vegetable farmers plant trees and keep bees

April 21, 2009

This week felt like the first full week of vegetable crop production here at the farm. 

hardening off

hardening off

Early in the week we set out a bunch of plants from the greenhouse to harden them off.  Hardening off is a nice transition stage where we set the vegetable trays outside for the day to make it easier for them to move fully out of the greenhouse and into the ground.    It’s always so exciting to see the little baby plants outside, getting their first full days of fresh air and sunlight. 

Danya and I had a full day of direct seeding on Thursday.  Direct seeding is when we put seeds directly into the ground, rather than starting them off in the greenhouse.  After the beds were prepared (plowing, tilling, fertilizing, spreading manure, tilling again, then marking the rows), we planted lettuces, spinach, mixed asian greens, carrots, beets, dill, cilantro, and peas. 

Tuck them in underneath a covering of remay, which basically is a nice blanket that protects the young seed growth from too much cold and insect infestations, hope for rain, cross my fingers, and soon enough there should be some vegetables growing in the ground. 

By the end of the week, we were able to transplant the plants that had been hardening off all week:  spinach, chard, and a variety of lettuces.  In the ground, growing as we speak. 

I also got to plant some fruit trees. 

Planting trees is one of my most favorite things. 

What a sublime feeling of investing in the future. 

Apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mulberries…

I may never be here to reap the fruit, but someone will. 

the new arrivals

the new arrivals

Apparently, a week can’t go by here at the farm without some newcomers.  First the chicks, then the ducks, then the baby goats… can you guess what’s next.



The bees are a side project of Danya’s and her dear friend Grace.  They’ve been going to bee class throughout the winter to learn how to be bee keepers.  They have the fancy netted hats and everything. 

The bees arrived Tuesday. Ten thousand of them.  All in a box.  With a queen.  Who was in her own special box inside the bigger box. 

Danya and Grace assisted the bees in finding their way into the hive box that they put together, gave them some sugar water, and let them be for the evening. 

box o' bees

box o' bees













Sure enough, by the next day, the bees were finding their way in and out of the box, buzzing around the field, pollinating dandelions… doing their bee thing. 

I can’t wait to learn more about them and witness them doing what they do, cause it really is amazing. 

We’ll end with a bee statistic:

Did you know that it takes five hundred bees, pollinating two million flowers to make one pounds of honey?  (By the way, Danya and Grace are currently taking care of 10,000 bees). 

Now you know.  

a new farm friend

a new farm friend

the beekeepers

the beekeepers



kiddin’ around

April 12, 2009


the firstborn kid

the firstborn kid

Baby goats!

I know, I know, babies were last week’s theme but it’s spring, and springtime means babies.

Lucy had triplets! 

Lucy’s due date was this past Wednesday, April 7th, and apparently goats are very timely with their birthing- 150 days from conception.  But because babies are born when babies are ready to be born, we had to take nighttime shifts to check in on her, first on Tuesday, then on Wednesday.  Lucky for us, she held out until the beautiful sunny morning of Thursday (which, by the way, was the day that Silas, Ben and Oona’s son, predicted.  He knows things). 

Ben and I were checking on her every little while during the morning because she had been showing clear signs of pregnancy- pawing at the floor (“making a nest”), getting up and lying down, licking (she’s getting ready to lick her babies dry). 

Considering she had three goat babies moving around inside of her, I’d say she was pretty calm about the whole thing. 

So, this might get a little bit gory for some of you, but it was just so amazing I have to share. 

The first baby came partially out in her sac that was still fully intact.  You could see her perfect little hooves and eyes.  After a bunch of getting up and lying dying intermixed with some contractions and some good, loud bleating, the first baby came fully out.  A sweet little girl.  We had to wipe her down right away to get her warm and dry and especially make sure that she could breath.  Then Lucy took over with her licking, an innate impulse, cleaning and warming the kid.  At the same time, she’s getting ready for the next kid to come, and sure enough, within about twelve minutes, she had a baby boy.  As the baby boy is getting dried and warmed, the first-born girl is already beginning the process of learning how to walk.  Two kids out, at least one more to come.  Lucy’s all over the place drinking water, attending to her two brand new babies, and getting ready for another.  Within about ten minutes, a third baby comes.  A sweet little girl.  Now all three are getting warm and learning how to walk and the first one is all ready to start milking from mamma, so Ben helps her find Lucy’s udder and she’s quick to learn.  Meanwhile, the little boy is having trouble getting up on his four feet.  He has really long legs and the back two keep splaying out from under him.  We’re pretty sure three is it, so we help all of them find Lucy’s udder and take turns holding all of them. 

Newborn baby goats.  In my arms.  Warm fuzzy babies with very fast, vital heart beats, long floppy ears (from their Nubian father), and beautiful fur colorings and patterns (from their Alpine mamma), in my arms.  Amazing. 

sibling love

sibling love

triplets (the goats)

triplets (the goats)








All the other farm babies are doing well. 

The ducks drink water spastically all day (and all night, accordingto Ben, who checked in on them during his night time goat watch). 

The chicks are alright.  They’re doing some kind of funny pecking order behavior that I don’t know enough about yet so I’m not going to write about it, but it’s not the happiest of situations. 

This week was also the week of getting our bikes ready and rearing to go.  We use bicycles and bike trailers on the farm to haul vegetables to the farmers market and to drop off our wholesale deliveries, so it’s fairly important that the bikes are in good condition. 


I worked with a bike mechanic friend to tune up a fleet of five bicycles.  Replacing shifters, taking off a bottom bracket, tuning up brakes, putting on new cables and housing.  Loots of nuts bolts wrenches wires ratchets grease and bearings.  Love it.  

Although it was mostly a cold, rainy week, we had a bit of a break on Thursday and Friday, which meant that we could plow a piece of one of our plots to get it ready for our first direct seeding.  We plowed about an acre, spread our mineral fertilizer (from Lancaster PA, a story for another time), and chicken manure (from Diemand farm), then tilled it. 

Radishes, arugula, tat soi, and Tokyo bekana went into the ground and got covered with remay (an insulating material which adds some warmth to the soil, seeds, and eventually, plants). 

We also seeded peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, celery and a bunch of flowers in the green house. 

Seeds in the ground, plants in the greenhouse that are almost ready to be transplanted (hopefully it starts warming up soon around here), healthy babies, healthy bicycles…

Sure sounds like springtime at the farm to me.  


mamma and babies

mamma and babies


baby time

April 4, 2009

It’s baby time here at the farm.cutie

Baby plants are taking off in the greenhouse.

Baby onions, leeks, lettuces, kale, spinach, cabbage, fennel, and chard. 

They need water (but not too much), warmth (we keep it between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit), air circulation (sometimes opening up the green house doors, sometimes turning on fans), sunshine, and encouragement.  I like to tell them that they’re beautiful. 

Baby chicks arrived last Monday. 

They were one day old when they arrived.  Wow cuteness. 

There were three Sumatras, two Lakenvelders, four Blue Andalusians, six Pearl-White Leghorns, two Black Stars, five Silver Laced Wyandottes, and four Black Australorps.  The three Sumatras died- one upon arrival and two at the end of the first day.  Very sad, but I suppose that particular breed was not as strong.  There’s no escaping the inherent cycles of life and death when you’re a farmer. 

Wednesday brought ten baby ducks, Runner Ducks, who were also only one day old. 

Now we’re really talking cuteness.  Little itty bitty fuzzy fluffy ducks with tiny little bills and tiny little webbed feet.  Wow. 

Danya and I have been finding lots of reasons to slip into the greenhouse so that we can hang out with the chicks and ducks.  And hold them.  They are amazing to hold.  Especially the ducks.  I swear, it’s something about the mini bill and webbed feet.  I started a photo series of people holding them because it’s perfectly cute.  Check it out. 


Ok.  Enough baby talk. 

Ben plowed one of the fields on Thursday afternoon! 

Not only was it our first plow of the season, but it was on a plot of land that has not been plowed for about fifty years.  Apparently the land has been primarily used as cow pasture.  It’s going to be a bit challenging to work- we’ll plow it, then till or disk it, probably more than once, then cover crop it with oats, then till it again before planting any vegetables or pasture seed.  It will be interesting to get the soil test back to see what fifty years of cow manure brought to the soil. 

This piece of land is some of the most urban agricultural land in Northampton.  I loved the symbolic aesthetic of Ben driving the John Deere tractor right down Pomeroy Terrace.  You know it’s urban farming when the view on the tractor commute is more about houses, apartment buildings, bicyclists, and traffic jams, than it is barns, cows, and silos.

On another note, pizza party.  Danya was going through some of her preserved veggies from last summer, decided to make tomato sauce, then one thing led to another and we decided a pizza party was in order.  Yea farm pizza.  A taste of last summer’s tomatoes, peppers, kale, onions, and garlic, plus good people and good beer, and voila, pizza party.  Pizza party is an important note cause a big part of farming for me is growing food in abundance to be able to come together and celebrate life with good food and good company. 

Rain rain rain for a few days then hopefully more sun so that we can plow more of the land, fertilize, and soon enough, put some seeds in the ground. 



goats and chickens. chickens and goats.

March 31, 2009

goats and chickens


Second week, mid-March.   

Goats and chickens.  Chickens and goats. 

Gradually, I’m getting to know these animals, thanks to morning chores. 

I’m finding I’m enjoying this simple routine.  For the most part, it’s an incredibly easeful way to start the day.  (Emphasis on ‘for the most part.’) 

Let out the chickens.  Slide open the goat door.  (They’re not going out right now because we’re waiting for the pasture to get more established.)  Grain and pregnancy herbs for Mavis.  Check on the chicken feed.  Grain for Flannery.  A little bit less, cause she’s not pregnant.  Change the water for goats and chickens.  Replenish the hay.  Two different kinds- first cut and second cut which is more protein rich, their summer hay.  Grain and pregnancy herbs for Lucy.  Sweep up the goat barn and load the compost into a wheel barrow.  Handful of grain for Nettle- she doesn’t need it, but it’s good practice for when she will someday milk.  It also keeps her from running up the walls the whole time you’re sweeping.  Check on the baking soda and minerals. 

The first day I did chores the goats escaped. 


When Ben was showing me the break down, we forgot to put the clip on the compost door, so they busted out.  Danya and I were working on shelves when Dylan comes in and says, the goats are running around all over.  So Danya and I run out and start herding them back into the barn.  Danya was all over it.  There’s not too much damage to be done right now because there’re not a lot of plants up.  They did demolish the fruit trees that Ben planted last year, but I guess it wasn’t the first time. 

Like I said, oops. 

One of the many realities of farming is that you often learn through making mistakes. 

Also on the radar- there are lots of seeds germinating in the greenhouse. 

All of the onions and lettuces and spinach from last week, and now some early brassicas (kale, and cabbage), a few herbs, and some fennel.  It’s always so beautiful to experience the first glimpses of new growth in the greenhouse in early spring.  Because we’ve been surrounded by the white, blacks, grays, and browns of New England winter, the first chartreuse green shoots look like they’re glowing.  Magic in the making. 

This next week has a lot in store.  Just to give a foreshadowing glimpse to keep you reading, let’s just say, baby chicks, baby ducks and potentially plowing.  What could be better?




spring brings shelves and white house garden

March 26, 2009

imperfectly custom built shelves

Spring is here.  

Friday, March 20th to be exact.  

Equal light and dark.  

It’s still freezing cold out though.  

I’m waiting for the red maples to explode.  

They seem to be taking their time.  

Anyhow, week one at the farm and we’ve planted onions, lettuces, parsley, chard, and spinach.  All in flats in the greenhouse.  To get ready to be transplanted into the ground for when it’s not frozen.  Thaw ground, thaw.  

My lovely co-worker Danya and I have had the grand pleasure of learning how to build shelves.  Shelves for the greenhouse, shelves for the pantry, shelves for my room to be in the barn house, shelves for the farm storage room, etc etc.  

Building shelves = taking measurements, cutting wood on the chop saw, fitting the pieces together using a square and a screw gun, re-measuring the diagonal once the frame is built, and filling in the shelves.  So simple, and yet somehow a bit frustrating.  I think it’s because wood is organic and fairly non-linear and our mind-centered designs and measurements are very straight and square.  Anyhow, the idea of custom built shelving is way less daunting now.  Are you in need of some imperfect custom built shelves?  Give me a call.  

By the way, on the first day of Spring, Michelle Obama broke ground for a new food garden at the White House.  A-Mazing. 

Earlier this winter, when there was a lot of buzz that a White House farm might happen, Danya and I got really excited about applying for the farmer position.  We even began to write an application. 

Well, winter happened, and we didn’t apply, and she and I are farming in Northampton and not in Washington D.C., but the food growing is happening regardless at the White House and I love it. 

Check out the New York Times article at:

An 1100 square foot garden with 55 varieties of vegetables, grown organically. 

The Obama family, weeding their vegetable garden. 



March 24, 2009


the last of winter reserves

the last of winter reserves

Hip hip hooray for the 2009 growing season.  


My name is Laura and I love to grow things, particularly vegetables.  I don’t have a favorite vegetable that I like to grow because really, I like the thrilling experience of growing a wide range of edible leaves, roots, flowers, stems, seeds, and fruits.  Yes, I said thrilling. 

I also really love to eat vegetables.  I suppose that’s part of why I love to grow vegetables.  I also don’t have a favorite vegetable that I like to eat, because part of my enjoyment comes from the mix of sweet, sour, crunchy, bitter, crisp, chewy, tart, I could go on but won’t, that make up the experience of eating lots of different kinds of vegetables. 

I have been growing vegetables for a number of years, now.  About four years in a more serious manner since vegetable growing is serious, serious business), and by serious I guess I really mean allowing my life to be consumed by growing vegetables for a whole season. 

During this time, I grew vegetables at an eco-village in a meadow, a community garden in a medium-sized town, a homestead in the woods on top of a hill, a very large 80-acre CSA (community supported agriculture) farm in a valley, and now, an urban CSA/market farm in a small city.  As you can see, I also don’t have a favorite place to grow vegetables.  Cause really, I support the practice of growing food everywhere (watch out for random acts of guerilla gardening that may include a tomato plant in your front yard). 

This year’s growing season is going to rock.  I am working at a new farm in Northampton, Massachusetts, called Town Farm.  It was started by a young couple (Ben and Oona) who are into “ecologically-grown vegetables and meat from a farm dedicated to building community and producing food as locally as possible.”  The farm is a CSA for about 75 members, a farmer’s market farm (a Tuesday market, which the couple started), and an urban homestead. 

I’m super excited about working at this farm.  It’s such an amazing combination of vegetables (have you noticed the theme yet?), bicycles, goats, converted barns, nail guns, Danya, highway 91, perennial visions, five-minute walks to the best coffee shop in town, happy people, organic land reclamation, cute little boys who love animals, old-timer neighbors, and and and, once again, I could go on, and actually, this time I will because that is the point of this blog, to go on and on about my experience working at this farm in hopes that it might be of some interest to you and all of your cool friends…


Read on as the weeks unfold in all their glory.  

Sit on the edge of your seat with anticipation as we wait with fingers crossed for the first seedlings to sprout. 

Take a deep breath when it rains, rains again, rains some more, then pours.  

Gaze in awe at the splendor of the first ripe heirloom tomato…

Most importantly, eat vegetables.  Lots of them.