In yesterday’s high heat, the team brought in close to a half ton of cukes and summer squash, and lots and lots of peppers for this week’s CSA distribution. Nice work, all! Those veggies are now in the walk-in cooler, and today, we’ll continue the CSA pre-harvest with radish, onions and carrots.
On Wednesday, we’ll round out the harvest with greens and sweet corn. Now that the CSA has more than doubled in size, we spend more of each week getting prepared for these distributions. What had been a bagging operation during the spring CSA program, has grown into a boxing operation to accommodate all the veggies coming in from the field for the summer CSA shares.
Each Wednesday morning, eight volunteers led by farmers Margaret and Paige weigh and count out the produce and pack 230 boxes. It’s an amazing undertaking, and we are so grateful to all those who are giving their time to make it happen in such a precise way.
Out in the fields, we finished the garlic harvest this past Friday with the help of volunteers from the community. Many in this group have been been remarkably consistent, returning each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday to harvest and weed.
By the seventh and last day of the garlic harvest, each person knew all aspects of the work, and this made the whole job so much simpler and efficient than in years past. Last season, we didn’t even begin the garlic harvest until this week, and we finished on July 26. So, we’re ahead of schedule, and can now turn our attention to the storage onion harvest, which should begin in the next few days.
We’re also nearly finished planting the fall storage crops thanks to the help of ten volunteers from the Appalachian Mountain Club. Kate Bentsen has been leading groups of AMC volunteers at the farm for several seasons, and we always get so much done when they arrive. This past Saturday, we planted over 4,000 kale, broccoli, and summer squash seedlings with their help. It was a hot day, but we were able to move at a reasonable pace thanks to all the helpers. Thank you Kate and thanks AMC!
Explore the homes and habitats of the sanctuary’s wild animals, from farm to forest to pond. Discover Drumlin Farm’s diverse habitats and why different plants and animals live where they do. (1 spot available)
EnvironmentalistsEntering Grade 3 (Located across from Drumlin Farm at Mass Audubon Headquarters)
Grab a hand lens and a pair of walking boots and get ready for an expedition every day. Hike trails looking for nature’s treasures, identify insects that dwell on the drumlin, and explore critters that live in the ponds. Enjoy up-close visits with our program wildlife, meet the farm animals, and taste our garden veggies. (2 spots available)
Grab a magnifying lens and a field guide, and practice being a naturalist. Learn how to identify plants and animals, perform basic science experiments, and examine the natural cycles of the farm and the nature surrounding it. (2 spots available)
Grab a magnifying lens and a field guide, and practice being a naturalist. Learn how to identify plants and animals, perform basic science experiments, and examine the natural cycles of the farm and the nature surrounding it. (1 spot available)
EnvironmentalistsEntering Grade 3 (Located across from Drumlin Farm at Mass Audubon Headquarters)
Grab a magnifying lens and a field guide, and practice being a naturalist. Learn how to identify plants and animals, perform basic science experiments, and examine the natural cycles of the farm and the nature surrounding it. (5 spots available)
Experience life on the farm as you complete livestock chores and tend to our crops and gardens. Learn about the connections between humans, farm animals, and food. (4 spots available)
BiologistsEntering Grade 5(Located across the street from Drumlin Farm at HQ)
Be a Drumlin Farm scientist as you catch wild specimens in our fields and ponds, perform experiments to enhance your understanding of the natural world, and discover the natural history of Drumlin Farm.(1 spot available)
We’re at that moment in the season right before tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, cauliflower, and corn arrive. We’ll likely be picking the first eggplant and sweet corn by the end of the week.
Before extended harvest days begin—when we’re harvesting all morning and most of the afternoon—it’s time to bring in the garlic. Last Friday, volunteers picked green beans for market before pulling and cleaning a bed of garlic. This year, we’re cutting the stem and the roots in the field, and then power washing the bulbs on trays. Thanks to Margot, Jen, and Paige for handling the washing part of the process. Once washed, we crate the garlic and carry it to the barn loft where we spread it out on benches to dry (above). On Saturday, volunteers pulled and prepared another bed and a half of garlic. We still have over half the patch to go, and that’s what we’ll be focused on in the week ahead. That, and transplanting out the fall brassicas: kale, collards, kohlrabi, and Gilfeather turnips.
This is also the moment in the season when the winter squash plants vine out and close the field to tractor access (above). We’ll wade out into the waist-deep vines to pull weeds if we have to, but the goal is to control weeds by preparing the beds in advance (known as stale bedding) and then cultivating regularly as the plants grow. Ideally, the next time we’re in the winter squash field will be for the September harvest. Beyond the squash, you can see a fallow field seeded to oats and peas, and beyond that, the first sweet corn of the season! This is also the point in the season when things start to break down—bolts come loose, ropes fray, plastic snaps. And it’s true that a roll of duct tape is often the most useful tool in the tool box!
Farmstand Open for Business
We’ve opened the Lincoln farmstand to visitors the past two Saturdays. Volunteers Richard and Nancy Allen have been running the show, and they’re doing this in addition to boxing CSA shares and cutting flowers on Wednesdays. We are so grateful to have their help! At market, Jill and Margaret have been doing a wonderful job selling to customers, and the new Square platform is giving us information about sales that we used to only guess at. We were surprised to learn that the top earner at this past market was edible flower bouquets: calendula, bachelor buttons, snapdragons, and dianthus.
We had the best kind of fireworks Sunday night—lightning, thunder, and rain! Three separate storms soaked the farm around 9 p.m., and after a very dry June, July is blessing us with plenty of water. On Sunday, wagering on nature to help us out in our no irrigation system, we seeded a half-acre of greens, carrots, beets, and beans. On Friday, with help from volunteers, we planted broccoli, lettuce, and cucumbers—over 3,000 transplants in all.
In the Scrape
Above, you can see Jill guiding the water wheel out in front of volunteers, and Margot, obscured behind the tractor “in the scrape”, as the team has taken to describing it–scraping mud from the marking spikes. It’s a challenging role because as the tractor is creeping along, there are three marking wheels with spikes spaced as closely as 6 inches apart, all of which need to be kept mud-free in order for water to flow through them and into the holes where the seedlings will go. On top of that, the flow of water to each separate wheel must be balanced by adjusting knobs on each of three hoses—open one hose too much and it reduces flow to the other two. The flow rate is also constantly affected by the amount of water in the tank, the shift in pitch of the bed, and whether the tractor is traveling up or down a slope. Never having pumped the bellows or thrown the stops on a pipe organ, with hands flying between spikes and knobs, I still think of the person “in the scrape” as Bach at the keyboard, mid-fugue.
In addition to helping us plant all those seedlings, the Friday volunteer group also cleared weeds from our overgrown eggplant beds. We had left the Proteknet over the slow-growing eggplant since the moment of transplanting in order to exclude flea beetles and Colorado potato beetles. But we had achieved good control of beetles in the adjacent potato patch using organically certified sprays, so it was time to uncover the eggplant and get after those weeds. I’m not sure how long it would have taken us to complete the job on our own, but all those volunteers got it done in about twenty minutes!
We will need more volunteer help for some big upcoming harvest jobs including string beans, potatoes, garlic, and cherry tomatoes. We will start picking beans and digging new potatoes this week, and we usually start pulling garlic and harvesting cherry tomatoes by the third week of July.
New Potatoes & Spring Onion Bouquets
A “new potato” is the result of pulling the plant before it has fully matured. It’s like green garlic in that you’re sacrificing volume to enjoy the crop when it’s most tender and mild. The skins of new potatoes often flake off in the washing process because they haven’t fully set, and when you’re separating the tubers from the plant, you see some marble-size ones that would have become full-size. Farmers charge more for new potatoes to offset the reduction in harvest quantities.
Spring onions are the other exciting crop coming in from the field right now. They need to be eaten fresh as they don’t dry down and keep like storage varieties. Above, from L to R, Paige, Margaret, Margot, and Jen are making bunches of the spring onion variety Purplette. The soil has been loosened by the tractor passing by with the undercutting bar, and you can see their focus and attention to technique following the picking mantra we teach: “make each bunch a bouquet of flowers; make it for someone you love.”
It’s unusual not to see a single weed in a bed of onions—onions with their slender leaves don’t do a good job of taking up space and shading out competing weeds. Volunteers who had been helping us pick strawberries on Wednesdays and Fridays, rounded out their sessions by weeding in the onion patch. So helpful! Thank you.
Wow, that was a lot of rain! Several sizzling thunder and rain storms have hit Lincoln, and below, you can see the before and after state of our soil. On the left, Paige and Margot proudly stand over the third succession of summer squash they planted into the dust on Saturday morning—just the two of them! On the right, Monday morning, the oats and field pea cover crop is breaking through the mud in a field that will lie fallow this year. While all this rain will reduce the quality of the remaining strawberries, all other crops will greatly benefit. We were able to maximize the value of this year’s strawberry crop thanks to the harvesting work of volunteers and the farm team.
Stop by our Farmer’s Market Stand
This past Friday afternoon, another group of volunteers helped us pick about fifteen flats of berries for sale at the Union Square Market. Margaret, Jill, Nina and volunteer Avril did a great job selling them, and to date, sales at the market are far closer to average than we had predicted heading into a retail environment greatly altered by COVID regulations.
Reopening for Visitation
Thanks to the hard work and careful planning of many Drumlin staff members, the sanctuary opened to the public (who registered ahead of their visit) for the first time this weekend. It was great to see so many masked families exploring the farmyard and fields, and several people stopped to watch us hurriedly planting before the rains came.
If you’ve been missing Drumlin Farm and are overdue for a visit, please reserve your spot here so that we can safely manage our capacity limitations. Stop by the fields to say hi and see what the farmers and volunteers are working on!
New Veggies on the Way
On Saturday, in addition to the 640 summer squash Margot and Paige planted, we also set 2,400 Brussels sprouts and 1,100 flower seedlings, and seeded the next round of greens and radish. The last four rounds of greens have been affected by high heat and lack of rain; we’re looking forward to having a renewed supply of them in about three weeks.
In the meantime, a new set of exciting crops will start to appear in your CSA shares this week. We’re beginning to harvest the March 23rd seeding of carrots; it’s about two weeks later than we had anticipated due to the cold spring and subsequent lack of rain. We’re also harvesting the mid-April seeding of red and gold beets (our thanks to Volunteer Anne for weeding and thinning them!) and the first spring onions, fennel, fava beans, and field cucumbers of the season.
We continue to donate food to area pantries, and this past Tuesday we made our first delivery to the Lincoln Food Pantry—dinosaur kale, scallions, and salad turnips for 90 families. We also continue to bring produce to Food for Free in Cambridge. All told, we’re approaching $20,000 in food donations since mid-March! Thanks to all who are making it possible for us to contribute in this way.
Strawberries, snap peas, garlic scapes, the solstice, and Father’s Day. Every year, the confluence of these crops and events also coincides with our annual pick-your-own strawberries weekend. The hot and dry weather has favored the strawberry crop, but COVID canceled our plans to invite the public into the patch.
Instead, small groups of volunteers helped us pick berries on Wednesday and Friday of last week. Thanks to them, all spring CSA shareholders received a pint of strawberries on Wednesday afternoon, and on Saturday morning, we took over 300 pints to market! The few flats we didn’t sell there we donated to Food For Free on the way home.
This week marks the opening of the summer CSA program, and we look forward to once again working with volunteers to pick berries for members and for market-goers. Many thanks to volunteer coordinator Pam Sowizral for organizing the harvesters, and thanks to all who have pitched in so far.
At the beginning of last week, before temperatures hit the 90s, we raced to pound tomato stakes and spread straw mulch. Above, from left to right, Greg Poelker-McKee, Jen Healy, Paige Taylor, Margot Becker, and Margaret Hayes have just loaded dozens of fifty-pound bales for transport to the main tomato patch. Nobody enjoys getting itchy straw in their masks, shoes, and pockets, but it’s motivating to know that the process would be far more uncomfortable in high heat and humidity.
The team made quick work of the project, and now we’re keeping an eye on the forecast to find a cooler day to stake and mulch the second succession of field tomatoes. We planted those last Thursday afternoon, and the deer quickly found them and ate an entire bed! Deer pressure seems to be heavier than in years past, and their current favorites are peas, lettuce, tomatoes, and beets.
In other wildlife news, at least three Killdeer nests have hatched-out and we’re plowing around two others where the adults are still sitting on eggs. The Red-tailed Hawk keeps trying to eat the little ones, but the parents are as protective of them as they are of the nests.
On Saturday afternoon, we planted a half-acre of pumpkins—the last of the big summer planting projects. Now the days are getting shorter, and the remaining large planting jobs are fall brassicas: kale, collards, storage cabbage, and kohlrabi. Later this week, we’ll transplant acorn squash and Brussels sprouts to the field. Acorn squash matures quickly and is susceptible to sunscald, so we seed it two weeks later than other winter squash.
This week, we’ll also try to seed oats and field peas on vacant fields in the hope of catching a thunderstorm. Our last rain was on June 11, and all crops need a drink right now. But as you can see in the above picture taken on Sunday, despite the lack of rain, crops continue to thrive in our rich soil. Our low backs are about to get a serious workout bringing in the summer squash. Everybody, do your sit-ups!
Wake up calls keep coming, for justice for all people and for the environment. And we can be grateful, because what else is consciousness for but to be roused and applied?
Our food donation work has developed a rhythm where we harvest and box greens for Food for Free on Thursday mornings, and harvest bulk for Concord Open Table on Friday and Saturday mornings. Volunteers from that organization arrive on Sunday and we help them load the produce from out of the walk-in fridge—over 250 pounds of greens, radish, turnips, kale, scallions, chard, and green garlic this weekend alone.
We’ll soon be adding the Lincoln Food Pantry to our roster of food recipients, and speaking of our town, it’s a good time to remember those two graduates of Lincoln-Sudbury high school who went on to write many heart-warming and absurdist sing-alongs including this family-friendly and still timely gem.
And if belting that out doesn’t elevate your spirits, some good news is that, although a week late, strawberries have arrived! On Thursday, we weeded the patch—you can see some of the weed piles above in front of the dilapidated shade tent. And on Friday, we harvested berries for the first time this year! They’re definitely tart, but will get sweeter over the next few days.
A special thanks to Jill and Margot for putting up the deer-excluding electric fence around the strawberry field. Last season, volunteer Fred taught each of them separately how to install the fence, and they helped each other remember the steps. Fred just returned to volunteer in the fields and on Tuesday he helped mow the Umbrello Field (formerly Blue Heron Farm), which I then plowed on Saturday evening. We are currently leasing the Umbrello Field from the town of Lincoln, and our plan is to seed cover crop by the beginning of next week to build the soil and to get a sense of how things grow there.
Otherwise, we’re doing our best to keep up with all the fieldwork. With strawberries and peas requiring lots of picking time, we have less to give to other jobs. But we planted an acre of winter squash last Tuesday and plan to put in a similar amount of pumpkins later this week.
It’s also time to stake and mulch the first succession of field tomatoes, and we’ll be working on that over the next few days before it gets too hot. In the hoop house, a special thanks to Jen for putting in time on Monday mornings to keep the cherry tomatoes trellised. Check out the progress!
The second half of May was dry and hot, but it ended with two mornings of light frost on the first and second of June. Overall, the cold spring has delayed the start of pea and strawberry season, but we do hope to start picking sugar snap peas by mid-week. We still haven’t seen even a hint of pink in the strawberry patch; June 5 or 6 is usually when we pick the first fully red berry of the season. Hopefully, the weekend’s rain and the predicted sunny weather will speed up ripening.
We were planting flowers on Saturday afternoon when the first real rain in 21 days arrived in the form of a beautiful thunderstorm. We sheltered in the hoop house and caught up on some weeding and trellising there.
Earlier in the week, we were dismayed to find only about 30% germination under a greens row cover we had seeded during the dry spell. Our supply of arugula, radish, and other greens like baby kale and bok choi depend on our system of weekly seeding and covering to protect these crops from flea beetle damage. Each week, we also open the previous week’s cover to hoe the beds and check germination. While spring greens have been bountiful up to this point in the season, we may see a decline in availability starting next week as we begin to harvest from drought-affected successional seedings.
But all the dry weather has been ideal for transplanting, and in the past week, we planted more rounds of lettuce, basil, cucumbers, and scallions, the second succession of sweet corn, and the first round of cantaloupe, watermelon, and eggplant.
After years of not very successfully battling the flea beetles and Colorado potato beetles that feed on eggplant, we’ve covered this year’s transplants with Proteknet—a lightweight nylon net that floats above the crop on a series of metal hoops. We’ve also used this method to keep leaf miners out of the chard patch, and not only has it excluded pests, but the additional heat trapped under the cover has given us full-size leaves earlier than in any previous season. Above, you can see a chard bunch we harvested yesterday along with some of the other good stuff coming out of the fields right now: clockwise from noon, Lacinato kale, scallions, chard, raab, turnips, basil, Chinese broccoli, and green garlic.
This past week, we were thrilled to have the help of volunteers with the bagging of CSA shares. Above, from left to right, you can see Anna, Kate, Sheila, Margaret, Mike, and Sandra (mio madre!) putting together 190 shares. Thank you! And additional thanks to Pam for coordinating the effort, and to Margaret for keeping track of all the crates of veggies and moving them out of the walk-in fridge and box truck to the packing area.
More help also arrived this week as my sister’s eldest, Margot, graduated from high school and started volunteering with the team. It’s great to have Margot here, and so far we’ve been motivated to cook with all this amazing produce—turnips and green garlic five nights in a row, and not sick of them yet! We vary the dressing but usually start with Drumlin maple syrup and Sir Kensington’s spicy brown mustard. Places to go from there: lemon juice/lemonade, rice vinegar, shoyu, plain yogurt, vanilla yogurt, apricot jam, peach kefir, ume plum vinegar, pepper, olive oil, sesame oil, vermouth, balsamic, etc.
It must have gotten close to freezing on Monday night in our ice bowl of a farm. The next round of basil out on the cold frame is mostly burned, and the tomatoes we planted on Friday afternoon have some darkened leaves on top.
Normally, in spring and fall, we look at the predicted nighttime low and subtract 10. That would have brought us to 33°F last night. At Drumlin, we’re well aware that it can freeze any time in May, and as much as we’d like to submit a formal complaint to the weather gods—“But it was June starting at midnight!”—we’ll just be grateful that it didn’t get any colder.
Because we had already pushed our chips to the center of the table, in a sense gambling with our peppers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes—all of which were in the ground by Saturday afternoon and covering way too much area to try to protect with row covers—and given all the planting work we need to do this week (corn, cantaloupe, watermelons and winter squash), we didn’t want to delay any longer starting the process of getting the frost-sensitive plants in the ground.
Above, you can see some of the Crops team planting the tomatoes this past Friday. From L to R, farm bandits: Nina Halty, Jill Banach, Jen Healy, Paige Taylor, and Margaret Hayes.
Many more people attended the Union Square market this past Saturday (hooray!), and instead of hauling lots of food back to the farm like last week, we mostly sold out of things. We are slowly figuring out a new approach to selling during the pandemic, and spent several hours on Friday pre-packaging the market greens. In the past, this is something volunteers would do in the back of the box truck or under the market tents as customers took cellophane bags of greens off the display tables.
Here, you can see part of the roped-off display Margaret and Jill put together this weekend. The kale, green garlic, and baby lettuce mix are some of the crops we’ll be featuring this week.
At Drumlin, we don’t irrigate crops out in the field, so we celebrate every time it rains. This Saturday night’s loud storm watered-in our potatoes and the first sweet corn planting of the year. We were hoping for more rain on Monday, but no luck. We dry-planted the first round of cauliflower and cabbage on Saturday, so now we need to either water it in by hand, or trust that there’s enough moisture in the soil to carry the plants through to the next rain—but there’s none in the forecast.
On our side is our system of soil-building practices: fallowing, cover-cropping, and spreading compost, all to build soil organic matter—the stuff that makes soil a sponge rather than a mere paper towel in terms of its water-holding capacity.
But it’s time to start using the water-wheel transplanter in the way it was intended. Above, you can see the water wheel marking the bed with water-filled holes to receive pumpkin transplants. This picture was taken in June 2017, when we had a large volunteer group and no need for masks!
This spring, because we’re missing the extra help of volunteers, we’ve been trying to save time by letting the rain do the work and skipping the step of filling the transplanter with water—it takes a while to fill, and then more time while running it for a dedicated person to clear the spikes of mud (that’s what Veronica is doing in the above picture). But now that the reliable spring rains have ended, we’ll need to invest more time in establishing crops. This week, we’re planning to plant the first round of basil, summer squash, and broccoli, and, if the sweet potato slips arrive from NC, we’ll plant those, too.
Some of what we’ll be harvesting this week for market and CSA is pictured above. The carrots will be coming out of the hoop house, and all the way to the right, you can see the current size of one of our favorite springtime crops—Japanese salad turnips. They’re about a week away from being ready to eat! The bunch of aliums in the middle of the picture is green garlic; it’s just garlic pulled early, more mild in flavor than the mature bulb. Chop up as much of the stalk and leaves as possible and use it like a scallion.
Because the opening of the Union Square market has been delayed until this coming Saturday, we had all of last Friday available for field work rather than a market harvest. We made good use of the time trellising and mulching peas. Above, you can see Margaret attaching the netting to the T-posts.
This is the first time we’ve ever mulched peas, but given that we won’t have volunteer groups to help us control weeds, we decided to dedicate valuable straw to this crop that doesn’t compete well with weeds. The straw will also help the soil stay cool and retain moisture—conditions pea roots love. And we’ll certainly appreciate kneeling on the soft straw rather than the hard soil during the long pea harvests.
Also on Friday, in the hoophouse, we planted lunchbox peppers and husk cherries, and lowered the trellis lines down from the spools in preparation for clipping up tomatoes and cucumbers. It’s truly an octopus’ garden in there, or even a jelly fish heaven, as that other fab four, The Dead Milkmen, sang!
Tuesday, May 26
The first Union Square market took place this past Saturday. The City of Somerville and the market managers had COVID-19 protocols in place and our team did an excellent job following them. In the above picture, you can see our masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, rope barrier, and plastic shields. What you can’t see are our new touchless credit card readers from Square.
Thanks to Renata, Ryan, and Jill, we have a fabulous new web store for online purchases that also supports sales at the market. We’re getting familiar with the new technology, but eventually, it should help us speed up transactions and keep better records there.
The produce you see on the display table was like the plastic sushi in a Japanese restaurant—only for the looking; we made up orders from bulk bins behind the registers. A policeman asked if the display produce was real. I thought he might be asking if it was for display only, but no, he thought it looked so pristine that it might be plastic! Kudos to the Crops team for producing bunches of radish, carrots, and turnips that even Plato would have had a hard time sorting into real and ideal.
The new market protocols radically limited the number of people who could enter the area at one time, and so we saw far fewer customers than usual. We had harvested large quantities thinking that pent-up demand might lead to a very busy day, but we returned to the farm with a lot of beautiful food.
Thankfully, Concord Open Table—a long-term food donation partner of the farm—was able to bring all of the leftovers to various food pantries where they are seeing a big increase in demand. Above, you can see them filling two cars with all the food! This past week we were thrilled to learn of a generous contribution to our food donation program: matching gifts up to $25,000! Our community’s response to those in need is a huge inspiration and motivation for the farm team.
Out in the fields, it’s time to plant the heat-loving crops. By the end of the week, we hope to have the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and sweet potatoes planted. The forecast is for showers on Friday, but this is a dry weather pattern that has us concerned. If it doesn’t rain on Friday, that will be day 14 without appreciable precipitation. For now, plants look happy, and we expect to start harvesting lettuce heads, spinach, kale, cilantro, and scallions in the near future. Strawberries are flowering right now, and we’re envisioning the sweet harvest in mid-June.