Category Archives: News

Double the Foxes, Double the Fun!

A big welcome to the newest member of the Drumlin Farm animal ambassador family, a female red fox! Like our resident male fox, she was found as an orphaned kit (young fox) in Illinois. Upon her discovery in February 2018 she weighed only 1.5 pounds. During her rehabilitation, she became habituated to her human caregivers and was deemed non-releasable, unable to survive on her own in the wild. She’s grown a lot since then and is adjusting well to the East Coast move, now weighing in at a healthy 10 pounds.

The new female fox joins the ranks of the many honorable animal ambassadors that call Drumlin Farm home and work to connect our visitors to the natural world in unique ways. Many Drumlin Farm visitors have never even seen a fox in person before, and know surprisingly little about these sly canines. Next time you visit, we invite you stop by the New England Wildlife Exhibit to see them up close. You can distinguish the female from the male by the relatively smaller white tip on her tail. As foxes are mostly nocturnal, the pair are often most active during early in the morning and at night, but our two foxes can regularly be seen exploring the exhibit, observing the cows in the pasture, or napping throughout the day. Check out the Fox Cam in our exhibit space to see the night-vision camera collecting data on their after-hours behavior. You can also explore inside our newly opened Fox Den viewing area, with its plexiglass window for a clear look inside the enclosure. Either way, don’t miss your chance to say hello to the newest member of the Drumlin Farm family!

Edie Sisson’s Ongoing Impact During 50 Years at Drumlin Farm

Edie Sisson is a Drumlin Farm superstar. She has been teaching at Drumlin Farm for fifty years, and during that time has opened countless people’s eyes to the wonders of nature. She believes in living sustainably, and her household includes chickens, geese, and honeybees, and for many years she provided many thousands of fertilized eggs for incubation to schoolchildren across the state, while her late husband, Tom, served as Drumlin Farm’s beekeeper. She also believes, passionately, in social justice and in the power of an individual to make a difference.

In 2007, she founded the Drumlin Farm Outreach and Assistance Resources (DOAR) program to provide scholarship support to make Drumlin Farm available to schools, families, and others for whom the financial barriers were too high, as well as to increase the diversity and accessibility of our community. Thanks to the DOAR Program, many people have been able to experience the magic of nature and the farm first hand. Seeing wildlife up close, getting your hands dirty in the garden caring for plants, and observing the interconnectedness of the natural world are lessons that last a life time and have inspired many, thanks to Edie’s push for inclusiveness.

On November 20, Drumlin colleagues past and present joined with Edie’s family to celebrate both her 90th birthday and her 50th anniversary at Drumlin Farm with a lunch in her honor.  Just a couple of days before Thanksgiving, it was a perfect opportunity to reflect on all that Edie has brought to our community and give thanks for her!

If you would like to make a gift to the DOAR Fund to help support socially diverse programs at Drumlin Farm, please contact Polly Reeve (preeve@massaudubon.org, 781-259-2239).

Anne Patterson Recognized with Volunteer Award

This past Saturday, Drumlin Farm’s annual farm-to-table fundraiser gala, Moon Over Drumlin,  honored our incredibly talented and hardworking volunteer, Anne Patterson, with the Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions. Since 2001, Anne has been a stalwart Drumlin Farm volunteer, contributing thousands of hours to the farm during that time. Nearly every day in the winter and spring she can be found in the greenhouse, where she manages our seedling operation, planting seeds – one by one, flat by flat – to grow the plants that fill 30 acres of farm fields and feed thousands of people before the harvest ends. She trains other volunteers and tackles the toughest of field chores year-round, making her an indispensable member of the crops team.

Anne (center) with her fellow volunteers.

Noted for her excellent, calculated, and precise methods of planting and willingness to always lend a hand, Crops Manager Matt Celona expressed, “It’s difficult to measure or put into words all that Anne has given to Drumlin—she’s part of the team, and she stands alone doing her own thing year-round, in all weather, bringing others here, teaching and delighting them with stories and brain-melting explanations of ‘simple’ mathematical concepts. Over time, Anne has taught me to introduce her to others not as a ‘retired mathematician,’ but as the voluntary farmer she most certainly is. Thank you, Anne.”

Anne Patterson receiving her award and standing ovation. ©Sara Colket

Upon receiving the award, her heart warming, comical, and poignant acceptance speech sparked inspiration in the audience, which they showed with a standing ovation. The Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions was established in 2017 in his memory, to recognize a volunteer who has made significant contributions to Drumlin Farm during the previous year and who demonstrates the qualities of dedication, collaboration, and commitment that Jonathan brought to his work. Moon Over Drumlin has become a night to not only taste creative plating’s by local chefs, but also honor and recognize all the pieces that make Drumlin Farm the special place it is, in which volunteers are at the heart.

Volunteers are vital to Drumlin Farm’s success, contributing to a wide range of projects in the field, at programs and events, admissions, and beyond. Without volunteers like Anne and Jonathan, we would not be able to cultivate and share the bounty of nature, farming, and education that we do today. If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact Pam Sowizrol at psowizrol@massaudubon.org.

Many thanks and congratulations to Anne from everyone at Drumlin Farm!

 

A New Area for Nature Play

Farewell to Our Sensory Tree

Father Time did not pass by Drumlin Farm’s Sensory Tree exhibit. The tree started its life as a beautiful cedar growing adjacent to the admissions window with a bowed trunk uniquely suited to climbing and swinging.  After being enjoyed for decades by climbing children, it was removed in 2008 to make way for Drumlin Farm’s accessible path, but was re-purposed as an educational exhibit.  The cedar, reborn as the Sensory Tree and designed by Sanctuary Director Renata Pomponi, was coated with resin and augmented with features to engage the senses: smell the cedar, listen to bird calls and woodpecker taps, and search for the hidden animals and insects.

For ten years the Sensory Tree provided a hands-on experience for children, teaching them what lives in and around a tree. But when it became apparent earlier in 2018 that the Sensory Tree had followed its natural path of decomposition, we needed to think of a replacement activity for this busy location adjacent to the farmyard entry path and our new Environmental Learning Center. Located at an opportune stopping point halfway down the welcome hill, the site would need to provide a destination for children on their way up or down the hill to run to, explore, or take a break at, all while being aesthetically pleasing and adhering to a limited budget. Thanks to an amazing team-effort from Drumlin Farm staff and volunteers, we were able to do just that.

Plan to Play

Interpretation Educator Norah Mazar designed the area and coordinated the project. Her initial visit provided area dimensions and an appraisal of the site – flat in the center, sloped to the back, partially surrounded by boulders and ledge, a section of partial shade, and an area of full sun. Norah drew-up plans for a nature play area with a spiral stepping activity made from downed trees on site. Nature play areas give people opportunities to connect with nature by encouraging self-directed, unstructured exploration and this winter’s storms knocked over more than thirty trees on the sanctuary, most of them pine, but some hardwoods as well. Naturalist Tia Piney advised on suitable plants for the adjacent slope, with native ferns, perennials and ground covers.

The site of the future nature play area.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Volunteer Coordinator Pam Sowizral worked with Thermo Fisher Scientific who generously supplied both volunteers to implement the project and funding to offset the costs of top soil, mulch, and plants. Meanwhile Property Manager Geoff Nelson and his staff started preparing for the project day by selecting fallen trees to use and removing the worn Sensory Tree. Project Day was a sunny Friday – May 18. The stumps and logs were eagerly waiting in a pile, as the eighteen Thermo Fisher Scientific employees volunteers came, sleeves rolled up, ready to get to work.

Thanks so much Thermo Fisher Scientific Volunteers!

Thanks so much Thermo Fisher Scientific Volunteers! Development Director Polly Reeve and uber volunteer Susan Vecchi, provided instruction on proper planting techniques while the team worked together digging, moving heavy logs, and planting. Once the top soil was moved to provide a bed for the new plantings the volunteers were able to get creative in their crafting a unique garden and nature display. Tia had chosen an array of plants native to New England that would be hardy during winters, good growers, and beautiful as well. Some plants were chosen for both foliage and flowers—sweet woodruff, geranium, lupine, trumpet honeysuckle, asters and foamflower. Others, for foliage alone, which can still grab ones eye—prairie dropseed, pink hair grass, feather reed grass, Pennsylvania sedge, Christmas fern, and lady fern.

Visit the Completed Project Today

Voila! A perfect spot to stop for a snack, a break, or more play!

It is always amazing what a group of hard working folks can accomplish in such a short time. Standing back, at the end of the afternoon, staff and volunteers could admire the finished project—stepping spiral, new seating, and plantings all in place—and feel good about a job well done. What’s more, they can think about the special moments and fond memories that are soon to be made in this area. What neat insects will an curious camper find when stopped here for a snack? Perhaps this will be the spot a young birder is sitting at when they identify their first songbird. Or a new parent may finally enjoy the time off their feet to sit and take in the natural surroundings after exploring the farm loop. Recently, Norah walked by the completed project and saw two youngsters joyfully playing the classic childhood game “The Floor is Lava” on the stumps as they bounded from one step to the next! With teamwork, creative re-use of natural materials, and a vision for what can be, a new nature play area for memory making and nature appreciation has found its home.

The floor is lava!

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

Partner Spotlight: Tenuta di Spannocchia

Two years I ago in May, I spent a delicious week in Italy with a group of Drumlin Farm travelers, reveling in the sights, (bird) sounds, and tastes of Tuscany. The time was made all the more special by being hosted by a wonderful Drumlin Farm partner, Tenuta di Spannocchia, a sustainable farm focused on education and outdoor experiences which shares much in common with our Drumlin Farm philosophy here in Massachusetts.

Spannocchia has spent the past two decades working to preserve respect for nature and traditional farming practices in the Tuscan region. Nestled in the center of a 1,100-acre nature preserve, the property boats a medieval castello and villa and nine recently renovated farmhouses (previously run by tenant farmers) dotting the countryside. The property was in disrepair in the early 1990’s until the Cinelli family sought to restore the buildings and make it an active working farm again.

Renata exploring the property’s fields

Spannocchia preserves an ancient form of life in Tuscany that is based on community, respect for tradition and a responsible use of resources. Through our shared values of conservation, stewardship and dedication to educating future generations, Mass Audubon forged a partnership with Spannocchia that included hosting our week on the property, with tours to explore and experience its farming and ecological practices. Learning at Spannocchia is part of the vacation experience. Visitors are invited to participate in a number of tours to learn about new gardening practices, beekeeping, and their organic wine and olive oil production. Our group was delighted to find that many of the same sustainable practices that we rely on at Drumlin Farm are rooted in the ways that Italian farmers had been working the Tuscan farmland for centuries.

Another thing Drumlin Farm and Tenuta Di Spannocchia have in common – pigs!

Italian pigs saying hi! Perhaps they can still pick up a hint of Drumlin Farm…

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of their internship program. Young people from around the world have come to Spannocchia to experience Italy’s farm culture and be exposed to sustainable agriculture. Interns have become ambassadors of conservation and continue to employ the practices they learned at Spannocchia in their communities, professions and daily lives.

It wouldn’t be a proper trip to Italy without homemade pasta!

Delizioso!

As at Drumlin Farm, some of my fondest memories of Spannocchia revolve around community – staying in the classic farmhouse bed & breakfast rooms, participating in their excellent cooking and farming programs, enjoying family style meals with ingredients fresh from the garden, and exploring the streets of nearby Siena. Even if you missed our tour group, you can spend a week soaking in farm life in Italy through their rental program. Look for me enjoying a drink on the terrace at sunset, since I know I will be back there soon!

Renata Pomponi

Sanctuary Director

March ELC Progress: Natural Interiors

Just over two months to go, and the Environmental Learning Center is starting to come together! It has been an exciting month as we move from the large-scale fabrication to the small-scale details.

As the snows of February kept falling, the most time consuming task inside was polishing our concrete floors. Every inch was ground and buffed by machines large and small.

The result was a beautiful natural gloss on the floor, with an eco-friendly polish on top that will give us many years of wear. We love the rich color that came out in the concrete, and the gradations of tone that add a lot of texture to the space. And it won’t show the dirt of Drumlin from our boots!

FurnCom, our furniture selection committee, spent some quality time inside the building determining the sizes and configurations of all of the desks, worktables, chairs, and other equipment that it will take to run our busy education hub. Tia Pinney loves how the small conference room is larger than any private meeting space we ever had in the old building!

ColorCom, the color selection committee, has also been hard at work. We love the deep gray of the tile they picked for the bathrooms.

To our surprise, the entire set of millwork (wooden cabinetry) arrived in one gigantic shipment from the fabricator. While it’s a bit of a challenge to match each stick of wood to its rightful spot in the interior detailing, it does make an impressive pile in the great room. Office jenga, anyone?

Piece by piece, the millwork has been going up. The birch gives a clean natural look to the doorframes and interior windows.

Thankfully our builder understands that some decisions need to be made in situ, such as the exact placement of the box shelves over each workstation. We know we’re a bit fussy on the details, but after waiting so long for this new space, we want it to be perfect!

We know our teacher-naturalists are going to love their new storage cubbies! More birch details echo throughout the building, including the bookcases, workstation tabletops, and doors.

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

Renata Pomponi

Sanctuary Director

Farewell and Congratulations to Camp Director Becky Gilles

Drumlin Farm has served as a launching point for many careers within the Mass Audubon statewide system, and it is with bittersweet pride that we announce our latest fledgling to leave the Drumlin Farm nest! Becky Gilles has served as Drumlin Farm’s Camp Director for the past twelve years, bringing her unique combination of professionalism and joy as a valued member of the Drumlin Farm education team. We are pleased to announce her promotion to her new position as Director at Mass Audubon’s overnight camp Wildwood.

Becky Gilles and Drumlin Farm Assistant Camp Director Zach D’Arbeloff talk to prospective campers at this past Woolapalooza.

For those that know Becky, she is as passionate about getting youth out birding and learning about the environment as she is about getting kids to camp! During her tenure, she and her team have developed bird watching clubs and trips for youth, teen-focused initiatives including stewardship and leadership clubs, and on-site 4-H Clubs. Under Becky’s leadership, the impact of Drumlin Farm Summer Camp has grown tremendously—campership has more than doubled and hundreds of young adults have developed their skills as environmental educators as members of her camp staff. When Drumlin Farm outgrew its on-site location, Becky built partnerships with local conservation organizations to design and operate two specialty summer camp that serve new audiences while maintaining the same high quality programming and nature camp flair, at Assabet River and Wolbach Farm, in Sudbury. We are excited to see these programs continue to grow from the firm foundation that Becky established. Jennifer Feller, Drumlin Farm’s Education Manager, will serve as Interim Camp Director, leading a record number of camp counselors who will be returning to Drumlin Farm this summer to keep our traditions strong.

As Becky takes on the challenges of Mass Audubon’s overnight camp, we are excited to see the inspiration she will bring to help campers explore the outdoors and make friends while gaining a greater respect for nature as well as our role in protecting it. We are confident Becky will make a great addition to the Wildwood team and continue her role as a hardworking and innovative Camp Director. Please join us in congratulating Becky on her promotion and wishing her the best of luck in her new position!

Inside the Hive with Massachusetts Beekeepers Association’s Beekeeper of the Year: Mel Gadd

Have you ever tried Drumlin Farm honey? Our bees work hard to pollinate our crops along with providing us with delicious honey, all under the watchful eye of our beekeeper, Mel Gadd. We’re proud to announce that Mel was recently named the 2017 Beekeeper of the Year by the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association.

Mel Gadd has been keeping bees a little over ten years in Cambridge, MA. He has been involved with the Essex County Beekeepers Association (ECBA)  for the past ten years, as Chair of the ECBA Bee School in 2015 and is on his second term as an ECBA Board of Director.

Mel maintains over twenty hives, with three located in his own backyard and three at schools where he works with the 1st and 5th graders as his beekeepers. He started major beekeeping programs at Drumlin Farm, both in the fields, as well as established an educational program on the bees as part of Drumlin’s regular programming. This includes a five-week Bee School where Mel teaches participants everything they need to know about how to keep bees, and maintaining many hives at Drumlin.

The 2018 Drumlin Farm Beekeeping for Beginners held its first class on the last Tuesday of February. The class was full with 38 students who were totally enthralled with the idea of keeping honey bees during the upcoming season. The idea of the class is to prepare students so that at the end of the five weeks in classroom and one day in the field, they will be able to start their beekeeping experience. Intermediate Beekeeping with Mel starts the last Tuesday in April, with registration currently open.

Mel Gadd teaching at a full class of soon-to-be beekeepers

Mel has also been involved with some of the non-traditional types of hives (top bar, Warre & Slovenian hives) and has been teaching about these at a number of forums in the region. At Drumlin, Mel has also been conducting studies using mushroom spores as an organic way to minimize/eliminate varroa mites.

Recently, he was awarded Massachusetts Beekeepers Association’s 2017 Beekeeper of the Year Award. As an integral part of our farm-to-food programming and honey supply, we congratulate Mel and invite our community to learn from the best at one of his upcoming programs. Check back in for periodical “Inside the Hive” updates from Mel and his busy bee’s as they prepare for the upcoming season and learn about this fun hobby and important skill.

Beekeeper checking on their hive.

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