All of us experience big changes in our lives at some point or points, and many times we aren’t particularly up for it, but such is life. We often just don’t have control over the big stuff. I really thought that Clare Caldwell and I would go on farming together here for the rest of my farming life, and that was a rosy future, because over the past 15 ½ years we have become co-pilots of the day-to-day operations of MHOF. But alas, Clare’s family has bought a house and land in VT three hours from here and will be leaving in June of 2024. I have been alluding to this upcoming event in the past weeks, but now it is official. Change is coming here and stay tuned for that.
Expressing Gratitude this Week
But for now, I want to talk about why Clare is such a special person and why her departure will seem like losing my right arm. Here I will insert an excerpt from our book; and wish us luck as we plan for a successful future for MHOF.
Some folks need a special mention when they impact our lives immeasurably. Clare is one of those. In 2008 she came careening into our driveway, late for her first day of work, which happened to be her working interview. There were about 15 of us standing around in a circle in the driveway. The previous year Jack and I had opened our farm to the guys from Almost Home, a transition project at the Worcester County jail. 12 or so soon to be former prisoners (they called themselves ex-cons, so we did too) showed up every Friday and ran equipment, fixed equipment, helped with carpentry projects, animal care, and also the vegetable and fruit operation.
Clare pulled in and parked in a flurry, jumped out of her car, and made a flustered apology about getting lost on the way here. For me it was “love at first sight” She has been here ever since. 2023 will be her 15th year on the farm.
Over the span of that time, Clare took on the Almost Home guys as brothers. At that time, I didn’t provide breakfast for everyone and she started bringing breakfast sandwiches so that they wouldn’t start the day eating and drinking the sugar-filled nutritionally empty calories that so many in our culture depend on to stay alert. She also would sneak the nicest cuts of beef over for a meat filled lunch on a regular basis. She did then and still does live in close harmony with the Farm School in Athol, where her husband Josh is the livestock manager. Sometimes a bit of a Robin Hood, she figured the meat was needed here more than there. She loved the guys like Jack and I did, and when John in 2015 died of an overdose, and Jason did the same in 2016, she grieved them with as much compassion as we did.
Clare is great with volunteers. She is no nonsense and straight up at all times. Patient but firm, she can work with the most basically competent Stetson kid, or the most scattered working shareholder. When we are out in the field and one or the other of us has lagging patience for a particularly ineffective volunteer, we have rather seamlessly handed off one volunteer or another to each other. No words needed; the energetics cover it for us.
Clare bore three children while working here, and would always bring the latest baby with her to work as soon as she was able to get out of bed after the birth. I have so many memories of Clare weeding while nursing, and usually keeping ahead of anybody else in the crew.
Though she seems to be competent at almost everything, she also has a very mature ego, and will step in to take charge when necessary, and back off to let someone else shine when that seems appropriate.
Clare doesn’t gossip and is always fair and kind to everyone. She has been a model for me when I am tempted to spout off about someone who has been difficult to manage. She has a very strong moral sense that is unshaking, which includes never raising her voice when someone steps on the vegetable beds, and never belittling someone who just doesn’t seem to pay attention to instructions.
Clare quickly jumped into the spot of second in command, and now, it seems, we are really partners on the farm. And we don’t have to talk out hierarchy issues, because we both just jump in when and where needed. I think we model for each other the impulse to do the hardest work, bring in the underdog, hold a high standard and be eminently inclusive.
The reason that I mentioned Clare in this section of the book is because she is the only person that I know who can preserve food with as much competence and speed as I can, and when you are juggling 4 or 5 different preservation operations at once, this skill is invaluable.
I could go on for another few pages, but you get the picture. I am so incredibly blessed to know and work with Clare Caldwell.
From “Many Hands Make a Farm”
Videos this week
Yes, it was miserable!
Kittens, Kittens, Kittens
I LOVE your farm and this newsletter but as a cat rescuer…PLEASE spay your cat! There are many more animals than homes and people don’t understand the extent of this problem…You have one unspayed cat that keeps having kittens…most of those kittens are NOT going to get spayed and they keep having kittens and the problem multiplies exponentially every year! Please, please , please get your cat spayed..if you can even find a vet to do it…they are all so overwhelmed that you go on a waiting list for many months!
I thought a lot about your email as I sold our 6 kittens this week. First of all, I am not sure there is a cat over-population crisis. I could have sold 10 in the first day as the response on Facebook was overwhelming. We took it down on Tuesday. The 6 folks who bought our kittens were some of the most thoughtful, loving and positively spirited folks I have run into recently. With stories of replacing a long-loved cat of 20 years, an anniversary present for a loved one and a desire to get a companion for another cat, each of the new “parents” was so excited for this opportunity.
I take very good care of my cats and kittens, feeding them organic feedstuffs supported by fresh eggs, liver, cod liver oil and homemade pork stock. Additionally, of course, they provide vermin control services on the farm, a major reason to keep cats in the first place.
I am aware that there is a culture of shaming around keeping an un-spayed cat. But, as a matter of fact, it is very hard for people to get a new cat without paying large sums of money. It seems to me that, in the past 30 or so years, as with dogs, access to cats as pets has become something that only people with “means” can afford, and they aren’t readily available from neighbors anymore, but mostly only through shelters and institutions.
I am unapologetic about keeping cats and making kittens available to folks of modest means.
There are many poorly treated cats out there in the world, I am sure, as there are many poorly treated children. But does that me we should “spay” women and men who are not considered (by whom, I ask) fit for parenting? Let’s be careful about how we address these problems. I surely don’t have the answer for how we manage neglect of pets, farm animals or children, but am sure that we need to avoid the “broad strokes” one size fits all approach.
I believe these cats will be loved and treated well, enhancing people’s lives.
Thanks for writing, Mary, and I am glad that you enjoy the newsletter. Julie
Labor Day pick up will be on Tuesday, September 5, Wednesday and Friday will run as usual
Monday shareholders please note that there will be no CSA pick up on Monday, September 4, but instead on Tuesday, September 5. This is the last Monday holiday.
CSA News Week 15
Here is the line up for this week.
Best guess on what will be in your share bags this week
- Peppers – maybe not for all shares
- Turnip greens – running out of ideas for how to use all of your greens? Add them to eggs, soups, stews, green smoothies – pile them into your system as these greens are our ticket to good health
- Corn – silver queen is up – a better corn than our earlier one
- Ground cherries for smalls and others as supplies dictate
Jack on farm improvements:
Many shareholders picking up at the farm here this year have noticed that the winter chicken house was being taken down. This is, as many of you know, because we want to rebuild it with the concrete floor we couldn’t afford 40 years ago. Well, the house is gone and that floor got poured last Thursday. And a beautiful thing it is! The work of Dave Coolidge of Templeton, it is very impressive. I admit the jury will be out on this job for many years, but I don’t expect that slab to fail. He said the “slump” of the concrete (a jargony term used by their brotherhood, apparently), was likely a 4. I gather that is pretty thick and noticed that it didn’t flow out of the few dips our somewhat hilly and rocky site presented under his forms. He said it took about 4.5 yards of material which, using the back of the envelope, comes to an average of about 7.6 inches of thickness over a 192 square foot area (our 12 X 16 foot chicken house’s footprint). That is all the more impressive given that his form was made of 2 X 6 KD boards! You figure where the excess almost 2 inches went! The concrete made a nice meniscus everywhere at the top of the form, but never overflowed.
A Many Hands organic laurel wreath (do we have any growing anywhere, Julie?) should go to Dave and also to the Graves Concrete truck driver who handled his mammoth vehicle backing around our trees, shed, and doghouse like a pro and knew to the few seconds when to shut down the flow to fill, but not overfill, the form.
This kind of event happens normally without much notice, I suppose. But I wanted today to call attention to the work of everyday people who know a skilled and difficult trade but make it look so simple to do. It makes it easier to hope, to see such an example of man’s occasional excellence. (Woman’s too, you bet, Julie.)
Working shareholders always welcome
As we move into the significant harvest time needed for the fall, we can still use your help – especially on M, W or F mornings, but also on T and Th if you are interested in planting and weeding/mulching projects. Come join us!
We are looking to hire more staff for the fall
Kamarin left us on Friday, off to seek his fortune in Western Mass, working with his family doing irrigation and landscaping. We will miss him tremendously. He has been working with us for over three years and has reached maturity during that time period. We were blessed to enjoy his presence- his silly jokes, his leadership, his out-front work on all levels, sharp intellect, and kind and loving nature.
Many Hands Organic Farm is looking for a full-time or part-time farmer. We are a certified organic highly diverse family farm in Barre, MA raising vegetables (2 acres), large and small fruit (1 acre), pigs (6 seasonal), chickens for eggs (175) and meat (250), and turkeys (100). We focus heavily on carbon sequestering methods on our 55 acres of land and prioritize maximum nutrition and biodiversity and stacking of enterprises. We are no till. In Barre for now 41 years, we offer a lot of wisdom and perspective to aspiring farmers looking to gain agricultural understanding. You must be physically strong and have a positive and convivial attitude. Duties include animal, vegetable, fruit management, machine and hand work, carpentry, some chain sawing, sometimes leading volunteers, food preservation and making value added products – you name it, we do it. We start at $15/hour and will pay more depending on experience (and hustle) for 40 (full-time) or less (part-time) hours of work each week (Monday – Friday), with a rare need on weekends. Omnivorous meals (breakfast, lunch and morning snacks) are provided. We are looking to hire immediately and have work through the year, with fewer hours over the winter months (particularly December 15 – February 28). Apply to email@example.com or call 978-257-1192. Check us out at www.mhof.net. Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge
Come Sing with Us
Circle of Song, a chorus that a few of us started 23 years ago, will start up again in on September 14. We meet every Thursday night September –probably at the Barre Town Hall. We sing a wide array of music, and it is challenging. And several of us in the group offer extra help for those who feel unsure of their skills. We sing in 4-part harmony, and often in other languages. Contact me to join or discuss firstname.lastname@example.org; 978-257-1192
Podcasts and Zooms of interest
Here is an important one on Alzheimer’s. A must listen!
Alzheimer’s is Optional- https://theenergyblueprint.com/alzheimers-is-optional/?inf_contact_key=1ce1ba0bffff1a5182017aad9e1ca2d12ee8e4b705a211e22edd8f4baaa26cc6
Here is a link to his book on Alzheimer’s – https://www.amazon.com/End-Alzheimers-Program-Protocol-Cognition/dp/0525538496
New Product at MHOF – bitters
There is a large body of research that explains the value of bitters as a digestive aid that will help strengthen our entire digestive system. We have a new product available for your purchase. Our bitters blend has dandelion root, burdock root, yellow dock root, wormwood, tulsi (all from our farm) and organic purchased angelica root. The herbs were steeped in organic vodka for a t least two months. Bitters are best taken about 10 minutes before each meal to stimulate the digestive juices. Our 4 oz. bottles go for $20. If you are taking pharmaceuticals, it is wise to check with your health care provider before using digestive bitters.
A friend told me the other day that now that she is taking a squirt of our bitters before each meal, she has experienced much improved bowel function!
Time to sign up for the Fall Share
We have 70 shareholders lined up for the fall and at this point are looking to take on a total of 80. So, only ten share spaces still available. Now is a great time to sign up for 4 more weeks of great food. The greens are growing nicely in the fields and we are starting the process of storing the crops like onions, potatoes and winter squash. This is a large share. What you can’t eat right away you can save for December and January. Enjoy!
Great Health Tip from Daughter Ellen
Re: Top 10 Tips for COVID Immunity – https://conta.cc/44uIRTm
In Ellen’s monthly newsletter. Read ahead for this wise advice for all of us.
Workshops at MHOF
Two more workshops coming up this fall
Food Preservation with Many Hands Organic Farm – only 5 spaces left
Saturday, September 16, 2023
10 am – 2 pm with pot luck lunch at noon
Many Hands Sustainability Center
411 Sheldon Road, Barre, MA
We preserve hundreds of pounds of food each year enough to fill 7 freezers, 400 mason jars, a root cellar, and cupboards with dried foods. Join us at the height of the food preservation season to preserve our way through the day. We will freeze vegetables, can tomatoes and grape juice, make applesauce, start some lacto-fermented sauerkraut, dry some herbs and garlic and discuss best methods for canning, freezing, drying, lacto-fermenting, and root cellaring. At lunch time we will share a pot luck lunch.
Limit – 20 participants. We now have 15 registrants.
Price for workshop: $50-$100. Register here
Hedgerows for Food and Diversity; Agroforestry on Farms and Homesteads October 7, Jono Neiger to lead; 10-3 with pot luck; $50-$100
Jono came over on Saturday and we did a great dive into what we will cover at the workshop. This will be a great workshop to take a look at how best to incorporate perennials in our farms, gardens and landscapes.
Price for workshop: $50-$100.
The week sped past in a blink of the eye. The CSA was extra large this week because we have so many items to pick right now. On the side we were able to harvest another 5 beds of now Soraya potatoes – close to 100 lbs. per 60 foot bed. Best potato year ever, hands down. We have been picking away at three beds of cabbage for the fall share, getting it weeded (lots of pesky bindweed), and almost mulched. Beans are slowing down now, so we will free up over 4 hours per week. We planted spinach for the fall share. We cleaned up after the chicken slaughter and moved our 100 turkeys into now four houses. We harvested the grapes that reside on the house deck, made grape juice and then a new product. After drying the grape seeds and slurry left after running the juice through the Foley food mill, we laid it out on sheets to dry in the Excalibur for 48 hours and then ground it up in the food processor. Grape seed extract powder – to go into Jack’s and my health drinks each day, and maybe I will sell some, or give it out as Christmas presents. Two batches of canned tomatoes – they are now available for sale at $8/quart.
Bindweed has completely taken over the yellow and blue hoop houses. Carlos and Clare and I spend a hot hour one morning getting about ½ of one house cleaned out – this is a work in progress that needs to be completed before we can plant the houses to fall lettuce and greens. Friday we harvested all the secondary ears of corn from our first crop and froze them. Food preservation is bearing down on us, necessitating some long days to complete this work in a timely fashion. The foundation for the chicken house got poured.
Now with less staff and more food to pass out, work on weeding and some mulching will have to fit around corners. Welcome to beautiful and bountiful September.
It poured rain Wednesday morning!
Sam’s brother Austin came to help on Saturday morning with girlfriend Nora.