Category Archives: Volunteers

Crops Update: Crops Team Departures, Deer Arrivals

The eggplant, tomatoes, and melons are loving this warm, sunny weather. There are lots at the stand today, and we’ll start picking the larger watermelon varieties tomorrow. Without much rain over the past two weeks, fruit flavors are concentrated and at their best. There has been some morning dew, and a sprinkle here and there—enough moisture to get the cover crops going that we seeded last week. Teachers, now is a great time to walk the fields and investigate the different shapes and sizes of the young cover crop plants!

It’s that time of year when people on the Crops team start heading in different directions. Last week, we said goodbye to Kirsty, who had been helping us part-time since April and on Saturday, Margot finished a month of full-time volunteering. We already felt their absence this morning during the restaurant harvest, but we got it done thanks to the pre-harvesting Erica and Maddie did with volunteers Anne and Francesca on Monday afternoon. To those moving-on from Drumlin, thanks for your hard work! To those of us staying, it’s time to step up our game! 

At this time of year, we could spend every daylight hour harvesting and marketing the produce, but there are still weeds to control. Last Thursday, our Teacher Naturalist Sally once again brought high schoolers in Lowell’s summer employment program to the farm for a tour and some field work. Together, we weeded through the entire sweet potato patch (pictured below).

Nice work! My only concern is that now the deer will have an easier time finding the sweet potato leaves—one of their favorite crops. I haven’t been seeing deer lately, but their tracks are everywhere, and they are damaging carrots, chard, lettuce and beets. Based on the number of hoof prints, there are more deer in the field than at any time since I started here in 2005. If you see one out there, kindly make it scram!

We’re also looking forward to the Fall CSA farm share program starting September 11. Shares include summer favorites like heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and carrots; the best of fall, including parsnips, winter squashes, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other root crops; and variety of fresh and cooking greens. Register for your spot today!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Tomatoes, Melons & Corn

It’s the only week of the season when we’ll have tomatoes, melons, and corn for sale at the same time–and all are at the stand right now! We just started picking cantaloupe yesterday, and the flavor is superb. We’ll have corn for the next few days, and possibly over the weekend, but then we’re out. We eliminated our last succession of corn, because in our no-spray corn system, those late ears get too buggy for people to enjoy. Watermelons are only a few days away, so keep an eye out for them as well.

We’re currently in the process of moving electric fences from the sweet corn to the melons. The coyotes have already started to enjoy a few melons, so it’s time to exclude them. We love having coyotes in the field because we believe they keep the deer on edge and moving, but we know from experience that they don’t know how to exercise portion control when it comes to the melons!

Garlic was step 1 of the fall harvest and we’ve almost completed step 2, the onions. Step 3 begins in late August and September with winter squash and pumpkins, wrapping up with root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, parsnips) in late September and early October. On Thursday, volunteers from Definitive Healthcare of Framingham helped us search around in the weeds (pictured above) for what looks like a very promising crop of storage onions. They had already weeded in the strawberry patch for an hour before hauling the onions, but survived the heat and humidity and got lots done. On Saturday, community volunteers helped us bring in more of the crop. The onions are drying in the greenhouse, and the shade cloth we’ve stretched over the top of the house keeps the temperature down and direct sun off the bulbs (pictured below). If exposed to direct sun while drying, the onions will turn green.

On Tuesday of last week, volunteers from ENGIE Insight helped us dig potatoes and harvest eggplant for the next day’s CSA distribution. They have helped us in years past, and we’ve really appreciated having help from all individual and corporate volunteers during these hottest days of the summer. Hopefully those hotter days are behind us. The dragonflies continue to help us with pest control, and you can observe hundreds of them patrolling the fields in the evening. A few nights ago, there was a school of them at the edge of the bobolink field, more easily heard than seen. But, if you looked toward the lighter sky you could see them silhouetted against it. In this picture below, you can see two of them towards the left. However, we recommend taking walk out there one evening to get the full experience.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Garlic Time!

The garlic harvest is complete! We spent some part of four days last week pulling, cleaning, trimming and laying out the heads. We usually bring in the crop some time during the first three weeks of July, the timing depends on the state of the leaves. Ideally, you want to harvest when 60% of the leaves are green and 40% yellow. The base of the leaves wrap around the bulb and protect it from decay. If you let the leaves get too yellow, the bulb has a weak wrapper and poor storage potential.

The harvest was on the late side for us, probably due to the cool spring and frequent rains. Animal care workers from AstraZeneca arrived on Thursday and spent their entire volunteer session pulling half the garlic crop (pictured below). That’s the boost we really needed, and we were able to finish the job on Saturday with drop-in volunteers from the community.

The Crops team, with help from volunteer Fred, did a great job power washing all the bulbs and carrying them up into the barn for drying. Last year, we first experimented with washing the bulbs before drying them, and we were happy with the result. The garlic seemed to store better from having the mud blasted off the roots. Thanks all for your good work taking care of this important crop, and a special thanks to my sister’s eldest, Margo, who is currently helping us out, and who seemed to really enjoy all aspects of working with the garlic, even the hot work of hauling the tops out to the compost pile (pictured below)!

The tomatoes are beginning to ripen more quickly now, and, having had a preview, I can tell you they taste exceptionally good this year. We hope to include some in this week’s CSA share, and by the weekend, look for them at the farm stand. We’re harvesting our second round of sweet corn, but we’re likely to have picked through it all by the middle of next week. So if you like corn that hasn’t been treated with any pesticides, get some soon! My favorite summer salad is cucumbers, corn and tomatoes. Don’t cook the corn, just cut it off the cob and mix it with the cukes and tomatoes–delicious!

See you in the field,
Your Farmers

Crops Update: Surviving the Heat

We made it through the one hundred degree days without spontaneously combusting, which might come as surprise given the dire tone of the media’s coverage of the heat. We moved a little more slowly, drank more water, and sweated, but the breeze blew and cooled our bodies and we got things done. Then it rained again, and the mud tried to twist our boots off as we plodded up and down the sodden fields carrying crates of greens. We took advantage of the cloudy and cool weather to begin the garlic harvest—lots of heavy lifting.

Last week, before the warmest days arrived, we got great help from three volunteer groups. We’ve been working with groups from Care.com for many years, and this past Tuesday about twenty volunteers from the company helped us weed beans, dig potatoes, and harvest the first of the storage onions (pictured below). They also helped carry the onions up into the barn loft for drying, which is a workout similar to holding a thirty pound kettle bell on the stairmaster!

On Wednesday afternoon, the Virginia-based Church of the Brethren visited after having spent the morning weeding at another area farm. This congregation focuses its volunteer efforts on agriculture and food justice. After planting many trays of fennel, basil and lettuce, the chaperones gave the kids the choice of weeding beets with us or touring the farm. They voted to weed with us, and it was a pleasure to have their help a while longer.

On Thursday afternoon, civil engineers from Green International returned to the farm for a second year of volunteering and planted many trays of fall broccoli, cabbage and turnips (pictured below), totaling over 4,000 individual seedlings. And on Friday, volunteers from the community helped us dig potatoes and pick beans for market, before weeding two beds of carrots.

Thanks all for helping us in the fields, and a special thank you to the Crops team for setting up the stand on Sunday and pre-harvesting for restaurants on Monday while I was enjoying a rare two days away from the farm with family and friends on Cape Cod. We ate corn and cucumbers and were grateful for those who work in all kinds of weather to feed us.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Cucumber Arrivals

Well that was a long harvest! In addition to all we’ve been picking, we’re now also harvesting cucumbers, fava beans, summer squash, and new potatoes. And sixteen different restaurants placed orders for yesterday, so it was a maelstrom kind of morning. Off in the distant strawberry patch, we saw the campers weeding-out for the first time this summer. Thanks to Food and Farm Educator Maricela and all the counselors for teaming-up with the kids on this important job.

All crops are thriving thanks to the heat, sun, and Saturday’s downpours. Just before the storms arrived, a fantastic group of drop-in volunteers helped us plant brussel sprouts and the second round of cantaloupe and watermelon—11 beds in total! They also had time to do some weeding (pictured below) and eat a few of our very last strawberries before the rain forced us all to run for cover. The electric fences that have been keeping the deer out of the strawberries will now be moved to other crops that are ripening and in need of protection—sweet corn and melons. 

Yesterday, we put the second line of twine on the first planting of tomatoes, one week after stringing the first. Typically, four or five lines brings us to the top of the stakes, then it’s usually time to start picking the cherry tomatoes. So I estimate we’re about two weeks away from the first cherries, with slicing tomatoes following by the end of the first week of August. The second succession of cucumbers is about ready for harvest, so soon we’ll have cukes and summer squash available on a daily basis, alternating harvests between the first and second plantings. Today, at the stand, there’s a small amount of cucumbers for a few lucky people.

A big thank you to volunteer Elizabeth for staffing the farmstand this Sunday afternoon. This was the first time this summer we’ve had a person there to promote the veggies and make on-the-spot sales. Not surprisingly, there were almost no leftovers by the end of day. We love to see those empty boxes. It means lots of people are eating well!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Summer Harvests & A Need for Straw

The season for strawberries, garlic scapes and peas is winding down, but we’re beginning to harvest summer squash, cucumbers, cabbage, and broccoli. We got a downpour on Saturday morning, but Sunday’s severe storms passed us by, and we were grateful not to experience the damage to leafy crops hail storms can cause. The few showers we did get helped water-in the fennel and summer and winter squash we planted with Saturday’s drop-in volunteers. We’ve now finished planting all the gourds, pumpkins, and winter squash—which takes about three acres to accommodate those crops! Now we just need to control weeds, fertilize before the vines run across the beds, and close off access to those fields until harvest.

It has been difficult to find a source for straw this season because all the rain has made it tricky for farmers in the Northeast to cut and bale grains. I believe last fall’s wet weather also affected the supply going into the winter, which doesn’t help. We were wondering if we would need to leave our tomato patch un-mulched and just commit to fighting the weeds all season long.  We held-off stringing the first succession of tomatoes hoping that some straw would turn up before it would become difficult to add post-stringing. At the last moment, Colby Farm in Newbury, MA came through for us and delivered bales on Thursday, just as a group of volunteers from National Grid returned to the farm for the third year in a row. They jumped right in, spread the straw in the entire patch (pictured below), and then stayed late to help us plant some brassicas.

On Wednesday, volunteers with Google Chrome weeded strawberries, and then did an awesome job planting our entire second round of tomatoes (pictured below). On Friday, a large group of MathWorks volunteers planted over 1,500 cauliflower transplants and then picked peas for the next day’s market. All three corporations that sent volunteers this week have done so in the past, and some of the individuals were returning for the second and even the third time. We can happily say they like coming here and connecting with nature and Mass Audubon through shared farm work! Thanks all for making it a successful week.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Garlic Scapes & More Rain

A big thank you to the team and all Drumlin staff involved in making this weekend’s strawberry pick-your-own event a huge success. People picked berries all the way until closing time thanks to spring rains, timely weeding, and our fabulous soil. A special thanks to volunteer Anna who helped Erica assist the hundreds of customers. A sudden thunderstorm struck towards the end of the day, and Erica gave up her spot under the tent’s shelter to take an amazing picture (below). On the same day, at market, Veronica, Maddie, and Jill did an outstanding job selling almost all we had harvested, including over 300 more pints of strawberries.

We’re trying to finish planting the pumpkin patch and the second round of tomatoes. We also need to mulch the first round of tomatoes and start trellising them. At least we found time to drive the tomato stakes during last Thursday’s steady rain. There are many other crops that need planting and weeding, but the frequent rains are causing volunteer groups to cancel, adding line after line to our to-do list. We’re bearing down and to do more and the team was out yesterday the rain trying to catch up on weeding.

The two volunteer groups that were able to come to the farm last week got rained on, but worked through it. On Tuesday, volunteers from Google’s YouTube division planted broccoli and leeks into wet ground (pictured above). They then picked peas for Wednesday’s CSA distribution. On Saturday, a group from Appalachian Mountain Club helped us weed leeks and carrots, and also plant pumpkins. Volunteers from the AMC come year after year, often twice per season, and we always look forward to working with them. Thanks all for doing great work in challenging conditions.

It’s garlic scape season! There are some at the stand right now along with this morning’s strawberry harvest. The scape is the flowering part of the garlic plant. We remove them to get larger bulbs during July’s harvest, but to my mind, the June scapes make for the best eating. They are milder and have the consistency of firm pasta when briefly cooked. When picking, we make bunches and hook them over our forearms like snap bracelets (pictured above).

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Golden Beets & Strawberries

There’s more variety in the harvest now as the carrots seeded in the last week of March are ready for digging, along with the beets seeded mid-April. Pictured below is the lovely roots display at we had at the Union Square Farmer’s Market—nice job market team, what a vibrant array of colors! If you haven’t had a golden beet yet, I find them to be citrusy, yet milder and sweeter than red beets. As with all beet varieties, you can cook the greens in addition to the roots; the greens taste similar to chard and spinach, but with a different texture. All of it delicious!

We’re also picking Sugar Anne snap peas and lots of strawberries. All these treasures of early summer and more are available at the farm stand which is now open. In addition, Strawberry Day, complete with strawberry picking, strawberries for purchase, and strawberry-related activities, is this Saturday, June 22. It seems appropriate that volunteer Anne has been picking the majority of the Sugar Annes. She loves picking peas, and to our way of thinking, Sugar Anne refers to no one else. Thank you, Anne!

All this rain has been great for establishing crops and growing greens. We’re hoping for it to stop raining now though so that strawberry quality remains high through Saturday’s Pick-Your-Own event. This past Saturday, the public responded to Kelly’s flash sale social media alert about a last minute additional opportunity to pick berries–thanks Kelly! We opened the patch at 10 and were sold out by 1 (pictured below). This coming weekend we should have far more berries, hope to see you then!

Another consequence of the frequent rains seems to be lower pest pressure, which is a good thing. By this point in the season, we’re usually spraying organically certified pesticides to control leaf hopper on beans, thrips on onions and Colorado potato beetle on potatoes. Rain can help wash thrip eggs off onion leaves, so maybe that’s happening with other pests. We’re also noticing hundreds of dragonflies patrolling the fields, along with lacewings, swallows, bluebirds, killdeer, toads, and frogs. We think of these creatures as other crops teammates doing the work of insect control, and we want to encourage them in any way we can. Yesterday, as we were removing row cover from the field, we heard a chirping coming from one of the hundreds of rock bags we had tossed onto the truck. The sound was so distinctive that it was easy to locate the bag in question and fish out the toad who was calling it home. He looked fine and hopped away, and we assume got right back to work.

The Summer CSA’s first pick up is Wednesday, June 26th. If you haven’t registered already, you can do so online and look forward to carrots, beets, potatoes, greens, fragrant herbs, tomatoes, sweet corn, broccoli, celery, and more up until the beginning of September!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: How The Farm Adjusts to Rain

We don’t mind harvesting in the rain, especially at this time of year when we’re working with crops that prefer cool weather. There’s less stress on us because we’re not worried about the sun wilting the greens. And we can save time by loading crates of veggies directly onto the trucks. During a sunny harvest, we stack crates in patches of shade cast by the trucks, and then load them when we’re ready to move. When it’s not efficient to head directly in to the wash station, we may load, move, and then unload back into the shade of the truck as we arrive at a new harvest area. None of that to worry about this morning, but we still had to get our work done quickly so as to get to the restaurants on time. That may account for our serious faces (pictured below) as we bunched up Japanese white salad turnips.

If you haven’t had Japanese white salad turnips before, set your turnip preconceptions aside. These are sweet and can be eaten raw or lightly cooked. I like to halve them, start them sauteing in olive oil, add scallions, then add the turnip greens—total cooking time is about five minutes. I dress it while it’s cooking: shoyu, rice and ume plum vinegar, Sir Kensington’s mustard, lemon, and maybe a little maple syrup. Freshly harvested turnips, scallions, lettuce and greens are available at the farm stand by admissions right now!

In advance of this heavy rain, we focused on weed control. The soil was dry and the sun was shining, so we’ve been hoeing, running the flex tine over established crops, and using the Star hoe to hill up potatoes and fertilize tomatoes, summer squash, and cucumbers. On Wednesday, we hosted a meeting on weed control for area farmers, and demonstrated various implements and hoes. The end goal of our approach is to minimize hand-weeding, which is most costly in terms of time. But there will always be weeds to pull, especially under the row covers that have been protecting onions and brassicas since early May. Now that those crops have grown to a size where they can withstand pest pressure, we began removing the covers last week.

On Tuesday, volunteers from Dell helped us haul in 3 sections of row cover and transport about 400 sand bags back to Rock Island. That was the first time volunteers assisted with that, and they did a great job! They also planted scallions and cucumbers and hand-weeded onions (pictured below).

On Friday, volunteers from Goldman Sachs returned for the second year in a row, again making a donation to help us purchase herbs. They planted rosemary and dahlias, and then really seemed to enjoy weeding in the perennial garden (pictured below). So helpful for us since the weeds are endless there.

On Saturday, drop-in volunteers wowed us once again by planting over 3,000 leeks (pictured below) and then rescuing some spring onions from a scary patch of weeds. All the volunteer help we received this week illustrates one definition of sustainable farming at Drumlin: we provide the opportunity for others to learn about what we do and to help us, and their generosity sustains the farm.

Meanwhile, strawberries. They’re coming! But slowly. Strawberries have been a crop that have been affected by the rainy spring we’ve had. We’ve moved our annual Strawberry Day ahead one Saturday to the 22nd so they have more time in the sun before harvesting.

Snap peas are also starting–and are so sweet! If you close your eyes while eating one this image might arise: green chocolate milk!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Help from Volunteers

A chilly 46 degrees for Tuesday morning’s restaurant harvest. The lettuces and turnips are growing beautifully in this extended spring, and it’s nice to harvest greens without the crops or the team getting overheated. Here we are in the wash station cleaning and organizing produce for the chefs (pictured): from left to right that’s Veronica, Maddie. McKenna and Erica.

This past week was a blur of planting. It started on Memorial Day with eggplant and cantaloupe. The following day we planted out the first round of tomatoes, unfortunately in the rain and mud–ugh! Our thanks to volunteer Fred for joining us in the field and grabbing a post hole digger to make deep homes for hundreds of plants.

On Thursday, we really enjoyed working with employees from Care Dimensions—hospice care providers. They made a donation to help us purchase perennial herb plugs such as lemon balm, sorrel, and chives. We planted those together (pictured), then weeded in the perennial garden, transplanted sunflowers, removed flower clusters from the new strawberry patch, and finally planted a bed of basil. The group went from one end of the field to the other checking off jobs with ease.

On Friday, employees from Axial Benefits helped us plant popcorn and rosemary. They made a donation to help us purchase the rosemary, and we are looking forward to harvesting it for Iggy’s Breads. Iggy’s uses our rosemary on focaccia and pizzas at their Fresh Pond location. Thanks all for your generosity and help!

On Saturday, an amazing group of drop-in volunteers showed up, and, Voltron-like, assembled themselves into an incredible sweet potato planting machine. Some focused on sorting and dropping plants, others planted. It normally takes us a long time to get all 2,500 plants set deeply in the ground, but thanks to theses great volunteers, we finished in about two hours. Thank you!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers