Comic Relief


“Hey, Chuk. Thanks for your concern about our toilet and it’s usefulness given my condition, including finding a taller possible replacement and bringing it over. I tried it out today and unfortunately don’t think it is enough taller to enable me to rise up on my own. I would still have to use the “booster” seat, which kind of eliminates the reason to replace the existing one.

Though we have to have the booster around, it is not really a big problem to do so. So I think we should plan on regrouting that wall without replacing the toilet. Do you want the new one back or should we take it to the swap shed or a similar place?

Again, I appreciate your looking out for me. The things you have done — front stairs and railings, assistance bars in tub and back steps, etc. — have been invaluable for my mobility, which I hope to keep functioning for a long time yet. Thanks again for your thoughtfulness! — Love, Jack”

Don’t Look a Gift Toilet in the Flush Aperture

“Hey Pops –

Well, that’s a crying shame. I’m pretty sure Gerber is within an inch of the other brands with its ‘comfort height’, so it looks like you’re right, and a toilet change won’t be sufficient to solve your problems.

That being said, it’s a fairly new toilet, and a nice one at that. And given the number of people who use the downstairs toilet in particular, you might consider installing it downstairs for the comfort of, well, everybody else who comes to farm ever. The way I see it, there are three strong arguments for and none against.

  1.  It’s a free toilet, and unlike toilet paper, toilets don’t grow on trees. It’s also a lot newer that the model you have, so replacing the existing hopper means you needn’t worry for another 40 years. It also has a flush assist package in the tank which flushes with more power, and flushes more rapidly, than your existing toilet. Finally, there’s a double flush function – handle down is 1.6 gallons, like you currently have, but handle up is 1.1 gallons, so you can save a surprising amount of water.
  2. The idea of grouting behind the toilet without removing it really can’t happen – the plumbing is at a 12″ rough, so the toilet sits tight to the wall, and there’s no way to either remove the old grout or replace it without pulling the toilet. Additionally, if your toilet flange has any issues – rust, failed toilet bolt slots, etc – it would be handy to find that out now, and use a repair flange or similar to ensure the new toilet doesn’t have any problems, for the next forty years. It has been forty years since that flange saw the light of day; I’d be shocked if it didn’t need some kind of attention. And it would be good to know, either way. Otherwise, you run the risk of having a sudden failure, needing to get a plumber in there to replace the flange, needing a new toilet, etc. Consider this a preventative maintenance issue.
  3. The existing toilet just kind of blows. Myself, I find it too short and too shallow. If it’s uncomfortable to me, it’s even more so for a guy of Jonathan’s height, or Anne Harris’ weight, or any of a number of variables. The new one is taller, has an elongated bowl, and flushes better while using less water. At this point, the first floor bathroom is essentially a public space in the same way that the bathroom at a shopping mall or a big box store would be. That’s a strong argument for ensuring that the toilet installed there is both comfortable, spacious, and more efficient than other models. And if you’re going to replace the toilet, doing it in concert with the grout is the best idea.

I know you’re resistant to change, and want to keep kids off your lawn and whatnot, but this is kind of a no-brainer. I should think the benefits would be self-evident. And, well, you can’t beat the price. And if you don’t decide to use it, ask around the farm community. Somebody can definitely use it. It’s a $300 toilet for free, and they can even test-drive it on the front porch.

I’ll let you sit on it a little longer. The toilet, I mean.

Charles Kittredge
Gentleman Contractor”

“Hi Chuk,

You make some good points. It can certainly be a little like Grand Central Station in here some days. I’ve even had occasional thoughts about going into the coin operated business to keep the farm out of the red, but so far have resisted.

Water saving is a nice feature, but this is New England, not Colorado, so it is not a biggie. As for the existing fixture, I take umbrage at the desire to constantly update perfectly functional devices that modern handymen like yourself exhibit. Such planned obsolescence is, I suppose, related to your need to keep finding work, which fortunately does not plague farmers.

Grouting the tiles that were put in forty years ago behind the toilet is a better argument, especially if it will cover any graffiti users leave to memorialize their time there. On that grounds I’m changing my position on the new toilet. That is, being down on it, I mean. Well, not that either… Go ahead and put it in.

By the way, I am not at all resistant to change and love to see kids on the lawn, just so long as they are respectful and quiet. — Your Father”

Expressing Gratitude this Week

Jason Pimental and his town DPW guys just keep dropping chips off at the farm. We are overjoyed.

Farm Videos From Last Week

Clare promoting our fruit management and pruning workshop April 1

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More on the workshop

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Join the 2023 Summer and Fall CSA

Thanks to the folks who are signing up 4 months in advance. Never too early to sign up! The prices are in place for 2023 now. Prices below for your convenience.

Sliding scale – For those of you who want to support a more affordable share for others, you can pay the top of the range. And for those who are of more limited finances, feel free to choose a lower number.

Delivery/handling fee – Trying to make our Paypal options as manageable as possible, we have decided to fold delivery /handling into the share price.

Here are the rates for 2023
Summer large – $750-$850
Summer medium – $550-$650
Summer small – $425-$525
Fall – $170

SNAP pricing
Summer large – $700
Summer medium – $500
Summer small – $400
Fall – $160
SNAP customers reach out to Julie to set up a payment plan.

Pickups all over Central Mass

  • At the farm in Barre
  • Holden
  • Worcester
  • Gardner
  • Athol
  • Warwick
  • Sutton
  • Shrewsbury

Reserve a 2023 Summer CSA Share

Would you like to help us market the CSA?

We have trifold brochures. We can send you some, or email the master for you to print. Be in touch.

Educational Videos

Videos from the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference of January 14, 2023

I spoke at the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference a month ago. If you would like to catch my talks they are titled –

  • “Growing, Preparing and Preserving and Eating from the Land” and
  • “Raise the Highest Quality Food while Supporting Environmental Diversity”

They are the first two under, “Other Events and Workshops” here:

For Sale

Pork for Sale
We have a limited number of cuts available from our 2022 pigs.

  • Roasts – 3-4 lbs. each – $12/lb.
  • Sliced Bacon – $18/lb.
  • Hams – in the 3 lb. range – $18/lb.

Young Laying Hens all Sold Out

Working Shareholders Always Welcome

Joining this team assures you a warm place in the MHOF community while also giving you a weekly excuse to stretch your muscles. Working shareholders in January and February are welcome Monday and Friday mornings from 8-12. Come at 7 for breakfast and stay afterward for lunch.

Ways to Donate to MHSC

Many Hands Sustainability Center – our farm non-profit

Many kind folks have been making an annual donation to the MHSC (read about it here – since 2007 through the present. This goes into our general operations of the MHSC and usually helps pay for hiring an outstanding Stetson School student. Recently the MHSC has helped with funding the publication of this newsletter which utilizes significant resources to publish each week. If you are interested in donating to special programs that help make our high quality food available to folks with lesser means, you are welcome to donate to these two programs below.

Community Fridges

We have been donating food to this elegantly simple project in Worcester whereby four refrigerators are stocked with fresh produce from volunteers, and those in need shop for free at these locations. I had a good meeting with Maria Ravelli of Community Fridges. They are in for next year and will be fundraising on their end to keep this enjoyable partnership going.

We received our first Community Fridges donation this year. Thank you, John and Chris! We are hoping to raise $4165 this year.

SNAP support

SNAP recipients are encouraged to use SNAP and Healthy Incentive Program funds to purchase a MHOF CSA share. We work with around 20 of those customers each year and provide a slightly discounted share to these folks. A total of $1,000 in donations will help us defray the costs of providing this assistance to these valued shareholders.

Workshops at MHOF

Pruning and Managing an Orchard
Trees, Grapes and Small Fruit

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 10 am – noon followed by potluck lunch
Few things agricultural give you as much joy and satisfaction as a bountiful crop of healthy fruit. Yet it takes a few years of time and steady effort to achieve these results. Make sure that time is well spent! Learn how to manage and prune tree fruit, berries, and grapes at our Spring workshop. We have 100 trees in our orchard and produce apples, pears, peaches, paw paws, mulberries, grapes, blueberries and raspberries every year. We will discuss our fertility management practices and share our foliar and drench recipes. This is a hands-on event. We will supply tools. Cost: Sliding Scale: $25-$75 per person. Register here.

Building and Using a Chicken Tractor

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 10 am – noon followed by potluck lunch
Pasturing poultry gives your birds access to the extra nutrients only Nature can supply best. Yet how do you protect them from predators out on grass? A well-designed range-house “tractor” offers security from hawks, owls and four-footed varmints. Each year we raise 500-600 birds in these “tractors” on pasture. Two people feed and water the animals and move their range houses by hand every day to fresh grass. We will be moving some for this workshop presentation, as well as building one so you can get up close and learn how it is done. Cost: Sliding Scale: $25-$75 per person. Register here.

Other Upcoming Workshops

Growing Shiitakes Mushrooms on Logs  – Saturday, May 15, 2023; 10-12 with potluck lunch; $25-$75; Jonathan and Clare to lead

MHOF vegetable production intensive (all day) – June 10; 10-3 with pot luck lunch; $50-$100, Clare and Julie to lead

Cooking with your CSA share – July 22; Clare and Julie to do this one. 10-noon with complimentary lunch; $25-$75

Food preservation – September 16, Julie, Clare and Jack; 10-2 with pot luck; $50-$100

Register here

And one more workshop is coming your way: agroforestry, hedge rows and permaculture with Jono Neiger on June 24 – 10-3. We should have a full write up by next week…

Farm Doin’s

I am starting to worry how hot it will be in July and August with the weather as fair as it has been this past week, but the fruit tree pruning has been the most enjoyable in memory. Pruning proceeded on Monday, Thursday, and Friday this week and we accomplished pruning on all of our fruit trees except the back hill behind the house. We will plan to finish it Monday and get all of the prunings picked up by a new record of February 13. Clare goes off to England and Scotland for two weeks next Wednesday, so we will be happy to have this skilled job completed before our coach leaves us.

It’s a pruning party

We are so grateful that Jonathan is highly competent with the chainsaw

We are back foliar feeding again in the hoophouses. Even after -13 degrees last weekend, the spinach looks good.

And the lettuce

And the arugula

We also cut down and processed some more trees on the southern border of our west field garden, and Jonathan and Stu are almost done putting the shelves back in the garage.

Wood splitters hard at work

Does it look like Stu is having fun?

Jonathan continues to grout the bathroom as the debate rages over to “new toilet or not new toilet.”

Clare whipped through our organic certification application and we dropped $1750 to Baystate Organic Certifiers. I sold lots of smoked pork all week. We are in that wonderful time of year where it seems that everything is possible on the farm and there will be no weeds! You gotta love all the light.


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