Author Archives: Mass Audubon

Building a New Education Center

We’re excited to announce the start of construction of the Environmental Learning Center (ELC), the 3,700-square-foot building that will serve as the home base for all of Drumlin Farm’s environmental education programming.

The ELC will enable Drumlin Farm’s team of 100+ environmental educators to be even more effective and creative in connecting people of all ages with nature, inspiring curiosity, passion, and action. It will provide essential work space for staff and serve as a place to welcome and interact with program participants, teachers, and parents.

Thoughtfully designed to foster collaboration, catalyze innovative ideas, and support efficient administration of our educational programs, this net-zero energy facility will be a model of energy-saving features and green building design. For example, The installation of a major rooftop solar array to fully power the building will also offset power consumption of other Drumlin Farm buildings.

Construction began this month, with the building expected to be ready by May 2018. We are thankful to the many strong Mass Audubon supporters who have made this $2.5 million project possible.

Although we are beginning construction now in order to be ready for our camp season next summer, we still need contributions to complete fundraising for the project. A generous donor is currently matching new donations with $2 for every dollar donated, so please make a gift today. Every dollar counts!

Farmer’s Updates: We Need Rain!

Katarina watering

We’ve had .1 inches of rain in May. The last time we had significant precipitation was April 19. That’s five weeks without rain! And the heat and strong winds have magnified the effects of no water. The soil has turned to powder and now we are seeing poor germination in our weekly seeding of arugula, radish and spring turnips.

The waterwheel implement is designed to mark and water holes for the transplanting of seedlings. We are also using it in a raised position to rain water down on direct-seeded parsnips, beans, carrots and spinach. This works for crops seeded in three rows, like carrots, but not in five rows, like arugula, because of the configuration of the wheel. We’ll have to invent something to attach to the wheel to direct the water to more rows, or else we’ll have to water the five-row beds by hand! But there are not enough hours in the day for that, or even for doing what we’re currently doing with the waterwheel.

June on Drumlin 013That’s because this is one of the two busiest periods of our growing season. Early June is the rush to get all the warm-weather crops planted: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, melons, winter squash, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. At the same time we need to keep planting our regular successions of lettuce, basil, broccoli, scallions, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, carrots, spinach and greens. We also need to keep all these crops weeded and now, watered. A good soaking rain would save us so many labor hours!

We are also using the waterwheel in a raised position to water crops that we planted several weeks ago like corn and lettuce. I’m contemplating using it to water our acre of potatoes and our beds of newly-established strawberries. This weather helps put in perspective the years-long droughts of California and Texas—places where farmers wouldn’t think of producing crops without irrigation.

CSA distribution begins on June 3, and the Watertown farmer’s market opens the following day. We’ll start selling crops at our own farmstand on Saturday, June 6. We’ll have some produce available, but not the bounty we’re accustomed to at this time of year.

See you in the field,

Your farmers

Forest Medicine for Your Mind & Body

This week’s post comes from teacher naturalist Mary Jacobsen, who has introduced a new series of adult classes called Shin-Rin Yoku.

P1190010OKswI’m addicted to Drumlin Farm! If I’m not climbing up to the Drumlin, checking out the progress of the crops, or visiting Midnight the pony every few days, I start to feel forlorn. I started my addiction as a volunteer at Wildlife Care, cleaning enclosures and feeding the raptors on Bird Hill. That wasn’t enough, so I became a Teacher/Naturalist as well, and have been shepherding children through the farmyard and around the forest trails for the past 5 years. I’m always happy at the farm. I’m also a clinical social worker, and have counseled people in my therapy office for more than 20 years. I always wished I could find a way to bridge my indoor and outdoor worlds.

Last year I discovered the missing link to bridge my worlds when I read “Your Brain on Nature,” by Eva Selhub, M.D. and Alan Logan, N.D. The book is a fascinating summary of the extensive body of research supporting the idea of forest medicine—nature’s positive impact on health and vitality. Specifically, Shin-rin Yoku, a Japanese term meaning “forest bathing,” caught my eye.


Our multi-tasking screen culture wearies and stresses us. By contrast, nature restores calm and well-being to our minds and bodies. Forest plants, especially conifers, emit essential wood oils and airborne chemicals to protect themselves from insects and decay. Medical studies show they benefit humans as well. Researchers have measured the healthful impacts of walking mindfully (i.e., not just being outside, but being fully present in the moment) through a forested area, ranging from reduced blood pressure and lowered stress hormones to enhanced cognitive function.

Mindful forest walking sounded so peaceful, appealing, and healing, that I decided to offer three forest walks at Drumlin Farm this spring. The first walk took place on April 26. We took a gentle hike on sanctuary trails, stopping periodically for sensory activities to attune to the sounds, aromas, colors, textures, movements, and living presence of the surrounding landscape. At the end, we gathered to share white pine tea which we harvested during our walk, and to briefly review our experiences so participants could repeat them on their own.

If you’d like to experience the calm and well-being of Shin-rin Yoku, please join us for one or both of our upcoming walks. A word of warning is in order, though: you, too, may become addicted to Drumlin Farm!

Leader: Mary Jacobsen, LICSW & Teacher Naturalist at Drumlin Farm.

When: May 17 and June 7, 1-3 pm. Each walk will be a new experience, so participants are encouraged to come to both walks.

Cost: $20 for Mass Audubon members, $24 for nonmembers

Registration: Register online or call 781-259-2206

Farmer’s Updates: Onions and Strawberries

It’s dry and warm in the fields. We are watering-in all our transplants and expecting slower germination of this week’s seeding of greens, beets and carrots. We are looking forward to Monday’s predicted shift in the weather pattern which should bring us real rain and cooler temperatures.

Yesterday’s sprinkles merely wet the soil surface. The soil is so dry in the field where we are transplanting onions that we are wetting the soil ahead of where we are working just to make it more pliable and less like cinders.


Planting onion seedlings little by little

We are also pulling row cover over the onions as we plant them to exclude the onion fly. The flies lay their eggs at the base of the plant, and then the larvae eat the young onion bulbs. When we use row cover on a crop like spring broccoli or cauliflower, we transplant four beds and then place the cover all at once (the cover we use is 20 feet wide). We can do it this way because the transplanting happens quickly and flea beetles won’t swarm onto the young plants in just a few minutes: it takes them time to locate their food source.

Onions take much longer to transplant because we space them two inches apart instead of the eighteen inches we give cauliflower. We also seed onions in open trays—665 plants per tray—whereas we seed broccoli and cauliflower in plug trays—128 plants per tray. The plug tray provides a little root ball for each plant, which is easy to handle. With open trays you wind up with bare-rooted plants which must be teased apart from their neighbors.

It can take us several hours to plant one bed, and so we unfurl the row cover one small section at a time. It might take us several days to finish four beds, and the flies would find the unprotected plants in that time. We still have over 30,000 plants to put in the ground, so that’s what we’re working on when you see us out there.


The newly-planted strawberry field

We are also hoeing by hand and controlling weeds via tractor cultivation. Yesterday was our first restaurant harvest of the year: we sold arugula, chives, garlic chives and some final root cellar potatoes to restaurants in Cambridge and Somerville. This year’s potatoes and strawberries have all been planted. Our first farmer’s market is next Saturday in Somerville. We hope to have radish, lettuce, turnips and scallions by then. It all depends on rain!

See you in the field,

Your farmers

Would you like to join our Summer CSA and enjoy the harvest? Register online or call 781-259-2206 today!

Beehives Have Arrived

Have you heard the buzz? We have six new beehives at Drumlin Farm! There are three on Boyce Field, one in the Learning Garden, one behind the Nature Center, and one in the sugar bush. On your next visit, follow this map to find them.

Hive placement

You’ll notice some are painted, while others are not. That’s because we have two different types of hives. The painted ones are called Langstroth hives—these are the traditional hive boxes that have been around since the mid-1800s. The unpainted boxes are Warre hives—a newer structure that reduces the need to disturb the bees when you want to collect honey and wax.

Langstroth Hives

Langstrom Hive

Langstroth hives have frames that hang down from the top of each box, called a super. These frames have a wax layer imprinted with a comb pattern, which provides the base for bees to build the wax onto. The comb imprint encourages the bees to build slightly larger cells that can store more honey than they would if they built a hive on their own.  Supers and frames can be added or removed depending on how much honey you want the bees to produce. Access to the hive is through the top super.

To collect honey from Langstroth hives, the beekeeper must put the comb into a centrifuge. The spinning motion separates the honey from the wax.

Warre Hives

IMG_1602Warre hives a wooden bar at the top of the super instead of hanging frames. The bar allows bees to build their own comb structure from the top down, which emulates their natural process. Additional supers are added to the bottom rather than the top, so bees are undisturbed when the beekeeper needs to add more space to the hive.

To retrieve honey, the beekeeper removes the comb and places it in a muslin cloth. The comb is crushed inside the cloth, and honey drips out into a bucket.

Our Warre hives have observation windows—feel free to take a look and watch the bees at work!


A typical hive can produce up to 200 pounds of honey per year, and requires 60-80 lbs to live through the winter. That means we could collect as much as 140 lbs per hive—that’s 840 lbs total! The bees will keep all their honey this year as the hives get established, but next year we can start collecting our honey and make it available for you to purchase.

Be on the look-out for new beekeeping and honey-related programs. We are excited to share our new project with you, and we can’t wait to taste the results!

Preparation and Planting

Our first update of the year from Crops Manager Matt Celona gives insight into how preparations for this year’s harvest have been affected by the lingering winter.


Traumatized by winter, and now, surprised by spring. Seventy degrees with snow loitering on the north side of barns. P1150875

We hope to do some plowing later this week, but the roads have been almost impassable, and the fields even boggier. Early last week, the only ground dry enough to work with the relatively light seedbed maker was out beyond the cattle fence in the fields we brought into rotation for the first time last year. The sod that’s still breaking down in those fields makes that soil lighter and drier than other sections of Boyce Field. It was still a challenge pulling the implement through the mud, and we caused some compaction while trying to eke out a few beds for fava beans, peas, greens, radish and spinach. It was either that or fall another week behind our seeding schedule.

We had hoped to get our first peas and greens planted in the last week of March, and with a week of rainy weather predicted, we decided to plant on Monday, April 6, rather than wait another week. We were working near the garlic patch and noticed a few garlic leaves pushing their way through the straw mulch. After seeding, we rolled row cover over the beds of arugula, Japanese white turnips, and radish to keep some heat in and flea beetles out. And by yesterday some more ground had dried allowing us to seed our first round of beets, chard, and carrots.


Our crop plan calls for us to seed the second round of peas this week, but we will delay that by one week to create some space between the pea successions—we wouldn’t be able to harvest all those peas if they ripened together. But the concern is that the later peas (peas and fava beans grow best at cool temperatures) will go past too quickly in the warmer temperatures of late June. If it’s a cool summer, we might not notice the difference.

Today we are removing straw from the strawberries and spreading fertilizer before tomorrow’s predicted rain. Later in the week, we’ll move the seed potatoes out of the greenhouse where they’ve been warming to the cooler loft of the Service Barn for sprouting in the light. You’ll soon see the first trays of lettuce and scallions out on the cold frame in preparation for transplanting to the field. This week, volunteer Anne Patterson will be seeding tomatoes, flowers, and broccoli in the greenhouse.4.10.09 005

See you in the field,

Your farmers

The best way to enjoy the bounty of our harvest is through the Summer CSA, beginning in early-June. Find out more and sign up today!

The Syrup Report

Though the sugaring season is off to a late start, we are finally running the evaporator and bottling maple syrup. Our evaporator will be running most afternoons until the sap stops flowing—you are welcome to stop by the Pond House to learn more about the history and process of maple sugaring. You might even get to taste a little sap!

#Evap 1

Numbers to Date

Gallons of Sap Collected: 857

Gallons of Syrup Bottled: ~20

Finished maple syrup is available for sale at the admissions window. Bring home some New England tradition!

#Maple Syrup

The 60th Anniversary Pennant Project

Drumlin Farm Turns 60 This Year!

DF60_colorSixty years ago, Louise Hatheway donated her farm to Mass Audubon so that families could continue to visit a working farm and learn about where food comes from and how farms contribute to the larger Massachusetts ecosystem. Since then Drumlin Farm has carried on Mrs. Hatheway’s vision, connecting thousands of visitors to farm and nature every year.

To celebrate 60 years of Drumlin Farm memories, we are asking our visitors to help us with the Pennant Project! We want to decorate the sanctuary with memories that are important to you. Whether you treasure the first time you saw an owl up-close during a school program, or you look forward to coming back time after time to watch the lambs grow up every spring, we want to showcase all the reasons you love Drumlin Farm.

The Pennant Project

Help us paint the sanctuary with Drumlin memories! At special events throughout the year, we will have a pennant station set up. You can decorate your pennant anyway you’d like—with words, pictures, or any other way you can think of to show us what you love about coming to Drumlin Farm. Here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing:

Once you’ve completed your pennant, we will add it to our collection, attach it to a cord with other pennants, and string it up somewhere on the sanctuary! Be sure to visit us again to find your pennant in the barns, in classroom spaces, or at the Farmstand.


Your next opportunities to participate in The Pennant Project are Woolapalooza on March 28 and Dairy Day on June 13. We hope you will share your love of Drumlin Farm with us and with other visitors to help us celebrate 60 years of nature, education, and community.

Lambs and Kids Welcome Warm Weather

The babies have arrived! Lambing and kidding season has officially begun in the Drumlin Farm Crossroads and Sheep & Goat barns. These adorable new members of the farmyard arrived just in time to enjoy the first mild breezes of spring last week.

Our first two ram lambs were born in the early morning hours of March 10, followed by one ewe on March 13 and a ram and ewe born in the afternoon on March 14. There are 13 more pregnant ewes, so visit often over the next few weeks to keep up with all the new additions. Soon the Crossroads Barn will be full of these tiny fuzzballs!


All of this season’s goat kids have arrived, and are frolicking playfully in the Sheep & Goat Barn. The first three came in late January, born during the second blizzard of the season. Now at about 6 weeks old, they’ve been joined by four more kids—two born March 11 and two born March 15.

Kids 2015_Rosemary Mosco

One of the older kids, born in January, came over to greet his new pen-mates!

As more and more lambs join our barns, we are preparing for our annual fiber celebration, Woolapalooza, on March 28. Be sure to check the website for ticket and parking details for this fun-filled event!

Kid 2 2015_Rosemary Mosco

Top 5 Things to Look Forward to in Spring

Despite being the shortest month of the year, this February feels like the longest month in history. With below average temperatures almost every day, huge piles of snow, and multiple snow days, it seems as though I’ve been inside so long that I’ve forgotten what comes next.

Here is a list of the top 5 exciting events and activities for spring to help you remember what spring has in store.

5) Spring Babies

IMG_1737March and April are prime time for cute baby animals at Drumlin Farm. We’ve already welcomed three adorable kids—the goat kind—to the farmyard, and we can’t wait to welcome the lambs when they arrive. Stroll through the Crossroads Barn and Sheep & Goat Barn to see our newest additions. Bring your cameras with you, because these little ones are too cute to resist!

4) Planting

P1110126 smallSeedlings are already sprouting in our Greenhouse, waiting to be planted in Boyce field. The excess snow melt will help with irrigation as we transfer lettuce, leeks, onions, and other seedlings into the ground to kick off the harvest season. Be sure to stop by our Farmstand or become a CSA member today to enjoy all the spoils of our farmers’ labor, starting in early June.

3) Maple Sugaring

DSC_1508 small

With the bitter cold of February, our maple sugaring season is a little behind schedule. We need temperatures to rise into the 40s during the day and drop to 20s at night, providing the perfect conditions for tree sap flow. Did you know that it takes 34-40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of finished syrup? Once we collect enough sap, we’ll be firing up the evaporator. When you visit, ask at the front window to see if the evaporator is running—we’ll have a teacher-naturalist there to show you how it works and give you a taste! And make sure to join us for the Sap-to-Syrup Farmer’s Breakfast for some pancakes with syrup and Drumlin Farm’s own sausage and potatoes.

2) Longer Days


We are finally enjoying more and more sunlight, making it easier to venture outside for an after-school outdoor activity. Starting March 1, Drumlin Farm hours will be 9 am to 5 pm—that’s a whole extra hour to comb the trails, roam the farmyard, and enjoy the fresh air.  We just released new spring and summer programs to give you lots of ways to take advantage of the longer daylight. Come soak up some much-needed vitamin D!

1) Puddle Jumping

IMG_0053 small

Everyone knows the old adage, “April showers bring May flowers,” but why should the flowers have all the glory? Puddle jumping is not only reserved for children, so pull on your wellies/rubbers/rain boots and get hopping! It’s sure to put a smile on your face after weeks and weeks of being cooped up by the snow.

What’s missing from the list? Tell us what you are looking forward to this spring.