Tarping and Apples

On Friday we started the tarping process on the farm. For those unaccustomed to what this might mean, it is a practice of laying down silage tarps on garden soil and holding them down with sandbags for a specified amount of time to kill the vegetation (cover crops) below them so that when they are removed, one can plant without having to disturb the soil. It is a great process whereby the vegetation is killed slowly and worms move in and reproduce rapidly and leave the area covered with castings, providing us a nice layer of fertility to enhance our planting success.

When we unrolled our first tarp in the pond field (where we will be planting onion sets hopefully on April 3, 4, and 5), we found out why we had been smelling apple wine. As it turns out, some enterprising individuals had harvested a sizable number of apple drops last fall and inserted them into the rolled up tarps for safe keeping. The tarp had been resting on the edge of the field that houses a lot of apple trees. We find supplies of winter feed all over the farm. Last fall when cleaning up the third floor of the barn, we found a metal tube completely filled with acorns.

I have great respect for the hard work that the woodland and field creatures accomplish, especially during their harvest season and putting by for winter. I hope that they were able to make use of most of those apples before we unceremoniously hauled them away!

A bunch of apples appeared as we unrolled the tarp

Expressing Gratitude this Week

John Wilson has been a working shareholder with us for the past 2-3 years. Whatever he turns his hand to, he does with excellence. He let it out of the bag almost a year after he had been working with us that he is indeed an excellent carpenter. Since then, we rarely see him in the field because he is working closely with Jonathan on the latest carpentry project. Recently one of our MHSC board members retired and Jack and I asked him to take over Sharon’s position. He said he was honored to join the board. I imagine an uptick in the projects and accomplishments of the MHSC with John in our midst.

Joan Howe has been a faithful meat customer of ours for many years. She has taken a special interest in our collaboration with the Community Fridges project in Worcester and this week made a sizable donation to this project. Thank you, Joan for making this investment!

Farm Videos From Last Week

Last Sunday Dan, the master of the brush fire, helped us burn several years of brush near our home orchard

Watch video on Facebook
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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 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.

Podcasts from the outside world

Cellular Communication – The Key To Fixing Chronic Complex Illness
with Eric Gordon, MD

I was interested in his thoughts around “using it or losing it” with our physical bodies and specific parts of our bodies.

What lessons can we learn from the traditional diet of Mongolian people?

Mary Ruddick shares knowledge based on research and her experience in Mongolia and how we can benefit from following their example. I found this podcast quite interesting. A great look into rural Mongolians and their lifestyles


Proceedings from Advancing EcoAgriculture’s Annual conference

Worth a listen

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.

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 – https://mhof.net/many-hands-sustainability-center/) 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.


The Permaculture Farm and Agroforestry Hedgerows

Saturday, June 24, 2023, 10am – 3pm with potluck lunch
With Jono Neiger as our workshop leader we’ll first look at Many Hands Organic Farm through the lens of permaculture and whole systems design looking at the farm as permaculture in action. We will explore, and literally dig into, areas of the farm to see how the complexity of soils, water, vegetation, microclimates, and more are interwoven and incorporated into farm management. Finally, we will look at specific field edges to see how they might become multi-functional hedgerows.   We’ll walk through hedgerow design- looking at specific edges, identifying trees species, installation, and management strategies.

Hedgerows are an agroforestry strategy the goes far back into human landscape management- where trees, shrubs with other plants are employed and orchestrated to function in many ways.   They can function for windbreaks, fuel, fodder, pollination habitat, carbon sinks, and much more. These field and farm edges provide an opportunity to separate and interconnect parts of the landscape. Design and planning of hedgerows is both simple and complex and a chance to diversify the farm.

Jono Neiger is a founder and agroforestry planner at of Regenerative Design Group Cooperative, in western Massachusetts with 30+ years of professional experience in agroforestry, permaculture, ecological land and site planning, conservation, and restoration. He holds a B.S. degree in Forest Biology and a Masters in Landscape Planning and Design  and authored The Permaculture Promise. He operates Big River Chestnuts, a chestnut agroforestry farm in Sunderland, Massachusetts.

Price for the workshop: $50-$100. Register here.

Other Upcoming Workshops

Building and Using a Chicken Tractor – Saturday April 1, 2023, 10-12 followed by potluck lunch; $25-$75

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

Farm Doin’s

We continue to do tidying up jobs on the farm and this past week we burned a lot of old brush and added all of our fruit tree prunings to it. We started taking down a number of trees that live on a rock pile at the east edge of the home orchard. They have been shading those trees for years and their removal will open up more sunlight. Then we systematically split the wood and set it aside for next year’s wood supply for the house.

Perhaps Chuk gets his dramatic nature from his mother

Monday, we finished pruning both orchards. And Clare went off on a trip to England. When she gets back, we will start on all of the small fruit, planning to be completely done with pruning by April 1. Clare writes every day and seems to be having a great time!

One of pushes now is to get the orchards all chipped (a solid ring of wood chips around each of our trees) and we accomplished 20 trees on Friday. Matt learned how to run the tractor and was doing a quite credible job of it by the end of the morning. Turns out he drives big firetrucks around Worcester, so is a natural for the job.

Skippy was doing her own patrolling work while we chipped

Many thanks to the chickens, ever our companions when we are out working, for helping us weed under the trees

Tarping has begun. We will leave the early ones on until the first week in April when we start to plant our earliest vegetable crops. In the past the tarping has been rather frustrating with tarps blowing away over and over again. But with practice we have learned just how many sand bags to put on each one, and how full they must be. Practice makes perfect! We forgot to spray the soil with our rejuvenate and spectrum blend before putting down our first one, but will remember henceforth to apply this spray to help digest the vegetation under the tarp and turn it into plant accessible fertility.

Matt bringing the tarps and sandbags over to the pond field garden

Rolling out the tarp

Tarp and bags in place

On Thursday John Duke showed up and brought us two 50 gallon olive barrels that we will turn into brewers for our lactobacillus fertility brew.

John explaining to Jonathan his brewing equipment

Jack taking in John’s wisdom around composting and microscopy

On Friday, Dave came over to do some work on our woodstove to plug the air leaks in the back. We think it is all fixed now. Thanks, Dave!

And Jonathan spent a lot of time in the bathroom cleaning grout.

Pretty impressive for a guy who eschews masks!


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