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.
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.
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.
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
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,
And make us happy in the darting bird
For this is love and nothing else is love,
– Robert Frost
The warmer spring weather this week allowed us to continue to make good progress on greenhouse construction.
…before installing the doors on the west side of the greenhouse.
It was then time to work on the east facing end wall…
…despite the stormy weather, with the help of some friends – Derek, Katie, Mariah and Steve – from Brix Bounty Farm in Dartmouth, MA.
By the end of the week both beautiful end walls are in place!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spring is in the air and with it the projects are many and full of new life at The Farm.
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.
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.
Until the greenhouse is up, we continue to plant seeds and nurture seedlings across the street in the basement of the Holy Cross Center.
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.
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.
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 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:
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!
And yet, the question remains:
How much of each of these elements do different plants need to thrive?
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.
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.
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.
It’s true what they say: “Many Hands Make Light Work!”
April 7, 2011
Today Ariel, Brian, Morgan and I transplanted Red and Green Wave Mustard Greens…
…and Green Bib Lettuce…
…before joining forces with Associate Director of Grounds, Paul Ricci, to stake out the site for…
…our 18′ x 48′ Eastpoint Rimol Greenhouse that arrived today.
Our seedlings are happily growing under lights put up by Carpenter John and Electrician Rick from Facilities Management…
…but when the time comes they will be moved out to the greenhouse located in the site just across the street!
Come join us!
Simply Click on the “Volunteer” Tab above on this blog, fill out the form, and we’ll be in touch.
Watch green cabbage grow with me!
I planted some of our first seeds on St. Patrick’s Day, 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!
… And then the sprouts were transplanted
To be continued…
After a long and very snowy winter the earth below emerged and everywhere brown fields started to turn green!
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.
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.
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!