Good thing that we will have another big storm this week to stave off the early spring rush a bit longer. But it is inevitable and it is coming fast. Though we got all of our fruit tree pruning during the non-winter winter, we got cut short on finishing up the chipping, and can’t complete all of our small fruit pruning until the snow is gone. Now is a good time to take stock, and cram all the most important pre-season work in while there is still time. Good luck to all of us as we narrow in on April 1 – the date I always use as a touchstone for having my act together.
We are focusing on two new supplemental home brews – one is the lactobacillus aerated brew that I mentioned back in December – issue December 5, 2022 – Bubbly. Email me if you would like a copy of the recipe. The other will feature comfrey, my favorite herb. Here is the recipe that Clare researched.
Comfrey Tea for Foliar Feeding – March 2023
This is a homemade fertilizer to enhance the recipes we are using made from AEA products utilizing what we have in good quantity growing on the farm- Comfrey! We already dry it for tea and salves and feed it to poultry throughout the season. Comfrey is high in nutrients to benefit annual and perennial plants. Comfrey is low maintenance, has beautiful purple flowers that attract pollinators and other beneficial insects, has many uses on the farm, and is nutrient rich; namely it is high in nitrogen, protein, micro and macro elements.
Recipe for 55 gallons of comfrey tea:
- 20 lbs. of fresh comfrey leaves
- 10 lbs. of compost or worm castings
- 4 oz Epsom salts
- 10 lbs. organic blackstrap molasses
- 1 oz sea salt
- 5 gallons organic milk
Expressing Gratitude this Week
Gratitude goes to a new friend, Kelly, who did some energy work on me and got my organs draining and my aura all repaired after a rough encounter. I can share her contact info with you, if you are interested. She’s good!
Farm Videos From Last Week
We start thousands of seeds here in a very limited space and grow them all out with no additional heat other than the sun. We have come to this method after decades of experimentation and a lot of wasted time.
Events from the Outside World
Microbes and Mental Health Summit
March 14 – 21, 2023
This is free, though you can pay something to get the talks for your files. There are a lot of renowned speakers on the list. I highly encourage anyone who is concerned about cognition, or depression or diseases of the brain to sign up for this.
Annual Soil Regen Summit: Collaborating with Nature
March 14-15, 2023
Exploring a diversity of topics including Soil Biology, No Till, Cover Crops, Compost, Rhizophagy, Reforestation, Permaculture, Nutrient Density, Deep Bed Farming, Animal & Human Health and many more…
NOFA/Mass Monthly Roundtable Calls
The first Monday or Tuesday of each month – 7:00-8:00pm
These calls rotate between min-till and agroforestry.
The Energy Codes – Dr. Sue Morter
I just finished this book. It is one of many that I have read on how I can work with my body systems to be more centered and healthful. There is a lot of homework here for the serious student of energetic self-care. I like her references to moving from the protective self to the soulful self. Lots of good food for thought.
Join the 2023 Summer and Fall CSA
We have about 50 shareholders signed up for 2023 and are looking for about 150 in order to meet budget. Now is a good time to take the leap to upgrade how you eat and how you feel. Sign up today. Information is below.
I am delighted to report that this year, in large part because of a surge of new members to our new site at Chase Hill Farm in Warwick, we are able to stay current with the unending onslaught of large bills at this time of year for fertility, seeds, liability insurance, workers comp, certification fees, etc. Thanks for keeping that CSA application investment coming!
Emails From Readers
To Till or Not to Till Responses
I challenged Dave and crew over this assertion, just so you know. He promised to reach out. Actually, light (2″ tillage) is not very harmful as far we can tell, but I think the moldboard plow was the reason soil carbon plateaued for decades at Rodale. That O2 activates the organic matter-eating bacteria and respiration releases it back into the atmosphere. We have some data on vegetables with no-till, and it took 3 years for the soil to recover, and then it outperformed the tilled. However, the cover crops I saw planted in the winter were not that successful in the research, and I would posit like in a large farm no-till corn production system in AZ we found no real yield decrease when multispecies covers were planted. We have other research projects really showing us the very same thing. Actually, I think if I were to transition my farm to organic I would use no-till + multispecies cover crops and 10% normal fertilizer in the first year, then drop all fertilizer, and I think we would so no yield drop in most cases. The same farm in AZ showed a higher yield in year 1 with 15% fertilizer app vs 100%. How about that?
There are two problematic disturbances to soil microbiome – tillage and chemicals. No-till farmers are working that angle, and most organic farmers are working the other angle. We in regenerative are working both angles for farmer profit, soil health, water infiltration, climate change, and nutrient density. I wish the organic people could get over their bashing of conventional and vice versa. There is too much work to be done. Thanks for your comments and challenge.
Tim” (LaSalle – Chico State Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems)
“Thanks for the letter, Tim! As I’m sure you know Julie and I are now not with NOFA anymore (we split with them and they with us over response to the pandemic) and are focused on building our own farm.
I do try to stay up with carbon issues and appreciate hearing of your findings about tillage and how it can be reduced without use of herbicides. Dave is certainly fighting the good fight supporting the use of living soil on organic farms, and I don’t envy his situation in the marketplace fending off hydroponics. But I wish he didn’t feel it necessary to defend or obscure the use of tillage.in organics. It just confuses the issue that I think needs to be our focus.
With regard to your findings about light tillage of 2″ or so not being very harmful in terms of loss of carbon from the soil, I’d love to hear why you think that might be true — is it something unique happening in that soil profile, is the impact just below the threshold of detection, or something else? I would like to understand the process better. If there is more to know about what is happening and why I would love to learn it.
I hope things are working out with you and the others I hear about at Chico. It seems like it would be exciting to work with regenerative ag peers and I’d love to be a fly on the wall listening to your discussions!
Thanks again for writing. — Jack”
“Jack, I do not have research data on that, I have observation and common sense. When we plow or deep till we are breaking up all those fungal networks – critical networks. They can restore themselves very fast when not destroyed by catastrophic tillage. Secondly, I was surprised to see no erosion in my fields, but since the past season’s crop residue was mixed in with the 2″ tilling, it was a bit like a mulch. So I still got great percolation – that 4.5 inches in 15 hours filtrated down. Amazing. And the aggregation, wormholes, and air spaces below the 2” were all still in place. Thus, observation and common sense.
We still have much to learn.
“Thanks, Tim. That does help me understand your findings. Stuff that makes perfect sense if you think about it.
Are you talking of 4.5 inches of rain? That is incredible! I mean the rain, not too surprised by the great percolation in undisturbed but living soil.
We too are finding very healthy effects on soil moisture — both absorption and release — from our changes in soil practices.
If you have any sort of newsgroup that you routinely notify of research, activities and discussions about soil, carbon, tillage, etc. I’d love to be on the list!
Thanks again for the explanation. — Jack”
Working Shareholders Always Welcome
Pretty soon the weather won’t be iffy and it is a good time to come and get your feet wet as a working shareholder. Feel free to contact me to give it a one morning trial (Monday or Friday) to see if becoming a working shareholder is right for you.
This week’s working shareholder highlight is for Leslie who just signed on to work with us 2 days per week and she does a crackerjack job of managing our monthly payroll submissions to the government and our tax forms too. Never ask her to stand around – Leslie is happiest when she is busy!
Leslie started working on the farm in February 2021 to get outside and as a sort of respite from life challenges. Shortly after, she brought along a few friends who continue to volunteer on the farm; and she also became a pick-up location for the CSA. Good health and wellness is important to her and the work on the farm gives her physical exercise outside that she enjoys. “Working on the farm is my therapy, I feel part of the family and inspired by Julie to be more creative.” Leslie explains.
Ways to Donate to MHSC
Many Hands Sustainability Center – our farm non-profit
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 have received a few Community Fridges donations this year. We have raised $1,350 so far.
To provide 14 summer shares this year there will be a total need of $6650. The WCF folks will attempt to raise “their” half, and we will raise our half – $3325. Here below is their promotional material. If you would like to donate to us directly, write a check to MHSC. If you would like to donate to them directly, here is the link –
Thanks in advance for your generosity.
Workshops at MHOF
Pruning and Managing an Orchard Trees, Grapes and Small Fruit
Saturday, April 1, 2023
10 am – noon followed by potluck lunch
This is a hands-on event. We will supply tools.
Price for workshop: $25-$75. Register here.
Building and Using a Chicken Tractor
Saturday, April 22, 2023
10 am – noon followed by potluck lunch
Many Hands Sustainability Center
411 Sheldon Road, Barre, MA
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.
Price for workshop – $25-$75. Register here.
Other Upcoming Workshops
- Growing Shiitakes Mushrooms on Logs – May 15; 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
- The Permaculture Farm and Agroforestry hedgerows – June 24; 10-3 with pot luck lunch: $50-$100; Jono Neiger 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
As we still have a lot of snow on the ground, we have been doing a lot of wood management. I took four chains in to be sharpened on Saturday from the past week! There is an ever mounting pile of wood to be split that we will have to prioritize on Monday before the next storm comes in. We have been picking away at the southern stone wall of the west field, cutting wood, cleaning up brush and burning brush as we go.
Also, this week we took some time to harvest and cut up our 80 36-inch oak logs (3-4” in diameter), get them stacked, brush cleaned up, and the trees around the mushroom yard de-vined. Friday, we double tasked a bit and moved the remaining 5 bags of leaves that were in those woods down to our holding area in the west field.
Additionally, we started 65 10’ x 20” trays of vegetables, filling up our attached greenhouse. And we took the remay off of the hoop house crops and started the process of replanting where needed.
At the end of the day on Friday we were able to finish all of the blueberry pruning and get a good start on the blackberries.