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Community Greenhouse Reflections Spring 2019 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Brimming With Hope as the Supermoon Rises

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.

A purple crocus flower blooms and peeks out of dead leaves covering the ground, a sign of Spring coming soon
We find a crocus on an early morning walk – a sure sign that Spring is arriving soon.

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.

A bright circle - the supermoon - shines high above the treeline at the Farm
The full moon in March is also known as the Worm Moon and is a supermoon! Here it is rising above the trees that line the eastern edge of the field and Rt. 138.

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.

Thin, stringy onion sprouts grow up and out from a series of plastic trays
Unruly onions burst from their seeds – the greens grow a bit taller and straighter each day.
A close up on a matricaria flower sprout slowly beginning to sprout in one of the trays, its small green leaves revealing their complex symmetry
A new flower for us this year – Matricaria – has intricate and symmetrical seedlings right from the first days they appear.

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.

A woman works with over a dozen students in the greenhouse to plant thousands of seeds during on crowded tables for volunteer hours
Celia (center in purple t-shirt) and 13 volunteers help to plant thousands of seeds during volunteer hours on Friday, March 15th.

 

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?

~Bridget

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Apple Orchard Spring 2012 Spring Cultivation 2012 Summer 2012 Summer Cultivation 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Simplicity of Summery Spring

  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.

photo of students planting peppers
Bell pepper seedlings move from their cozy trays in the hoop house into the warm soils of the fields with the help of student farmers Dan, Sean, Greg, and Gabby (from left to right) on May 24, 2012.

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.

Students sit and stand on either side of a bed covered in biodegradable plastic, working together to poke holes and plant seedlings from trays
Students Gabby, Erin, Rich, Sean, Sheriden and Mike (from left to right) plant Celosia Flowers in late April. Photo taken by George Rizer for “The Boston Globe”.

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.

photo of summer squash
A Zephyr Summer Squash plant leans into the light.

The summer squash and zucchini dance in earnest with the last of the daylight and lean into each ray emanating from the west.

Lettuce (left bed) and Zephyr Summer Squash (right bed) drink in the sun.

~~~

The apple trees sway in the day’s final rays as a light, early evening breeze rustles their first flush of foliage.

photo of apple tree
A Crimson Crisp apple tree is adjusting well to its new home at The Farm.

~~~

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.

photo of corn on May 23
Five rows of Sweet Corn settling in for the season.

~~~

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.

photo of the farm on May 23
The Farm on May 23, 2012.

 

Categories
Spring 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Earth Day at The Farm!

Greenhouse construction continues with help from a Stonehill College family on Earth Day 2011.

photo of Bruce, Trent and Brian Switzer at the Farm.
Bruce (Stonehill Alumnus, Class of '81), Trent (future Stonehill student?) and Brian Switzer (Class of 2013) help out on Earth Day.


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.

~~~

Photo of Bridget in greenhouse - bows up!
Bows up in just about and hour, and suddenly I am standing in our future greenhouse!


The morning begins sleepily.

Pale, grey skies steadily brighten to blue.

A warming sun and a gentle breeze by noon.

At day’s end Mare’s tails lightly streak the sky.

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.

photo of blue skies and purlins
Bows and purlins against a blue sky streaked with "Mare's Tails" (Cirrus clouds).

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.

Photo of Brian and Chuck working on Baseboards
Brian and Chuck prep the southern edge of the greenhouse for 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.

Photo of Dave, Trent and Brian digging the trench
Dave, Trent and Brian Switzer prepare the northern edge of the greenhouse for the baseboards.

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.

Photo of Greenhouse end of Day 3
Day 3: Bows, Purlins and Baseboards in place.

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.

photo of pepper seedlings
"Islander"bell pepper seedlings growing and awaiting their time to move into the greenhouse and then into the fields.

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.

Categories
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.

 

Categories
Spring 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill

Seeds Want To Grow

 

Seeds come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like mint, are as fine as dust, while some, like marigolds, look like miniature magic wands.  Regardless of size and shape:

“Drop a seed in the ground and it wants to grow!”

I read this wonderful truth a few months ago in The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman, and suddenly felt much more at ease about the rapidly approaching growing season.  After all, if the seeds WANT to grow, then all we have to do is provide them with the right amount of light, warmth, nutrients, and moisture, and surely they will take root and we will be rewarded with healthy, delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers!

A tray of bell pepper seedlings beginning to grow

 

And yet, the question remains:

How much of each of these elements do different plants need to thrive?

A small tomato seed peeks out of a slot in the tray
A tomato seed on a bed of Fort Vee Potting Mix from Vermont Compost Company.

There are many answers to this question that we can find print, in conversations with friends in the farming community, or through our own careful observations.

A few marigold seedlings show off their leafy stems
Strong, little Marigold seedling (April 8, 2011).

 

We listen, we water, we transplant, we wait, and we watch quietly as the seeds do the bulk of the work and grow into strong little seedlings.

peppers photo up close
Bell pepper seedlings (April 14, 2011).

 

The marigolds in the tray now grow larger as time has passed
Marigolds (April 13, 2011).
Categories
Green Cabbage: From Seed to Table Spring 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill

Cabbage: From Seed to Table

Watch green cabbage grow with me!

I planted some of our first seeds on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2011.

Image of Starting seeds on 3.17.11
Day 1: Planting the seeds. (March 17, 2011)

The seeds germinated over the weekend and when I returned on Monday I found a forest of sprouts.

I repositioned them under the lights, gave them a drink, and one more day to grow before choosing the strongest seedlings and starting the thinning process.  Those that remain will continue to grow and those that were thinned will become our first “harvest” and top a salad today!

photo of cabbage sprouts on 3.22.11
Day 6: Cabbage Sprout Forest. (March 22, 2011)


Cabbage sprouts pre-thinning March 23, 2011 (Day 7)
Day 7: Cabbage Sprouts Pre-thinning. (March 23, 2011).

Photo of cabbage sprouts that were thinned
Day 7: First Harvest: Cabbage Sprouts. (March 23, 2011)
Day 7: Thinned Cabbage Sprouts
Day 7: Thinned Cabbage Sprouts: Grow, Grow, Grow! (March 23, 2011)
photo of cabbage sprout on 3-24
Day 8 (March 24, 2011)
Photo of cabbage sprout on day 9 (3-25-11)
Day 9 (March 25, 2011)

… And then the sprouts were transplanted

photo of cabbage on 3-29-11
Day 13 (March 29, 2011)
cabbage 3-29 3 leaf
Day 13 (March 29, 2011)

 

photo of cabbage on 3-30-11
Day 14 (March 30, 2011)
photo of cabbage on 3-31-11
Day 15 (March 31, 2011)
Cabbage photo on april 4, 2011
Day 19 (April 4, 2011)
Photo of Cabbage on April 8, 2011
Day 23 (April 8, 2011)
photo fo cabbage on April 13
Day 28 (April 13, 2011)
Photo fo Green cabbage 4.18.11
Day 33 (April 18, 2011)

 

photo of Cabbage on 5.6.11
May 6, 2011
photo of cabbage on June 5th
June 5, 2011

 

Cabbage on July 7, 2011

 

July 31, 2011

 

August 3, 2011

To be continued…

 

 

Categories
Spring 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill

Digging the Well & Starting Seeds During the Ides of March

After a long and very snowy winter the earth below emerged and everywhere brown fields started to turn green!

Farm Location Post Snow melt
No more snow!

On March 21, Farmer Kevin O’Dwyer of Langwater Farm tilled the field to prep the area for spring plantings which will commence in April.

Photo of the field tilled on 3.21.11
First pass with a plow reveals rich looking soils.

 

The danger of heavy frost will linger for another month (as demonstrated by the snow that fell later that day), but we are starting seeds now in the Holy Cross Center so that we will have strong seedling ready for the fields when temperatures warm. So far we have planted bunching onions, chives, leeks, mint, basil, lettuce, red and green cabbage, sweet bell peppers, beets, 3 different kinds of kale, marigolds and zinnias.

Seed Starting set up in the basement of Holy Cross Center.
The Seed Starting Set-up

 

All plants require sunlight, water, and healthy soils to grow, and water for our crops will come from the rain that falls and from drip irrigation sourced from a new well at the farm.  This well is being dug this week, and I am told that a rate of 30 gallons per minute can be expected.

This will provide plenty of water to grow our vegetables, berries, herbs and flowers!

Day 1 of well digging at the farm (3.21.11)
Digging the well (March 21, 2011)
Photo of the top of the well and the snow covered field
The Well is in! (March 24, 2011)
photo of the cap on the well
The cap on the well. (March 24, 2011)