Tag Archives: mass audubon

Crops Update: Preparing for the Summer Season

We had a beautiful Memorial Day on Monday: sunny, dry, and high 70s. Thanks to the Crops Team for planting cantaloupe and eggplant and harvesting lots of greens and radish for the schools, all on a holiday. Many crops got cultivated with the flex-tine (weeding tool) for the fourth, fifth, or even sixth time, in the case of the potatoes and strawberries. We want to keep stirring the surface of the beds to keep them dry and to uproot small weeds, which the flex-tine helps with. It’s basically a large metal rake that attaches behind the tractor and gets pulled right over the crops (pictured below). The goal is to keep the crops clean so they’re not competing with weeds for water and nutrients, and so we can harvest them more easily.

The hoop house installers were ready to finish the job last Thursday, but heavy winds made it unsafe to work with the sheet of plastic. Saturday morning was calm, so they pulled one piece up and over the peak and attached it at the vent, and secured the second piece on the north side (pictured below). The house has roll up sides and a ridge vent, so can be cooled without running fans. We chose this design so we wouldn’t need to use electricity, and there are no outlets at the house. The next step is to install the drip irrigation system, and then we’ll be ready to plant come fall.

It was a busy week in the fields as we began planting out the summer crops. We wanted to plant peppers on Tuesday with volunteers from Dassault Systemes of Waltham, but the high winds changed the plan. Instead, we chose crops with little foliage (scallions and eucalyptus), and did our transplanting in the front field where the trees offer some protection from the wind (pictured below, volunteers taking the eucalyptus out of the trays). The volunteers then pulled weeds in the perennial garden. This is the fourth year in a row that Dassault has helped us, and we really enjoy working with such kind and attentive folks.

On Wednesday, the Crops Team planted the peppers (pictured below). And on Thursday, seniors from Middlesex School weeded peas and planted cucumbers and broccoli. They worked so well and so quickly that we needed to sprint to keep ahead of them—putting water down with the transplanter and dropping plants for the students to put in the ground. In all the hither and thithering, I forgot to take a picture of this fabulous group. Thanks all for advancing the field work!

On Tuesday we’ll begin stocking greens in the display fridge at the admissions area. The containers holding the greens are compostable. If you don’t have your own composter, we’ll be collecting used containers and adding them to the compost pile in the field. You can drop off your used containers at the admissions window. Thanks for your help with this!

If you haven’t registered for our seasonal CSA programs yet, there are still spots available for the summer and fall. Or, stop by and visit us at the Union Square Farmers Market in Somerville.

See you in the field,

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

A Note from Renata Pomponi, Sanctuary Director

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

April-September 2019 Program & Events

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:

Meet Our New Camp Director, Meghan Haslam!

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.

Meghan 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.

Most 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…

Meghan hiking the Blue Ridge mountains in North Carolina.

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.

Meghan working on housing improvement projects with 4 Walls in Nicaragua.

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.

Meghan teaching students in Honduras.

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.

Hiking amongst giant jungle ferns.

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.

Learn more and register for Drumlin Farm Summer Camps, at Drumlin Farm or Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, today! We can’t wait to see you back in the outdoors this summer.

Crops Update: Week 12

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 vgassert@massaudubon.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 psowizral@massaudubon.org.

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.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Summer Crops Update: Special Water Zombies Edition

Crops Updates are written by Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona.

Photo by Pei Ren

Photo by Pei Ren

Call Us Water Zombies
All day long and into the night we haul barrel after barrel of the precious ichor to our plant overlords, and yet they are forever thirsty. We became Water Zombies on Saturday, when yet another round of thunderstorms decided we could do without it: “They have so much organic matter at Drumlin Farm, they can get by on humidity! Let’s go rain on a place that really needs it.” (While it’s true that our soil is very rich, we still need at least some rain to keep our crops healthy!)

We’ve started watering the tomato patch to keep this important crop from flagging. In these relentlessly sunny and hot conditions, the precipitation we had last Tuesday didn’t go far. We’re encouraged by the forecast for thunderstorms over the next several days, but we will continue to water and seed until we get a real rain.

First Watermelons in Two Years
We will begin harvesting storage onions and watermelon this week. We never watered these crops, but they still look good! The electric fence has so far kept the coyotes out of the melons. We are excited by the prospect of our first watermelon harvest in two years. We are now harvesting larger quantities of husk cherries, cherry tomatoes, and heirloom slicing tomatoes. Tomato flavors are intense this year as a result of the weather, so, if you’re a tomato lover, come to the stand today to sample one positive side of the drought.

See you in the field,
Your Water Zombies