Hard working summer farmers, volunteers, and warm summer days have helped us grow delicious and plentiful vegetables and herbs for our partners. We thought you would enjoy a few images of this season’s bounty.
Today we constructed the herb spiral in our meditation garden at the farm. This has been something that I have been wanting to build and plant for years, so I was very excited to have the opportunity to spend the day with stones, gravel, sand, compost, and a good helper: student and farmer Greg (Class of 2014).
Herb spirals are a permaculture* design and offer a good way to grow a diverse array of herbs in a small space that is easy to water and harvest.
Using field stones from Langwater Farm, compost from Clover Valley Stables, sand, and gravel, and cardboard we went to work – a good project for a day with 90+ degree temperatures in the fields.
We started the project by laying cardboard on the ground and sketching out a spiral. We gave the cardboard a good soaking to help boost microbial activity in the sod that lay beneath it and slow weeds from growing in among the rocks. We then started to build the spiral stone wall in a clockwise fashion to mimic the natural way that water drains down a pipe in the northern hemisphere. The gravel went in first to help stabilize the spiral rock wall, and help the water escape in the event of a heavy rainfall.
After the gravel layer was in, we added a couple of inches of sand. The sand and the gravel both help with drainage and help to maintain heat in the soil.
Next we filled the spiral with a healthy planting mix of horse manure based compost.
Next, it was time to plant our herbs!
As the rocks warm, they will help to dehumidify the soil and the extended edge, wrapping in on itself, provides a wide diversity of conditions. We will plant herbs like rosemary, sage, and oregano near the top of the spiral as they require less moisture, and plant mint and other moisture loving herbs near the bottom of the structure.
We still have some important plantings to do around the garden, – perhaps some vibirnums and native grasses – but it is starting to feel more and more like a good space for quiet contemplation or a lively class discussion!
*“Permaculture design emphasizes patterns of landscape, function, and species assemblies. It asks the question, “Where does this element go? How can it be placed for the maximum benefit of the system?” To answer this question, the central concept of permaculture is maximizing useful connections between components and synergy of the final design.
The focus of permaculture, therefore, is not on each separate element, but rather on the relationships created among elements by the way they are placed together; the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.
For more information on how to build an herb spiral please visit this site.
This post was written by one of our summer farmers, Sean Davenport, who loves his potatoes!
“What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a decent sort of fellow.”
– A.A. Milne
The potato is not just your average vegetable. It is, in fact, an extraordinary one. Due to our nation’s obsession with fatty foods, the potato, through the form of French fries, has become the most commonly consumed vegetable in the United States. But who can blame us? French fries are so good!
Besides fries, potatoes can be prepared in a plethora of delicious ways ways. Roasted potatoes happen to be my favorite style, especially with some onion tossed in. This past week my mom made roasted potatoes twice, using potatoes fresh from the Farm – red golds and German butterballs. The mashed potato remains another popular American preparation, symbolic of the traditional family dinner. Baked potatoes are absolutely amazing too, with or without sour cream.
For a fancier affair, try potatoes au gratin – thinly sliced potatoes layered with melted cheese. Home fries are served with almost every meal ordered in an American diner, and potato skins are a staple bar food (and perhaps my favorite appetizer of all). Potatoes are also versatile in how you can use them. Bake them into potato rolls, or make some latkes. Even try a little Italian and whip up some gnocchi.
No matter how you prepare a potato, it is going to be delicious. I love potatoes. No matter where I go I know that I can find comfort in eating this most glorious of vegetables. – Sean Davenport (Class of 2015)
Do you know potatoes?
Potatoes were first cultivated 7,000 years ago (but evidence shows they were growing in the wild up to 13,000 years ago) by the Incas in Peru.*
According to Dr. Hector Flores, “the most probable place of origin of potatoes is located between the south of Peru and the northeast of Bolivia. The archaeological remains date from 400 B.C. and have been found on the shores of Lake Titicaca…. There are many expressions of the extended use of the potato in the pre-Inca cultures from the Peruvian Andes, as you can see in the Nazca and Chimu pottery.”*
When the European diet expanded to include potatoes, not only were farmers able to produce much more food, they also gained protection against the catastrophe of a grain crop failure and periodic population checks caused by famine.*
Highly nutritious potatoes also helped mitigate the effects of such diseases as scurvy, tuberculosis, measles and dysentery.*
Potatoes became a staple in the Irish diet by 1800.*
By the early 1840s, almost one-half of the Irish population had become entirely dependent upon the potato, specifically on just one or two high-yielding varieties.*
Potatoes are the leading vegetable crop in the USA and comprise 29% of our vegetable consumption – about 130 pounds per person every year.**
More than 1/2 of the annual consumption is processed rather than fresh (ex. fast food french fries or potato chips).**
Potatoes are the most important vegetable crop in the USA.**
Potatoes are only topped by wheat flour in importance in the American diet.**
Potatoes are rich in minerals, vitamins, calories, and protein, and very low in fat.**
As well as providing starch, an essential component of the diet, potatoes are rich in Vitamin C, high in Potassium and an excellent source of fiber. In fact, potatoes alone supply every vital nutrient except calcium, Vitamin A and Vitamin D.*
How can you do it? It’s heartless, it’s cruel. It’s murder, cold-blooded, it’s gross. To slay a poor vegetable just for your stew Or to serve with some cheese sauce on toast. Have you no decency? Have you no shame? Have you no conscience, you cad, To rip that poor vegetable out of the earth Away from its poor mom and dad?
CHORUS: Oh, no, don’t slay that potato! Let us be merciful, please. Don’t boil it or fry it, don’t even freeze-dry it. Don’t slice it or flake it. For God’s sake, don’t bake it! Don’t shed the poor blood Of this poor helpless spud. That’s the worst kind of thing you could do. Oh, no, don’t slay that potato What never done nothing to you!
Why not try picking on something your size Instead of some carrot or bean? The peas are all trembling there in their pod Just because you’re so vicious and mean. How would you like to be grabbed by your hair And ruthlessly yanked from your bed And have done to you God knows what horrible things, To be eaten with full-fiber bread? (CHORUS)
It’s no bed of roses, this vegetable life. You’re basically stuck in the mud. You don’t get around much. You don’t see the sights When you’re a carrot or celery or spud. You’re helpless when somebody’s flea-bitten dog Takes a notion to pause for relief. Then somebody picks you and cleans you and eats you And causes you nothing but grief. (CHORUS)
There ought to be some way of saving our skins. They ought to be passing a law. Just show anybody a cute little lamb And they’ll all stand around and go “Aw!” Well, potatoes are ugly. Potatoes are plain. We’re wrinkled and lumpy to boot. But give me a break, kid. Do you mean to say That you’ll eat us because we’re not cute?
Oh, no, don’t slay that potato! Let us be merciful, please. Don’t boil it or fry it, don’t even freeze-dry it. Don’t slice it or flake it. For God’s sake, don’t bake it! Don’t shed the poor blood Of this poor helpless spud. That’s the worst kind of thing you could do. Oh, no, don’t slay that potato What never done nothing to you!
It is already the 4th of July, and the warm summer days are working well with intermittent thunderstorms and rainfall to produce lots of delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers.
It is exciting to see the colors of the fields filling the shelves at The Easton Food Pantry and My Brother’s Keeper. This past Monday some of our offerings included summer squash, zucchini and snap peas.
Yesterday we harvested our most diverse crop yet – including Farao Cabbage, Early Wonder Beets, Zephyr Summer Squash, Raven Zucchini, Sugar Snap Peas, Bright Light Rainbow Chard, Pearl Drop Onions, Northern Pickling Cucumbers, Genovese Basil, Santo Cilantro and Evergreen Bunching Onions – and delivered them by noon to The Family Center at The Old Colony YMCA.
There have been some other changes at the farm lately, including the addition of a new farm hand: Zuri. Zuri – which means “beautiful” in Swahili – is a 6 month old lab mix, who I adopted last Monday from Forever Homes Shelter in Medfield, MA. While her 4 legs make it difficult for her to help harvest, plant and weed our crops, her company has been great for our farm spirit!
Zuri splits her time between finding shade and sticking close by. Harvesting Pearl Drop Onions was exciting, as it brought some of the cooler soil to the surface and created a nice place to lie down in the field.
By the end of the day she’s pretty tuckered out, and happy to find a place in the field to rest next to the newly planted pumpkin seedlings.
In other news, the college welcomed the class of 2016 to campus last week for orientation. Sean, Gabby, Greg and I worked with Facilities Management to ensure that the incoming class understands how to compost on campus.
We welcome the incoming class and invite them to help us to strengthen our composting efforts in the Dining Commons and at The Sem.
With the help of this organic material we will continue to feed our soils and grow more nutritious crops for our partners and flowers for our community!
Seedlings start small, but it doesn’t take long before they start to drink in the light, nutrients and water that allow them to take root and grow.
Some days we focus so much on the tasks at hand – a common occurrence in most any walk of life – and fail to really see how quickly each crop, and the farm as a whole, is changing right before our eyes.
A few evenings ago I returned to the farm just before sundown to stroll through the fields and take a good look at the crops.
Here is what I found.
The summer squash and zucchini dance in earnest with the last of the daylight and lean into each ray emanating from the west.
The apple trees sway in the day’s final rays as a light, early evening breeze rustles their first flush of foliage.
Our sweet corn, truly grass-like at this stage, appears fragile and uncertain, but stands tall and whispers of how it will grow to tower above my head one day.
There is a simplicity to these early days of warm, sunny weather.
The weeds are not quite capable of challenge.
There is a palpable sense of anticipation in the fields of the bounty and beauty of the productive jungle-like world that will appear – seemingly overnight – as summer takes hold.
For now we enjoy the simplicity of the early days of the season, and know that it is only a matter of time – hours filling easily with planting and cultivating the fields – before all of the crops will share their sun-kissed flavors with our growing community.