Dear friends and customers of Many Hands Organic Farm,
Thursday dawned hot with promise of more hot, and as usual, we had more than enough work to keep us busy on an August day. Prominent on my mind was capturing the 12 pigs in their house so that we could then pull the house with the tractor to the new location for them to do their free range work on the forest edge, keeping them healthy, while addressing the creeping underbrush. But try as Anthony and I had, to prepare for this capture of the pigs in their house, they were having none of it. The serving up of food had moved to the house earlier in the week to get them in the habit of going in, long enough for us to close the door on them. But alas, though we could get 6 or eight in the house, never all twelve. Conscious of the pigs’ Achilles heel of needing constant shade and/or water not to expire in the heat (no sweat glands), we filled dishes and muddied up the interior of the house to make it that much more appealing. Meanwhile Clare and Maya mowed and prepared the new area while Maria and I weeded eggplant, and Anthony cut some hay. But no dice. I had to leave with Jack to take him to a pre-op meeting for a hip replacement (turns out he has been attempting to walk with a broken hip these 7 weeks! – think of him next Thursday, please) and made plans to meet Dan and the boys back here at 4:30 to attempt the pig move. By 5 we were in the pig yard, and by 5 they were hungry enough to go in for the proffered feed (remember Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web). Doodle and Raphi and I quickly took up the electric fence while Dan hooked up the tractor to the house and down the hill we went with Raphi stalwartly poking at the pigs with me in the back of the house while Skippy and Franny barked so that no one got hurt in the move. Why paradise? Son Chuk was at the barn preparing the job of making a new pig house as we worked. There were apples falling off of trees in the orchard, and Raphi and I were sampling the drops. After setting up the water and feed for the hogs, Doodle got to drive the tractor back to the barn. Suddenly I was back 40 years to when our kids were small on the farm, and the thought of apples and pears and peaches all around, with a tractor no less, and pigs, were still just a dream. But it goes on. We went into the house and warmed up a big ratatouille and fried up some leeks and shiitakes, and then served up yogurt with peaches and blackberries, while Jack and Doodle played chess on the side. Discussing it later, Jack and I realized that the dream happened and it is still happening each day. Sometimes when we are hot and sweaty and the weeds are unrelenting, or the potato bugs, or the coyotes come to take a bird, or the books don’t quite come out in the black, or health issues overwhelm, we can be blinded by the little things that temporarily block our front row seat in paradise. But on Thursday I realized once again, that every day is a little slice of paradise, there for us to thoroughly drink in.
Circle of Song
I can’t believe I didn’t get a single bite last week. This is a fun group folks. Be sure to consider joining us. Circle of Song, our community chorus, restarting September 16 here at MHOF
Since 2001, Circle of Song has been in existence and singing 4-part harmony. We usually have between 12-18 members and we sing music from all over the world and from many genres. Some would say what we do is challenging, but all of us like to stretch a bit, but not too much. We are comprised of musicians of differing abilities, but are all folks who love singing and love singing with others. We read the music and teach those who feel less secure how to be better readers. You can check out some of our past concerts at https://circleofsong.net/.
After taking off 1 ½ years for Covid, we are restarting on Thursday, September 16 and are looking for new and returning members. We meet at the home of Jack Kittredge and Julie Rawson at 411 Sheldon Road, in Barre, on Thursday evenings. We will gather for a potluck on the 16th at 6:30. Our singing hours will fall somewhere between 6:30 to 8 or 7-8:30 depending on the wishes of the members. We have a sliding scale membership rate which is very modest.
We often perform with instrumental groups and are investigating working again this Christmas season with Peter Lewis and the HS band at Quabbin Regional High School.
We are looking for sopranos, altos, tenors and baritone/basses and would love to welcome you. Our directors are Julie Rawson and Nancy Afonso, local musician local to the Quabbin region.
For more info contact Julie at Julie@mhof.net or 978-355-2853.
With Maya going back to school and many of our volunteers dropping off (Bryan to go to college, Anna back to high school, Juan off to Canada to straighten out his immigration) we are hurting for workers right now, just as the picking volume gets super heavy and planting, weeding mulching, and animal chores stay heavy. You can spend one glorious morning per week – 8-12 with lunch, getting lots of good exercise, an amazing bag of food, and make new and lasting friends. Apply here – we are desperate! Julie@mhof.net, 978-257-1192
Poultry Management with Chicken Tractors – Many Hands Sustainability Center Workshop
Interested in raising healthy chickens? Why not consider pasturing them by building a range house that can be moved to fresh grass every day and let them gorge on the soil critters they love to eat. We will talk about how to use such a house, and present designs for several styles – ones which can be moved by one person and ones which accommodate more birds but requires two people to move. Egg collection, feeding and watering, and security from roaming dogs and wildlife will be discussed. The second half of the workshop will be a hands-on experience helping build such a house. The workshop will be on a Saturday, September 18th from 10 – 12 at the farm. We will be both outside and inside, rain or shine. Stick around for a potluck lunch if you like right at the end of the workshop. Register at the link here.
We will not run the CSA on labor day, but the next day, Tuesday, September 7. Please be advised that Monday folks will pick up on Tuesday that week.
Week thirteen best guess at what you will get
- Lettuce in somewhat short supply this week
- Summer squash and zucchini – use your squash in all of your dishes, whether soups, stews, straight up, in an egg dish, cooked and pureed, stuffed. These gems are so nutritious and as my father would say, “besides that they are good for you!” They are coming in plentifully right now.
- Carrots or beets, then a lapse for awhile, enjoy
- Cabbage, broccoli and/or peppers
- Thai basil
- Peaches – Wednesday and Friday got them last week, and they will be coming strong for awhile now. We pick them slightly underripe so they don’t bruise for you. Wait a half day or a day and then enjoy. We are really happy with the quality this year for this very fragile fruit.
Don’t forget to buy some flowers on your way out of the barn on CSA day
CSA still open.
We are still taking shareholders. Check the website for the weekly downwardly changing prices. https://mhof.net/csa-order-form/. If you have been dawdling, now is the time to cash in on some of the best eating. It is an eater’s paradise out there right now.
Community Fridge shares –
We are holding strong at 9 shares for the Community Fridges that we deliver each Friday to Worcester. We are still taking donations if you are interested. You can donate here: https://mhof.net/community-fridge-farmshare/
Meat Chickens ready for purchase on August 29 fresh
You will not find a tastier and no doubt more nutritious certified organic range raised Freedom Ranger chickens. They are only available once per year, so don’t tarry in ordering. Hens weigh in around 5 lbs. and cockerels around 7. They come dressed whole in a plastic bag with giblets and the neck (separated). Once we have roasted the bird we then make delicious chicken soup and often have enough chicken left for chicken salad also. These birds are top of the line. https://mhof.net/organic-meat/
Email from a new CSA member
First and foremost–a huge thank you for an amazing CSA share!! It’s like Christmas once a week!! 🙂
I have wanted to plant some fruit trees for many years and wondered if you may be able to suggest a class I might take, a book to learn about fruit trees or anything I can do to make them as healthy as they can be/how to grow them propertly?
I would greatly appreciate your thoughts–whenever you have a moment–I know how busy you are!!!!
So good to hear that the CSA is working for you. It makes us happy to feed folks!
We did a fruit tree workshop this past late winter. The link is here – https://mhof.net/events-workshops/
Fruit trees are very heavy feeders, especially if you can get them to the stage where they blossom, are pollinated, and set fruit. So strong fertility is a must. We wasted a lot of years, especially with our apple trees, not getting any fruit, but now have a very strong fertility program starting with soil tests to determine any dry fertility needs, heavy mulching and cover crops beneath the trees, and a weekly program of nutritional sprays throughout the season. Watch the video and give me a call or come out and volunteer one day and we can talk while we work. No farming is a slam dunk, and raising productive fruit trees is one of the hardest adventures in this realm.
New Video: Drying Peaches | Food Preservation on the Farm
Pigs and their housing took center stage this week. The new house is done that Chuk and Rocky knocked off in 2 days – truly a pig palace. And after several days of preparing, we were able to get the pigs into their new digs (and yes, they can dig with those amazing noses. They are located right next to the orchard and are accepting inedible drops and all the applesauce leavings, that are going to start consuming our beginnings and endings of days in preparation. Indeed food preservation has moved into full swing. We are drying peaches, and calendula for later calendula oil, and a new flush of shiitake mushrooms that came in. With the heat as bad as it was for the past four days, prepping food for preservation seemed like a good idea after lunch instead of going back out in the hot sun.
Cathleen and Anthony made huge progress on their first new chicken house and you can admire it in the front yard when you come and pick up, if you are local. And for those who would like to attend our chicken workshop on September 18, find the information above or at the link here: https://mhof.net/events-workshops/
Out in the fields we had a hugely productive day on Tuesday planting another bed of rutabaga, one of hakurei turnips, three of purple top turnips, more cilantro, and radishes. Last week’s beets, beans, arugula and rutabaga sprung up.
Across the street in the west field we weeded 2 beds of beets and weeded and mulched two beds of eggplant. The later looks a little punk from its long term cohabitation with weeds, but we will see if we can pull off a crop.
The tomato hornworms came in in force this week and our crew found and slaughtered 150 of them. Notable were Nikki in her finding of them and Deb in her great enjoyment in killing them!
Anthony and John mowed around all of our orchard trees to prepare for the harvest, Ari and Clare took on the harvesting of peaches and apple drops and the Stetson kids helped pick up the old peach thinnings and small apple drops for the pigs. With 100 trees this now thrice weekly collection of fruit is a huge time sink. The peaches are bursting with fruit and we did lose a couple of branches where trees couldn’t handle the weight. Hopefully next week’s abundant harvest will help these poor trees manage their loads.
The heat was oppressive, but I am not complaining as I hear of the huge challenges that much of the world is suffering right now with weather anomalies.
Come volunteer on the farm – we need you!