Category Archives: News

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

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!

Hard Hat Area: November ELC Progress

If you’ve been able to pay a visit to Drumlin Farm this fall, you may have noticed that parts of the farm look a little different these days! Construction of the Environmental Learning Center began in September, and we couldn’t be happier with the results so far. Replacing our current building, the 60-year-old winterized screen room, the ELC will be a major transformation of how our education team works at Drumlin Farm. With space designed to foster collaboration and creativity, plus room for our 15 full-time education staff and 100+ part-time teacher-naturalists, the building represents the next generation of environmental education, sustainability, and conservation brought to you.

Over the course of the project, we’ll be bringing you updates on the construction in progress, including the details of the state-of-the-art net-zero design that makes the physical structure of the building as innovative as the people who will work inside it. Here’s a peek at what’s been happening so far.

 

We held our official “ground-breaking ceremony” on October 15, but our top-notch crew at Chapman Construction/Design had already beaten us in starting in on the excavation! Tree clearing around the site was carefully designed to leave as many mature trees as possible while maximizing the solar availability for the photovoltaic array that will be located on the roof. Much of the plant material that was removed consisted of invasive species with low habitat value. At the conclusion of the project, we will be replanting the entire area with native trees, shrubs, and grasses that will significantly improve the habitat for wildlife.

 

Once the site was clear, it has been amazing how quickly things happen. First up was the foundation work. The high levels of organic matter in Drumlin Farm soil is great for farming, but not so great for putting a heavy building on, so we had to dig down to glacial bedrock before pouring the foundation walls.

 

The inside of the foundation walls are lined with 5” thick foam to insulate the building from the “thermal sink” that is Planet Earth. This level of insulation allows us to minimize the energy needed to heat the building in winter.

 

Definition of the entrance roadway and sidewalk took place in parallel with the foundation work. Our excavator uncovered this “nugget” of ledge that will take a little drilling to accommodate the location of the walking path, but the remainder of which is going to become a really beautiful feature for kids to explore on the walk from the car before or after their Drumlin Farm program.

 

This is probably the only time we will get to see an excavator INSIDE the building! Once the foundation walls were set, the interior was refilled with compacted earth.

 

We’re thankful to have such a terrific crew working on the project. We can tell that being part of Mass Audubon’s mission is important to them, and they are always willing to wave hello to young visitors peeking in through the fence.

 

As November closed, the slab was poured on top of more foam and a thick plastic vapor barrier. The insets for the supporting columns let us get a first glimpse into where the rooms in the building will be and how much space our educators will have to do their work.

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

Welcoming Our New Red Fox

Drumlin Farm recently welcomed our newest animal ambassador: a curious and rambunctious red fox! This male kit (young fox) was found alone in an Illinois cornfield last spring. After being examined by a vet, it became clear that his vision issues make him unable to survive on his own in the wild, but a wonderful candidate for Drumlin Farm. Our animal care staff drove to meet the wildlife rehabilitation center at a halfway point—in Ohio—and brought him back to his new home in our New England Wildlife Explorations exhibit (NEWE).

We’re happy to announce that the fox is now healthy and active, settling into his new home well. While he was originally found dehydrated and malnourished, he’s now enjoying quick scurries through his enclosure, along with a full omnivore diet of mice and veggies. Our Wildlife Care Staff did their usual amazing job in slowly introducing him to his pen using positive reinforcement. He’s joined the team of animal ambassadors at the farm, where his presence acts as an educational tool for visitors to learn about local wildlife.

Red foxes are generalists, so they’re found in a large variety of habitats and aren’t picky about their food. They adapt very well to new environments and can be found in forests and grasslands, as well as in cities like Boston. Check him out, along with other native animals, at the NEWE exhibit, where you can learn about the interrelationships of native wildlife in a New England forest/field edge habitat. You’ll see animals that the red fox would normally come across in the wild, like our cottontail rabbit, box turtle, and house mice.

The exhibit also features a “FoxCam”—a video stream of the fox’s inside pen, where you can speedily rewind and fast forward through the footage using a computer-controlled dial. This footage allows us opportunities to study the fox’s behavior as he adjusts to his new environment. Plus—it’s really fun to play with! He is in his “teenager” phase, so you’ll also see how much he loves to sleep.

While he would not have been able to survive in the wild on his own, he’s now thriving at Drumlin Farm. As an animal ambassador, he’s been given an opportunity to teach us about local wildlife and the natural surroundings we share. Stop by NEWE to say hello and welcome him to the farm.

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

Drumlin Farm Crops Update Vol. 6

Heatwave #1

Looks like the first heat wave of the year has arrived. It’s 95 in the field where volunteers Anne and Shelia are crawling along over the hot soil thinning beets—amazing! The heat will push the strawberries and peas along, and we’ve moved Strawberry Day to June 24 because not enough of the berries will be ready by this weekend. We do plan to pick strawberries for the first time tomorrow morning and bring them up to the stand.

Google Volunteers Planting Dahlias

This past week we got lots of great help from three large groups. On Thursday, volunteers from Google planted dahlias. Their company made a donation to help us purchase the plants from a nursery. After planting the dahlias, the volunteers thoroughly weeded four beds of celery and celeriac. Thanks for the help!

Thanks, Camp Counselors!

On Friday morning, Zach and Emma brought the camp counselors to the field to learn about our crops program and to get trained for the upcoming “Weedouts”—the mornings when campers get dirty and pull weeds. Thanks counselors for making camp a rewarding first connection to Drumlin for so many kids and families, and thanks for pulling those weeds in the radicchio and peas!

Storm Volunteers

On Friday afternoon, Care.com brought volunteers to the field just in time to plant the sweet potato slips. A thunderstorm passed through, but the gang brushed it off and happily set 2,500 plants in about an hour. Thanks for all your great work and for the donation!

Summer CSA Countdown

The summer CSA opens this week just as many new crops are about to come in. We are close to our first harvest of chard, beets, carrots and garlic scapes. We’re excited to see what’s ready come Wednesday morning. If you’re interested in grabbing a last-minute share, visit massaudubon.org/drumlincsa.

Your Farmers

8 Drumlin Farmy Things to Do Now That It’s Finally Nice Out.

We’ve encouraged you to “get outside even though the weather is really nasty” for a few weeks now.

It’s been hard. You probably haven’t listened. We get it.

But now you don’t have any excuses. So get out there.

1. Get to a patio and eat Drumlin Farm veggies. Did you know that we wholesale to restaurants in Cambridge and Somerville? Now you do.

2. Take a tour around the farm with Discover Hidden Treasures. This free tour will loop around Boyce Field and finish with an up-close encounter with an American kestrel.

3. Forage around the farm with Russ Cohen, author of Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten. He’ll bring a bunch of treats made with herbs, nuts, and flowers you can easily find in your neighborhood (if you know where to look).

4. After learning about the mega machines that help our farmers do their job, take a hayride during Trucks, Tractors, and Tools.

5. Stop at the Audubon Shop for much-needed ice cream.

6. Keep cool along some of our wooded trails like the Beeline Trail, where you can see our deer chilling out just like you.

7. Visit our egg mobiles in Boyce Field, where the chickens are eating bugs and providing nutritious fertilizer for the next round of crops.

8. Hit up Union Square Farmer’s Market, which just started back up last week. There you’ll find our produce, as well as treats from other local vendors. And walk down the block to Union Square Donuts while you’re at it.