In Memoriam – Franny

For the past 18 months or so it has been clear to us and to Franny that her days were numbered. As Dingo is a rescue dog and does not demonstrate a lot of leadership capabilities, we felt we needed to find another dog who could take over the reins for Franny. Luckily, we were able to find Skippy, a Border Collie, German Shepherd, Blue Heeler, Australian Shepherd cross and to bring her home from her mother at age 8 weeks. Over the past year and change Franny, happy with our choice of her future replacement, has been training up Skippy to take charge. This of course included a little bit of ass beating, but also a lot of grooming and leading by example. As a matter of fact, on Friday 2 hours before she dropped dead, Franny took a vole from Skippy who had just killed it in the field. We were working in the pond field garden right next to the apple orchard on Friday, and Laurie heard Franny make a strange yip and then drop dead. As I consider how I would like to die, I think that dying on a May 20 some year in the future in the orchard surrounded by my farming friends, might be a good way to go.

Franny immediately after death

We will miss the fact that Franny, until the end, was with us at our sides on the farm, often carrying around her prize dead chicken that had died that day, but always leading us to the next stop in our day. Often she was just quietly nearby, and we would only realize that she had been with us when we transitioned to the new location. She would be right there to take us to our next stop. Franny spent hours pulling ticks from Dingo and Skippy, always greeted any person who showed up in the driveway, and made so very many people happy with her upbeat and gentle personality. She would hit up UPS drivers for cookies, always with a wag of the tail. She was a glutton and missed no opportunity to ferret out a treat from anyone who would offer.

Skippy and Dingo came to her funeral. After the funeral we went back to planting and Skippy, now in charge, waited until we were done with our work, and when I left the field, she got up and went with me. Franny’s work was complete, and I think that is why she decided it was just the right time to pass the baton.

Dingo and Skippy contemplating life after Franny

Bishop’s Weed as our Teacher

We spent a lot of time in the rhubarb patch this past week, trying for the umpteenth time to eradicate the bishop’s weed. Gary, who was here straight from Northern Ireland on Tuesday, said that its other name is Ground Elder. I finally this morning took the opportunity to look it up and see if perhaps we should start eating it rather than swearing at it. Sure enough, I found this online:

Nutritional profile of ground elder

The young leaves contain high amounts of vitamin C and are best picked in spring for use in salads and soups.

Herbal medicine uses of ground elder

The plant was once used as medicine for various ailments, but its primary purpose was as a cure for gout and to relieve pain and swelling. For this reason, the plant was also known as goutwort.

Modern herbals still recommend ground elder as a treatment for gout, sciatica, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, inflammation, and water retention.”

Gary with a large mass of bishop’s weed roots

Looks like I am going to have to change my perspective. Now, if I could only find a good use for bindweed!

Observations in the Blue House

We had some opportunities to work in the hoop houses this week with some rainy weather. Back in February or March we tried a new experiment of preparing two beds in the blue house and planting them to oats and peas. When it was time to plant the chard and kale in their place, we merely chopped them down mildly, put in our transplants and mulched with leaves. Thursday Clare and Scott were struggling to weed with hard soil on the side of the house that we directly seeded to beets while Sam and I found rich and soft soil on our side. No slugs either. Chalk up another one for cover crops.

Slugs in the Orange House

We found healthy kale in the orange house this week – this house we had prepped and planted directly to kale, followed by leaf mulch. But the slugs and snails definitely were moving in. After weeding, Clare carefully spread wood ash around the base of each plant. We will also spray them with our “slug food” recipe from AEA on Monday and see if we can encourage them to take their business elsewhere. We have used this recipe to good effect in the past.

Slug Recipe

  • 1 quart SeaCrop
  • 1 pint Rebound Copper
  • 1 cup Rebound Boron
  • 1 pint Rebound Iron
  • 1 pint HoloPhos
  • Mix this with 2 gallons of water as your basic recipe

When applying with a sprayer, we put in 1 quart of this mix into the sprayer tank and then and fill the sprayer tank (about 4 gallons) with water. Spray on the vegetables in question when they are in shade, early or late in the day. Use this when you see slugs, up to once per week as needed.


Those 5 kittens are going up for sale on Monday, May 30 at 12:01 am. Place your order via email to Please, no choosing in advance. That happens at pick up.

They have spent the past 5 weeks in their upper rooms with their cousins, mom and grandmother, and are now starting to learn the ropes of racing back and forth across the floor, engaging in arm-to-arm combat, and sleeping in large heaps when they tire out. The kittens cost $50 each. They are not shot, neutered or otherwise administered anything except mom’s milk and the beginnings of eating organic cat food, liver, eggs, and pork stock with a little infusion of cod liver oil. The pickup day is Saturday, June 18th, from 1-3 pm. They are available on a first come, first served basis, and I ask that once I have confirmed your order, you send a check for $25 to me here: Julie Rawson, 411 Sheldon Road, Barre, MA 01005.

‘Double’ Your Fridge Donation

This year, as in 2021, we will be providing shares to community refrigerators on the streets throughout Worcester. The produce is free for anyone who wants it from refrigerators available 24 hours a day. Last year generous donors helped us by paying for ten such shares.

This year we have a commitment from Worcester Community Fridges to pay for seven such shares ($515 per share through the fall) and we would like to raise enough in donations from our members to double that. Whatever you can give will be welcome and put toward shares. Please make any check payable to MHSC (it can be tax deductible for you this way) and note it is for “Community Fridges”.

Or donate directly here through PayPal.

Thanks to Paula and Danny, Kristin, and Alleah, who together donated $288 this past week.

Donate to Many Hands Sustainability Center here

Personal Health Tips

Simple Edible Spring Flower Recipes

Apple Blossom Ice Cubes

Yep, it’s as simple as it sounds, but the effect of suspended floral decor in liquid is magical. While apple blossoms don’t add much flavor to your beverage, they are perfect for adding a special touch to outdoor meals.

Pick blooms mid-morning on a sunny day to ensure that flowers are fully open. Apple blossoms are notoriously fragile though, so remove from the branch from behind with care. Dunk them in cool water to remove loose pollen, dust or insects. Fill an ice cube tray with water and place the rinsed flower on top. The flower will likely remain flat, face up on top of the water, but try to submerge as much of it as possible. Freeze and use in your favorite drink.

Tip: try infusing water with strawberries or blueberries for tinted (and lightly flavored) ice.

Lilac Infused Honey

Another simple delicacy that preserves the joy of spring for months to come. Lilacs have strong floral notes that are familiar pillars of spring to most Massachusetts residents.

Trim lilac head close to the stem. Some people like to remove the individual flowers from the stem before adding them to the honey, as the stem can add a bitter flavor. But if you want to keep it quick and easy, it’s fine to leave the entire floral head intact. Give the head a good shake to loosen any dead flowers, pollen or insects. (You could also rinse the flowers and then dry them before infusing them, but I find that this causes the flowers to wilt and lose surface area.) Add the lilacs to a clean jar and cover with raw honey. Place the lid on the jar and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least one week. Strain honey through a fine mesh strainer to remove flowers. Store strained honey at room temperature for several months.

Tip: use floral infused honey as a sweetener for lemonade or tea to complement bright flavors.

Strawberry Blossom Maple Lollipops

Similar to floral ice cubes, lollipops add a whimsical spring vibe to get togethers and are a favorite for birthday parties and showers.

Pick strawberry blossoms and remove as much of the stem as possible. Rinse in cool water and lay flat on a sheet of parchment paper, leaving at least a couple of inches between each blossom. Heat maple syrup in a sauce pot to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. (Be sure to use a pot with tall sides, as the boiling syrup will foam up and take up more space than you’d expect.) Once syrup reaches desired temperature, or the hard ball stage, remove from heat and carefully pour about a tablespoon of bot syrup on top of each bloom. Lay the end of a candy stick or popsicle stick to the center of each dollop. Add another tablespoon of syrup over the end of the stick. Allow to cool completely and peel the paper from the lollipop. Wrap individually, or enjoy right away.

Tip: try using real wood twigs from apple trees as popsicle sticks for a purely natural presentation.

Agricultural Education from MHOF

This week’s video collage is about preparing and planting lettuce, kohlrabi and collards.

Watch video on Facebook
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Opportunities from MHOF

It is not too late to join the CSA

CSA starts next week – week of May 30th

But hold on, as May 30 is a holiday, the Monday folks will receive their shares on Tuesday, May 31 (and this is the case for July 4-5 and September 5-6). CSA members will be getting a number of important emails by, and through, next week end. But if you are new and have questions, please read up on pick up locations, protocols, etc., on the website in the CSA section. And then, if you still have questions, be sure to reach out.

If you are planning to join, please do it sooner rather than later. We start the arduous process of making up tags and bags at the end of this week, and we would love to have you in the system before we start this process.

Join the CSA here.

We will have kale and chard

and lettuce

along with oregano and green onions

Working Shareholders Always Welcome

43 times this past week people arrived at work at the farm. That was a total of 19 for me, Clare, Jonathan, and Sam, but there were still another 24. Thanks for the incredible outpouring of volunteer labor. We love it.

Monday crew harvesting chives before they go to seed

14 folks arrived here on Wednesday to work – here we are weeding peas

Volunteer at MHOF

Needing a Place to Live

“Hello, my name is Sam. I am currently looking for a place to live in the Central Mass area. I just graduated college and have a full-time job so I am willing to pay rent up to $1000/month and can help out with any work/chores you need doing. I would also have to bring my dog with me. Please let me know if you have any opportunities like this. Text/call – 603-490-6670 or email – Thank you!”

Paula took this one of Sam and many of our striking photos this week

Free Stuff This Week

We have free seedlings again this week.

We only have free leeks this week, but hope to plant any that are extra by week’s end. Let me know if you would like some, and come over M-F before 3 to collect them.

Farm Doin’s

It was a remarkable week with respect to volunteers. Gary was here overnight Monday and worked all day Tuesday. He came to us via the Nuffield Foundation. He is a dairy farmer from Northern Ireland and in the states for one month visiting a large number of farms. Julia, a Barre resident who is originally from England, came by twice to volunteer. Annette, a homeschool mother, also originally from England, brought her kids for a morning, and then we had the usual cast and crew.

Gary, Jonathan and Clare weeding onions on an early Tuesday morning

During Monday we mulched the blueberries, tarped most of the old black raspberry patch that was taken over by Bishop’s weed, made progress on potato planting (finished on Wednesday), weeded and cut all of the chives (they have a pesky timeline that would have them all going to seed by CSA beginning. With this treatment we will have great fresh chives again by early to mid-June.

Debbie, Leslie, Annette and Julia weeding peas

For our work on Tuesday, we weeded 8 beds of onions and 3 beds of lettuce. On Wednesday we mulched all those onions. We also removed the last two tarps from the pond field garden and moved them over to the far portion of the west field. Those tarps were on for 2 full months from March 15 – May 15. Underneath the soil was rich with worm castings, weed free and almost ready to plant with just a small amount of raking needed.

Jonathan working on prepping for siding while Stu…what is he doing anyway?

On Thursday we prepped and planted 8 beds of carrots and beets and followed those by 9 beds of 5 lettuce, 2 kohlrabi and 2 collards on Friday. Afternoons were spent weeding the rhubarb and elderberries, which we almost finished. Jonathan and company worked a couple of mornings and a couple of afternoons preparing for siding the garage.

Scott and Clare prepping comfrey for drying

We also did a lot of mowing, harvested and dried two large batches of comfrey for salve and tea, and took time out for Franny’s burial on Friday.

Luscious lettuce plants awaiting transplanting

All of the seedlings we started in the previous week ended up in the yellow house for their second stage of life. The front of the hoop house and inside are bursting with seedlings to get into the ground.

his shot shows our hard work in the rhubarb in the foreground and the well-organized pond field garden in the upper right, with garlic doing well in the left of the picture.

As spring seems to jump into summer, we are racing with it!


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