Make shadow puppets: cut shapes/animals out of black paper and tape them to popsicle sticks or chopsticks. They can be used outside by hanging a sheet or on the ground, or inside with a desk lamp onto a wall.

© Patrick Rogers

Practice Sciences

  • Salt Dough: 2 parts flour, 1 part salt, and 1 part water. Add food coloring to color and create different characters by rolling out and cutting with cookie cutters.  To harden and paint, cook at 250 degrees until hard (about 2 hours).
  • Plant Olympics: beans of any variety work well for this, but for more fun, get different types and try different kinds of races.  Everyone in the family can plant some seeds in dixie cups, cardboard egg cartons, peat pots, or make your own pots out of newspaper. Your Olympic events could include the earliest sprouter, tallest plant, biggest leaves, first to bloom, most productive (how much fruit/flower/veg does it produce?), and more.  Don’t forget to make a chart to keep track of the results/winners. You can even make winning metals (cut out of cereal boxes or other thin cardboard and decorate)!
  • Design Experiments & Collect Data: next time your child has an unanswerable question, prompt them to collect, record, and interpret data. Which toy truck is the fastest? Which room in the house is the biggest? Will this orange sink or float? The only limit is your imagination!