Posts from the “The Work Farm” Category


Posted on February 22, 2018

It was 71 degrees here yesterday, sunny and mild and springlike a good two months early. I felt the blood moving in my veins. I know Seth felt it too because when I came upon him and our assistant farm manager at lunchtime, Seth was full of giddy humor, in his t-shirt, practically bouncing on the balls of his feet in his happiness to be outside. I love early Spring warmth. It makes me feel like cleaning out my closets — although admittedly, it doesn’t take much to make me want to clean things out. I tried a bit of knitting in the afternoon and though the yarn was fine and smooth beneath my fingers, my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted dirt in…

Late winter

Posted on February 16, 2018

Goodness, late winter on a farm is an ungraceful time of year what with slushy mud puddles, dirt-crusted snow berms, and bare trees.  Our main color right now comes from the seed catalogs piling up in the farm office, and in our imaginations as we plan out the flowers, vegetables, and herbs that we’ll grow this year. Every morning when I feed the animals, crunching along icy paths, I try to picture the farm from an outsider’s eyes and the words “undeniably glum” pop into my head. It certainly doesn’t look promising as you drive by, but Seth and I know the land holds growth soon to come. It’s not quite mud season, messy harbinger of spring, more like mud season’s mud season. Thaw, maybe? Whatever it’s called, it’s a bit more time to prepare.

We’ve moved into the little one bedroom apartment that comes with our new farm.  We’re still sourcing some furniture, as we got rid of most of it when we moved into the tiny house, and we’re also sourcing farm crew (I use “we” loosely here, I’m an unpaid enthusiast), so maybe that’s why I keep looking at the land and house with fresh eyes.  I see so much to do, so much to grow and to update.  So much to hope for.

I’ve been learning about feng shui these last few weeks. The transfer of energy from house to person.  Houses hold cell memories, I feel, just the same way plants do, the way our bodies do and that’s why you hear of organ transplant recipients after surgery suddenly liking the same things their donor liked.  Houses are the same, except the house influences the people.  I like to think about creating flows of energy that feel good for me and for the people who live and work here.  I have no big changes, nothing mystical to report.  Just thinking, thinking as usual.

In all of this, a very dear-to-me man died this week: my great uncle, Uncle Bubba. It’s not quite right to call him a surrogate grandfather. We were friends and family together, unrelated except by marriage, and we didn’t often speak in person. However, I wrote him a letter every week or so for the past 6-ish years. How do you describe a person who has been in your thoughts so consistently? Beats me, all I have is emotion. And typically I withdraw into myself when I’m feeling low, but I don’t want to do that right now, for the most part. I have that fleeting clarity that comes with the loss of a loved one: What am I doing with my life? What do I need to do to feel full? Is it worth writing letters about?

Uncle Bubba was a good man, ready with jokes and stories. To his last day he was devoted to his wife of 59 years, though she passed away in 2014. I believe they were true best friends and partners. Bubba loved music and woodworking and ice cream, and he had room in his heart for a bond with a wayward great-niece, though he had kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids of his own, and though I’m one of maybe a hundred cousins (I think. Mom, help me out here?).

Seth and I have a Bubba of our own. It’s Addie’s nickname, and when the two Bubbas met over Christmas, I held my tiny human up to Uncle’s bed. The older Bubba observed to the younger, “You’re on your way in and I’m on my way out.” It was true of course, he had been declining steadily for more than a year. But it didn’t stop me from saying, “Oh no, Bubba, not for a while yet.” I wasn’t trying to give him false hope. Just pleading with him to stay for a while longer. Perhaps it would have been better to acknowledge it, or to have said, “Maybe, but you’ll never be out of our hearts.” Still, the heart doesn’t always know what to say at the prospect of imminent loss, and anyway Uncle Bubba gave me a small smile in response.

I like to think that we understood a great many things about each other, though really I don’t know a lot of what he thought. His letters were few and far between; Parkinson’s made it difficult to write. But he was a master conversationalist and excelled at making me feel at home when we talked. I will miss his steady presence in my life.

It’s late winter now, and I have a compost bin to build and a flower plot to plan. There are perennial herbs that need a new garden space — somewhere, I’m not quite sure where. I still have goats and rabbits to feed. And in spite of moving out of a tiny house, I have a load of things to declutter and organize. Natural ebbs and flows I guess, as winter draws to a close and growing season comes around again.

Fall’s final farm days

Posted on November 16, 2014

The season is wrapping up for the work farm.  Seth and the other farmers have spent the last month plowing under crop residue, seeding winter cover crops, and cleaning up the greenhouse.  There’s a winter share for November and December, mostly of squashes and bitter greens and brassicas, and then that’s it. Seth’s hours at the farm are half of what they were; he’s taken on a seasonal job at a local grocery store until the farm starts up again. I haven’t been to the farm for a while, although thankfully not because of migraines, which is the first time I think I could say that in a decade.  It’s because we have just one car, and Seth’s new job keeps him busy when…

There are people, and there are farm people

Posted on September 26, 2014

The annual Stearns Farm fall potluck picnic and work day takes place at the end of September.  This year it was the last warm day.  There were jars of pickles, bowls of watermelon salsa and kale salad and quiche, and plates of honey cake and carrot cake and plum cake.  There was music.  There were families.  There was a pet rabbit running loose that Lily couldn’t keep her eyes off of, so we had to keep her close for a good part of the afternoon. Whenever I’m at a gathering with farm people, I realize that I’m with my people.  It’s a big distinction to make for someone who hasn’t felt at home here in the Boston area.  Farm people are people who care…

This weekend at the farm: Late summer planting and harvesting

Posted on August 18, 2014

I woke up feeling good on Saturday morning, and expecting my brother Nick for the evening.  What do you do right before your house guest arrives, when you unexpectedly don’t have a migraine?  Because my answer was, “go to the farm to plant broccoli seedlings and harvest curcurbits.” This was instead of my more typical, “scrub the toilet and sweep the cat hair out of the living room.” I joined Seth’s crew, along with a volunteer, an intern, and two work-for-shares.  The process goes something like this: Use the tractor to form beds, then use the dibbler to dibble holes in the ground.  Fertilize your seedlings by submerging them in fish fertilizer (not pictured because it looks as bad as it smells) then lay out a seedling at every hole you…

Gimme gimme gimme gimme garlic tonight!

Posted on July 20, 2014

Seth has been teasing me all week with pictures.  It’s his daily ritual.  I ask him how his day is going, and he responds with a photo of fresh tomatoes, or mini sunflowers, or a pile of beets.  This week it was garlic.  “I don’t know what we’re going to do with it all.  We’ve got no place to cure it,” he told me Friday night, after I asked him about his photo of the day.  I nodded absentmindedly. When I went to the farm this morning, this is what I saw: “Oh, did I tell you?  We picked 2500 pounds of garlic in two days,” Seth called me to as he pulled a farm cart over to the zucchinis.  Huh. The garlic will…

This Week on the Farm: Summer Solstice

Posted on June 22, 2014

Five years ago, Seth and I got married.  We picked the first day of summer so we could use the longest day every year to celebrate ourselves and the outdoors.  (Bee tee dubs, it was one of the few really great decisions we made over the wedding season.  Why are US weddings so bloated and expensive?  I digress.) When I tell my coworkers we celebrated this year’s anniversary by working on the farm, they give me a funny look.  Don’t judge my people too harshly — they all live and work in Boston and the surrounding area.  They are not rugged farmers and volunteers.  Very few have pulled fresh vegetables from the ground, let alone recognized that farm food is far superior to restaurant food. It was a standard…

This week on the farm: a dog’s life

Posted on June 9, 2014

It was another bright, sunny day this weekend, and well into the 80s (that’s high 20s if you’re not in the US).  The farm is prepping for the first week of CSA pickups.  The lettuces are ready to pop, and you can see Kenneth harvesting Napa cabbages in the greenhouse on the right.  It was a beautiful day.  The only one to complain was the dog. Not that I blame her for taking refuge in the shade from the lovage.  It’s too hot to be wearing a fur coat. I don’t know if she was uncomfortably warm or glad to have me around, but the dog shadowed me for most of the day.  I spent the morning hand-weeding the cucumbers and squash with a couple of volunteers. Lily…

This week on the farm

Posted on May 26, 2014

I’ve taken to volunteering Saturday afternoons at The Work Farm in order to glean experience from the farm manager, Susan.  We spent the afternoon putting in tomato and pepper plants and laying plastic down. The plastic is called “biofilm,” and it serves as a weed-block and soil warmer.  It also biodegrades after about a year.   Stearns uses plastic instead of sprays because sprays are not organic, in case you were wondering. It’s a process: We spread out the soaker hoses.  Then we lay the plastic, then someone comes along and pokes holes at the proper intervals for whatever we’re planting.  We  scoop a handful of compost into each hole.  Then someone comes behind and lays out one plant for every hole.  And finally, another someone…

Working Girl

Posted on April 21, 2014

We recently made Lily the happiest dog in the world. I use “we” loosely, because it was Seth who did it. He got a job as an assistant grower at Stearns CSA farm, who then decided they need a smart dog around the place. It’s a dream come true for our lucky girl. Working outside every day? Learning how to ride a tractor? Chasing off squirrels and bunnies and birds? This dog loves it. Of course the issue is that she comes home, eats supper, and goes straight to bed. We have to coax her to get moving the next morning. Every once in a while when Seth calls, “Lily, time to go to work,” as he puts on his coat, we might have a prancing, grunting dog who can’t wait…