If you have been following the newsletter lately, you know that we have been focused on leaf collection. Well, in two batches – about 16 totes on Monday, and another 11 on Friday, we filled every 1/10 cubic yard tote on the farm, and they are now still dotted over the landscape, awaiting being parked on the edge of the west field.

There is nothing bad about leaves. I do feel a bit of guilt taking them away from their parent trees, but hopefully the little bit that we take won’t have too much of a negative impact on the mighty giants they come from. Our farm and our road are blessed with many oaks, who produce very large beautiful leaves, so they are easy to collect.

Friday, we forayed into the woods across the street in the annex. As Jonathan, Clare, Matt, Leslie, Laurie and I raked and gathered, a calm sense of purpose, wonder and elation overcame us as a group. Jonathan was the first to note the positive force of the woods. As I endeavor to become more conscious of nature, I realize that there is a real power in the forest, and I think it is held by the trees. Jack and I have read a few books on the subject of the trees, and with each one we come away with a reverence for these mighty beings. The oaks on our road, for instance, have been there through so many generations of people coming and going. What stories they could tell.

Leaf collection is done for the year. Now I realize that these 30+ bags that we will use for chicken bedding and later mulch in the gardens of 2023 will bring a strong life force to our fields that will transfer directly into nutritious and health-giving food for our bodies. What a beautiful cycle of life.

Farm Videos From Last Week

What efficiency

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Right after I took this movie one of the pigs broke out over that low spot you see

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The pigs received a stay of execution and will be with us until December 21

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Spreading rye on the pigged area

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Happy 63rd to Laurie

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One can’t go anywhere on the farm without a large entourage of chickens

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CSA Updates This Week

Join the 2023 Summer and Fall CSA Early

Actually, we will be raising prices for 2023 for both the summer and the fall share, but between now and December 31 you can pay 2022 prices. This provides savings for you and helps us hopefully squeak by with our break-even budget. Financial solvency for farmers is elusive at best. You can follow this link – https://mhof.net/csa-share-options/

Been thinking about joining our CSA but not yet made the commitment?

Reason number 2 for joining the 2023 CSA

Looking for a great Christmas present? Give the gift of good health to a loved one and buy them a share in the MHOF 2023 CSA. Email Julie to work out the details at julie@mhof.net.

Reason number 3 to join the MHOF CSA before December 31.

You can’t beat the community at Many Hands. We are full of the energy of life, purpose, good health, and good times. Be part of this farm that supports your nutrition for the body and the soul.

Reserve a 2023 CSA Share

More support planned for CSA members– the recipes are rolling in

One of the concerns that new CSA members expressed in their surveys was a complaint of over-abundance of Swiss chard, parsley and sometimes kale. This is not uncommon with first-timers, many of whom never come back. Another time I will talk about the reasons where there is so much of the aforementioned vegetables, but this week I wanted to announce a new feature that we are planning for CSA launch next year, 26 Swiss chard recipes (a new one for each week of the CSA). This will be vetted by our best MHOF chefs and will reside on our website. Thus, I am officially calling all Swiss chard recipes. 

Here are my parameters.

  • No processed foods
  • Must contain at least 75% of its ingredients available to be purchased at local organic farms
  • Please, deceptively simple and nutritious and easy to prepare by the person who is on the run.

Okay, send them in and Christy and Clare and I (the aforesaid “best MHOF chefs”) will test them for inclusion!

Emails from Subscribers

Julie, this recipe has several ingredients but it’s really easy to make, and tasty.

Rainbow Chard Agrodolce (= sour/sweet)


  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts
  • 2 bunches (about 1 1/4 pounds) rainbow chard, washed well
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small bunch scallions, thinly sliced, including some dark green
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • Red pepper to taste


  1. Separate chard stems from leaves. Slice stems into half-inch pieces. Tear or cut leaves into three-inch pieces.
  2. In a large flameproof casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil. Add chard stems, scallions, garlic, a pinch of salt, and raisins. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to  7 minutes or till the stems soften.
  3. Add chard leaves to the pan a few handfuls at a time with the water. Turn the leaves till they start to wilt. Add more leaves when there’s space in the pan. Cook till all the leaves wilt and soften. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, if the bottom of the pot is dry.
  4. Take pan off heat. Stir in lemon juice, rind, and red pepper. Taste for seasoning. Sprinkle on nuts and serve.

Hey, Mike, 

This sounds tasty! Thanks for sending it along – recipe number 1 of 26. I hope you and Becky are doing well. Love, Julie

We are taking over some blueberries this year that have been no-spray/organically managed by gentlemen farmers. Do you have resources you’d recommend that outline best way to care for them? Any suggestion for fertilizing them? Do you do any pest control? Thanks!

Hi Ben, 

Blueberries are one of my favorite topics, perhaps because blueberries are one of my favorite foods. We have had blueberries from the start, but for many years the production was hit or miss. I talked to Nathan at AEA a few years back and asked him to help me with an upgraded fertility program. We have been using it for a handful of years now with excellent success. We use no pest control. 

First, this is what we do generally. We keep them well mulched with wood chips, sometimes cardboard beneath it, and leaves and sometimes hay. We add a lot of material each year to keep them mulched. Based on soil tests, we add a suite of minerals around the plants in the spring. These will include a good general fertilizer (I prefer Pro Gro from North Country Organics), and usually some solubor, Redman salt, potassium sulfate, manganese sulfate, zinc sulfate, gypsum and elemental sulfur. 

Below is the soil drench and foliar program that we follow. The recipes cover 1 acre.

Good luck, Julie

Blueberries: Bud Break and Blossoming foliar

Number of Apps: 3

Start Date: 5/11

Interval: 1 week

  • 1 Gallon Accelerate
  • 2 Quart PhotoMag
  • 2 Quart HoloCal
  • 1 T Micro 5000 Organic

Blueberries: Fruit Set foliar

Number of Apps: 3

Start Date: 6/1

Interval: 1 week

  • 4 Quart HoloCal
  • 1 Quart Accelerate
  • 1 Quart PhotoMag
  • 1 Quart ReBound Iron
  • 1 Pint ReBound Zinc
  • 1 Pint ReBound Copper
  • 1 Pint SeaCrop
  • 1 Pint ReBound Manganese
  • 1 T Micro 5000 Organic

Blueberries: Seasonal Soil Drench

Number of Apps: 4

Start Date: 5/1

Interval: 1 month

  • 4 Quart SeaShield
  • 2 Quart Rejuvenate
  • 2 Quart HoloCal
  • 1 Quart SeaCrop
  • 1 T Spectrum (Alternate between MycoGenesis and Spectrum for soil drench.)
  • 0.5 Pint ReBound Cobalt

Blueberries: Fruit-Fill Foliar

Number of Apps: 8

Start Date: 6/22

Interval: 1 week

  • 1 Quart HoloK
  • 1 Quart SeaCrop
  • 1 Pint PhotoMag
  • 1 Pint ReBound Iron
  • 1 Pint ReBound Manganese
  • 1 Pint ReBound Copper
  • 1 T Micro 5000 Organic

Blueberries: Post-Harvest Foliar

Number of Apps: 3

Start Date: 8/15

Interval: 1 week

  • 1.5 Gallon Accelerate
  • 2 Quart HoloCal
  • 1 Quart PhotoMag

Crisis at Lilac Hedge Farm

Thanks to Leslie for letting me know that there has been a huge silo fire at Lilac Hedge Farm in Rutland and the damage is rather severe. They have a Go Fund Me program set up for those who might want to help them with rebuilding, etc. Please consider this donation to support a local Central Mass farm.

$33,049 raised of $90,000 goal as of Saturday.


Health Issues

Everything you ever wanted to know about glyphosate with Stephanie Senneff

Working Shareholders Always Welcome

Yes, you can still add yourself to the MHOF workforce. Starting the first full week of December we are hosting working shareholders on M and F mornings with a modest pay check of 1 dozen eggs, a quart of frozen apple or pear sauce and greens from the hoop houses while they last.

Matt Kornn, one of our shareholders, has moved up in the world, and volunteered twice last week. What an amazing guy. We are so fortunate to have him on our team.

Volunteer at MHOF

Community Opportunities

Workshops in 2023

Yes, Jack, Clare, Jonathan and I are jazzed to run a number of on farm workshops in 2023.

We have decided on

  1. Grape and fruit tree management and pruning – March
  2. Chicken tractor construction and use – April
  3. Growing shiitakes on logs – May
  4. MHOF vegetable production intensive (all day) – June
  5. Cooking with your CSA share – July
  6. Food preservation (this may be an all day one also) – September

Watch for details as we set them up.

Circle of Song Concert, December 17, 7 pm, Barre Town Hall

Circle of Song will perform a holiday concert on Saturday, December 17 at 7 pm at the Barre Town Hall (corner of Exchange and Mechanic Streets). As usual, the performance will be an eclectic one which will feature Christmas Carols and audience participation.

Esto Les Digo by Kinley Lange is an a cappella setting of Matthew 18 in Spanish. The English translation of the text is “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there will I be also.” Karen Guertin will solo.

Mzi Wase Afrika by BB Myataza is a South African freedom song, and is a Circle of Song favorite. Mark Doyle will be the featured soloist.

Morten Lauridsen is renowned for his slowly moving and intricately beautiful music. O Magnum Mysterium mimics classic Gregorian choral pieces in its style but with some modern influence as well. Lauridsen recounts that his inspiration for the piece came from a painting he saw titled “Still Life with Lemons, Oranges, and a Rose” (1633) by Spanish Baroque artist Francisco de Zurbaran which Lauridsen said was symbolism for the Virgin Mary. Lauridsen said he worked on the piece over a period of six months and put considerable thinking into a certain dissonant note to comment on the sorrow that the Virgin Mary would later face as her son was killed.

Tom Martin, former music director and Quabbin Regional in the 90’s has written and given to Circle of Song 2 pieces over the past year to feature. At the upcoming concert, the chorus will perform Homage to Ward, a scat piece to honor Ward Swingle of the Swingle Singers.

Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) is another Circle of Song favorite. Running about 6 – 7  minutes, it is Mozart at his best with lots of wonderful runs and weavings of the four parts. It is triumphal and sonorous, fast paced and engaging.

Mary Had a Baby arranged by Robert Shaw is a 19th century a Capella Christmas carol, with rich tonal harmonies. Julie Rawson will solo.

The audience will be asked to participate with 5 standard Christmas carols, Joy to the WorldThe First NoelLo, How a Rose E’er BloomingO Come All ye Faithful, and Angels we Have Heard on High. The Circle of Song house band populated by Danny LeBlanc on piano, Melissa Brown and Nancy Afonso on flute, Christina Thompson on clarinet, Abe Brown on tuba and Cailan McClure and Julie Rawson on French horn will accompany.

As a concert finale, the chorus will ask members of the audience to come up and join them in performing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. This was a long-held tradition at Quabbin Regional High School in the past and Circle of Song is happy to reinstate this event that leaves all members of the chorus and the audience in a state of great energy and enthusiasm.

Circle of Song is a multi-generational chorus that sings in 4-part harmony with and without piano accompaniment. Though the music is often demanding, all singers are supported by strong section leaders and good choral practices that build a beautiful and very fulfilling ensemble experience. Contact Julie Rawson, co-director with Nancy Afonso, for more information – 978-257-1192, julie@mhof.net, or show up at the next rehearsal which will take place on January 19, at 411 Sheldon Road, Barre, MA.

Farm Doin’s

There were only three workdays this week as we are now on our winter schedule. On the off days I wrote furiously for Jack’s and my book.

On Monday, Thursday and Friday, however, we accomplished much. Jonathan finished building shelves in the shed and started deconstruction of our rotted-out chicken tractors. Jointly we picked away at the remaining wood pile. Leaves are done for the year, and we moved the pigs again. They are now residing in the entire south field. I am anxious to see if the rye we plant behind them will take either this early winter or in the spring, and also interested in what kind of fertility they have added to our growing areas. We set up a workshop schedule, got going on seed ordering.

Raffi is a right smart chicken manager

Monday’s leaf crew

Clare and Kamarin haul some of the bags back to their resting place

On to wood splitting and cutting

Pigs on temporary lock down during the move

Skippy contemplating the meaning of life

Chuk pontificates while Clare pretends to listen


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