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Community Summer 2018 The Farm at Stonehill

Hatching “Stanley” – Gianna Desrochers

Hatching “Stanley”

Guest Post by, Gianna Desrochers

 

A handful of bright yellow sunflowers get visits from a few bees as gray clouds shroud the skies above
Flowers, bees and wild skies – some of the benefits of having an outdoor office!

Working at the Farm at Stonehill gets you really in-tune with the crops. I started to notice the little things- the little nibbles or brown spots that pop up on the plant’s leaves. I then started to notice bugs on the crops, and began to differentiate between which insects are good, and which are harmful. I would catch a bug in the act of munching on the produce or the plant itself, and would ask myself “how badly is this bug to the plants?” I frequently found myself delving through the Farm’s insect encyclopedia, seeing which insects I should squish and which ones I should leave be.

A large, long-legged spider crawls across a big green leaf on one of the Farm crops
One of the 8 legged creatures I found among the crops at the farm this summer.

One of the good bugs I noticed immediately was while weeding in the black plastic beds. I occasionally would see wolf spiders peeking out of the dark holes, now cleanly pulled of any weeds. The spiders are looking out for their prey of harmful earwigs, grasshoppers, crickets, and any other insects that want to take a nibble on the fresh produce or even the plant itself. I leave them be because I know that they are helping the plant from being possibly hurt from some other insects. Some insects I come across aren’t too bad, they just like to take little nibbles and then move on. I leave these guys be, unless they become a complete nuisance to the plants.

A small caterpillar, Stanley, enjoys a meal on a green leaf atop a wooden table
Stanley enjoying a meal.

One day, I was doing a thorough weeding around our parsley plants when I came across this fat, yet beautiful caterpillar. I looked him up in an insect guide and found him to be a Black Swallowtail caterpillar. These caterpillars love to munch on parsley and dill to ready themselves for their pupae stage. His home made of our parsley plants was now completely exposed thanks to my thorough weeding, and so I thought that I would try to keep him as a pet as an apology for ruining the camouflage that hid his home from possible predators.

Stanley the caterpillar creates a new home for herself in her chrysalis
And then, suddenly, Stanley had disappeared inside HER very own chrysalis.

I decided to name him Stanley and I made him a little habitat, fitted with a nice bed of fresh parsley, and sticks for interactive purposes. Having him as a pet was a great idea because I got to see him grow fatter and create a chrysalis, and then turn into a beautiful butterfly. I did an analysis on the wing pattern of Stanley once he exited his chrysalis, and actually found out that he is actually a female. Stanley has a more prominent blue pattern on her wings, which differs from the less blue-colored wings of the males.

A large black butterfly sits among colorful flowers in the permaculture garden at the Farm
You may see Stanley in the permaculture garden if you come to visit us at the farm.

Stanley’s new home is the permaculture garden at Commonwealth Court, and so if you see a black swallowtail in that area, that may be in fact Stanley. It was sad to see her go, but I know that she will love the permaculture garden and I hope she has many children and grandchildren to outlive her.

Two people stand side by side and hold yellow baskets of orange produce on the path in the Farm
Gianna (right) pictured here with Elaina, has worked at the farm for 2 seasons. We are so grateful for her hard work and dedication to the health of the plants!
Categories
Summer 2018

New Equipment on the Farm! – by Dalton Griggs

New Equipment on the Farm! 

Guest post by, Dalton Griggs

From the beginning of agriculture, equipment has been used to preform jobs more efficiently. As time has evolved, equipment has as well. New equipment can make a job 10 times more efficient and improve many aspects of a farm as well. The one issue with equipment is emissions. This factor must be considered when choosing to use a machine over a hand tool. This season at The Farm at Stonehill, a Husqvarna mower, with a Honda engine, was purchased to use on the farm and has been a great success.

A man happily pushes a lawnmower across the grassy fields between beds of the Farm
Dalton enjoying his time mowing at the farm!

My History with equipment…

As soon as I was old enough, I have always enjoyed using equipment that has made one’s job easier. In Connecticut, my family owns about 3 acres, and has numerous pieces of equipment to help maintain it. From lawnmowers ranging to brush cutters, I have had numerous experiences with equipment. The new lawn mower at The Farm at Stonehill this season has brought great results, such as weed control, and improving associability between potato and flower rows.

One of a few workers pushes a wheel hoe through the rows of the Farm to keep the winter squash weed free
Dalton’s other great skill this summer was wheel hoeing. This tool and his hard work kept our winter squash very happy – and weed free up through harvest time.

Chainsaw…

For years in Connecticut, we used a light duty chainsaw to cut firewood for our fireplace. The home light chainsaw would struggle to cut maple and oak trees. Once we purchased a medium duty, Stihl Ms 391 Chainsaw, the job was done quick and simple. This showed the job improvement a new piece of equipment can do.

Cost… price vs productivity

When one is purchasing a piece of equipment, one must weigh the price of the equipment and the physical gain. For instance, with the new chainsaw, the amount of gas used is much less, because the new Stihl is quicker and more fuel efficient than the old chainsaw. Despite to cost of the new chainsaw, the benefits of using less gas counteract the expense.

With the Husqvarna lawn mower, grass could be mowed between rows, aiding to reduce weeds and make harvesting produce, especially the potatoes much easier. Numerous daily farm tasks, such as removing potatoes beetles, picking flower bouquets, weeding, and various other tasks are made easier due to the cut weeds and grass from the lawn mower. It appears to be a worth while investment. I currently have a cub cadet push mower, however formerly had a troy built with a Honda engine lawn mower. The Honda engine does seem to hold up very well. The one we had lasted roughly eight years, mowing a good 6 hours every week.

One of a few workers pushes a wheel hoe through the rows of the Farm to keep the winter squash weed free
Dalton’s other great skill this summer was wheel hoeing. This tool and his hard work kept our winter squash very happy – and weed free up through harvest time.

Lawn mowing tricks…

I have many years of experience with power equipment, from maintaining to operating, I have developed many methods to help get the job done. I never really thought about my mowing methods, until this year at The Farm at Stonehill.

Pertaining to push mowers, I tend to pop the front wheels off the ground when raising the deck quickly, very helpful when avoiding rocks, and drip tape (at the farm). If one shifts their weight to the back of the machine, it is helpful to turn around. Is also great to add fuel additives prior to mowing. This helps to reduce ethanol residue in the fuel lines. This helps to extend the life of the equipment. Corns leads to the issue of Food Justice, should corn be used to be added to gasoline or used to provide food. Unfortunately, almost all corn is modified some bit, GMO’s have been proved to be unhealthy. This leads to why I want to work at The Farm at Stonehill.

A man in a cowboy hat holds a sugar snap pea between two fingers to show it off to the camera
Sugar Snap Pea, anyone?

The improvement of the farm overall…

As previously mentioned, a new piece of equipment can greatly improve a farm overall. From weeding, harvesting, and finding potatoes beetles, a lawn mower greatly improves a farm. It is amazing to see how all the tasks can be improved by just a simple piece of equipment.

Why I farm…

I have always had an interest in the outdoors, from when I was a young boy in Canton CT. I am an avid fisherman and love all things outdoors, including hiking and kayaking. My family has had a large garden as well, helping to fuel my love of gardening and growing produce.

A few people gather at a wooden picnic table to keep yellow buckets of veggies cool in the shade on a market day
Summer farmer, Shelby, a regular visitor from the community, Dick Costa and Summer farmer and author, Dalton keep veggies cool in the shade on a market day.

I went to school at Northwest Catholic H.S., located in West Hartford CT. Being close to Hartford, we had many programs that would help people in the community. My interest in helping others and love of the outdoors is why I am at The Farm at Stonehill. It is great to enjoy something, while helping others in the greater community. By growing food for those in need, one is making a big difference when healthy produce can be accessible. This is important to the community and myself because fresh vegetables is a healthy choice for meals. It is important to help others in one’s community because a little help can greatly change someone’s life. I am thankful to be able to make a difference by providing fresh produce to those in need at The Farm at Stonehill!