The first day of Spring arrives, and I find myself brimming with hope for another amazing season at The Farm.
My early morning walks with Zuri around the fields are filled with soft, warm light dancing on the frost covered grasses. It is hard to believe that in a few short months the morning dew will offer a welcome coolness compared the blazing midday heat.
This is the time of year when we pause to drink in the sun – lifting our chins towards the sky like turtles sunbathing on boulders in a stream – thankful for the warmth the rays bring to our faces and to our sleepy spirits.
Perhaps it is the power of the full moon on the solstice, but there is something intoxicating about the start of this season. Highs and lows from the previous season are already fading as the fields start to green, the garlic starts to sprout and the seedlings start to grow.
The seeds are the focus this time of year – when will be planting the onions? the kale? the snapdragons? What will thrive and what will bend despite or due to the challenge of drought or disease? We create our seeding charts and dutifully fill trays with nutrient rich soil. We provide water and sunlight.
It is then that the magic happens – we watch as the seedlings emerge. Some of them, like onions and leeks are gangly, lean and angular, while others like snapdragons and Matricaria (a member of the Chamomile tribe) are symmetrical and almost glamorous as they dance in their morning or afternoon shower.
I am reminded of the essential living and nonliving components that help our farm thrive: the students and community members who arrive early and stay as long as they can to plant the seeds, the nutrients in the soil, the water that transports the nutrients into the roots of the seedlings, and the sun which beckons our young plants to grow.
It will not be long before the fields are filled with flowers and veggies bending and swaying with the elements as they produce glorious blooms and fruits that fill our hearts and bellies with joy.
These are the magical days of early spring where we dream and hope for a season filled with growth, beauty and joy – I can feel it – can you?
The fields are producing veggies and flowers galore for us this summer. We’ve already harvested and donated over 800 pounds of our organic veggies – mostly lettuce, greens like kale, collards, and chard, onions, zucchini, and summer squash. Our yields are higher than last year, due to careful cultivation and applications of rich compost, and we expect them to really explode now that the heavier crops like cucumbers and summer squash as starting to appear.
The veggies are all finding homes with our partners: The Easton Food Pantry, My Brother’s Keeper, The Family Life Center of the Old Colony YMCA, and The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.
So far, the rain has not impacted our production in a negative way, but we are keeping an eye out for any sign of Early Blight on our tomatoes or Downy Mildew in the squash.
Raised beds are helping to keep any flooding in fields from damaging the plants.
When the sun does shine, honeybees return to the fields and love the clover that grows around the shed and greenhouse. This is MOSTLY a good thing, except for bare or flip flop clad feet of unaware farmers – namely, Farmer Manager Meigs. I managed to get 2 stings this past week, one on my right pinkie toe and the other, a few days later on the arch of my left foot. Here is what I learned:
1. Remove the stinger ASAP.
2. If you work on a farm, grab an onion, break it open and rub it on the effected area!
I was much better at these steps the second time around!
(I suppose I could also wear close-toed shoes… but that’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?)
We are happy to bear witness to the changing colors of the fields – from greens to golds in the rows of summer squash, and a wide array colors in our flower beds.
There is something magical about the way that seemingly overnight the yellow flowers appear on the squash, cucumber and tomato plants and white and purple flowers bloom on the eggplant and potato plants.
The nutrients and moisture in the soil and the energy from the sun provide most of the fuel for the bounty appearing in the fields, but some of the credit also goes to my 3 hard working summer farmers, Devin, Jake, and Alphonse, and to the volunteers.
On Friday afternoons, a number of students working in Admission and some of our college staff appear on the scene to help us tackle larger projects like hilling the potatoes.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to receive an extra hand on weekdays or on a Saturday from Stonehill alums or from local groups looking to lend a hand.
Zuri keeps busy protecting our tender greens by warding off bunnies. She then enjoys joining us for a rest during lunch before heading out for her afternoon rounds.
On my morning and afternoon strolls around the fields, it’s easy to feel like I can actually SEE the squash and cukes growing right before my eyes.
With the help of rich compost our crops and flowers are flourishing!
We invite you to come join us for a visit or a quick hour or two of planting, harvesting or… you guessed it… weeding!
If you would like to place a flower order, please email me and we’ll create an arrangement filled with Snapdragons, Cosmos, Zinnias, Black Eyed Susan, Sweet William, Salvia and Statice (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On Thursday, April 11th, Stephen Siperstein and students in his Nature Writing class joined us at The Farm to partake in the planting of our first row of the 2013 season. We worked together to rake, dig a small trench for the peas, add compost and then plant the peas and kohlrabi seedlings. Before our work began we talked about Thoreau and his close relationship with the land as a farmer and as a steward. Read on to learn more about the class’s experience through Stephen’s eyes.
“The Curious Labor of Planting Peas”
By, Stephen Siperstein
This Thursday, Bridget (and Zuri) welcomed our Nature Writing class to The Farm at Stonehill for an afternoon of planting peas and contemplating Henry David Thoreau. After a quick tour of the farm, we got to work hauling compost, hoeing trenches, and snuggly placing each pea seed in the rich soil.Taking a cue from Thoreau, I went to the farm determined to know peas, but what I discovered was less about peas and more about the farm itself.
Sometimes such unforeseen discoveries comprise the curious labor of teaching. Most people think of Thoreau as the environmental saint who built a cabin on the shore of Walden Pond and conducted an experiment of living simply. Fewer people think of Thoreau as the farmer who during his time at Walden cultivated a bean field of 150 rows (over 24,000 bean plants!), not to mention more rows of potatoes and turnips. Yes, Thoreau was often critical of farmers, but he also loved working with the earth—just as long as such work was not undertaken for profit only but for a greater purpose.
“What shall I learn of beans or beans of me?” Thoreau asks at the beginning of “The Bean-Field” chapter in Walden. What he ultimately discovers is not only that his plot of land is “the connecting link between wild and cultivated fields,” and not only that he should look out for woodchucks. He discovers that the “curious labor” of growing beans can provide joy, self-respect, and deep learning.
As the students and I hoed and sowed, laughed and talked about summer plans, it seemed to me that if he were here, Thoreau would nod in approval at the work being done at our farm. Working with the hands, Thoreau explains, “has a constant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar it yields a classic result.” The Farm at Stonehill is a place of fertile soil, ethical lessons, and intellectual richness, where the land itself provides the connecting link between actions and values, between the work students do with their hands and the work they do with their minds.
Such work is hard, but the rewards of the labor, both in process and in the eventual “fruits” are always worth it… we think Zuri would agree.
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.
Greenhouse construction continues with help from a Stonehill College family on Earth Day 2011.
While I am a big proponent of the idea that “Earth Day is Every Day,” I have to admit that on April 22nd each year I am filled with additional urge to spend the day outside where my senses can pick up on Spring’s arrival.
This year, the weather was perfect for celebrating spring as we recommenced work on our greenhouse project.
Hinting at showers to come and the greens of spring to follow.
Chuck and I had the bows up within the first hour and then set to work attaching the purlins to stabilize the structure.
Around noon, Brian Switzer (Class of 2013) arrived at the farm to assist and set to work tightening the many bolts on the frame and then helped us prep the edges of the greenhouse to install the baseboards.
An hour or so later, Brian’s father and Stonehill Alum, Dave (Class of 1981) and his younger brother Trent arrived on the scene. They worked together to excavate along the edges of the structure to make way for our baseboards, made from Eastern White Pine, grown in the USA and purchased from Fenandes, our local hardware store.
They also dug trenches along the outside edges of the greenhouse to make way for drainage pipe to minimize greenhouse flooding when heavy rains fall.
By day’s end the bows were up, purlins set, and baseboards in! One step closer to completion.
I am looking forward to filling the space with our green seedlings and when they are strong enough and the weather has warmed a bit, out into the fields where they will set about their work producing delicious vegetables.
They will draw on nutrients in the soil, light from the sun, and water from the earth and sky, and in due time play a role in feeding those same soils with organic matter to grow healthy soils and future harvests.