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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
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.

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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.

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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
Community Spring Cultivation 2011 Summer 2011 Summer Cultivation 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

“Knee High by the 4th of July”

photo of Bridget in the corn on July 12
Our sweet corn on July 12, 2011.

When asked if I thought we’d have corn that was “Knee high by the 4th of July,” I smiled to myself and set a quiet goal to do just that.  I am happy to share with you that the 4th saw our corn at the height of my knee and it has now grown to hip level.

Corn knee high
Our Sweet Corn, "Knee High" on the 4th of July.

At the same time, I also started to wonder about this famous saying.  Where did this phrase originate, who’s knees are we talking about, and does it apply to our region and to our farm?  I did a little bit of research and learned that this phrase originated in the midwest and growers there believed that a corn crop will turn out well if it is at least knee high in early July because this indicates that the initial growing conditions were good, the crop is off to a good start and it will continue to thrive and yield a good crop. In the end of the day, it seems that perhaps the health rather than the height of the corn by early July is most important, and if a crop is given good initial growing conditions and is tended with care, healthy plants and good yields are likely to result.  Even so, I was happy to be able to stand next to our corn on the 4th of July and have it’s healthy leaves gently brush my knees.

photo of cucumbers and tomatoes
Cucumbers and Tomatoes continue to grow and are starting to fruit.

Some of the important work on the farm can seem to be the least glamorous, but can be satisfying and is most definitely incredibly important: WEEDING! I was happy to welcome a number of students participating in SURE (Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience) this summer last week for a couple of hours. They energetically worked in groups to free our Rainbow Chard from the clutches of weeds and clear some rows to make way for new sets of seedlings.

SURE Students on July 12
SURE Students pitch in at The Farm after a full day at their jobs on campus.

Back in March we started to plant our seeds, and over the past four months Brian, Michelle and I have carefully tended to seedlings until they grew into mature plants bearing fruit.  We are now harvesting 2 varieties of zucchini, summer squash, 3 varieties of cucumbers, lettuce, 2 varieties of turnips, sugar snap peas, some herbs and some spring onions.

photo of sugar snap pea
Our Sugar Snap Peas are ready for harvest.

 

photo of red baron Spring onion, scallions and lettuce
Bunching Onions, Red Baron Spring Onions and Deer Tongue Lettuce with our fields behind.
photo of Deer tongue lettuce
Deer Tongue Lettuce almost ready for harvest.

We are also starting to pick flowers including Cosmos, Zinnias, Snapdragons, Celosia and Marigolds.  We are harvesting these flowers, arranging them in bouquets and they are up for sale (50 cents/stem) on campus.  Shoot us an email if you’d like to decorate your office with some colors from the fields!

photo of Cosmos about to bloom
Cosmos about to bloom.
photo of pink cosmos
Pink cosmos in full bloom.
photo of red cosmos
Blooming Cosmos fills the field with summer color.
photo of a 20 stem bouquet
"20 stem" bouquet