Two more downpours Monday, and then the temperature hit 86 degrees when the sun finally came out! Before that, during the cloudy morning, we harvested close to 100 pounds of greens for the Cambridge and Somerville school systems. We’re looking forward to Wednesday when we’ll be harvesting the first Japanese white turnips of the spring for the second CSA pickup. Now that we’ve had a few sunny and warm days, spinach, salad mix and head lettuce are ready for picking and the first scallions are not far behind.
This past Saturday, we planted out the first round of summer squash (pictured below), and we plan to put in the majority of our peppers tomorrow with the help of a volunteer group. In other words, we’re betting that the danger of frost has passed, though we know that we’re not truly safe in Drumlin’s frost pocket until the first week of June.
Over the weekend, Veronica, with the help of Maddie and Jill, ran our first farmers’ market of the year in Union Square, Somerville. They sold out of all the veggies we brought except for five individual potatoes, and in the process set a new earnings record for opening day! Way to go and thanks to the volunteers who helped fill bags of greens as customers whisked them off the display!
Back at the farm, volunteers from medical device makers Boston Scientific helped us weed rhubarb and plant a round of lettuce and sunflowers this past Thursday (pictured below). It was our first corporate volunteer group of the year after a couple of rain outs, and we were grateful for their assistance.
We’re well under way with the the construction of the new hoop house and the installers expect to finish by Wednesday. The only hitch in the process so far was on the first day when they ran into hardness driving the posts at an even 18 inches of depth along the entire length of the house. When they went to excavate to a depth of 26 inches for the concrete footers, they discovered the hardness was caused by a gravelly material that Adam (the head installer, pictured) described as what’s found beneath a lake.
Because of the evenness of the hard pack and the composition of the material, he hypothesized that Boyce was a lake at some point in the distant past–something we often say by way of explanation for how we get by without irrigation: water wants to be there, and by building soil organic matter, we encourage the moisture to linger in the soil’s network.
Those interested are encouraged to get their hands a little dirty by volunteering in the field with us–we could always use more help! And if you haven’t registered for your Summer CSA yet, shares are still available.
After a long winter, it’s time to get back in the field, with thousands of plantings and a few new additions!
Amazingly, April brought us 6.5 inches of rain, falling over 20 of its 30 cloudy days, with an average temperature of 52 degrees. It’s been challenging just moving around the sodden fields and working with the saturated soil. We’re identifying with the turtle, working within our shells of layered shirts and sweaters, all wrapped-up in our mud-covered rain gear; turtling along, we seeded the first greens and carrots of the season on March 28 and have been seeding and transplanting every week since. We’ve harvested over-wintered spinach for Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge, and greens and radish for our first delivery of the season to the Cambridge and Somerville schools.
Despite limitations of weather, all spring planting projects are on schedule thanks to the dedicated work of this year’s Crops Team. During the week of April 15, we pulled back the straw and weeded the half-acre of strawberries we’ll be picking this summer season, then planted 4,000 new strawberry plants for next year’s harvest.
Do you know the natural indicator to plant potatoes? In early April, 2,500 pounds of potatoes arrived from Maine. We hauled them into the barn loft and arranged them on trays in front of the windows for green-sprouting. By the last week of April, they had sprouted leaves. We cut up the largest potatoes to multiply the seed and planted them on May 1, just a few days after we noticed the first blooming dandelions of the season—our signal to plant.
We were thrilled to learn of the town’s approval for our plan to construct a hoop house by Boyce Field to provide year-round, protected growing space. The potential for increased program offerings and more veggie sales with the help of the structure will be a boon to the farm. Thanks to our staff and our neighbors for working together to identify a suitable location for the structure; construction is scheduled to begin at the end of the month.
By the end of last week had about 40% of the onion crops (24,000 plants!) in the ground–only 33,000 plants to go! Thanks to volunteersAnne, Sheila, Francesca, Sandra, and Anna for seeding the majority of what’s in the greenhouse—especially those onions, where they do not scatter seed, but rather place one seed at a time through a grid, 650 seeds per tray, 88 trays–57,200 plants! We’ve also been using volunteer Fred’s new cold frame to harden-off those onions before moving them to the field. Fred’s design is sturdier than previous iterations and the shed roof design allows us to roll and perch the plastic on the high end, simplifying the process of covering and uncovering the plants on cold or rainy nights—of which there have been too many!
If you haven’t secured your spot in the spring CSA, there’s still time, and we have a few slots still open. If you’re looking to learn more about farm-to-table practices and cooking, we have upcoming programs for adults, teens, and families, where you can get hands-on in the field and kitchen!
The daily news doesn’t often focus on science, but for a day or two last November, scientific exploration took over the headlines as the InSight Lander arrived on Mars. The first mission designed to probe the interior of another planet, InSight traveled more than 300 million miles over seven months. Watching the livestream of those final moments, my family and I found ourselves cheering along with the engineers in the control room as they celebrated their success.
This type of “Big Science” victory is one that my kids and I will remember for a lifetime. But just as important are the “small science” moments that happen every day: a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis or a snowflake crystalizing on a mitten. When we stop to look, we start to wonder. That wonder can begin as a sense of amazement at the “magic” of nature, especially in our youngest visitors, but it can lead to more when presented as a question: I wonder how that caterpillar transformed into an entirely different creature? I wonder why that snowflake formed so differently from the one next to it?
Major scientific breakthroughs may occur only a few times in our lives, but the natural world offers up daily opportunities for us to question, to think, and to learn. What’s more, having a formal scientific degree or engineering background isn’t a prerequisite, only your own curiosity. You don’t even have to know the “right” answer to your or your child’s question; their asking is the most important part. We hope that the inquiries that start here at Drumlin Farm, whether you experience them on your own or alongside our educators, will bring discovery and delight, along with inspiration for all of us to become strong environmental stewards.
Wishing you a year of small-science wonders,
Renata Pomponi Drumlin Farm Sanctuary Director
Our new programs and events catalog for April-September 2019 has arrived, filled with new programs to get you and your family and friends outside exploring. Highlights include:
We are very pleased to announce that Drumlin Farm Camp has a new Camp Director! Meghan Haslam comes to us with environmental education and camp experience from all over the world and we’re thrilled that she will be joining Zach D’Arbeloff in leading our camp and teen programs here at Drumlin Farm. Her predecessor, Becky Gilles, is now the Camp Director at Mass Audubon’s overnight camp Wildwood.
began her career in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, then went on to found and
direct the 4 Walls Project, a housing improvement organization. While
continuing to live and work in Central America, she managed a range of
community and educational programs—including three years as Program Director at
Mountain & Sea Spirit Outdoor Adventures School in
Tatumbla, Honduras. She then returned to the US to become Director of the 100 Elk Outdoor Center in Buena Vista, Colorado.
recently, Meghan oversaw outdoor education and character development programs
for young people and adults at North Carolina Outward Bound School as the Program Director
of their Table Rock Base Camp in Jonas Ridge, North Carolina.
Get to know Meghan and the adventures that lead her to Drumlin Farm with us…
Q: Did you go to camp when you were younger?
A: Yes I did! I attended day camp at Camp Lincoln in NH for years, then an overnight camp in Maine, followed by 8 years as first a camper, then a counselor, at Adventure Unlimited in Buena Vista, CO. I later returned to this beautiful spot in the Rockies to direct school, youth, and corporate programs for the 100 Elk Outdoor Center.
Q: How did your previous experiences shape your interests today?
A: I’ve had the privilege of exploring the outdoors both professionally and personally, and each environment and culture has taught me new perspectives and refreshed my sense of wonder. I feel like my happiest, best self when I am outdoors. Two major experiences that have informed my development and interests today were going to camp and being a counselor when I was a teenager through college, and serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua. I am still deeply connected to those communities, and they have propelled my respective interests in outdoor experiences and helping people, whether abroad or in the US.
Q: You’ve had professional and environmental experiences all over the world, how do those compare with the Lincoln area and community?
A: Every ecosystem and its habitats, and each set of culture, language, traditions, etc. shapes a place and its character. I am just getting to know Lincoln and the Drumlin Farm, and greater Mass Audubon communities, but new places and people are always exciting to me. One of the things which immediately drew me to Drumlin Farm was the idea of connecting people and nature through outdoor experiences, and helping people understand the relationship between our food production and natural habitats. My enthusiasm about Drumlin Farm sky-rocketed when I was getting to know several staff members while visiting. I asked them to describe Drumlin in three words or fewer, and every person responded with the word “community”. Other words focused on teaching and discovery, as well as the staff’s commitment to raising awareness of climate change. All of those things sounded fantastic, but the strong sense of community especially spoke to me.
I discovered the importance of community when, at the end of my first year in Peace Corps, I had to evacuate my site in a rural Nicaraguan town due to heavy rains and flooding. I wanted nothing more than to return to my community and help out. It was a pivotal moment which led me to start a community-based housing improvement project that grew into a much larger initiative bringing volunteers from all over the world to connect with families and build homes. Over the years of working outdoors, the inextricable links between nature and communities have become ever clearer. I left my first visit at Drumlin Farm with the understanding that its mission was to develop connections between communities and their environments, and that felt like an ideal fit for me.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in your first summer as the Drumlin Farm Camp Director?
A: I found my voice and self-confidence as a young person at camp. Now, my favorite aspect of camp is supporting both campers and staff as they learn and grow. It is a marvelous opportunity to watch and help young people blossom into their best selves through both challenges and having fun. I’m excited to learn new lessons about the farm, wildlife, and this particular set of habitats, and to share those with our campers. Helping them be happy, healthy, and inspired is a really cool job to have.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A: I enjoy being outside with my big, fluffy dog and my partner–whether on a beach, in the woods, on a mountain, or just around town. I spend time hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and skiing whenever possible. Reading, photography, writing, and speaking Spanish also bring me great joy. I work with two international organizations, the 4 Walls Project, the home improvement initiative in Nicaragua, and a girls’ scholarship program, One New Education (ONE), and visit my Peace Corps town on a regular basis via both of these projects. I love traveling, exploring new places and cultures, and bringing people with me to experience the adventure.
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 (email@example.com, 781-259-2239).
Finally, we had our first frost of the season last Saturday night and are expecting harder freezes this coming Wednesday and Thursday. In light of this, we are hurrying to finish the sweet potato harvest (half the patch yet to go), and will need to cover tender greens by Wednesday afternoon. Today at the stand you’ll find the last heirloom tomatoes of 2018, harvested slightly under-ripe on Friday, but beautiful and flavorful right now. You’ll also find a number of pumpkins and gourds for sale, prefect for pies from scratch, carving, or decorating your home this autumn. It’s easy to impose characters and personalities on the eclectic collection of various sizes, colors, and abnormalities, all of them eagerly awaiting a home!
Harvesting sweet potatoes ends up being very time consuming, in part because of their complicated root systems.
Our other big job we’re looking to complete as soon as possible is garlic planting. October 15th is our target date to have that finished, but we’ve been taking advantage of the warm weather to maximize harvests of summer crops. On Tuesday of last week, volunteers from AER (Atmospheric and Environmental Research) came back to the farm for a second year in a row and harvested carrots, tomatoes and more sweet potatoes (pictured above). They worked so quickly that we had time to weed a few problem areas while moving between harvests.
Harvesting the last of our tomatoes.
On Friday, volunteers from Upland Software helped us pick paste tomatoes for market (pictured above), and then they pitched-in digging, yes more, sweet potatoes. Thanks all for helping us bring in what these amazing fields have to offer! If you’re interested in volunteering in the crops fields during the end of this season or the next, please email our Volunteer Coordinator. We could always use help around the farm!
Still no frost, not even a night in the high thirties. This is unusual, as our low lying fields usually get zapped in the last week of September or first week of October. We expected a frost last Friday night, and so worked that afternoon with 20 volunteers from Shire biotech to scour the eggplant and tomato patches in a last call harvest. Shire volunteers then helped us bring in the last of the popcorn crop, and they even had time to dip their toes into the quicksand of the sweet potato harvest—don’t worry; they made it out alive!
We continued mucking around in the sweet potatoes the following afternoon with 22 students from Brandeis. While it may look like we’re having a fist fight with the soil, we mean it no harm; though I can’t say the same for it, we end each session dazed and badly in need of a nap! And even with all that good help, we’re still only a third of the way through the patch, having brought in over half a ton of sweet potatoes.
Volunteers harvesting sweet potatoes
By way of comparison, 12 volunteers from Global Atlantic helped us harvest 1,100 pounds of potatoes in only an hour this past Thursday. The soil in the potato patch is lighter, and the plants have the good sense to develop their roots in a neat bundle in the space directly below them. Thank you, kind potato plants, and thanks to the volunteers from Global Atlantic, who also helped us harvest peppers in anticipation of that frost that never came.
But looking ahead, a frost seems likely for our fields this coming Saturday night. We’ll continue harvesting as if that were the case, and you may see row covers going up to protect late season greens. In the meantime, we’re taking advantage of the warm weather and so will have a mix of summer and fall crops available at the stand, in the CSA shares and at market this week.
Try something different with your budding romance or long term partner with these one-of-a-kind date ideas! There’s always something new and fun to discover at Drumlin Farm, start your own adventure together today…
Upgrade Your Romantic Strolls
There’s so man opportunities to make the most of your time outdoors at Drumlin Farm. Step your romantic stroll game up a notch by joining us on one of our guided walks! Our regular Naturalist Walks explore the sanctuary and cover all things natural that we happen to come across. Or get a little more specific by focusing your time on one feature, like at our Fungi Field Walk. Love birds that love birding won’t want to miss out on Thursday Morning Bird Walks either!
Spice It Up in the Kitchen
Don’t spend your night sitting on the couch watching Chopped again, learn new kitchen techniques and start cooking together! Cooking is a fun way to plan together, bond, and create delicious treats from the heart. Make personalized jams and jellies for your breakfasts or as a mid-afternoon snack at our Jams and Preserves program or create long lasting food to compliment your long lasting love at Pickling & Canning on September 29. Does your partner love Kimchi? If so we bet they’d love the homemade version! Treat them to an experience learning about these time-tested kitchen skills and and taste-tested delicacies.
See the Farm via Hayride
When was the last time you traveled by hayride? Love makes us act like kids again, and our Hayrides are the perfect throwback to simpler times. Take a load off your feet and enjoy our rustic limo ride around the farm site-seeing. Hayrides depart from the Red Barn (weather permitting) every 15 minutes and you can pick up tickets at the admissions window for $2.50/person–a romantic cruise without breaking the bank!
Dance Together at Our Summer Music Series Concert
Enjoy sweet tunes, a beautiful sunset, a packed picnic, and an ice cream at our last of the season Summer Music Series concert to see local band Say Darling! Relax on the grass and enjoy the music together, or get moving and dance the night away–shoes optional!
As beautiful as Lincoln is, sometimes you just want to get away. Take a trip with your sweetheart on a variety of birding and nature-filled trips with Drumlin Farm. Take a day trip birding Plum Island or walk the beach looking for shorebirds in Rhode Island. Make it an overnight trip to Cape Cod or the Atlantic Flyway for even more adventure!
A Fun Errand: Grocery Shop at the Farmstand
Wholesome ingredients make for love-filled meals; treat yourselves to a date night in made with restaurant quality ingredients from our open-air farmstand. Turn a boring errand like shopping for groceries into a relaxing, grounding experience with your partner. You’ll find quality humane meat you won’t see at your grocery store, and a variety of summer produce like watermelon, carrots, cucumbers, rainbow chard, and more. Bring your ingredients home to cook a delicious meal for two!
Take in the View from the Top of the Drumlin
Did you know, on a clear day, you can see Wachusett Mountain in Princeton from the top of the Drumlin? The view from the top of our name-sake glacial formation is incredible at any time of day. At sunset warm colors paint the sky, and at sunrise morning bird activity fills the air. Reach the summit and soak in the view at your next visit. How romantic!
The drumlin at sunset.
Discover Hidden Trails
Just when you think you’ve seen all of Drumlin Farm, you stumble on another side path less traveled by. Many smaller trails and rest areas are tucked away throughout the farm, waiting for you. Grab your favorite hiking buddy and bring a field guide and magnifying glass to discover something new!
Visit the Animals
Have you ever seen an owl turn it’s head all the way around in real life? Have you ever seen a red fox up close? Do you know how different countries around the world imitate chicken noises? Our animal exhibits aren’t just for kids, and you’re guaranteed to learn something new together. Take a picture with our friendly cows, measure your arm span compared to a vultures wings, and feel the fluffy wool of our adorable sheep and lambs. Stroll the farm yard and visit our animal ambassadors on a unique date like no other!
Bonus: Remember Your Trip with a Gift from the The Audubon Shop
The Mass Audubon Shop, located at Drumlin Farm, is filled with gifts for nature lovers and more. Pick up a bird feeder for your home, a plush animal for your bed, or a beautiful piece of jewelry inspired by the natural world. Every time you look at it or use your souvenir you’ll think of your special date day at Drumlin Farm and the memories made with your loved one!
Feeling like the movie Goodfellas this week, we’re frazzled, minding our own business, watching the sauce on the stove top, picking up nephews from the airport, ect. when you glance up and notice a helicopter hovering overhead…look closer and you’ll see there are hundreds of them silhouetted against the evening sky above the fields. Up close, they are turquoise and red, small but enormous relatively, nearly stationary and cruising along above the tractors, others are low to the ground and darting sideways from plant to plant. Yes, it’s dragonfly season, and they are everywhere in the crop fields right now! Take a walk through our trails and fields, and you might be treated to an experience similar to snorkeling through a school of fish, the dragonflies zigging past all around you at impossible angles—right at your face, then straight up and away…
Dragonfly. Photo Credit: Pamela Kelly
If you could hover above the fields like an insectoid helicopter right now, you’d see all our campers spread out over the field for Weed Out #3. You’d see volunteers from IBM planting broccoli and bringing in the last of the storage onions and us hauling basket after basket of corn, tomatoes and watermelons up to the farm stand. Today at the stand, you’ll find more awesome Awesome-variety sweet corn and outstanding Little Baby Flower watermelons. They are the size of a candle pin bowling ball with pinkish red flesh that is both tangy and sweet and most delicious near the shell-thin rind–and is my favorite watermelon variety of the season. Tomatoes will be occasionally available this week until we expect to be inundated by the weekend. It is that sacred time of year when you can have a basil, corn, cucumber, tomato salad every night! Drizzle it with olive oil, rice vinegar, and salt. To experience the fullness of the flavor, do not cook the corn, eat it raw right off the cob, or cut it off the cob and into your salad. If you’re interested in joining the end of the Summer CSA at a prorated fee, email our CSA coordinator Veronica Gassert at firstname.lastname@example.org. See our CSA page for more information on our Fall CSA coming up in September.
This past week, with the help of some new and returning faces, it finally felt like we had enough hands to get the job done and more! Thanks everyone for bearing down, harvesting quickly, weeding the perennial garden in the downpour, and placing the shade cloth on the greenhouse during that same storm. The placement of the shade cloth to keep direct sun off the curing onions means that we are very near the end of greenhouse seedling production for the season—only a few rounds of lettuce left to go! Harvests are in full swing, with campers once again picking beans for market and about a dozen community volunteers cutting flower stems for market bouquets. We’ve never had so many people involved with the flower harvest, and it really helped the team have a great day at market. If you or your business are interesting in volunteering and helping us in the field, please email our Volunteer Coordinator Pam Sowizral at email@example.com.
Thanks to all who worked on the harvest, and thanks to Sarah, Veronica, Susie, Bodhi, and the market volunteers for doing such a great job in Somerville bringing corn, watermelons, beans and flowers to our fans.
Progress on the Environmental Learning Center continues at a brisk pace even through the winter weather! Work now has focused mostly on completing the building envelope and beginning interior construction. Here’s a peek at what happened during January.
The month began with huge quantities of insulation going up on both the walls and roof to ensure the building uses as little energy as possible to heat and cool. With 4” on the outside walls and 7” over our heads, we know that our staff will be warm in winter and cool in summer within this net-zero cocoon.
The windows have all been installed now as well, with plenty of weather-stripping tape to eliminate all drafts. The building passed its “blower-door test” (which pressurizes the interior to measure leaking air) with flying colors, registering one of the highest scores our design team has ever seen on a project.
From the outside, the building was temporarily colored in “Mass Audubon blue” as a vapor barrier was installed on all sides to allow the well-insulated structure to breathe properly. This blue will be covered by cedar and metal siding, but we will always know our Mass Audubon roots are there.
With the building nicely sealed, attention turned to the interior as the ceilings and walls took shape. Plastic sheeting over the ceiling joists will hold blown-in cellulose for even more insulation and also noise reduction.
The interior spaces are also now coming to life, and we can see the working spaces for our staff emerge. One fun feature is the custom housing for aquarium tanks in the welcome area, greeting school teachers and camp parents with a wildlife display as they check in for their programs.
Up above, our crew foreman Bob worked long hours to get the curve of the ceiling just right as it ascends from the front door, past a skylight, and into the great room. We hope the rising arc of the ceiling reminds people of a swooping bird or racing clouds overhead.
Next up has been the electrical and network wiring, miles and miles of cables and fiber to keep us all working hard in the 21st century!
January came to a close with a special milestone: a “beam signing” day where Drumlin Farm staff and friends could leave their names and a special message for future inhabitants and visitors to the building. We were inspired by the well-wishes that will be hiding behind the walls to guide our work, and maybe someday be uncovered by future generations.
The event was also a chance for our staff to get a glimpse inside the hard hat area and imagine how this project will change not just the physical space where they work, but how they will be able to collaborate and connect with the people who come here. We are excited to think of how a Drumlin Farm experience can shape the future of our world.
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.