Category Archives: Education

ELC Progress: Insulation, Design, and Thawing Grounds

February has brought more progress to the Environmental Learning Center job site, which has been humming with activity amid the storms and gray skies of winter. With just about three months to go until the grand opening, there is lots happening both inside and out.

The most noticeable progress has been on the outside of the building, with the installation of a beautiful combination of cedar and aluminum siding. Our staff loves the “rustic red” color against the beauty of the wood.

The Chapman Construction/Design crew had some natural challenges to face when we went through a thaw. Got to admire their creativity in finding pathways across the mud!

Indoors, the major milestone of the month was the completion of the insulation. In addition to all the rigid foam that lines the walls, ceiling, and foundation, pounds and pounds of cellulose insulation (made from recycled newspaper) was blown into the ceiling and wall cavities. It took about a week to get all the gaps filled up, but now we’re confident that this building will be our most energy efficient ever!

Evaluating whether the machines have blown in the right amount of cellulose is an interesting business. Too much insulation and the walls might bow from the weight; too little and there would be gaps where cold air could seep through. It turns out that the best method is fairly low tech: Bob the site supervisor built a one-cubic-foot box and filled it with insulation to the specified weight. First you pat the box to get a feel for (literally) how much the right amount should compress…

…then you pat the walls or ceilings to judge whether they match the box. It may seem like an inexact science, but apparently our sense of touch is good enough to be fairly accurate in this case! Mass Audubon’s Capital Projects Manager Stu thinks they got it just right.

Once the insulation was complete, it is time for the walls. Sheetrock is starting to appear along the hallways and rooms, further defining the spaces where so much great educational ideas will take shape.

In parallel, the behind-the-scenes plumbing and electrical work has been finishing up, ready to be walled in but still appreciated for its tidy and functional construction.

Finally, our design team has been busy making decisions on a weekly basis on the colors, textures, and finishes that will give the space the right ambiance. We’ve settled on a very natural color palette that reflects both the landscape of Drumlin Farm and our farm-y roots, with some practical aspects like an entrance mat that kind of matches the dirt that we know will be on our boots from our time in the pastures and fields.

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 at massaudubon.org/environmental-learning-center.

 

Best,

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!

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!

Crops Update Vol. 13

Getting Ready for Fall Harvest

Last week, two volunteer groups helped us start the fall harvest process. Volunteers from Ecova weeded strawberries before clipping and crating the spaghetti and orange kabocha squashes—two early varieties that are ready for eating. Volunteers helped us carry the squash into the greenhouse while others picked string beans for Saturday’s market.

Volunteers from the Appalachian Mountain Club helped us weed carrots and summer squash and harvest more beans and squash. The volunteers were so engaged with the weeding that many could not be enticed out of the carrots with the promise of a harvesting job or even with watermelon slices! Thanks AMC for your help this season and for picking all those beautiful beans.

Welcome, Mary and Emily!

This week Mary Eagan and Emily Poma joined the team. Mary will be helping out wherever more hands are needed: such as this past Friday’s market harvest, when she and Andrew loaded most of the watermelons.

Emily is from Italy and first came to the fields during a Saturday open volunteer session. It soon became clear that she had worked on farms before, and we are very happy to have her on the team.

End-of-Summer Crops

The first succession of watermelons and cantaloupes is at an end. We have another round coming, but today and tomorrow at the stand you’ll find the last melons for a little while.

Tomatoes are ripening quickly now, and we should have a good selection available every day from now until first frost. Get the summer favorites while you can—it feels like we’re headed for an early frost.

Your Farmers

Crops Update Vol. 12

Hello, Watermelons

At the farm stand you will find the pink-fleshed, thin-skinned Little Baby Flower watermelon. It’s no sugar bomb, but the words I use to describe it are “refreshing,” “tangy,” and “yes.” Also, try biting into the rind just below the flesh; it’s good eating.

Back Off, Crows (And Deer)

We’ve taken serious measures to protect the watermelons. An electric fence keeps out coyotes and Mylar flash tape wards off crows. They’ve taken to attacking our radicchio (some of which look more like chopped lettuce than the typical mini cabbage). I can’t imagine what the crows are getting out of the radicchio except the satisfaction of knowing most people don’t like it.

On another farm, I saw crows dig up and peck apart freshly-planted garlic cloves; this in response to placing orchard netting over tomatoes to keep them out. So, crows—tricksters or vengeance-minded gangsters? It’s clear why a group of crows is called a murder! The deer are also starting to eat carrots and take bites out of spaghetti squash. At least that makes some sense. We just wish the deer would eat all of one squash instead of taking small bites out of several.

Weeding and Volunteer Shoutouts

Last Tuesday was the last of the summer’s Weed-outs. The groups cleared weeds from the main leek and potato patches. We are so grateful to Drumlin Farm Camp for making Weed-out a part of each session.

Last week, another volunteer group from Global Atlantic Financial weeded and harvested potatoes and over 75 pounds of string beans. Because of their work, we were able to offer string beans to all CSA members the following day—a first!

The public relations firm Denterlein Worldwide brought their whole staff of twenty people to the fields. They weeded carrots and fennel, and picked beans and carrots for market. Thank you, Denterlein volunteers.

Bye, Jill!

This is Jill Banach’s last week as part of the Crops Team. She needs to get ready for her senior year at UMass. Jill is even-keeled and reliable, and we’ll miss her in the fields and at the wash station where she proved herself to be equal to all we asked her to do. Thanks, Jill, and best wishes for the year ahead!

Your Farmers

Crops Updates are by Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona

Crops Update Vol. 11

by Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona

More Volunteers, More Helping Hands

Volunteers from Global Atlantic Financial Group came eager to work. The oat straw mulch in our tomatoes, advertised as clean and seed-free, has been sprouting oats that limit air flow and compete with our plants for nutrients and light. The Global Atlantic volunteers pulled up all the green oats and laid it down as more mulch, they then harvested and helped lay out the entire Bridger onion crop currently curing in the greenhouse, they then weeded carrots before harvesting over 500 pounds of potatoes—all in a little over two hours! Thanks so much for the great help.

Interested in Volunteering?

Sign up for one of three weekly volunteer sessions—Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday afternoons from 1:30–4. We have been getting great help during these open sessions—many high school students completing their community service requirements and even some master gardeners. If none of these times work for you, email Matt at mcelona@massaudubon.org.

Two Fridays ago the team was pleased to have the help of Sanctuary Director Renata Pomponi during the market harvest. Renata picked corn, bunched and topped carrots, and helped out in the wash station cleaning and packing veggies. Thanks, Renata!

Your Farmers

Crops Update Vol. 10

By Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona

Farming Family

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

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

Life is Sweet! And so is the corn.

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

Slow Tomatoes

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

Your Farmers

Crops Update Vol. 9

By Crops Manager Matt Celona

Serious Summer Harvest Time

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

Flowers in Bloom

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

Coyotes Love Sweets

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

Rain Still Causing Weeds

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

Hooray for Garlic

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

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update Vol. 8

By Crops Manager Matt Celona

So Many Crops

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

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

And tomatoes and peppers are not far off!

Weed-Out #1 and Keurig Volunteers

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

Harvesting Potatoes with AMC

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

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

Your farmers

Drumlin Farm Crops Update Vol. 7

By Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you in the field,

Your Farmers