October, 2016

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Morning Fog

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

Beautiful foggy morning in mid-October. Its amazing how the vegetation has really greened up with a few days of rain.

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Bluebirds Visit Breakneck Hill Farm

Friday, October 21st, 2016

We had a flock of bluebirds come visit the other morning. A healthy ecosystem means diversity and bluebirds are part of that diversity. Bluebirds along with other birds eat insect pests and are a vital part of the pest manage plan here.

 

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And here’s another valuable member of the pest control team. A praying mantis that seems pretty interested in whats going on inside. These are all signs that the ecosystem is healthy and functioning.

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Helping the Help

Friday, October 21st, 2016

This garden was planted to attract beneficial insects and even in the late season we have lots of bumble bees visiting the many flowers. This garden cost less than $7.50 (from Johnny’s seeds) to plant as I have used the seeds on a number of gardens. These plants will self seed for next year. While the bumble bees have done their job for this year, it helps them for next year to have late season flowers to feed on. Besides benefitting the bumble bees these gardens are beautiful to look at and easy to maintain.

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This image has about 10 bumble bees visible on the flowers in mid-Oct.

Boston YMCA comes to Breakneck Hill Farm

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Saturday Oct 15th, we had the Boston YMCA return thanks to Ladawn Strickland and The Move which is now part of the Urban Farm Institute. It was an very busy but rewarding 3 hours. Twenty eight high school aged students and 9 staff came out to learn about sustainable farming, help with some projects and have a great meal directly from the farm. We split into 5 groups, each was assigned a leader and a task to work on. They built a raised garden bed which will be used next spring and a hugelkultur swale on the cow paddock to help retain water and nutrients and build soil there. They also helped feed the cows and pigs and learned about their role in the fertility of the farm. I am greatly indebted to the folks who donated their time to make this a success, Anne Brown, Janet Fuchs and Yun Gao and of course the folks at the Y. Lunch consisted of a salad which was harvested, cleaned and prepared by the young people, a vegan three sisters stew and of course grass-fed hamburgers. All the food was donated for the event by Breakneck Hill Farm.

Here is the new raised beds.

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and the new hugelkultur swale

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The pigs also benefited by receiving lots of weeds and veggies from our enthusiastic guests.

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And enjoying a hearty lunch of hamburgers, salad and vegan three sisters stew.

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Thanks to the Boston YMCA for their effort and attention!

Pollinators and Beneficial Insects are Important Part of the Farm

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

The flowering plants (angiosperms), also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants, with 416 families, approx. 13,164 known genera and a total of ca 295,383 known species (Wikipedia). The angiosperms diverged from the gymnosperms in the Triassic period when dinosaurs were first evolving about 240 million years ago. Most of our food plants are angiosperms and many require the help of pollinators to produce fruit such as pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, corn, beans and just about all the fruits and nuts. We tend to take them for granted but without them we would be virtually unable to produce these. Here at Breakneck Hill Farm, the farmer before me, Ray Davis, because of his orchards and honey bees recognized the value of providing habitat and food for these insects and planted Linden (American Basswood) and Spanish Chestnut trees. They are now fully grown and from mid-June to mid July the trees are literally buzzing with thousands of bees when you walk beneath them.

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Spanish Chestnut flowers with a honeybee in the center of the picture.

I have also planted small gardens with late season flowers that will help to feed not only the pollinators but also the beneficial insects like parasitic wasps which will keep pests in check.

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Here a late season blooming onion is hosting three bumblebees at once.

DSCN6338My kale got hit pretty hard by the aphids this late season. Unfortunately here the lady beetle has gotten on the job a little on the late side. By identifying the problem early I might have been able to suppress the population with something like Neem oil enough to allow some of the kale to survive. They certainly seemed to prefer the Red Russian kale over the curly.

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This monster is a Tomato Hornworm, unfortunate for him/her they are covered in the cocoons of a braconid parasitic wasp. They will eat this destructive caterpillar from the inside out and then mature and go find another. This is how we use nature to do our dirty work.