The landscape is an arena for the interaction of natural and social forces

“The landscape is an arena for the interaction of natural and social forces.

It is not fully under the control of its authors. We will have to create the world’s largest gardens. All are collaborations with natural forces. Rarely do their authors claim to be restoring or rebuilding anything from the past. And they are never in full control of the results. Instead using the best tools they have, and all the knowledge they can gather, they work to create future environments. If there is a lesson, it is to think like the original inhabitants of these lands. We should not set our sights on rebuilding an environment from the past, but concentrate on shaping a world to live in for the future.”

-Excerpt from 1491 by Charles C Mann

I finished this book this past week, and wanted to quote from it again. I think that Mann posits what I believe to be true, that we cannot just sit back and let nature take its course, but understanding that nature is the final arbiter, using our limited understanding, we must humbly make the necessary agricultural changes and adjustments to our natural world as it exists around us, doing so in a fashion that will support longevity of the system while nourishing the humans and others who live in it. The example of terra preta in the Amazon that he refers to is just one example of many where human ingenuity over the millennia has provided human beings with a sustainable livelihood that in this case lasted for several hundred years. As a farmer I walked away from this book with a head full of insights for how I can better understand how to interface with nature in a proactive and also non-destructive fashion, to raise more food better!

Big 40th Anniversary Party at MHOF
July 3, 2022

Dear friends, family, colleagues present and former, community members, and customers,

Once each decade we have a big party here at Many Hands Organic Farm to celebrate our time here. The clock will tick 40 years on July 3 and we would like to share this day with you. Whether you grew up with one of us, met us in college, worked with us as an organizer/community activist, collaborated with us in the Northeast Organic Farming Association, ate with us in the Barre Food Coop, sold with us at the Barre Farmers Market, did theater with us at Quabbin Regional High School or Barre Players, or play or sing with us in the Quabbin Community Band or Circle of Song, or know us through the farm, either as a volunteer or paid staff member or a customer, we thank you for enriching our lives and would like to reminisce with you on July 3 – 2 pm – 7:30 pm when the bonfire starts. Campers are welcome, but let us know in advance if you would like to do so. We will make a big breakfast on the 4th to sweeten your departure.

Our parties are always pot luck, and of course if you bring something organic, homemade and whole, we particularly appreciate those offerings. We will provide lemonade and encourage you to bring alcoholic refreshment should you so choose.

Somewhere during the day, we would like to hear from past and present farm staff and volunteers about where life has taken you since you left us.

We would love to see you and catch up.

Jack Kittredge and Julie Rawson

PS – okay, it was 1982, not 1962. Thanks for the careful editing of the newsletter that catches my errors!

Still accepting donations to support Worcester Community Fridges

You have outdone yourselves again. Over this past week we have raised our total donations to $2100. Thanks this week go to Becky, Victoria, Jim, Amanda, Brenda, Joe, and Mary. That brings our total small shares that we can donate (along with the original investment by businesses in Worcester) to 13. Our final possible number for summer shares is 14, and then we can still fundraise for 7 fall shares. We can still accept $1505 to fully fund this match with the community fridge folks. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

To donate 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.

I got to meet Julia and Gloria, who picked up the shares on Friday. It was great to put real faces to this program.

Personal Health Tips

Sheila’s Gum Support Recipe

I am working with Sheila Guarnagia each month via Zoom. Here is a great recipe that she gave me that helped me with a long-term chronic gum problem I have had in my lower jaw.

  • Mix 1 T each of sea salt, baking soda, xylitol and 1 capsule of goldenseal with a pint of warm water. Swish with this as many times per day as seems necessary (I am down to just once per day now).

No more gum problems for me!

Kerri’s Bug Juice

Kerri Mahan is a rep for Young Living. She shared with me a marvelous bug repellent – titled “Insect Repellent” and including oils of:

  • Sesame
  • Citronella
  • Lemongrass
  • Rosemary
  • Geranium
  • Spearmint
  • Thyme
  • Clove
  • Vitamin E

We put it on Dingo and Skippy to keep ticks down and on ourselves for the early morning mosquitoes. It is working well! You can contact Kerri thus to get some for yourself – 413-427-7349.

More from MHOF

Cat Tale

Probably it has to do with the death of Franny and the shifting of authority in our cat and dog families. Franny, lead dog, and Eloise, lead cat, had it worked out and were good friends. Eloise, however, led a reign of terror with respect to the other dogs. Skippy has some German shepherd in her, and in my life of observing dogs, I have learned that the shepherds can be cat killers. With Franny’s influence no longer here, and Skippy jumping into top dog status, the cats were all of a sudden in danger. I didn’t realize this until I moved the baby kittens outside to get used to the big world. Tuesday Jonathan found a little kitten with a maimed back end and brought her in. The next day Jonathan found a dead kitten. After reprimanding Skippy, we moved the kittens back into the house, along with the maimed kitten – not knowing exactly what to do as she was quite functional in her upper body. After discussing this with Leslie, I decided to put the kitten out of her misery and headed upstairs to find her after work on Wednesday. I could not find her anywhere. Understanding that this situation was unfolding on top of a regular 16-hour day, I just let the situation ride. Friday afternoon she appeared on the stairs. After discussing the situation with Jack and Christy, and giving the kitten and her mom (Sadie) one last moment together for nursing and cleaning, I brought her downstairs and drowned her in a warm pail of water and then took her out for a burial in the south field.

Those who know me, know me to be tough when it comes to putting sick or damaged animals out of their misery. But somehow this little black and white kitten really touched my heart. As Jack so eloquently put it, “She had a way of looking into your eyes in wonderment about what had happened to her.” He noted, “that she used to be able to run around and fight and climb and display all of the most enjoyable kitten behaviors, and then all of a sudden she couldn’t do that anymore.” Life is precious and our connection to other beings is also a very precious thing. Sometimes the travails of a small kitten can really help to open one’s heart to the tenuousness of life and remind us to experience it as fully as possible with each day that remains for us. And we will also start a cat and dog training program here to bring these two important species together as collaborators rather than adversaries. Wish us luck and thanks for sharing this story with us.

Agricultural Education from MHOF

Lettuce video and introducing Alex

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Flipping beds

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Cleaning up Brussels sprouts beds

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Tarping timing

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Agricultural Education from Others

NOFA Podcast

Assessing Soil Health at Assawaga Farm
I liked Yoko’s soil health podcast from a new farmer perspective

Graeme Sait

Recipe Ideas This Week

Some folks like chard better than any other vegetables, but others are a bit flummoxed.

Let’s start with our YouTube video on freezing it.

I use it in our scrambled eggs each day, use it in stir fries (always just add it in the last 2 minutes so the color stays bright.) I also like it steamed alone and then served with butter or coconut oil and salt. It is also really nice in soups like chicken soup – right at the end before you serve it. The stalks can seem a bit difficult to work with, as is the case with kale too. The way we address that is to cut the stalks that much smaller so they cook quickly and aren’t challenging to chew. All parts of the plant are very nutritious, so I like to use it all.

New to freezing? Try freezing a bunch of chard and putting it aside for one of those 26 weeks when you aren’t getting fresh vegetables from us.

Don’t have a freezer? Get one, and get more control over your food supply. It is a quite worthy investment.

CSA Updates This Week

Hopefully all of you have read both this newsletter (where all of the crops that your will receive in the upcoming week are noted and photographed), and the all important and long letter that we sent out to you last Sunday.

Please, please, please make sure as a CSA member to read at least this section of the newsletter each week because it will answer your questions and also keep my inbox less full.

Coming up this week

  • Lettuce – it is looking great right now and there is a bunch of it (it won’t always be this way). So, make lots of salads

  • Green onions – good for at least then next 6 weeks – you can use them raw or cooked or sauteed. And don’t throw away those greens because they are so good for you and also taste great.

  • Swiss chard – we like to give this every week. See below for some recipe ideas

  • Spinach – this is here only for a short time. You know how to use it

  • Spearmint – I like this in salad, in iced lemonade/tea, and to flavor desserts

  • Lemon balm – also a great herb for tea. If you can’t use it all this week, dry it for later. We will do a special on preserving herbs at a later date

  • Rhubarb – my favorite way to prepare this is to chop it fine, add some honey and cook it down (no water) in about 5 minutes (when it turns to mush). Cool and eat. Fantastic

  • Chinese cabbage – I don’t prefer this raw, but rather like it sauteed with a few other veg – maybe just onions – and some tamari.

  • Chives – great in salads, be they lettuce salads, or potato salads, or hummus, also in cooked soups or stews as a last-minute addition

  • Lambs’ quarters – these are weeds, and thus are hard to harvest quickly – so we are giving these to large shares only. These are one of the most nutritious greens available and they are in their prime. They can be steamed and then served with butter and salt – mouth-watering.

  • Kale – larges only

Left to right: Green Onions, Spearmint, Chives.

Left to right: Lemon Balm, Lettuce, Spinach.

Left to right: Lambs Quarters (the bluer ones), Chinese Cabbage, Rhubarb on the hoof – you will get the stalk beneath these beautiful leaves.

It is not too late to join the CSA

Just check the website to see how much to pay this week and get your order to me early enough so that I have time to get your bags made, your details in the computer, etc.

Join the CSA here.

Emails from Shareholders

I received a lot of really positive emails this week. Thank you. Here is a particularly special one:

“And just FYI, I used a head of lettuce last night for a salad. I hadn’t mentioned that it was farm lettuce, but my husband commented “this is the best salad I’ve ever had” then I let him know it was from your farm! We are really looking forward to the season to come and the delicious and nutritious treasures! Thank you for all of your hard work and everyone that is involved in the process of getting the veggies to our table.


Melissa and family”

Spotty Correspondence

I am just too busy right now to do everything well. I am focusing most of my energy on farming as fast and as effectively and efficiently as possible. The email and some of the non-urgent correspondence has temporarily gotten pretty mediocre. Call me if you want a quick answer.

Working Shareholders Always Welcome

The summer crush is here, and will stay somewhat “crushy” until the sun stops being in the sky so many hours of the day. Come help us pick, weed, plant and mulch, and

  • Take home a large share of produce
  • Have a great breakfast – if you get here by 7
  • Have lunch, and peanut butter balls for snacks
  • Try hydrotherapy (that is where you drink out of a hose and then spray your head and your hat before putting it back on. Alternatively you can help wash produce and end up half soaked but refreshed.)
  • Engage in psychotherapy (that is where you spill your guts about whatever is on your mind and we all commiserate.)
  • Laugh therapy (that is where someone of our more voluble members goes on a rant and we all bust our sides in laughter.)
  • Vitamin D/phototherapy therapy where you leave your sunblock at home and drink in those magnificent rays.
  • And of course, physical therapy (where I drive the pace mercilessly and you go home with stronger body parts all around).
  • Finally, for those of you who break down and take you shoes off, we offer free earthing therapy where you alternately enjoy the soft squish of chicken shit if you are on the back end of the house move, luscious clover, nourishing soil contact when we are making beds in the soft earth, and a bit of toughening while walking across the gravel driveway.

How could you ever turn down an offer like this! Volunteer at MHOF here.

Free Stuff This Week

Seedlings of tomatoes, leeks, parsley, celery, fennel – come by 8-3 any weekday.

Farm Doin’s

Regarding the garage project, I am only giving Jonathan two mornings per week – one with Stu to work on the siding and one with John to do the intricate and tricky stuff.

Jonathan and Stu on the siding. They accomplished the piece with 7 different cuts in it without a mistake.

Here is Jonathan with the hole in the ceiling for the Chinese-made pull down stairs – also accomplished.

With only 4 days this week, and also the first week of the CSA, we were happy to pull off our best first week of the CSA along with a lot of planting and some weeding. Thanks to Alex who helped us for 2 full days and Petra, a returnee from last year (also a doctor!).

Jennifer and her grandson enjoying the tractor.

Prepping for beans and tomatoes – all in by week’s end.

Planting tomatoes.

Replacing the hydrant – thanks to Mike Russ, our plumber friend from Oakham.

Alex with the tarp. I missed a fantastic shot of Paula and Scott disappearing under the tarp to dump the water off the top of it.

Planting fennel.

Bunching onions for the shares.

Onto the onions and leeks and kale/collards this week…


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