Feeding others

This is the title of one of the chapters of our upcoming book with Chelsea Green. As I wrote this chapter last fall, I decided to daily track how many meals would be served to people here each day in 2022. Right now, we are at 2,481 meals with 118 clocked in the past 7 days. I am not sure how this really happened, but I am elated. For years Jack and the kids and I would discuss the idea of having a restaurant here. I guess it has come to pass. This week we had two birthday parties, people as young as 4 and as old as 78, people from CO, CA and MI, had hilarious conversations and just down right enjoyed the food.

Jonathan’s birthday on Tuesday, celebrated with coconut milk tapioca pudding.

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Friday at lunch we were proud to serve 12 different vegetables in amongst the meat stocks, Jack’s famous house salad dressing and 2 desserts (blueberry/mulberry pie and chocolate pudding). In my ideal world, everyone will sit down to eat with others 3 times per day, and share not just food but also the closeness that develops when we converse and rub elbows at the table, followed by the cleaning up of dishes, the sweeping, wood box filling, and setting the kitchen right and to rest for a few short hours until we meet again.

In my super ideal world, everyone will have a hand in raising the food and preparing it. Find a reason to show up here for breakfast, lunch or supper. Beware, we will put you to work to earn your meal!

Peter’s birthday on Friday, celebrated with blueberry/mulberry pie.

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Happy 53rd to Jonathan and 30th to Peter this week.

Videos from MHOF this week

Mulching parsley

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Showing off our tomatoes

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More on tomatoes

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This from shareholder Rich regarding toxins and compost:

“Hello, Sterling Against Waste Project (StAWP) members. And Happy Summer!

It’s been a few months, so I thought that I should send an update.

The short status:

Some of you may not be familiar with the genesis of our StAWP group (StAWP stands for Sterling Against Waste Project). So here’s a recap of our history. In June 2021, the Sterling DPW Board (not the DPW itself) proposed building a Regional Food Waste Processing facility in town. The DPW Board member who drove the report (and “reviewed and accepted” it on 6/23/2021) is also a founding member of the Keeping Sterling Action Committee (a local environmental group that, IMO, was the real driver of the food waste composting initiative).

The proposed site was at the capped town landfill off of Chocksett Rd and George E. Peeso Ln — less than 1,000 feet behind the Sterling Police station (also less than 1,000 feet from the 45 families who live in Patriots Way). This site also sits near the Wekepeke Brook, atop the Wekepeke Aquifer, and adjacent to Barlett’s Pond and many nearby wetlands. In other words, it is in a very delicate environmental area full of wildlife (some likely endangered or threatened or special concern)–as well as actual human beings. This DPW report was worked on for over 6 months before being “reviewed and approved” by a single DPW board member. During that 6 month writing period: no abutters were notified; public opinion was not solicited; and we only found out about the report via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

You can read that “final” report here: Sterling DPW Compost Facility Final Report June 23, 2021.pdf

After abutters raised a ruckus with the DPW board and with town officials, it seems like the Keeping Sterling Action Committee folks walked back the flawed report, and even somewhat disavowed it.

So the short status is that, of late, there’s been no talk (that we know of) about building the proposed Regional Food Waste composting facility. That is good news. 

The longer status & other news:

1. Westminster composting facility:

Tragically, a similar composting facility in nearby Westminster, MA was recently found to have likely contaminated over 200 neighboring properties by spreading significant amounts of ‘forever chemicals’ (aka PFAS). The site also sold compost as loam, mulch, and potting soil for 30+ years–whereby the PFAS were introduced into food (then “mainlined” into human beings when they consumed the food grown in the contaminated mulch and loam). Similarly, people and animals who drank well water contaminated by the composting site were exposed to PFAS. The EPA says that no amount of PFAS exposure is considered to be safe–PFAS pose health risks even at levels so low they cannot currently be detected. PFAS are also found in game animals, and are similarly “mainlined” into human beings via ingestion of the game animals.

Here are two recent articles from the Boston Globe on this issue and the Westminster site–the first two links require a Boston Globe subscription to read but the second two links are “free” (albeit watered down) versions from Boston.com:

  1. When organic is toxic: How a composting facility likely spread massive amounts of ‘forever chemicals’ across one town in Massachusetts – The Boston Globe
  2. Why are they called ‘forever chemicals,’ and other things to know about PFAS – The Boston Globe
  3. Mass. composting facility likely spread large amounts of ‘forever chemicals’
  4. EPA: ‘Forever chemicals’ pose risk even at very low levels

This Westminster tragedy is a powerful argument against hosting such a risky project in Sterling.
Also, many studies show the manifest risks of commercial composting sites and PFAS; I encourage everyone to google commercial composting and PFAS and read the studies.

2. Sterling Select Board expansion:

Recall that at the last town meeting, the Keeping Sterling Action Committee folks succeeded in expanding the Sterling select board from 3 to 5 members. I said at the time that this was a path for Keeping Sterling Action Committee to “pack” the Select Board with members who may support a composting project (and other green initiatives like electric trash vehicles at 4x the cost of diesel-powered trash trucks) — and I still feel that way. Going forward, it is essential that we all vote in town elections (and participate in town meetings) for folks who do not support this risky project. For instance, there will be a town election on the 3 versus 5 member select board in the future once the legislature okays the change request — but before it is implemented.

3. “Black Earth Compost” curbside service:

In my previous status update, I noted that the private “Black Earth Compost” company pitched an “at-home” food waste composting pickup service for Sterling residents: https://www.facebook.com/groups/241793116580786/posts/1134218234004932

I don’t think they got enough takers to make it financially feasible.

But it’s worth noting that, after the initial “project” was rebuffed, the Keeping  Sterling Action Committee folks tried to pitch a 2nd version whereby “Black Earth Compost” would run a regional food waste composting facility for Sterling (on the same proposed site). There was no report produced for this modified project but this bears watching.

Action items:

There are critical things that we need from you:

  1. monitor Sterling board meeting agendas and minutes, taking special care to look for ANYTHING relating to food waste composting, and notify me ASAP if you see anything. You can subscribe to emails for the town meeting notices, agendas, minutes, etc. here: https://www.sterling-ma.gov/subscribe
  2. ask your friends to join our group by sending an email to me at SterlingAgainstWasteProject@gmail.com — currently we have 63 members, but we need more.

That’s all for now! Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I have missed anything. And thanks to all who send me emails of various articles and news!

Richard DeFuria
8D Patriots Way

Sterling Against Waste Project – StAWP”

CSA Updates This Week

Coming up this week

  • Lettuce – after this week the lettuce will be in shorter supply for awhile, so enjoy it while it lasts; some of the heads have broken all records for size

  • Chard – a standby; we still struggle a bit with slugs and some beet leaf miner, but we are staying ahead of those issues and are happy for the new patch we

  • Kale – I am so appreciative of this fantastically nutritious crop that is flourishing this year

  • Beets – we gave out reasonably sized beets last week and hope to keep that up this week. Remember to use the entire plant (maybe minus the very tip of the root). The flavor in these beets is phenomenal.

  • Radishes – we emptied the bed this past week in order to make room for new inhabitants. We will give these out at least on Monday and Wednesday. We planted more radishes on Friday

  • Summer squash and zucchini are as healthy as they have ever been. Expect a modest supply in your bags

  • Cucumbers might be in by Friday – keep an eye out

  • Parsley is back again this week. As we weed and mulch our way through it to keep it well managed through November.

  • Chives are back and strong again.

  • Peas – we are definitely near the end of the crop. They have been great and we are always sad to see them go.

More from MHOF

Young Layers for Sale

We have 13 extra laying birds that have been brooded and acclimated to the outside world. They are 10 weeks old and in top physical condition having been fed on organic grain and lots of comfrey from birth. They are $25 each. Please contact me to make your purchase. Julie@mhof.net or 978-257-1192.

“Red Stars” – high production egg laying chickens.

Working Shareholders Always Welcome

The weeding is easier now and we are doing more mulching and long-term management of crops as we work our way through the picking list for the CSA each M, W, F. If you are more interested in what we do on the off days of the CSA, you are welcome to come on a Tuesday or Thursday. Breakfast at 7, or join us at 8, for four hours and then lunch.

Volunteer at MHOF

Farm Doin’s

Each week I develop a new strategy to shoe horn into the allotted 40 hours more work than we can manage. This week, Pete was encouraged by the careful timing that I put on Friday’s pick list that allowed us to weed some cabbage, broccoli, squash, leeks and celery in between picking for the CSA. We were so efficient that some of us were able to address the husk cherries while others finished up the CSA. All told this week, we finished our older cabbage weeding, fertilizing and mulching project, spent Tuesday weeding and undersowing with crimson clover the new cabbage and kale, we weeded the two beds of fennel, finished weeding and mulching the basil, weeded and mulched the rattlesnake pole beans, tied the tomatoes to their fence, finished weeding as many leeks as we have decided to save in the pond field (some of them we mowed and covered with tarps – too far gone), and weeded one of our new beds of cucumbers. We weeded succession 4 of lettuce and our hemp plants, and did battle with some of our bind weed in the blueberries. We also weeded and thinned succession two of the summer squash. We almost finished round two of celery weeding. Along our CSA way each day we manicured the initial squash and cucumber plantation in the back of the south field, pulling errant weeds.

In the planting realm, we filled in some of the skips in the new chard bed, started cilantro, radishes, turnips and dill.

We tarped over the lost leeks, the old lettuce and kohlrabi bed, and a couple of finished beds of lettuce in the west field.

We struggled with turkey management this week with too hot days followed by too cold nights and lost some of our poults to trampling. They seem to be normalized now. Meat birds were attacked by predators on two occasions and 4 were killed out in the pond field. Our stalwart night watch dogs are now chained to the meat birds at night. Skippy has taken on the responsibility like a good citizen. Dingo isn’t quite so sure, but plying them with excessive praise and do cookies seems to work. And Kamarin and Julie spend several minutes each day with “peticures” to remove the armies of ticks that find their way to the dogs’ fur.

Clare gets the prize for keeping an eye on the spraying schedule and encouraged me to unearth the special side dress for tomatoes, beans and squash this week to keep these crops that are soon going into high gear at peak health. Jonathan and Clare will soon reorganize for maximum efficiencies all of our bottles of liquified minerals into one easy location to enable them to get right out on the field each morning at 7 before the sun rises. Pete is a support sprayer and Kamarin will join the team today. Christy, in the back ground is helping me get all of our recipes in more accessible format. I should have been on this one back in April, but, so goes it.

Dan came over and cut some more hay this week – the annex – completing our first round of haymaking. And Deb remains a stalwart support for all of the cooking, household and CSA management and pretty much anything I ask her help with.

I have my eye on the end of July for having our mulching in hand so that Jonathan, John and Stu can go back to working on the garage two days per week.

Clare and Debbie thinning peaches – sadly not our best crop this year

A shot of the celery as we drove by – looking to be an amazing crop this year

Preparing to tarp the old lettuce and kohlrabi bed, right after its nutrient spray of rejuvenate, spectrum and sea shield

Finishing up the weeding and mulching of the basil – we will have that for shareholders next week – not this week

Rattlesnake pole beans all mulched

Tomatoes looking tidy

Weeded and clovered kale on the left, new lettuce transplants on the right

A new succession of cabbage

Fennel should be ready in a couple of weeks


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