Witnessing Spring

To be a farmer in the spring is to be presented with an endless list of projects and the opportunity to witness countless  moments of beauty.

photo of Peach Blossoms at Brookdale Fruit Farm

Peach Blossoms at Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis, NH (May 7, 2011).

 

 

Passing thundershowers duel with gusty breezes and warm sun rays. The seedlings respond to all of these cues and grow.

 

photo of Mesclun Mix seedlings

Mesclun seedlings thrive out in the elements and await their day to be planted in the field.

 

Sun rays warm the fields in the magic light of sundown and paint the Farm in the springtime.  The palate is full of shades that highlight the new life growing there: yellow-greens, soft yellows and light blues – tentative and seemingly shy.  I watch each day as they deepen and develop a necessary toughness to weather life in the field.

photo of beets and mustard Greens
Beets and Mustard Greens growing and toughening as their green color deepens.

 

We plan, we build, we plant and before we know it the sun is going down on another day that has been filled with important and endless decisions that will help us to create a growing, living world at The Farm.

photo fo sky in the spring
Cirrocumulus clouds fill part of the sky as sundown’s magic light warms the field.

 

The Most Beautiful Greenhouse

In under two weeks the greenhouse is up and running!

photo of chuck and Bridget standing in front of the greenhouse
Chuck and I stand in front of the completed greenhouse!

 

 

On May 2, 2011 we completed the greenhouse with help from 4 of Facilities Management’s finest: Paul, Bob, Tim and Shamus.

 

We rolled out the plastic, hoisted it over the frame and stretched it tight to create a space for all of our seedlings to grow.

 

 

Photo of Tim and the greenhouse

Greenhouse plastic rolled out beside Tim.

 

photo of plastic going up with bob

Bob helps us pull the plastic up and over the greenhouse frame.

 

bob and paul hold the plastic in place as we stretch it

Bob and Paul hold the plastic in place as we attach it to the frame.

 

photo of Shamus and plastic stretched against the frame

Shamus holds plastic in place... Almost done!

 

Photo of the greenhouse.. profile

All done and ready for use!

 

The very next day, Ken helped me move our seedlings over from across the street. They were happy to come out into the well lit, warm space after weeks under lights in the basement of Holy Cross Center.

 

photo of cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and tomato seedlings in the greenhouse

The cucumber, zucchini, summer squash, bell pepper and tomato seedlings were happy to move up into the greenhouse.

 

Come visit us anytime. We think you’ll agree that it is the most beautiful, and well-built greenhouse you have every seen!

Thank you Chuck for all of your hard work and leadership on this project.

Photo of Greenhouse under a rainbow!

Our greenhouse glows under a rainbow a few days later as it protects the seedlings from passing showers and thunderstorms.

 

 

Volunteers Complete Bed Prep for First Row

05.02.2011 · Posted in The Farm at Stonehill

A few weeks ago, Andrea Maroun sent me a message asking if she and her fellow students who are members of a Freshman Honors Leadership Seminar could volunteer at the farm.  Her group plans activities that promote learning, community building, and leadership.
On Friday, April 29th, Andrea Maroun, Julia Crane, Emily Rocha, Abby Stephenson, Gabby Gobiel, Sarah Sherman, Tara Hurley, Nick Presentato, Sandy Gomes, Kelly Falkowski, and Bryana Killion arrived read to work at 2:30 PM.
Freshman Honors Seminar Volunteers

Freshman Honors Seminar Volunteers

The weather worked well for our project  – prepping a 150′ raised bed for lettuce, other greens, and scallions. They took turns digging out the paths between beds…
volunteers at work digging

Volunteers at work

And pulled weeds out of the beds…
Volunteers Weeding

The all important task of weeding the bed.

To make way for some of our first crops.
first lettuce in the field

Romain Lettuce is transplanted into the field.

I look forward to welcoming them back again soon.  If you are interested in volunteering at the farm you can stop by and say hello most any day, or send me a message through the Volunteer Tab above.
photo of Andrea, Sandy and Julia

Andrea, Sandy and Julia hard at work!

Thank you to my first group of Stonehill student volunteers! You were very helpful and fun to have at the farm.  Come by anytime to see the “greens of your labor.”

 

 

Blessing of The Fields

photo of items used in the Blessing if the field

A Shovel, a Stole, Marigolds and Holy Water used in the Blessing if the Fields

 

The Blessing of the Fields, led by Stonehill College President and Reverend Marc Cregan, included music performed by a student choir, a reading from the Gospel of Marc, poetry by Robert Frost and Mary Oliver, and a history of the all important shovel.

The shovel, which is already an essential tool at the farm and connects us to the history of the college and the Ames Family.  Oliver Ames founded his world-famous shovel company in North Easton in 1803. A century later, his great grandson, Frederick Lothrop Ames (1876-1921), built the mansion and 600-acre estate that would become Stonehill College.

paul daponte in the church
VP of Mission and Professor of Religious Studies Paul Daponte joyfully welcomes members of the community to The Farm.

 

Prof. Daponte first conceived of the idea to start a farm at Stonehill College in response to participating in an “Into the Streets” day of service last spring in Brockton.  On that day, he was made aware of “food desert” conditions in the neighboring town of Brockton. Less than one year later, his idea to start a farm at the college has come to fruition and The Farm at Stonehill is starting to grow produce to help address these conditions.

 

photo of the group that came to the blessing

We gathered in the greenhouse for readings, prayers and the blessing.

 

We were happy to receive students, faculty, staff and members of the nearby community to the farm for the event.  I look forward to seeing all of our attendees back on the farm to enjoy the space as they help to plant, cultivate and harvest the crops.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver

Forsythia and the cross: Signs of spring and prayer for fields of plenty this season.

 

Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year. 

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

 

 

 

 

– Robert Frost

The Greenhouse Is Growing!

04.30.2011 · Posted in The Farm at Stonehill

The warmer spring weather this week allowed us to continue to make good progress on greenhouse construction.

Photo of Greenhouse on April 25

West facing end wall construction commences on Monday morning (April 25, 2011).

Chuck cut the pieces of steel and polycarbonate to the required lengths, shapes, and sizes and then we used brackets, nuts, bolts, tech screws, hammers, and the drill to put the puzzle together.
~~~
We started the week with end wall construction on the west end of the greenhouse…
Photo fo Chuck working April 25
Chuck building a strong end wall (April 25, 2011)

 

…before installing the doors on the west side of the greenhouse.

greenhouse April 26
Day’s end, Doors up (April 25, 2011).

 

It was then time to work on the east facing end wall…

Chuck works on east facing end wall 4.28
Chuck works on the East end wall (April 28, 2011).

 

…despite the stormy weather, with the help of some friends – Derek, Katie, Mariah and Steve – from Brix Bounty Farm in Dartmouth, MA.

steve and derek working in the rain

Steve and Derek installed the “hip boards”…

katie and mariah

…while Katie and Mariah helped us enjoy the wind and rain.
~~~

 

By the end of the week both beautiful end walls are in place!

greenhouse April 29
East facing end wall (April 29, 2011).
april 29 greenhouse

West facing end wall with doors (April 29, 2011).

Just a bit more work lies ahead for us to finish the greenhouse, and soon the structure will work for us, providing a warm and sunny habitat for our young plants to grow.

 

 

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.

Greenhouse Construction Commences

Photo of Chuck setting the first corner post

Day 1: Chuck Currie, our greenhouse contractor, runs a line between corner posts on the west end of the greenhouse to help set the all important first corner post.

There is nothing quite like building something from the ground up.  You plan, you order parts, you organize your materials, you read the instruction manual (if there is one), you make a plan, you assemble a team, and then the day comes when you start to build.

With indispensable help from Chuck Currie, a seasoned organic grower and experienced greenhouse installer, those parts are starting to fall – or be pounded – into place and our 18’x48′ greenhouse is starting to take shape.

 

photo of level

This simple tool, a line level, helped us set the height of each of our 26 ground posts.

 

photo of Chuck Currie and our first ground post

Day 1: Chuck stands astride our first set ground post... only 25 more to go!

 

photo of 12 posts in, end of day 1

End of Day 1: 12 posts in, 14 to go...

Chuck and I took turns swinging sledge hammers to pound the ground posts 24 inches into the ground.  By the end of Day 1, we had set 12 of the 26 posts. These ground posts, set 4 feet apart, will hold the bows that will form the skeleton of the greenhouse.  This spacing should provide the structural strength necessary for the greenhouse to hold up to the ice, snow and winds that can come with winters in New England.

 

 

We were back at The Farm bright and early the next morning to set the remaining ground posts and assemble the bows.

photo of 26 ground posts in the ground

Day 2: 26 ground posts in by mid-day.

 

photo of assembled greenhouse bows

Day 2: 13 bows assembled and ready to go up tomorrow.

 

After assembling the bows, we decided to let the wind – blowing a steady 15 to 20 mph with gusts close to 30 mph- guide our work and found other projects to fill the rest of the day.

Tomorrow we’ll be back, and the greenhouse will be one step closer to a haven for the seedlings that will grow to produce tomatoes, cucumbers, and countless other nutritious vegetables that we hope will help to alleviate some of the food desert conditions just miles away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteers from Near and Far Put Down Roots

04.18.2011 · Posted in Spring 2011, The Farm at Stonehill, Volunteer

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.

photo of Mike and Lettuce Seedlings

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.

photo of compost delivery

Our first delivery of compost from Clover Valley Stables.

 

photo of raspberry canes and 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.

photo of mike and judy working

Canadian volunteers Mike and Judy dig in - planting Bayberries and Northland Blueberries (April 17, 2011).

 

photo of bayberry bush being planted

Bayberry bush in the process of being planted.

 

photo of Mike watering

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.

 

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!

photo of Bell Pepper Seedlings

Some of our Bell Pepper Seedlings (April 8, 2011).

 

And yet, the question remains:

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

 

photo of tomato seed

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.

photo of marigold seedling

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).

 

marigolds april 13

Marigolds (April 13, 2011).

Many hands…

04.01.2011 · Posted in Spring 2011, Spring Seedlings 2011, Volunteer

March 29, 2011

Today my first volunteers joined me to help transplant Rainbow Lacinato Kale, Red Russian Kale, and Early Wonder Beets.

Morgan and Brian were natural farmers as they prepared the trays and moved the sprouts from 128 cell trays to 50 cell trays.  The next home for these seedlings will be in the less protected field across the street in just a couple of weeks.  It is hard to picture these young plants weathering the wild weather that New England has to offer – as I write this snow falls outside my window – but I have a feeling that this Kale will be just fine.

 

brian and morgan transplanting 1 3.31 close up

Volunteers Brian and Morgan share the task of transplanting nutritious Rainbow Lacinato and Red Russian Kale!

 

It’s true what they say: “Many Hands Make Light Work!”

 

brian and morgan transplanting 3.31 picture of the volunteers

Brian Switzer and Morgan Buckley transplanting Kale as part of their Learning Community course.

 

April 7, 2011

Today Ariel, Brian, Morgan and I transplanted Red and Green Wave Mustard Greens…

photo of Morgan and Ariel Transplanting Mustard Greens

Morgan and Ariel transplanting Green Wave Mustard Greens.

 

…and Green Bib Lettuce…

Photo of Transplanting Green Bib Lettuce

Transplanting Green Bib Lettuce.

 

…before joining forces with Associate Director of Grounds, Paul Ricci, to stake out the site for…

photo of Brian, Morgan and Ariel stake out Greenhouse site

Brian, Morgan and Ariel stake out Greenhouse site.

…our 18′ x 48′ Eastpoint Rimol Greenhouse that arrived today.

Photo of Greenhouse Kit in the Truck

Rimol Greenhouse Kit arrives April 7, 2011.

 

Our seedlings are happily growing under lights put up by Carpenter John and Electrician Rick from Facilities Management…

photo of Seedlings in Basement of Holy Cross

Brian transplants Mustard Greens amidst thousands of vegetable and flower seedlings.

 

…but when the time comes they will be moved out to the greenhouse located in the site just across the street!

photo of Greenhouse Site

The site for the greenhouse prepared by Dick Murray located in our field just south of The Clock Farm on Route 138.

Come join us!

Simply Click on the “Volunteer” Tab above on this blog, fill out the form, and we’ll be in touch.