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Spring 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

Sewing the Seeds of Season III

The landscape in Easton is still mostly white, grey and brown, but the sunlight of spring is starting to feed us with stronger rays as the days grow longer.

photo of late winter morning sun
Stronger sun rays are starting to shine on the late winter snow at morning light.

On morning walks with Zuri, the white lab-hound mix who came into my life last June, I catch glimpses of warmer colors as the sun rises on the snow covered fields.

Photo of the apple orchard in the winter
Our Apple Orchard drinks in the sun and rests under a blanket of snow.

The student farmers have kept the farm a lively part of our college culture through the colder months, ever ready to be called in to help with projects – such as rescuing our snowed-in hoop house – or actively participating in our new seminar in Sustainable Agriculture.

photo of snowed in hoop house
Snowed in hoop house – but not for long!
photo of rescued hoop house
Success!

As you can see in the two photos above, seniors Jack Bressor, Lauren Engel and Sean Moran showed their dedication to the farm by effectively removing hundreds of pounds snow from the southern side of the hoop house after the blizzard in early February.

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Our students have also been laying the groundwork to increase the amount of “real food” served on campus by attending a training at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD to join a nationwide campaign.  Perhaps some of this “real food” will include a few items from The Farm at Stonehill – such as winter squash or greens – this year.

photo of students who attended the real food challenge summit
Breanne Penkala, Andrew Curran, Sean Davenport, Catie Barros and Christine Moodie – all members of the Class of 2015 and former Food Politics students – are just a few of the students who want more real food at Stonehill.

Keep an eye out for events on campus where you can learn more about ways to support a local, sustainable and fair food system on campus and in your community!

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For those of you who have driven by the farm recently, you have probably noticed the large trench cutting through our main field perpendicular to Rt 138. Not to worry! This is only a temporary feature that is allowing for water access to a new storage barn for all of the equipment and supplies that Facilities Management maintains.

photo of trench at the farm
Trench for a water line – facing west.

 This trench will be filled back in with care within a few weeks.  When we turn the fields for Season 3 in April we will be careful to add extra nutrient rich compost – composed of decomposed organic materials from our dining commons and Clover Valley Stables –  to ensure that the health and productivity of these soils is not impacted in any major way.

photo of trench at the farm facing east
Trench for water line – facing east.

In our Sustainable Agriculture class we turned the dramatic looking feature into a soil science laboratory (a “teaching moment,” if you will) as we studied soil horizons and learned about the ingredients necessary to create healthy soils.

photo of our soil horizon
Jack points out our the A and B layers in our soil profile.

 

photo of image of soil profile
A basic soil profile diagram.

Jack Bressor and Bryan Tavares co-taught a class with me about soils and asked the class to consider the different features of healthy soils (i.e. sand for drainage, organic material to retain moisture and add vital nutrients) and create a “perfect” seed-starting mix and grow and care for a bean plant.

photo of soil components
Bryan and Jack provide the class with components of healthy soils (vermiculite, stone dust, 2 kinds of compost, and loam) for growing healthy veggies.

 These students will nurture their bean plants over the next couple of months and hopefully plant them in the fields once the weather warms.

photo of making potting mix
Sean, Melissa, Molly, Pat, Tom, Ryan, Michelle and Bryan create their perfect potting mix to give their been seeds a healthy start.

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Despite the snowflakes currently falling from the skies, I am comforted by the knowledge that onions and some of our flowers are germinating under lights in the basement of Holy Cross.

photo of germinating walla walla onions
Sweet Walla Walla Onions successfully germinating!

If all goes according to plan, these seedlings will be growing with gusto in our fields in a few months’ time.

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In other news, our farm dog, Zuri, has enjoyed her first winter immensely – going on adventures, napping with new dog friends or pausing to greet every student or staff member who she meets on campus or in the fields behind the farm!

photo of zuri and harken walking on the pond
Zuri enjoys a stroll with her airedale buddy, Harken.

 

photo of Zuri resting with Bailey
Zuri and Bailey rest together after a wild walk in the winter woods.

Our third season has just begun.

Check back from time to time to watch our fields fill with the colors of spring and summer. It will definitely prove to be an adventure as we put our L5030 Kubota tractor and our Kuhn el53-190 Rototiller to work.

Categories
Community Our Vision Reflections Summer 2012 The Farm at Stonehill

The Herb Spiral Is In!

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).

photo of meditation garden
This meditation garden space was donated to the farm by the Class of 2011!

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.

photo of gravel in spiral on cardboard
Starting out: You will need cardboard, stones, creativity, patience, and enthusiasm.

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.

photo of garden with sand layer
Next Step: Then came the sand.

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 Step: Filling the spiral with nutrient rich compost.

Next we filled the spiral with a healthy planting mix of horse manure based compost.

Next, it was time to plant our herbs!

Our sage and oregano are in and awaiting company of rosemary, mint, chives, and thyme.

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.

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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!

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*“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.

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For more information on how to build an herb spiral please visit this site.

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Spring 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Volunteers from Near and Far Put Down Roots

Spring is in the air and with it the projects are many and full of new life at The Farm.

photo of clock con facilities building
Clear blue skies at The Clock Farm just north of our field (April 15, 2011).

Friday was a beautiful day that hinted at the long, sun-filled days to come.  On that fine day, Dick Murray, who works in facilities management, completed his work spreading stone dust to create a solid and level base for our greenhouse which will be going up over the next couple of weeks.

photo of ariel and brian on future greenhouse
Stonehill students Ariel and Brian test out the stone dust base of the greenhouse on April 14, 2011.

Student volunteers Ariel and Brian tested out the base for the greenhouse and put together the Earthway one-row seeder this Thursday before planting bell peppers and transplanting broccoli.

photo of Brian and Ariel putting the one row seeder together
Brian and Ariel putting the one-row seeder together.

Until the greenhouse is up, we continue to plant seeds and nurture seedlings across the street in the basement of the Holy Cross Center.

A volunteer holds his hands over trays of seedlings under a heat lamp
Mike, a volunteer and friend visiting from Canada, encourages the Tandora Leek and Green Bib Lettuce seedlings to grow (April 17, 2011).

On Friday, we had our first delivery of nutrient rich compost from Clover Valley Stables, and I took advantage of the sunny warm afternoon to plant a row of raspberry canes: 10 Nova  and 10 Polana.

A black truck dumps a pile of compost in a dirt field at the farm
Our first delivery of compost from Clover Valley Stables.

 

A row of raspberry canes extends down the dirt field
Raspberries planted on Friday, April 15, 2011.

Just a couple of days later, despite the grey skies and biting, springtime breezes of New England, I was back with two intrepid Canadian friends and volunteers  to plant 3 Bayberry bushes and 2 Northland Blueberry bushes in the northwest corner of the field.

A man and woman work together to dig holes for planting bayberries and northland blueberries
Canadian volunteers Mike and Judy dig in – planting Bayberries and Northland Blueberries (April 17, 2011).

 

A bayberry bush is gently planted in a hole in the dirt field
Bayberry bush in the process of being planted.

 

A man pours water on a new bayberry bush using an orange bucket
Canadian (note T-shirt) Mike waters one of the Bayberry bushes in.

These are the first of many plants that will take root and with some luck grow into healthy bushes that will produce berries that we can enjoy and share for many years to come.