Tag Archives: local

Crops Update: Garlic Planting

Like Tusken Raiders on Tatooine, befuddled by sandstorms, masked and wrapped in layers of protective clothing, envious of the moisture farmers drinking blue milk in their droid-maintained compounds, we croak out our dismay at this enduring drought! Rain is predicted for Monday night and Tuesday, but with so few growing days left in the season, cover crops will benefit the most. At this time last year, we were beginning to put away some of the 3,000 pounds of carrots that would eventually fill the root cellar. This year, having lost our main patch of storage carrots to the drought, we are just now beginning to harvest from the Hail Mary carrot seedings we continued to put in the ground week after week following July 15. Strong winds have been further damaging plants already stressed by the lack of rain and cold temperatures. Even though this past Saturday was warm and sunny, by Sunday morning several crops appeared newly frosted, burned by the previous day’s lashing wind. But the row cover is still holding in place over the last round of lettuce thanks to the extra rock bags we heaped along its edges. We plan to start harvesting it later this week, and the heads should be in good condition as the cover protects against cold and wind.

We’re approaching the end of garlic planting thanks to the good work of the team and lots of assistance from volunteers. Starting on Friday afternoon, we began the process of breaking apart and planting 400 pounds of our own seed. We planted three beds with community volunteers that day, and three more with volunteers from the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) on Saturday.

Above, you can see us leaving the stems and papers on the field as we separated cloves on Saturday. Today, we planted two more beds with yet another volunteer group from AMC—the fifth of the season! Thanks Kate and Katie for continuing to recruit and lead AMC members at the farm. Breaking apart the garlic bulbs is a serious workout for the hands, and we’re so grateful to all who have helped with that. We’re in a good position now to finish up the garlic planting with more corporate volunteers later this week, and then it’s on to the parsnip harvest.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Double Rainbow Moments

A few teasing thunderstorms last week brought a faint double rainbow on Wednesday evening, but little in the way of rain. Then, Sunday afternoon, it finally poured! Peppers, eggplant, cauliflower, and cabbage had been wilting in the drought and not producing much. Hopefully, in a week or so, we’ll see an improvement in harvests of these crops. Beans, tomatoes, beets, watermelon, and cantaloupe have been thriving in the drought, and we expect to continue picking lots of each in the week ahead.

We’re now harvesting from the second succession of watermelons, so we get to savor our three favorite varieties all over again starting with the small, round, pink-fleshed Mini Love, moving on to the personal-sized, zeppelin-shaped Dark Belle, and finishing with Shiny Boy, striped, bullet-proof medicine balls. On Saturday morning, Paige (taught by Margot, who was taught by Fred) taught Nina how to move and install electric fencing, and together they protected watermelons #2 from the deer and coyotes that have already started breaking them open and eating them up. Deer continue to be our primary pest problem, and, over the past two days, we’ve been forced into an early harvest of all pumpkins and most of the winter squash.

The drought caused early die-back of the vines, and the deer have taken advantage of the easy access and visibility to browse the rows, biting hundreds of squash and pumpkins only once or twice, rather than eating all of a few like a respectful pest might. We estimate we’ve lost 15% of the butternut squash and pumpkin crop to deer, but about 40% of the butternuts have scarring from shallow deer bites. In the foreground, above, you can see piles of bitten squash we had to leave behind this past Saturday afternoon. The team stayed late that day to move the butternut into the greenhouse, and we wouldn’t have gotten as much done without the help of volunteers Nathan and Jake. Thanks all for doing the heavy lifting in the heat and humidity! This morning, we finished salvaging the pumpkins and then moved on to some new varieties of winter squash we’re trialing this year like the warty Black Futsu you can see in the foreground below.

Also on Saturday, we had a successful Somerville market at Union Square thanks to help from some additional volunteers, and a busy day of sales at the Drumlin farmstand. There, the volunteer trio of Basha, Nancy and Richard (from L to R above) are now teaming up on a regular basis. Thanks to help from volunteers Linda and Leah, we were able to open the farmstand for the first time this year on Sunday as well. Both have run the farmstand in years past, so with a little training on the new technology from Visitor Services staffer Marcia, they were prepared to begin selling again putting to good use their familiarity with more unusual crops like ground cherries.  

So, visitors now have access to our food on Saturdays and Sundays, and more people are getting involved in the process of selling and producing it. When I farmed for a nonprofit on Long Island, a neighboring large-scale potato producer would object that our CSA didn’t “feed the world” like a real farm. Perhaps he meant we didn’t put bags of potatoes on shelves in grocery stores the world over. Yes, we are not commodity farmers, but community-based ones who endeavor to promote health, both environmental and individual, through meaningful work and delicious, beautiful food. And we’re trying to engage as many people as possible in all parts of the process, from camp kids picking cherry tomatoes (thanks for the one hundred pounds this past Friday!) to volunteers like Jake and Christine whose continuing connection to Drumlin began with a commuter rail ride to Lincoln to help us plant garlic last fall. Check out Christine’s wonderful retelling of that experience in her recently published comic.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Hoop House Discoveries

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.


The squash plants appear white because we dip them in a chalk slurry to keep cucumber beetles off them while they are young and without much foliage. After a few heavy rains, they’ll look green again.

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.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 22

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!

Shire Volunteers

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.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

 

Crops Update: Week 20

Congratulations to our crops volunteer Anne Patterson on  her much deserved Johnathan Leavy Volunteer of the Year Award at this past Saturday’s Moon Over Drumlin. In her acceptance speech, she simultaneously pitied and charmed all those marooned in offices, unfortunate to be away from the fields, and yet fortunate to have the opportunity to join us in farm work whenever they choose. Adding they should choose to do so immediately to make the world a better place! The audience quickly warmed to Anne’s unvarnished delivery, laughed a lot at her puckish truths, and leapt to their feet in a loud standing ovation. It was magnificent!

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

Speaking of magnificent, the local chef’s did an outstanding job, serving plates with ingredients from Drumlin Farm. Many could not believe that what chef Carolyn Johnson of 80 Thoreau was serving was, in fact, goat. This underscores her talent as well as Farm Manager Caroline’s good work in raising such healthy animals. At the chef’s reception, Sarah and I got to ask the experts our nerdiest farmer questions like, can you use a closed calendula blossom to garnish a dessert? The Answer: Yes, but it’s a pain to pry out each petal, and you only use the petals. Thanks and congratulations to Heidi Thoren and Polly Reeve for organizing another memorable fundraiser that brought together so many friends of Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm.

Mary Moran and Maggie Sullivan harvesting tatsoi.

This past week, we said goodbye to fieldworker Mary Moran (pictured, on the left, harvesting tatsoi bunches with Maggie Sullivan). Her new job is working with senior citizens to ensure they have services that allow them to remain in their homes. Thanks for your good work and steady presence, Mary. This week, we finished the winter squash harvest thanks to help from marketers at Definitive Healthcare and publicists at Denterlein. This is the second year in a row that Denterlein volunteers have worked with us in the fields. In addition to hauling squash (pictured below), they picked all the string beans, cherry tomatoes and husk cherries for Saturday’s market. Thanks, Denterlein, for your great work!

Denterlein  volunteers moving  squash.

Yesterday morning, twenty students from Middlesex School picked peppers, tomatoes and beans in preparation for today’s restaurant run—a true beast at 18 rainy stops! We especially appreciated the help because we had spent the early morning harvesting for the Somerville and Cambridge schools, and were way behind schedule when the students arrived at 9:30. Thanks to their good work (and Sarah’s very early start this morning), we provided chefs with what they asked for and will even have shishito peppers to distribute in tomorrow’s CSA share. It takes forever to harvest these little peppers, so many thanks to the students for making this treat available to CSA shareholders!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 15

We got lucky on Saturday: it only started pouring after the end of the farmers’ market. With that, customers were able to come out and bought up every last watermelon and cantaloupe! Thanks to the crew and volunteers who pitched in during Friday’s hot and humid market harvest. We would have been out there until dark had we not had extra help picking beans, peppers, tomatoes, and flowers.

But oh, that Saturday rain! We were determined to stay dry, and had both trucks parked close to where we were weeding so we could take shelter in a storm. When the skies opened up, I was already sitting in the driver’s seat expecting volunteers and crew to run for cover, as we had discussed. But no! Some casually put on rain jackets, and all worked on as the field turned white with the splash back from the pelting drops. The petulant words of replicant Pris in the movie Bladerunner crossed my mind—“Then we’re stupid and we’ll die!”—as I flopped into a puddle and started working alongside these determined and unstoppable humans. Instantly soaked through and accepting that fact, I noticed the warmth of the ground and how it heated the water pooling there. Then, when the rain stopped falling, I heard it continue to pour nearby. At first I thought the storm was slowly moving away; then I realized that the roaring sound was water filtering and falling through the leaves and pine needles of the trees in the woods at the edge of the field. I wish I had timed how long that lasted, but it was minutes not seconds, and I was reminded of the value of woods and unpaved ground, and how it wasn’t a love of food that brought me to farming, but a sense of alignment with what Thoreau wrote in his great essay “Walking”: “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.”

The possibility of preservation can arise through the communities that form around open spaces, farms, rivers and beaches. It was volunteering on a family farm in Iowa that changed my direction. And thankfully, Louise Hatheway foresaw the need to preserve Drumlin Farm as a gathering place for those drawn to agriculture and nature.

Weeding Sweet Potatoes.

On Saturday, despite our soggy selves, six community volunteers and three farmers together harvested 800 pounds of spaghetti squash! And on Thursday, teacher-naturalist Sally Farrow once again welcomed Lowell high schoolers in the Spindle City Corps to the farm (pictured). These teens have spent the summer working for the park service. While here, they helped us weed, and they also spent time with the Wildlife Care and Livestock staff. Thanks, all, for making Drumlin Farm a magical meeting place where lives cross and are transformed.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Our Fall CSA begins in just 3 weeks! Register today to secure your share of fresh local produce throughout fall.

 

 

Crops Update: Week 14

“For the rain it raineth every day.” And we need it to stoppeth already before we contract trench foot kneeling in all these muddy puddles in our undrying boots! It’s wet and humid out there, and the fields are sodden, making it impossible to work the soil for seeding greens and fall cover crops. Cultivating by tractor or hoe is also impossible, so we’re inching along, pulling weeds out of the muck. But so far, the crops are thriving (along with the weeds), and we haven’t seen the foliar diseases often associated with wet weather: alternaria, and blight and downy mildew. Tomato ripening is speeding up, and today at the stand you’ll find heirlooms and cherries, and a super sale on specialty melons Snow Leopard and Sun Jewel.

Rain and flooding impacted the last two Somerville markets causing a mid-market closure on August 4 and keeping attendance low again on August 11. Thanks to the Crops team for continuing their good work at market despite dreary conditions.

Andrew preparing watermelons for market.

After Andrew finished loading watermelons onto the pickup truck in preparation for market, a two person team—a sprayer and a melon-turner—dance around the bed of the truck blasting mud from each fruit. Then, we drive the pickup to market that way, and the team bucket brigades the watermelons directly onto the display. Now we need some dry weather so people can come out and enjoy these delicious fruits! We also need dry weather to get back to spraying certified organic products for pest control. These pesticides need to remain on the leaves for several hours so that the target pest can ingest them. That won’t happen if a shower comes along and rinses them off. Right now, we’re most concerned about cabbage loopers on brassicas and bean beetles on string beans.

Cambridge Institute hard at work.

Two volunteer groups gave us a boost last week and managed to avoid getting rained on. On Tuesday, civil engineers from Green International weeded strawberries, planted squash and lettuce and helped harvest tomatoes for the following day’s CSA distribution. On Thursday, 40 employees of the Cambridge Innovation Institute picked beans and tomatoes, weeded leeks and harvested orange kabocha winter squash. Thanks all for the much-needed help!

If we don’t turn into pillars of mold, we’ll see you in the field.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 11

How about a chilled corn, fennel, cucumber and basil salad for dinner tonight? Or how about some spring onions and summer squash on the grill? All these goodies plus string beans and even the first few half-pints of husk cherries are available at the farm stand right now. The corn variety we are harvesting this week is a bi-color called Providence. It’s longer and narrower than Awesome, last week’s variety, and the taste is just as good.

While we are saying goodbye to some team members and hiring others, several farmers have been working extra hours to fill in staffing gaps. Thanks all for the additional harvest hours this past Thursday and Friday evening, especially those that started at 5 am, making the last two restaurant harvests much more manageable. Campers and their camp counselors ran Weed Out #2 this past Tuesday, doing excellent work clearing weeds in the rhubarb and celeriac patches and in a bed of string beans and dahlias. This past Saturday, ten volunteers with the Appalachian Mountain Club helped us plant over 3,000 broccoli and kale seedlings. They also brought in the last 15 crates of Bridger onions and even helped us lug them up the stairs and into the barn loft for drying. Thanks for your help, AMC!

We finished the garlic harvest last week thanks in part to help from new team members Natan Charytan and John Mark. Natan will be a junior at NYU in the fall, and John has recently moved to the area after working on food policy in NYC for the past several years. Thanks all for improvising with us as we figured out our new system for washing and clipping the garlic heads before spreading them on screens to dry. In a few weeks, we’ll taste the garlic to find out if this is a system worth replicating. This week we’ll be rescue-weeding the storage carrots and beets, transplanting storage cabbage, turnips and kohlrabi, and harvesting the first slicing tomatoes of the season. Watermelon and cantaloupe will be ready for picking any day now. With the harvests increasing in volume and duration, we are grateful to all those who are contributing now.

If you’d like to taste the local difference and get weekly orders of our sustainable produce, our CSA is perfect for you! Those interested in joining the remainder of the summer CSA for a prorated rate can email our CSA Coordinator at vgassert@massaudubon.org. Those thinking ahead and eager for root crops and our Fall CSA can register today online or at Drumlin Farm.

 

See you in the field.

Your Farmers

Planting the Seeds for CSA 2018

Drumlin Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is the heart of our farm operation and how we most closely connect our customers to the food they enjoy and the land where it’s grown.The CSA model was introduced as way to provide consumers direct access to farms, while insulating farmers against unpredictable growing conditions. Customers could make an up-front investment in a “share” of the harvest, and then come to the farm each week to collect their “return”, with abundant quantities in a favorable growing year, less in a difficult one. With the recent proliferation of farmers’ markets, farm stands, and grocery home-delivery options, one may reasonably ask, “Given all my options, why would I still choose to join a farm-based CSA?” The answer is: “For the same reasons you choose to take a walk outside as opposed to on a treadmill–you like what you experience out there!”

Enjoy the fresh air, warm sun, and a little dirt under your nails dirt under your nails at Boycle Field.

At Drumlin Farm, our fields are open to the public, maintained so that our work is legible even if we’re not there to explain what’s happening. We want you to be able to track the development of your carrots from seed to harvestable root and your peas from shoots to pods hanging from the trellis. And beyond the fields, there’s even more to engage with at Drumlin: cooking classes for kids and adults, yoga classes, summer concerts and summer camp, guided hikes, daily drop-in activities, wooded trails, ponds, hilltop views, livestock barns, and wildlife displays, including our most recent additions, a young red fox and a reclusive porcupine.

The CSA is just one of the many paths that leads into our vibrant community farm and wildlife sanctuary. Through this path, shareholders can truly connect  to the seasons and to the health of Drumlin’s land and surrounding ecosystems. Historically, that CSA path has also been something of a yellow brick road with returns on initial investment averaging 20%!

Some improvements we’ve made to our CSA programs for 2018 include the availability of half shares and a reconfiguration of the distributions to better align with members’ schedules. Our Spring, Summer, and Fall CSA registration is now open, with many options for work shares, pick-your-own shares, half shares, flower, and fruit shares. We look forward to meeting you in the fields!

 

Fun in February

It’s the shortest month of the year but also one of the busiest! Before we’re looking back from March 1st, asking where the month just went and when it’ll warm up, take some time to check out all that’s going on at Drumlin.

 

See Ms. G’s Forecast on Groundhog Day – Friday February 2 at 10:00 am

Will we have 6 more weeks of winter or an early spring? Find out from the Official Groundhog of Massachusetts: Drumlin Farm’s Ms. G! After her annual forecast, explore the sanctuary for new activities and treats.

Move over Punxsutawney Phil, here comes Ms. G!

 

Go Birding In and Out of State

Need to get away? This month, we have two out of state birding trips that are sure to challenge your birding skills. Looking to stay local? Sign up for one of our birding programs that focuses on one of our favorite types of birds – raptors.

 

Preschool Open House – Saturday February 3 at 10:00 am

We can’t wait to learn with you! Give your child a fun, unique, and adventurous learning experience that will last a lifetime at Drumlin Farm Preschool. You’re invited to tour the sanctuary, meet staff, and learn more about our program at this upcoming open house.

Wonders of Wool: Needle Felting – Sunday, February 4 at 1:00 pm

Calling all crafters! Needle felting is a great way to relieve stress and create something from the heart. Take up this easy to learn, Pinterest-worthy, hobby perfect for practicing during the winter.

Doe – a deer – a needle felt deer!

Stew & Brew: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry – Friday, February 9 at 6:30 pm

Warm stew and cold brew, what could be better? Eat, drink, and be merry with stews made from local, seasonal ingredients, including Drumlin Farm-raised meats and veggies. Wash it down with a variety of beers from local breweries including Jack’s Abby, Rapscillion, and Cambridge Brewing Company.

Chickadee Birders: Birding 101 – Sunday, February 11 at 1:00 pm

Share your favorite hobby with your growing chickadees. Children ages 7-11, accompanied by an adult, are invited to learn the basics of birding and identifying. Fair warning, though, they may fall in love with it too!

Don’t Forget! Valentine’s Day is February 14

Love is in the air! Treat the special person in your life to a unique date at Drumlin Farm. Walk the trails hand in hand and enjoy the beautiful vistas from the top of the Drumlin, overlooking the expansive Boyce Field. Who knew farms could be so romantic?

Sign up for the Spring, Summer & Fall CSA – Early bird registration ends February 9th

Receive delicious, fresh, seasonal produce from our  CSAs. You’ll thank yourself for signing up early when enjoying these fresh ingredients all year round.

Salads in the making

 

Get a Little Wild with Wild by the Fire: Sleepy Snakes– Friday, February 16 at 10:00 am

Our local reptiles have been sleeping, but a warm day in February might wake up a snake! We’ll learn how to slither and slide while we listen to sagas of serpents. We’ll also create a snake of our own to take home.

Three Day Weekend Celebration

President’s Day is Monday February 19th. At a loss for what to do with the kids on this free Monday? A trip to visit the animals is sure to excite them while keeping their brains engaged and spending important time outdoors.

Take a February Vacation – Monday February 19 to Friday February 23

Make February Vacation Week a real vacation with outdoor fun activities! With single-day and full-week options, we’re busy with sanctuary explorations, wildlife visits, and educational crafts and activities all week long.

Beekeeping for Beginners – Tuesdays, February 27 to March 27 at 7:00 pm

What’s the buzz? Take action in your life to personally support the hard working pollinators that make so much of our lives possible. Learn the basics of backyard beekeeping and look at honey in a whole new way.